Homeland Security: An Aristotelian Approach to Professional Development

Philip Palin

ABSTRACT: Homeland security should avoid our era’s widespread temptation to specialize. Instead it should develop the characteristics of a true profession. Homeland security education should focus on professional development. The characteristics of a profession can be cultivated through an Aristotelian process of understanding change, principled reasoning about how our actions can influence change, and disciplined reflection on the outcomes of action. Homeland security’s fundamental purpose may be found in how this professional capacity can assist and support the broad range of specializations that are related to the field.

SUGGESTED CITATION:
Palin, Philip. “Homeland Security: An Aristotelian Approach to Professional Development.” Homeland Security Affairs 6, Article 2 (May 2010). https://www.hsaj.org/articles/677

Homeland security may be emerging as a new profession. It need not – I will argue should not – become another specialization. Claiming the core characteristics of a profession is how homeland security can best serve the public interest.

For much of Western history there have been three learned professions: the priesthood, lawyers, and physicians. The learned professions have been distinguished from other occupations by three characteristics:

  1. An extended period of education and apprenticeship focused on mastery of a shared body of literature and way of thinking.
  2. Those successfully completing education and apprenticeship have professed a self-sacrificing commitment to serving society, abiding by shared principles of ethical behavior, and advancing transcendent goals – e.g. spiritual salvation, justice, and human healing.
  3. Substantial freedom to self-organize and self-regulate as a community of professionals.

The three core characteristics are tightly linked. The self-sacrificing pursuit of transcendent goals has justified the freedom to self-organize and self-regulate. Professional education traditionally focused on the ethos of the profession as much as the specific skills of the profession. When (I might write, as) self-regulation has failed, the process of professional preparation has been blamed, and the profession has suffered reduced social esteem, independence, and effectiveness.

Over the centuries other occupations have been conspicuous and honored. But without all three of these characteristics the other occupations have not – until quite recently – been considered professions. In the modern era architecture, engineering, the military, accounting, journalism, and many others have aspired to become professions by emulating the three core characteristics of the traditional learned professions.

Today, across the Western world, there is a diluted sense of professionalism. This has profoundly affected the three learned professions. In particular, the ethos of self-sacrifice can sometimes seem difficult to find among either the traditional or parvenu professions. But if there is to be any long-term value to homeland security as its own field of academic study, it will emerge from a process of professional preparation that reflects the society-serving, transcendent, and self-sacrificing ethos of a true profession.

If we are to be professionals, what do we profess? How do we behave? Who do we serve? What is the goal of our service? What ought we be prepared to sacrifice?

Taking Vows

A professional is someone who professes, who declares publically a certain commitment; usually someone who makes a vow or swears an oath. Perhaps the best known professional oath is that of Hippocrates, administered to physicians for nearly 2,500 years. The Hippocratic Oath is mostly about what the physician will not do. A professional is sufficiently aware of self and context to exercise mindful restraint: Do no harm.

The homeland we seek to secure has emerged from the Constitution. The homeland’s physical aspects have changed dramatically over time. What has largely persisted is the set of principles, simple rules, and relationships set out in the Constitution. The founders put in place effective processes for a certain sort of coming-to-be.

The profession of homeland security should not impede the ability of the people to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Fundamental to being a homeland security professional in the United States should be to do no harm to the Constitution.

The tensions between security and liberty are real. Those who specialize in security will, with the best of intentions, seek to protect and defend the nation with whatever it takes. Homeland security professionals should honor the expertise and intentions of security specialists. But homeland security professionals have a different role.

There are also those who specialize in liberty. With a passion and integrity equal to the security specialists, zealous advocates of liberty will resist any step that might lead us down the slippery slope to tyranny. Homeland security professionals should honor the expertise and intentions of those who specialize in liberty. But homeland security professionals have a different role.

Others pursue specific elements that reflect the boundaries and possibilities woven into the Constitution. As a profession homeland security is focused on preserving and advancing the constitutional system through which the specific elements contribute to an ongoing process of the whole fulfilling its potential and becoming completely itself.

Less widely known than the Hippocratic Oath is the Lawyers Oath, yet something very similar to the Michigan example (shown below) is administered to new lawyers in the vast majority of jurisdictions. Once again, there is considerable attention to restraint.

The Lawyer’s Oath also includes a positive obligation to advance the cause of justice, regardless of personal cost: “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any cause for lucre or malice…”

The long tradition of pro bono publico – lawyering without compensation for the public good – reflects this professional commitment. While not fully articulated in the Hippocratic Oath, a similar ethos can be found in hundreds of free public medical clinics, the work of Doctors Without Borders, and similar cases of free medical care. The distinction often made that pay is what differentiates amateurs from professionals is a perversion. Fulfilling obligations without concern for compensation is fundamental to being a true professional.

The Hippocratic Oath

I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods, and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art–if they desire to learn it–without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken the oath according to medical law, but to no one else.

I will apply dietic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

What is so fundamental to the practice of homeland security that it should, if necessary, be performed without concern for budget, compensation, or other aspects of “lucre”?

Recently I taught an advanced Terrorism Liaison Officer class in California. The class completed a regional analysis of threat, vulnerability, and consequence. The final assignment was to deliver an intelligence brief on the highest risk identified. Surprisingly two separate teams identified the same place and institution. Moreover, the process led the class to perceive the risk they had identified as much more than just an academic exercise.

The intelligence briefing targeted the senior security official at the high-risk institution. I role-played the senior security official. A federal law enforcement officer and a local firefighter teamed to give one of the briefs. The brief reflected the prior expertise they each brought to the broader homeland security goal. They also incorporated strategic and analytical skills covered in the class.

