Kantian Thinking about Military Ethics

  • Published

Kantian Thinking about Military Ethics by J. Carl Ficarrotta. Ashgate Publishing Company, 2010, 135 pp.

J. Carl Ficarrotta’s Kantian Thinking about Military Ethics is a laudable book for readers seeking a refreshingly different perspective of Kantian ethics. A member of the Department of Philosophy at the United States Air Force Academy, the author approaches eight of the arguably most controversial ethical issues in an essay format. As indicated by the title, each stand-alone essay directly concerns the military, past and present, conveying what Kant thought or would have thought about the moral choices available.

The first essay, “Are Military Professionals Bound by a Higher Moral Standard? Functionalism and Its Limits,” considers the presumption of military personnel being bound by a higher moral standard than the general populace due to the dictates of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in conjunction with expectations associated with the role of the military. “Women in Combat: Discrimination by Generality” explores the permissibility of discrimination against women, regardless of the pros or cons regarding their presence in combat. The third essay, “Careerism in the Military Services: An Analysis of Its Nature, Why It Is Wrong and What Might Be Done about It,” perhaps the most widely applicable one in the book, addresses wrongs and corrections that occur daily. In the fourth piece, “Homosexuality and Military Service: A Case for Abandoning ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ ” the author presents a strong case for repealing this highly controversial policy. Drawing on Ficarrotta’s experience and expertise, “How to Teach a Bad Military Ethics Course” offers pivotal guidance about sharing or acquiring new knowledge about ethics.

The final three essays present cases dealing with war and its consequences: “Should Members of the Military Fight in Immoral Wars? A Case for Selective Conscientious Objection,” “Does the Doctrine of Double Effect Justify Collateral Damage? A Case for More Restrictive Targeting Practices,” and “Just War Theory: Triumphant . . . and Doing More Harm Than Good.” These pieces effectively elucidate these issues for readers unfamiliar with such ethical or philosophical matters as they relate to the military.

Reflecting the author’s experience as an educator, each inviting and reader-friendly essay succinctly presents its case and allows for disagreement and dialogue. Unlike the textbook approach to military ethics and philosophy, Ficarrotta’s study expands the application of Kantian and military ethics in their own right. Each piece also includes numerous references and additional commentary. From start to finish, the quality of these essays—“earlier versions of [which] have appeared or been presented elsewhere” (p. viii)—remains high.

For its impressive examination of the life-determining moral and ethical dilemmas that we face every day, I strongly recommend Kantian Thinking about Military Ethics. It offers a fine, fresh perspective of Kantian ethics and a thorough understanding of the world, our interactions, and the application of ethics in a military environment.

Jennifer Miller

Maxwell AFB, Alabama

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."