On Character and Creativity: Philosophical Reflections on Moral Education in the United States Military

Jones, Harry, Philosophy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Lomasky, Loren, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

My dissertation seeks to bring recent work in ethics and creativity to bear in new and interesting ways on the Army’s moral education efforts. The U.S. Army aims to develop leaders who can exercise excellent moral judgment, often in extreme situations, and who have the ability to solve new, complex problems as well as old problems in innovative ways. One question I aim to answer is, “How might the U.S. Army develop leaders who are deeply moral and exceptionally creative?” In order to do that well, the Army needs substantive conceptions of both character and creativity. I argue for a conception of character that places emphasis on the skill-like nature of virtue and, subsequently, a conception of creativity as, itself, a skill. The exercise of a skill is sensitive to a variety of external factors present in any given situation. The exercise of virtue is sensitive to situational factors as well, but moral education in the Army gives insufficient attention to this. While character development is about much more than merely about doing the “right thing,” one important aim is to equip agents to exercise good judgment. In the context of moral education, I argue that deliberate attention to situational factors (including institutional structures) will help agents make better decisions, even while adding complexity to the problem. As moral agents develop, practical wisdom enables them to exercise the virtues in new, unfamiliar, and often ambiguous situations. In this way, the exercise of practical wisdom is itself a creative act, and yet creativity is not typically emphasized in moral education. I argue that teaching creativity as an integral part of moral education will better equip agents (i.e. military personnel) to exercise practical wisdom in an increasingly complex world.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
philosophy, ethics, creativity, military, moral education, design, design thinking
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