Significance of Ethics and Whether They Can Be Taught


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With the above in mind, a hypothesis could be drawn that Lisa Smith’s ethical code was, for a significant period at least, influenced from her military involvement and education. These aspects will be drawn upon in an attempt to determine whether this particular nature of ethics can be taught.

The words “military” and “duty” echo with synonymous ideals, coincidentally duty is embedded in deontological ethical decision making. Just as the central advocate of deontological ethics Kant had propagated, in order for humans to act in a morally “correct” manner, the action must derive from a position of duty (Kant, 1785.) In support, many such as the British militant and scholar Sir John Hackett, believe that the greatest contribution that the military provides its community is neither the political nor functional aspects but instead it lies in the moral domain (Toner, 2013.) All military personnel are expected to be examples in terms of leadership, morality and upholding ethical standards (Miller, 2007.) For this reason, the importance of teaching ethics to military people cannot be over stated. Hence, the education of ethics and its application has been implemented in the military administrations of all nations (Medhi, 2015.)

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Socrates justified that ethics involve the sense of what “ought” to be done and as a result such information is able to be taught (Andre and Velasquez, 2012.) The US Naval Institute believes this too and is actively training their personnel to be leaders that must able to successfully steer through what is described as ethical “grey zones” where clear answers or decisions may be uncertain (Edward, DeRemer, Bolgiano, 2012.) Whether one believes ethics can or cannot be taught, nations around the globe are certainly increasing the level of ethics related education within their military training programmes. It is then understandable why some Irish locals may be concerned of the situation with Lisa Smith who spent ten years serving the Irish military and air corps and later spent four years with the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant of Syria. It is a mystery as to where Smith’s moral obligations lie due to her conflicting statements and information. If she has assimilated to a particular strand of ethics, what duty is she seeking to fulfil and what ethical code does she live by?

Naturally, the idea that the military develops positive moral and ethical foundations within adult people has been challenged by many, including George Bernard Shaw who stated ”There can no longer be any question of the fact that military service produces moral imbecility, ferocity and cowardice.” (U.S. Army War College, 1992.) Therefore, perhaps ethics could be taught however in the case of Lisa Smith it may be more fitting to ask, what type of ethics has she been taught, and can she be rehabilitated or untaught (if necessary) so that she may return to Ireland.  

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