Virtue ethics and character development at the United States Air Force Academy.


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Our nation requires that service academies “develop officers of character.” “Character,” by its very nature, is deep; it is an embedded aspect of one’s personhood. As such, character will invariably draw upon one’s deeply-held beliefs. But our pluralistic, liberal nation is—and should be—anathema to mandate citizens’ deeply-held beliefs. So a service academy is faced with a seemingly intractable problem: it must not mandate the deeply-held beliefs that necessarily inform the very character development that is mandated. I argue that virtue ethics can provide a feasible solution. Virtue ethics is compatible with diverse justificatory frameworks. Thus, the state can undergird a character education program with virtue ethics, while servicemembers are still free to choose the justificatory framework for those virtues. This upholds both the servicemembers’ civil liberties and the nation’s mandate to develop officers of character.



Virtue ethics. Character development. Religious freedom. Liberal values. Military training.