Nancy Sherman

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Nancy Sherman
InstitutionsGeorgetown University, United States Naval Academy, Yale University
Main interests
Ethics - especially military ethics, the history of moral philosophy, ancient philosophy, and moral psychology

Nancy Sherman (born 1951) is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University.[1] She was also the inaugural Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the United States Naval Academy.[1] Sherman is the author of several books,[1] and her views on military ethics have been influential.

Education and career[edit]

Sherman received a bachelor's in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1973.[2] She went on to receive a master's in Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh in 1976, and her doctorate from Harvard University in 1982.[2]

After receiving her doctorate, she accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale University in 1982, where she was promoted to Associate Professor in 1988.[2] In 1989 she moved to Georgetown University, accepting a position of tenured Associate Professor, receiving a promotion to full professor in 1994.[2] In 2001, she was elevated to University Professor.[2] Besides for her regular appointments, Sherman also served as the inaugural Distinguished Chair of Ethics at the United States Naval Academy from 1997 to 1999, has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center since 2004, and has been a Faculty Affiliate at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown since 1994.[2] She also spent a term as Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University in 1995, and two terms as such at the University of Maryland in 1995 and 1996.[2]

Sherman has served in a variety of posts in the American Philosophical Association as well as other professional organizations.[1] In 2005, she was also invited by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to visit Guantanamo Bay detention center to witness the conditions detainees were being held in, and to provide ethical advice as to their continued treatment.[1] She also acted as an observer to the Vice Chief of the Army's Suicide Review Board in 2011.[1]

Research areas[edit]

Sherman has conducted research in general ethics, the history of philosophy, and moral psychology. In recent years her research has been primarily focused on military ethics and related matters.[1][3] She has worked and published extensively on such issues as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military suicide, and the honor, guilt, and shame associated with war.[1][4] Sherman has written about how ancient theories of stoicism may be modified and helpfully applied to the modern world and the modern soldier. Her conclusions have been criticized on the basis that such applications may be actively counterproductive.[5]

Sherman writes about courage and the use of emotions from a soldier's point of view in her book Stoic Warriors. She asserts that soldiers returning home often receive insufficient care, leaving them ill-prepared for non-violent civilian life. Following this she considers post-traumatic stress disorder), comparing the dysfunctional anger shown by some soldiers after they come home from war to the anger that may be functional on the battlefield as a way of summoning courage. Though the relationship of anger to courage may be deemed controversial to stoic views of the perfect warrior, Sherman sees this as a relationship in displaying courage since soldiers must suppress their anger, fear, and other battlefield emotions, inducing a disorder that releases these emotions after battle, in non-violent situations. Thus the process by which courage is summoned and displayed on the battlefield can lead directly to PTSD when they return home -- a process that can be addressed effectively by proper care upon their return.

In her most recent book Afterwar, Sherman explores questions of moral injury and healing in war. The moral dimensions of returning soldiers' psychological injuries -- guilt, shame, feeling responsible for doing wrong or being wronged -- are often ignored and elude conventional treatment.


Sherman has published a large number of peer-reviewed papers, and has also authored six books.[1][6] Sherman's books include Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers (Oxford 2015);The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers (W.W. Norton 2010); Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy Behind the Military Mind (Oxford 2005); Making A Necessity of Virtue: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue (Cambridge 1997); and The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue (Oxford 1989).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sherman, Nancy. "Nancy Sherman: December 2013". Committee on the Status of Women. American Philosophical Association. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sherman, Nancy. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Georgetown University. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Nancy Sherman". Georgetown University. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  4. ^ Sherman, Nancy. "Nancy Sherman | Author". Nancy Sherman. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  5. ^ Wolfendale, Jessica (2006). "Stoic Warriors and Stoic Torturers: The Moral Psychology of Military Torture". South African Journal of Philosophy. 25 (1).
  6. ^ "Nancy Sherman | Books". Retrieved 2018-06-23.