Thoughts of a Soldier-Ethicist

I am a Soldier who believes in the moral standing of my profession, yet knows that we could improve and is committed to serving that cause. I have served as an enlisted infantryman, as an infantry officer in the 1st AD and 82nd ABN, and as a philosophy instructor at West Point. Please engage with me in an online conversation about morality and the profession of arms. Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the position of USMA, DA, or DOD.

My Photo
Location: West Point, New York, United States

Army officer; two short deployments to Iraq (03, 07), three to Afghanistan (09, 10, 11); Ph.D in Education (Penn State); M.A. in Philosophy (Virginia Tech); B.S. in Political Science (West Point); married, father of four sons.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Slides I use to discuss the moral justification of killing in war

Several folks have asked if I have a paper or presentation I can share that would help them lead a discussion with their Soldiers on the moral justification of killing in war.
I have intended for months to write a concise paper, or at least put notes to the slides, but alas I haven't. So, I post these slides, knowing full well that bullets don't tell the whole story...but I hope that these are at least helpful. Talking openly about the morality of killing with our Soldiers accomplishes a lot on its own. I know that someone out there will take this discussion to the next level. Please share back with me the insights you discover.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the slides. I am a lifelong civilian, and so am not in your target audience. Still, I found your discussion points to be worthwhile. I particularly like the 'spectrum' of threats on Slide 8. Thanks again.

November 17, 2008 at 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Is there any way I could get a copy of these slides? I'd like to show them to my Marines.

Capt Susan Murphy
A Co
Marine Wing Communications Squadron 48
Great Lakes IL

November 18, 2008 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

Slides are on the way to your email, Capt. Murphy.

November 18, 2008 at 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Pete,

I agree with you all the way,but I have to disagree with one point of your slide. You wrote "humanize" the Afghani/Iraqi people. This is unfair to say.

January 19, 2011 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

What the bulllet means is that we should take actions to help our Soldiers appreciate that the local people are people. In a counterinsurgency fight in which the enemy wears civilian clothing snd does its best to mix into the population, it's easy to begin to objectivize and hate the local people. Good leaders take action--things like set up events to play soccer with the local men, or have Soldiers eat dinners with local families--to connect their Soldiers with the people, thus reminding the Soldiers of their shared humanity.

January 20, 2011 at 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay thanks man for clearing that up.

February 8, 2011 at 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am a high schooler in the middle of writing an essay that involves your point of view. My class has been on the topic of the morality of war-time killing for several months now and i just want to thank you for the well writen essays that i have been citing from your blog.
Thanks again.


February 13, 2011 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Pete said...


I'm happy to hear that you find this site meaningful and helpful. I'd love to see your essay; I could provide feedback if you want. You can email me at pgkilner_at_gmail_dot_com.

February 14, 2011 at 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sorry for such a long delay, I will email it soon.
Thanks for replying.


May 30, 2011 at 5:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home