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Moral Injury with Dr. Timothy Shaw

George Grombacher November 17, 2022

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Moral Injury with Dr. Timothy Shaw

LifeBlood: We talked about moral injury, what it is, how it’s changed and evolved over time, it’s current state, and what the future holds, with Dr. Timothy Shaw, Moral Injury researcher, lecturer, and editor.

Listen to learn the value of having a unified definition of moral injury!

You can learn more about Timothy at, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Dr. Timothy Shaw

Episode Transcript

Unknown Speaker 0:15
lipid. This is George G. And the time is right welcome. Today’s guest starring on powerful Dr. Timothy Shaw. Dr. Timothy, are you ready to do this? Thank you very much, George, I certainly am excited to have you on. Dr. Timothy is a moral injury researcher. He’s taught ethics at the University of Sydney. He’s the editor of the great philosophical problems, leading voice and moral injury, luminous and the just war tradition. Timothy, tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work, why you do what you do? Yes. Okay. I started this project a long time ago,

Unknown Speaker 0:50
at university, when I was looking into the just for tradition, and I found that extraordinarily interesting to understand how over the period

Unknown Speaker 1:00
of Christian thinking about when to wage war and how to kill or how to,

Unknown Speaker 1:07
what causes to fight for and how to fight for them. How that has evolved through time,

Unknown Speaker 1:13
though, was my first snapshot into thinking that there is a certainly a psychological sense for killing in war or for war in general, which abstracted over time certainly starts to deliver some evolved understandings of morality and, and can deliver a definition of moral injury.

Unknown Speaker 1:39
Nice. So that’s a this is this is not the People Magazine of research. This is this is heavy stuff. We’re trying to trying to we’re trying to get there.

Unknown Speaker 1:51
Okay. And you are you’ve been tasked with redefining

Unknown Speaker 1:59
morality, moral injury? Yes. In the field suffers from a it’s a there’s a tripart distinction in the field at the moment, there is clinical definition. There’s a cultural definition, and there is a religious based definition. Now, they don’t have the same moral lexicon, or the same language to talk between each other.

Unknown Speaker 2:30
What the think tank that I’m involved with, is tasked with is creating a definition, or philosophical base definition that can provide such a lexicon or provide a way in which to talk about, or for the various ideas to talk to each other.

Unknown Speaker 2:50
Yeah, nice. Okay. So when when y’all get tapped to do that? Is that extremely exciting? Is that nerve racking? Is it a little bit? Oh, yeah. No, it’s very, it’s very exciting, because it’s, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about now for over a decade. And, and it’s to try and find a definition or a or not even a definition, because I wouldn’t presume to propose a definition, I haven’t had the opportunity to serve my country, I haven’t had the opportunity to go to war. And to look at really where you can find these definitions was quite exciting. And I stumbled upon a veteran based definition for moral injury, which just happens to also be a definition by one of the greatest moral philosophers of the Western world, which was Frederick Nietzsche, who went to war came back from war. He went to war as a captain, because he had volunteered for military service, but very wet, and they came back from war. And he started writing his philosophy only after he came back from war, after he had actually rescinded his citizenship.

Unknown Speaker 4:09
Because he was so morally injured about what he had seen. And he’d started to try and make sense of it in his mind through his writings.

Unknown Speaker 4:17
In 1872, was his first which was the Birth of Tragedy,

Unknown Speaker 4:22
his first ever book and also his first book, Parliament after war. And that was followed by a 10 year period, where he worked towards the joyous wisdom. So a period of of Birth of Tragedy to joyous wisdom, and on the day and the end of that 10 year period. That’s when he wrote this work. That was very important to announce the aid for the understandings of moral injury which was Thus Spake Zarathustra, which is his masterwork, and which he wrapped up these understandings in some metaphorical ideas.

