Accession Number:



Bernard Gert's Theory of Moral Rules and American Professional Military Ethics

Descriptive Note:

Doctoral thesis

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



This dissertation presents a prima facie case for the usefulness of applying Bernard Gerts theory of moral rules to American professional military ethics. Gerts moral theoretical goal is to describe the common moral system that all moral agents implicitly use to make moral decisions the way competent speakers of a language implicitly use a grammatical system to speak a language. Gert describes the key features of the common moral system and attempts to justify that description as accurate. Gerts moral theory also provides an explicit decision procedure to guide moral decision-making in concrete cases. Gert has already argued in many articles and books that his moral decision procedure can be effectively used to make complex moral decisions in professional medical ethics. I use Gerts work in medical ethics as a springboard for investigating whether similar success is possible in American Professional Military Ethics. I argue that similar success is possible but limited. This dissertation is organized into an introductory chapter, four main chapters, and a concluding chapter. In chapter 2 I review the diverse literature that American military professionals have at their disposal to guide their moral decision-making in concrete cases. This literature is divided into two convenient categories, official documents and the literature of evaluation and aspiration. In chapter three I present a concise discussion of Gerts theory of moral rules, explaining key concepts he deploys and describing the moral decision procedure that is consistent with those concepts. In chapter four I review and assess Gerts important work in medical ethics in order to explore how and how effectively he has deployed his theory to make moral decisions in concrete medical ethics cases. Finally in chapter five, I apply Gerts moral theory to several concrete cases of varying complexity in American professional military ethics.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law

Distribution Statement: