Rethinking Military Virtue Ethics in an Age of Unmanned Weapons

Journal of Military Ethics 15 (3):187-204 (2016)
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Although most styles of military ethics are hybrids that draw on multiple ethical theories, they are usually based primarily on the model of Aristotelian virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is well-suited for regulating the conduct of soldiers who have to make quick decisions on the battlefield, but its applicability to military personnel is threatened by the growing use of unmanned weapon systems. These weapons disrupt virtue ethics’ institutional and cultural basis by changing what it means to display virtue and transforming the roles soldiers perform and the nature of the military profession itself. I argue that in light of these challenges to virtue ethics, at least as it is traditionally understood within the armed forces, soldiers operating unmanned weapons require a more heavily rule-based approach to military ethics.



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