On the ontology of morals and ethics and on military ethic

Edwin R. Micewski


In this essay at first the terms morals and ethics are to be analysed profoundly, dealing with both ontological and philosophical-scientific aspects, before further on conclusions on military ethic are drawn in a pursuing chapter. At first, three aspects will be in the foreground of the analysis:

Firstly, the differentiation and/or potential collision of morality and legality as of an inescapable dichotomy which is laid out in the proper existence of man, and which becomes a challenge especially in critical situations of military violent actions, as has been confirmed continuously by war history; secondly, a criticism of consequentialism and/or utilitarism as the tendency to act teleologically predominating in politics and society (and in the military, though), concentrating only on the result of action and supporting on the deeply unethical maxim of “purpose sanctifies means”; and thirdly, remarks on and/or dismissing of ethical relativism and of value arbitrariness, and the plea for a minimal consensus of ethical values and precepts. Based on the treating of these aspects, conclusions are drawn concerning the discipline of military ethics, describing the parameters of military ethics and bringing them in a comprehensive context. Ethics as a philosophical-scientific discipline aims at finding and justifying action standards which serve as guidelines and landmarks for real action. At the same time, the normative aspects of ethics are, as it were, translated into the particular vocational action fields by means of applied ethics in order to offer assistance for the special challenges posed by the different occupational worlds of life. As an educational dimension, ethics endeavours to help single persons to find an adequate inner moral disposition which lets him or her act ethically justifiably even where there are no direct and immediate outer guidelines. Here, especially the disciplines violence ethics and war ethics are most capable of rendering an ethical consensus possible. The humanitarian imperatives of political-military ethics – war as ultima ratio, unavoidability and pertinence of the use of violence, discrimination of combatants and non-combatants, protection of the innocent and those needing assistance, indiscriminating treatment of wounded persons, human treatment of prisoners ... – have universal and culture-invariable traits which are only negated by forces of political extremism or serious criminality. Especially the complexity of ethical challenges for the soldier puts the necessity of military ethics in the focus of educational measures for military leaders. Considering the fact that the human dimension – and not the technological-scientific dimensions – are in the centre of the military task of command and control, the decision-making and responsibility of the soldier with managerial responsibility is to be based on philosophical-ethical foundations. Thus, the military-ethical orientation has to be in the focus of military-philosophical education, fostering the possibilities of the moral self of the soldier and the officer, and enabling him to permanently nurture and cultivate his ethical competence.