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In his book, Justice: What is the right thing to do?, Michael Sandel offers a ca

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In his book, Justice: What is the right thing to do?, Michael Sandel offers a case study related to Aristotle and Purple Hearts. He links Aristotle’s notion of virtue and moral deserts. Here’s the case:
Since 1932, the U.S. military has awarded the Purple Heart to soldiers wounded or killed in battle by enemy action. In addition to the honor, the medal entitles recipients to special privileges in veterans’ hospitals. Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, growing numbers of veterans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and treated for the condition. Symptoms include recurring nightmares, severe depression, and suicide. At least 300 hundred thousand veterans reportedly suffer from traumatic stress or major depression. Advocates for these veterans proposed early on that they, too, should qualify for the Purple Heart. Since psychological injuries can be at least as debilitating as physical ones, they argue, soldiers who suffer these wounds should receive the medal.
After the Pentagon advisory group studied the question, the Pentagon announced in 2009 that the Purple Heart would be reserved for soldiers with physical injuries. Veterans suffering from mental or psychological disorders would not qualify, even though they would qualify for government supported medical treatment and disability payments. Two reasons were offered: (1) traumatic stress disorders are not intentionally caused by enemy action; and (2) they are difficult to diagnose objectively.
Consider this: In the Iraq war, a common injury with the Purple Heart was the punctured eardrum caused by explosion at close range. But unlike bullets and bombs, such explosions are not a deliberate enemy tactic intended to kill or injure; they are, like traumatic stress, a damaging side effect.
A veteran’s group called the Military Order of the Purple Heart opposed awarding the medal for psychological reasons, claiming that doing so would “debase” the honor. A spokesman for the group stated that “shedding blood” should be an essential qualification. But Tyler Boudreau, a former Marine captain who favors including psychological injuries, offered a compelling analysis of the dispute. He attributes the opposition to a deep-seated attitude in the military that views post-traumatic stress as a kind of weakness. “The same culture that demands tough-mindedness also encourages skepticism toward the suggestion that the violence of war can hurt the healthiest of minds…Sadly, as long as our military culture bears at least a quiet contempt for the psychological wounds of war, it is unlikely those veterans will ever see a Purple Heart.”
Here’s a way to bring Aristotle. The real issue is about the meaning of the medal and the virtues it honors. What are the relevant virtues? Unlike other military medals, the Purple Heart honors sacrifice, not bravery. It requires no heroic act, only an injury inflicted by an enemy. The question here is what kind of injury should count. But what Sandel points to is this: we can’t determine who deserves a military medal without asking what virtues the medal properly honors. To answer this, we have to assess competing conceptions of character and sacrifice.
Question
Let’s see what you think. Our reading this week by Douglas Giles, “How Can I be a Better Person? On Virtue Ethics,” offers a solid overview of Aristotle’s ethics. Use the section of this chapter on Aristotle to help formulate your responses, as well as the videos from Micheal Sandel on Aristotle’s ethics. Again, you want to write a good, solid paragraph for each question. Strong responses always incorporate textual evidence in support of its claims. Here are the questions:
Using the Giles reading and Sandel’s videos, explain why, for Aristotle, the concepts of telos and eudaimonia serve important roles in the development of virtues. Stay close the text and videos in your response.
How would Aristotle help you make an argument for or against the bestowal of the Purple Heart? Here you want to draw from your analysis from question one above.
Now let’s see where do you stand. Do you agree or disagree with the Pentagon’s decision on the bestowal of Purple Hearts? Where might you challenge Aristotelean reasoning? Be sure to explain why or why not. Make an argument.

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