Ethics and Military Practice


Democratic societies expect their armed forces to act in a morally responsible way, which seems a fair expectation given the fact that they entrust their armed forces with the monopoly of violence. However, this is not as straightforward and unambiguous as it sounds. Present-day military practices show that political assignments, social and cultural contexts, innovative technologies and organisational structures, present military personnel with questions and dilemma’s that can have far-reaching consequences for all involved – not in the last place for the soldiers themselves. A thorough training and education, in which critical thinking is developed and stimulated, seems therefore a necessary condition for morally responsible behaviour. This book aims to contribute to this form of ‘reflective practitioning’ in military practice.

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Désirée Verweij (Ph.D. 1993) is professor of Philosophy and Ethics at the Netherlands Defence Academy and at the Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM) at Radboud University Nijmegen. Her research concerns both fundamental and applied ethics.

Peter Olsthoorn (Ph.D. 2000) is Associate Professor in Military Leadership and Ethics at the Netherlands Defence Academy. Besides leadership and ethics, he teaches on armed forces and society, war and the media, and on ethics and fundamental rights for Frontex. His research is mainly on topics such as military virtues, military medical ethics, armed drones, and the ethics of border guarding.

Eva van Baarle is assistant professor of Military Ethics and Philosophy at the Netherlands Defence Academy. In 2018, she obtained her doctorate with her research into fostering the moral competence of military personnel through ethics education. She is currently involved in the action research 'Towards a socially safe Defence culture' as project leader.
List of Illustrations

Notes on Contributors

1 Introduction Ethics and Military Practice
  Désirée Verweij

2 Fostering Reflective Practice and Moral Competence Ethics Education in the Military
  Eva van Baarle

3 ‘The Roof, the Roof, the Roof is on Fire’ Moral Standards and Moral Disengagement in Military Organisations
  Eva van Baarle and Marjon Blom-Terhell

4 Loyalty A Grey Virtue?
  Peter Olsthoorn and Marjon Blom-Terhell

5 Moral Injury The Psychological Impact of Morally Critical Situations
  Tine Molendijk

6 Ethics and Technology
  Christine Boshuijzen-Van Burken

7 An Organisational Perspective on Military Ethics
  Eric-Hans Kramer, Herman Kuipers, Miriam de Graaff

8 Morality Foundation for Competent Professionals
  G. J. van Doorn


The book is of interest to anyone with an interest in professional military ethics – the book’s focus is on military practice. This means that all chapters are written with that military practitioner in mind. The book is very accessible, contains many examples, and forms excellent course material. The book presupposes no prior knowledge of either the military or ethics.
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