A Knowledge Outcome: Ethics and the Foundations of Character

U.S. Air Force Academy Outcomes

U.S. Air Force Academy Outcomes

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Nothing is more important to success as a military officer than good character. Officers are the face of our nation. They develop and then execute polices on the employment of military forces. Air Force officers are responsible for safeguarding freedom, protecting the lives of their subordinates, and when they must, sending those same subordinates into mortal danger. Doing all this within the bounds of morality demands extraordinarily sophisticated judgment and unfailing strength of conviction.

Developing the qualities of character required to be a good military officer is not easy. Many things must contribute to the cadets' development if they are to achieve the required competence: 

-- Deep knowledge of the nature of morality and its purposes 
-- An understanding of the basic principles that bind us as human beings, citizens, and members of a profession 
-- Practice in the art of making moral judgments in both hard and easy cases 
-- The settled motivation to act reliably on the deliverances of good judgment

Providing this knowledge and "know how" is the lofty aim of the Ethics and the Foundations of Character Outcome.

Cadets pursue developing good character in a variety of ways. 

In the core course Philosophy 310, they undertake academic study of moral experience and the works of the classic moral philosophers; become thoroughly familiar with the Just War Theory; and grapple with the theory behind the complex commitments and demands of being a professional military officer. In Law 220, cadets master the Law of Armed Conflict, underscoring the legal dimension of these moral obligations. 

When it comes to developing moral judgment, they practice, practice, practice: with case studies across multiple disciplines; by immersing themselves in morally challenging literature in courses delivered by the Department of English and Fine Arts; and in the daily demands of their real lives in classrooms, in the squadrons, on athletic fields, through clubs and in special military programs. The first-class year provides special opportunities, including the real moral decisions they must make in wing leadership positions and in day-long, off-site participation in the capstone Academy Character Enrichment Seminar.