Unknown Speaker 5:00
that has been fascinating to unravel. Yeah, yeah. I can only imagine. All right, so you are, you are doing your best to take into consideration the wisdom of thinkers like Nietzsche, you are you’re being you’re being mindful of the experience of recent veterans and and wanting to keep an eye on the future and everything else. What is the actual work look like? How do you go about this?

Unknown Speaker 5:33
Well, there’s so the, the work of

Unknown Speaker 5:37
it have I had got a trace work sort of,

Unknown Speaker 5:43
well, pardon me, the first, the first bit of work is hard work, it’s looking at how we can understand the consequences of, of the Holocaust. And really, to understand those consequences are very important, because those ideas must be

Unknown Speaker 6:06
respected in any understanding of what moral injury is today.

Unknown Speaker 6:12
And getting an idea of them was very difficult. And it took a lot of work. And I settled on a philosopher called Emmanuel Lebanon, who was a French fellow who was in the concentration camps. And he’s, he managed to leave them. And much like Nietzsche, who never wrote about his experience in war, Lebanon has really never wrote about his experience in the concentration camp, but rather applied that experience to a philosophy. And his idea was the taking of the transcendent aspect, out of the sky, and into the face of another person. And so he resituated the idea of God into a person into other people. And those understandings are very important for today’s today’s culture, and understanding, really, what’s important as we in the West have

Unknown Speaker 7:17
a decline of the institutions that have surrounded the church and

Unknown Speaker 7:24
understanding of a nihilistic some nihilistic behaviors that are creeping in. And meaninglessness is meaninglessness, that is also creeping in.

Unknown Speaker 7:37

Unknown Speaker 7:40
live in us?

Unknown Speaker 7:43
Yes. Okay. I don’t know if so, okay. So yes, so 11 So, he is that so, once we have his once we have those understandings, then we then we can look at Frederick nature and, and if you if you type into YouTube, and I encourage all your listeners to do this, if you type into YouTube ago, Thus Spake Zarathustra, what is it all about? Okay. And you will have many people say many different things, right? That and everyone will cut up a bit of this work, it was the basis of Carl Jung psychoanalytic, and he also said that, that work in particular, was the most vivid illustration of an intuitive method for the Western psyche, or the Western consciousness where ideas could be understood in a, in a non intellectual yet philosophical way. Now, I’ve looked at how Yun has dealt with the work, and

Unknown Speaker 8:41
it’s unfortunate to report that he was wrong. And so is everyone. Actually, everyone on the internet is wrong, wrong, Jordan Peterson wrong, everyone that I’ve looked at is wrong. The way in which this work has been compiled is through a series of metaphors, where to understand it,

Unknown Speaker 9:02
to understand the work it is, it is

Unknown Speaker 9:07
its main aim is to put every so for one again on firm land and burn legs. And we can we get that main aim from the chapter of out of service, which is talking about the last pope. And he’s saying, you know, when we reach a point where we’ve got to break down of religion, and you know, it’s silly to think that it’s not happening when we look at the levels of religiosity going forward in future generations. There is you regardless of what you think about

Unknown Speaker 9:44
it must be looked at as something very important once that starts and it is, since World War Two, really gone off a precipice. So how that how these understandings all fit together.

Unknown Speaker 10:01
It’s probably a little bit

Unknown Speaker 10:04
a little bit too short to, to go into it in depth, but

Unknown Speaker 10:08
what the what these ideas are used for in the book, bass Spake Zarathustra, that they’re used to apply to the third book of the genealogy of morality of morals, which is nature’s most important

Unknown Speaker 10:26
political work. And the opening of that work says, you must understand this work, even though it’s an aphoristic form, which an aphorism is very precise lines, they said, he goes, You won’t understand this unless you don’t look at this as a modern man, but rather look at this as a cow. And you think, Well, what does that mean a cow. And, and what he means by a cow is a four legged creature, a virtue. And if you look at what he’s talks about, as the academic chairs of virtue, that stupidly stand it, like an academic chair, and when they don’t stand, they lie down like a cow. And his linguistic skill is that the lying down of a chair is also a lying out of one’s idea of oneself. And He is very clever with linguistic

