All leaders have a command philosophy—a way of looking at the world; beliefs on the purpose of command; a desire to see subordinates act in certain ways when their leader is not there to guide them. Some Navy commanders print command philosophies on poster board and display them throughout the command, while others publish nothing and still succeed.
“Philosophy” often is thought of as an impenetrable academic topic where “some rumpled guy in mismatched tweeds ambles up to the podium and starts lecturing on the meaning of ‘meaning.’”1 However, some of history’s most influential philosophical thinkers also had military service in their résumés. René Descartes, for example, was a military man in addition to being a foundational thinker in the Enlightenment. Socrates fought in the Peloponnesian War, and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius spent a great deal of his reign on military campaigns along the Danube.
1. Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… (New York: Penguin Group, 2007), 4.
2. Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, translated by T. K. Abbott, (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988), 41–42.
3. Kant, Fundamental Principles, 49.
4. Kant, Fundamental Principles, 58.
5. Kant, Fundamental Principles, 61.
6. Joseph Gerard Brennan, Foundations of Moral Obligations (Novato, CA:
Presidio Press, 1994), 93.
7. Aristotle, Politics, from The Basic Works of Aristotle, Richard McKeon ed. (New York: Modern Library, 2001), 1,293.
8. Brennan, Foundations of Moral Obligations, 69.
9. That famous quote is not Aristotle’s, but a summation of some of his thoughts in his Nichomachean Ethics by historian Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers. Frank Herron, “It’s a MUCH More Effective Quotation to Attribute It to Aristotle, Rather than to Will Durant” (University of Massachusetts, Boston: 2013).
10. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, from The Basic Works of Aristotle, Richard McKeon, ed. (New York: Modern Library, 2001), 959.
11. Kant, Fundamental Principles, 78
12. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translated by Maxwell Staniforth (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 145.
13. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992), xiv–xv.