Reading Ethics: Professional Development

Ethical Development Reading List


Aim of this list –  

            First, organization of the list according to rank/training and is very much a work in progress.

            Second, the idea is not that you would read everything at each level, rather that you might select a couple things that interest you.

            Third, mix of genres, time periods and authors with attention to inclusivity of a variety of kinds.

Junior Enlisted/Cadets

 Antonia Fraser: Warrior Queens  (historical treatment of women leading in war)

Tim O’Brien: The Things They Carried  (short stories on Vietnam conflict)

Epictetus: Enchiridion/Handbook (Stoicism, short aphorisms)  

Basic moral theory selections from Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, J.S. Mill

Christian Miller: Character Gap: How Good Are We?

Christopher Browning: Ordinary Men (Holocaust studies on German soldiers’ participation in atrocities)

Sophocles: Antigone (classical Greek play on obedience to the State)

Bilton and Sim: Four Hours at My Lai  (journalistic account of My Lai massacre in Vietnam conflict)

Shannon French: The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present (discussion and analysis of historic and contemporary warrior cultures)

Brian Orend, On War  (philosophical dialogue on ethics and war)

James B. Stockdale, The Warrior’s Triad

Nancy Sherman, Stoic Wisdom (accessible introduction to Stoic thought with good historical and philosophical context.)

Junior Officer/Mid-level Enlisted

J. Glenn Gray:  The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle (WWII memoir and philosophical reflection on war)

Christopher Coker: The Warrior Ethos (philosophical and political reflection on contemporary warfare)

Basic moral theory (see above), David Hume (empathy), Ethics of Care (moral theory focusing on moral obligation rooted in relationship)

Michael Walzer: Just and Unjust Wars (20th century classic in secular Just War Thinking)

Sophocles: Ajax (classic Greek play on moral injury)

Brian Orend, Morality of War (2nd generation contemporary Just War Thinking, after Walzer)

Johnathan Shay: Achilles in Vietnam and/or Odysseus in America (psychology work on moral injury and its moral implications)

Nancy Sherman: After War (philosophical treatment of moral injury)

William Shakespeare: Henry V  (classic play including Holy War and Just War themes)

Immanuel Kant: Perpetual Peace

Chris Walsh: Cowardice (philosophical and historical analysis of courage and cowardice) 

Phillip Hallie: Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (Holocaust studies and ethical reflection upon ethics of care and religious/moral obligation in war)

August Wilson, Contribution (play on justice and revenge in 1960’s civil rights movement)

N. Finney and T. Mayfield eds: Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics (anthology of essays by academics and military practioner on ethics and professionalism)

Martin Cook: The Moral Warrior (contemporary examination of moral and professional issues the modern military)

Jim Frederick: Blackhearts (case study of Iraq, war crimes, leadership)

Pauline Shanks Kaurin, On Obedience: Contrasting Philosophies for Military, Citizenry and Community (Focuses on obedience, discipline and loyalty within the context of Just War Thinking and contemporary military ethics.)

Mid Officer/Senior NCO

Walter Wink ed.: Peace is the Way (anthology of contemporary and historical readings on peace and reconciliation)

Sebastian Junger: The Tribe (essay on belonging and homecoming for veterans, US civilian/military relations)

George Lucas, Ethics of Cyberwarfare

Deane-Peter Baker: Morality and Ethics at War: Bridging the Gap between Soldier and State. (starting with moral injury, argues that the warrior and profession are both problematic ways to think about the modern military.)

Franz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth (post-colonial thought and takes up the question of the meaning of violence for the oppressed and marginalized.

Christine de Pizan: The Book of the City of Ladies (writing on gender, virtue, war and Just War Thinking)

Senior Officer/Flag/General Officer/SES

 George Lucas, Ethics and Strategy in the 21st Century: Moving Beyond Clausewit

James Dubik: Just War Reconsidered: Strategy, Ethics and Theory. (Just War Theory considered in the context of strategy and civilian/military relations)

Valerie Morkevicius (apologies for missing accent marks, technical difficulties!): Realist Ethics (considering the intersections between Just War Thinking and realism)

Published by shankskaurin

Philosopher and military ethicist. Author of two books, including "On Obedience" (USNI Press, 2020) I also teach war college students for the Navy. (Views here are personal only.) Mother to two energetic young lads. Foodie, gardener and Diva with a shoe obsession.

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