Towards a reflective stance of honor and dignity: -A phenomenological inquiry into the use of force by analyzing the US Navy’s Crossing the Line ritual

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Abstract

In this paper, I examine the meaning of the use of force for military professionals by analyzing the US Navy’s Crossing the Line ceremony. Ambiguity surrounds the initiation ritual for crossing the equator onboard naval warships, especially towards its form prior to the late 1990s. All the while, the US Navy has maintained that the ceremony is a part of a long tradition for teaching the values of honor, commitment and courage. Inspired by Max van Manen’s approach to phenomenological writing (1984, 2016), I explicate the idea that the ceremony, in its former form, did indeed teach the value of honor, but through inversion, acting out the worst possible behavior imaginable for military professionals in the form of a black mass, while the ceremony in its current form teaches the value of individual dignity as a professional obligation. The inquiry concludes with a reflective stance of honor and dignity as moral principles for enabling and constraining the use of force. Derived from the experience of a particular military practice, the stance has also general significance, helping navigate the line between thoughtlessness without a well-established order and thoughtful actions within a social framework, not unlike the just war tradition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Military Ethics
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
ISSN1502-7570
Publication statusSubmitted - 17. Dec 2019

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