Unknown Speaker 11:25
symbols. And that’s how he’s constructed and led a trail of breadcrumbs all the way to the aphorism 27, I believe. Yes, which is the penultimate aphorism in the third book of the Genealogy of Morals, which has the definition of moral injury. And, and so it’s a very important aphorism, and it’s and he any takes us there, through his his work and Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Unknown Speaker 11:57
So it sounds like both of these, both really, really intelligent people that went through horrible events. And instead of writing directly about these things, they they wanted to express and get across the importance, but they did in the form of some kind of a narrative.

Unknown Speaker 12:15

Unknown Speaker 12:17
and the problem, a problem that we’re experiencing since World War Two, is we’re getting farther away from the importance or the understanding of these lessons. Certainly, after World War Two, you could say that the

Unknown Speaker 12:37

Unknown Speaker 12:39
I forgive me for speaking, frankly, but the the the I believe that the take home messages from World War Two were born out in Nuremberg, where we shifted with the moral gravitas in which the greatest criminals that we’ve ever had on this planet were charged with they were charged with crimes against humanity, it was a new charge invented at the tribunal. And at that time, we shifted from crimes against God to crimes against humanity. And if you had God walking down the street, and he said, You know what, people in the next neighborhood, they’re bad people, let’s kill every third one, you could charge that God with crimes against humanity, but you cannot charge humanity with crimes against God. And that is the new phase that was ushered in with World War Two. And, and the ideas that that came out of Nuremberg, but obviously, the problem is, is that these fabulous enlightened ideas

Unknown Speaker 13:39
have not been adhered to. And the non adherence to these principles has created some terrible problems for

Unknown Speaker 13:49
well, for example, in America.

Unknown Speaker 13:53
I recently heard that the were 20 years past September 11, a terribly tragic event. And they said

Unknown Speaker 14:02
there’ll be 20 more years until the court cases are resolved. And and so 40 year and that’s because of the black sites the torture the under the not being able to

Unknown Speaker 14:15
really nail down some principles and if you delay meaning for 14 years and you have no meaning for that event for 40 years, then the the gravitas or the onus for understanding that event. Well where does it fall at the moment it’s fallen on the fire on firefighters and they are the greatest heroes from that time and so they should be but that hero that the the rates of suicide in firemen, right, I’ve been at surf Lifesaver and I and everyone said You’re so brave. Go out, you know, saving people’s lives. And you think you think who are these people, you know to tell them about it?

Unknown Speaker 15:00
This is a job that is this is what I like to do. I, like, you know, I’m, you know,

Unknown Speaker 15:07
the unrealistic expectations that are put upon people to carry a burden of meaning, or things that are certainly lost.

Unknown Speaker 15:19
It’s just one of the protuberances of not adhering to some very basic principles of which we’re, we’re of America’s own making, thank God, because thank God is in humanity, because, you know, it was Bretton that said, let’s execute them. And it was America that said, Hang on a second, no, let’s put let’s charge them. And let’s charge him with something. And let’s meet and let’s make a new precedent.

Unknown Speaker 15:51
So one of the things that, if I’m understanding you correctly, is that we are we had these principles we had a understood and working knowledge of, of what moral injury really was. And we could lean on that and use it to interpret whether or not behaviors were were just or in just eat well, I think that for moral injury to suddenly start to take hold.

Unknown Speaker 16:28
Justice. So the moral injury for if we go back to nature, he came back from war or, and his first

Unknown Speaker 16:37
work for moral injury was introspection, it was an attempt at self criticism. Now, that is the first idea that springs that is the first thing that should occur. That doesn’t matter if he when he went towards a medic, and he couldn’t save enough people, and he still came back. And so it was self critical, right? He couldn’t use the buttresses of state couldn’t use the buttresses of religion, because he was he was just so shocked about everything. So he did something else.

