Decorum In The Military

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The second chapter contrasts current obsessions with physical fitness (taken to dangerous extremes by some body builders) with Stoic indifference to the body -- the body is external to happiness, and is to be regarded as a tool, to be kept in good condition, to be sure, but not valued for its own sake. Here the resonance with a military outlook is clear: physical fitness is a duty because of its role in mission readiness, and further, given the high risks to which the body is subjected, one can see some appeal in regarding it as a preferred indifferent. Yet Sherman pulls back: Drawing on anecdotes of soldiers who have lost limbs or suffered other disfiguring injuries, she argues that while Stoicism has much to offer in service of recovering…show more content…
In doing so, Sherman draws on Cicero 's notion of decorum being indexed to our roles or personae (noting that this notion usefully allows us to separate the deferential respect due to rank and based on one 's professional role, from the dignitary respect due to all and based on our shared, and most fundamental, role as rational agents), and Seneca 's account of how decorum and emotional demeanor can help "weave the fabric of community." The decorum insisted upon by the military, focusing on stolid determination, respect and obedience, and camaraderie and friendship between soldiers, can cement the bonds within military units (bonds shown in many studies to be essential to combat effectiveness); the approach to decorum taken by enlightened commanders can be enriched by familiarity with Stoic treatments of the subject. It is in this chapter that we find the most direct and unmixed recommendation of Stoic views; the remaining chapters deal largely with emotion in Stoic theory and in the life of the warrior, and while Sherman certainly finds much of value in the former, she repeatedly softens or even controverts key Stoic claims, often leaning in the direction of…show more content…
It offers a valuable treatment of Stoic philosophy, and of military culture, which she clearly understands and respects. Indeed readers will find here not so much groundbreaking research on Stoic texts or their interpretations as something more like a philosophy, or the core of a philosophy, of military service -- a philosophy of one of the fundamental professional roles in our culture, with implications for our most fundamental role of all, human agency. It is a practical book of philosophy -- in this too, then, Sherman follows the Roman Stoics. Still, the book does not leave us without a few points for
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