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My personal ethos

My life has been full of ethical training and study: from boy scouting, military training, martial arts, studies in bushido, and philosophical investigation that has as of late culminated in researching Confucianism. Now, while I consider morals to be purely societal and grounded in our material nature, that does not make them any less important, for as social beings, society is still a vital context to place ourselves in and hence how we behave within society is an important consideration.

I have also noticed that my studies and tutelage in the aforementioned groups and schools of thought tend to have common core values that any sort of 'warrior ethos', as a subset of a greater societal ethos, seems to possess. However, to consider all of them at once subjects me to redundancy, both between and within the various systems: the army values, for example, seem to have been chosen for the acronym of 'LDRSHIP' (leadership) which means some of them could be pared down. Plus, the other services seem to do well enough with three basic values or guidelines. The army's 'warrior ethos' seems also to only focus on mission accomplishment as opposed to how it is accomplished in an ethical manner.

As such, I have at this point distilled the various ethical tenets I have come to value, into a tripartite personal code of conduct that I try to live by. They are by no means supposed to encompass the entire spectrum of human relations, but rather serve as rules of thumb. They are based not just on the honor codes I have studied, but also on basic human nature.

- Always keep your word
- Act for the sake of others
- Face death and adversity with resolute acceptance


At the most basic level, this exemplifies the "scout's honor" in that I will always make every effort to do what I promise to do. This includes the consequences of oaths and signatures towards a group, as well as solemn promises to another individual. However, it is not a license to freely indulge in undertaking such duties: for anyone giving their word of honor must use judgment and foresight in deciding whether or not they can (or should) do what they promise. In other words, it is vital to keep one's word, but also equally important to be careful about committing yourself to it. But in doing so, this also leads to self improvement: after all, if you are physically and mentally capable you can better fulfill your promises.

As a societal value, this vow is about trust, and in fact can be extrapolated to honesty in general: that is, making your words and actions match in accord with reality. Trust and trustworthiness is what holds a society together, so whether you call it integrity or honor, it is incumbent upon everyone to live up to those ideals.

Of course, there are times when this injunction can be misused or in conflict with other values. For example, would I lie to protect someone from unjust harm? What if I find out an oath I took will force me to do something else morally reprehensible? For these situations, the next vow must be considered, both as a safety valve against these hypotheticals and as another factor of human cooperation....


Humans are social beings and as such we are driven to altruism and cooperation. In fact, even in episodes of great natural disasters, people tend to exhibit behavior that helps others instead of the stereotypical selfishness and moral depravity. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johan....._b_837440.html)

While it is true we also have an impulse to satisfy our basic needs on a personal level, these physical needs are actually quite minimal. In addition, our just-as-natural empathy means we also do, and likely should, recognize our own desires as existing in others; following Hume and Wang Fuzhi, honest recognition of this fact leads to altruism. And, per Maslow, after our physical needs are taken care of, personal relationships become more important; these personal relationships in turn are best nurtured by considering the welfare of those we bond with.

Thus, out of both cooperation and compassion, emerge the dictum to act on behalf of others. Like the first vow, this injunction also drives one to improve and better themselves: for by leveraging your talents you can better aid those in need.


Finally we come to the warrior-monk virtue of sorts. People seem to include as part of their relations the act of combat, and in fact sometimes acting for the sake of others may mean facing down the threat to them with physical force of your own. Along with this goes the threat of having harm come to yourself, so some virtue that promotes courage is essential. Now, instead of bolstering one's self by dehumanizing the other, it might be best instead to come to more of an acceptance that melts away panic. After all, in combat between two willing individuals, it is circumstances that have brought you together and each must face death knowing it is the price for standing up for what they believe in - including the first two vows I have mentioned.

But death and adversity do not come only from fighting. The probabilistic nature of the universe, and our own mortality ensure that death and suffering are inevitable, and if we are not inured to this fact, we cannot fulfill our promises or act on behalf of others to the fullest extent we could.

It has been observed that death itself is peaceful even if the manner may not be. Plus, people who are aware of their impending death go through various emotional states before arriving at acceptance. So when people dream of an afterlife, perhaps they are just 'in denial', and when they talk of a deity saving a place for them, perhaps they are 'bargaining'. I say, let us progress to 'acceptance'...it does not mean you have to kill yourself in a nihilistic fit, but simply realize the end will eventually come...to say nothing of the inevitability of experiencing suffering of other sorts. Yet, suffering is also temporary, and death you no longer suffer, so it technically evens own.

By calmly realizing how tenuous life is, and the fiction of eternal happiness, you can instead gain tranquility by being comfortable with these facts. Freed of the shackles of the anxiety, you can charge boldly forward and carry out the duties you impose on yourself, and those imposed on you by the virtue of your humanity. In this sense, the third vow completes the other two, just as they did for each other...just as death fulfills and completes life itself.
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