Unknown Speaker 17:09
If you look back at the end of the Second World War, you have America introducing an idea of crimes against humanity,

Unknown Speaker 17:18
at the same time of dropping bombs, that are only on civilian populations that can only be a crime against humanity, nuclear weapons, and if that was not censured, or the understandings that that was wrong was never explicitly made it to the point that over the over the bathtub in the Pacific, where Australia presided over the Tokyo trials, the Tokyo trials will organize by Americans, the Americans, they had the same charges that could be leveled at the Japanese. Now, the Japanese did some terrible things. Right, crimes against humanity was not leveled at them. And that is because they couldn’t, because America wouldn’t put their hand up and say, you know, what? These bombs? You know, let’s be honest, luckily, they were used at the very end of total war. So that so the precedent is that they only are used at the end of the total war between major nations. But, you know, if they used again, there is no understanding that there should you know, that there should be massive penalties applied for that for their use it it seems to be a riot that new killer nations can have. And because of this, right, do we have other nations that are not nuclear powers striving for it and destabilizing the world?

Unknown Speaker 18:45
That makes sense. That makes sense. So

Unknown Speaker 18:50
in a perfect world, or a more perfect world, we would have agreed upon standards, and we can then hold everyone accountable to those standards, regardless of their standing or their military strength.

Unknown Speaker 19:06
Well, it’s, um, in efforts and 27 the aphorism that, that the moral injury definition is from the law giver himself is always ultimately exposed to the cry, submit to the law you have yourself made. And that is something that takes on a very poignant resonance with moral injury.

Unknown Speaker 19:31
Yeah, well, I think that that is

Unknown Speaker 19:36
that is

Unknown Speaker 19:39
a really, really important part of of justice is being able to stand up and say, I made a mistake, or we made a mistake, and we need to be held to account for this. And when the shoes on the other foot, we can also hold

Unknown Speaker 20:00
To others to account for the same standard.

Unknown Speaker 20:04

Unknown Speaker 20:05
So that is what you are working on is to, is to I don’t know if unify is the correct term, but come to a better understanding

Unknown Speaker 20:18
is the corrector. And don’t get me wrong. I think America is a wonderful country, I think I think it is a worldly, I think it’s fabulous. I think it’s fabulous. But I do I do see, I look out and I look at these, these these big and we’re heading towards some more wars, two big wars, and I’m looking at Russia. And I’m thinking, geez, wouldn’t it be nice if America had signed up to the International Criminal Court? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if they join Germany? And then guess what, you wouldn’t have China say we’re gonna we’re gonna go and take Taiwan.

Unknown Speaker 20:51

Unknown Speaker 20:53
All right. So we should stop talking? Do you need to get back to work? Yes, I do.

Unknown Speaker 20:59
Do you have an idea? Are Are you almost done? How from start to finish? How long will this take? Do you think? Look, I’m sure it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t take too much longer. At the moment, what I’m doing is I’m going to start hassling all the nature scholars in the world because they don’t understand the book and I’m putting the actual meanings on my website, great philosophical of the metaphors in that Spake Zarathustra, I’m showing what they have been understood in the scholarship in the books, how they’ve been interpreted. And then I’m putting the proper interpretation next to them. That’s the that’s the first step. And then, and I’ve got a book that’s almost complete, but

Unknown Speaker 21:39
I think it’s first time to ruffle a few feathers. But before before we before we put it out there.

Unknown Speaker 21:45
I love it. Beautiful. Well, Dr. Timothy, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you give us the websites and all the different places that we can connect?

Unknown Speaker 21:56
Thank you, Matt. It’s great. It’s great philosophical Okay, perfect. Well, if you enjoyed this as much as I did show, Dr. Timothy, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good good ideas, go to great philosophical and dig into all the work that Timothy has been been doing, and where we’re going and think that the more we can educate ourselves on big problems and ideas, like the ones that you are wrestling with, I think the better for everybody. So I appreciate your work. Thank you again. Really appreciate the talk. Thank you. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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