During the brief I resisted a bit. As I resisted, the briefing team gradually moved from an objective stance – which my instructions had encouraged – to something close to advocacy. After the brief one of the other students questioned the shift in tone: “Is it appropriate for a professional to push as hard as they did?”

I acknowledged the concern as appropriate and asked the briefers if the shift was purposeful. They would have preferred to keep a more objective stance, the team explained, but the decision-maker (the role I was playing) did not seem to be listening. They felt compelled to push. From their perspective, the risk was real, “even imminent” as one of them said. They recognized there could be career consequences from pushing too hard, but their professional judgment regarding the risk to the public required such action.

The Hippocratic Oath requires that in serving patients the physician will act, “according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.” How should homeland security education help aspiring professionals recognize those moments when their professional obligations require potential self-sacrifice? How can we prepare them to engage such moments courageously and effectively? How can we strengthen both ability and judgment?

Embracing Ambiguity

There is a particular need for homeland security professionals to have the ability and judgment to deal with ambiguity, uncertainty, and complexity. Where the issues at hand are definable, understandable, and predictable, homeland security is not needed.

When the expertise of others has the issue well-in-hand, homeland security professionals should defer to such expertise and exercise restraint. But when the challenge exceeds the experience, perspective, or knowledge of such experts, homeland security professionals should be able to helpfully frame the situation, explicate the context, and probe for innovative approaches to engage the ambiguity.

The Lawyer’s Oath

I do solemnly swear (or affirm):

I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan;

I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;

I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;

I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;

I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client, and will accept no compensation in connection with my client’s business except with my client’s knowledge and approval;

I will abstain from all offensive personality, and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;

I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any cause for lucre or malice;

I will in all other respects conduct myself personally and professionally in conformity with the high standards of conduct imposed upon members of the bar as condition for the privilege to practice law in this State.

There is also a role for homeland security professionals when experts try to force novel problems into traditional definitions. This is the innate hubris of experts. An expert scans his or her environment for repeating patterns and categories of patterns. A homeland security professional should scan for aberration, randomness, and change. Such preparation goes beyond typical approaches to training or education.

Aristotle gives us two different – but related – types of knowledge: episteme is knowledge of objects that do not change, while techne is knowledge of objects that change. 1 Both sorts of knowledge are valuable. But within Aristotle’s concept of techne we can find theory and practice, art and science, flexibility and discipline. Aristotle explains that techne is “a productive capacity involving true reasoning.” 2 My summary: techne is the reasoned application of theory to practice and the assessment of theory through practice.

The natural, accidental, and intentional threats around which homeland security has emerged have prehistoric pedigrees. A wide range of expertise exists to prevent, mitigate, and otherwise engage these threats. For Aristotle such threats are the material components of reality.

While earthquake, pandemic, and the evil we do one another are persistent – and may even be predictable – the immediate expression or form of the material depends on a range of contextual contingencies that seriously complicates accurate prediction of the threat’s effect. As context changes, how the threat is expressed will also change. Homeland security can contribute most by attending closely to context and interdependencies within the context. For example the urban density of South Florida is an important issue of changing context. Hurricane seasons are persistent.

Since the Enlightenment, Western science has profitably focused on uncovering unchanging and predictable patterns. Yet today much of our cutting-edge science is focused on what cannot be predicted. As an academic field and a profession homeland security will contribute most when it focuses on change.

Aristotle’s classic notion of techne – as a way to engage change – resonates with contemporary work on Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). In both techne and CAS we recognize the key role of randomness. As Aristotle wrote, “Chance and techne are concerned with the same objects…Techne loves chance and chance loves techne.” 3 Even where there is specific intention, chance persists in both complicating and complementing what we earnestly intend.

Since Isaac Newton we have learned a great deal about mechanistic cause and effect. But there is an increasing awareness that Newton’s universe is not our only universe. In biology, sub-atomic physics, human society, and more it is often not possible to predict an activity’s outcome. It is possible to observe – and come to better understand – behavior and outcome by recognizing the relationships involved in the activity.

Developing a deliberate framework for engaging the reality of change – a reality of becoming – is at the core of any meaningful academic treatment of homeland security. Testing and refining this framework in practice is essential to any meaningful profession of homeland security. Aristotle’s notion of techne is such a framework.

Acting and Reflecting

Aristotle is keen to distinguish between poesis and praxis. 4 Poesis is activity to finish something: a poem, a building, a criminal case. The activity’s meaning is established by how it is finished. Praxis is an ongoing, never finished yet self-fulfilling activity. With praxis the activity’s meaning is established by how the activity’s purpose is advanced.

When law enforcement is understood as making an arrest, it is poesis. When firefighting is defined as suppressing a fire, it is poesis. But when these and other specializations are reconceived as, for example, protecting the community, they have the potential to become examples of praxis. Rather than something that can be finished, praxis is an ongoing process of becoming.

Poesis and praxis require different skills and mindsets. While poesis finishes its activity, it typically does not create anything fundamentally new. Aristotle suggests poesis is often a repetitive and imitative activity without creative purpose. Praxis, in contrast, is able to give an account of its purpose(s) and adapt to changing conditions for achieving its purpose. Praxis self-organizes on the edge of chaos, spawning variety and creating new possibilities.

Praxis is action. At its best praxis is thoughtful, purposeful, imaginative, and creative action. Techne informs how action is taken. Action or, rather, reflection-on-action also informs techne. Because techne is knowledge of objects that have variability and that change, action creates the potential for new knowledge. Aristotle explains,

Now experience seems to be almost the same as knowledge of things that do not change (episteme) or knowledge of things that change (techne), but for human beings episteme and techne result from experience, for experience makes techne… but inexperience makes chance. Techne comes into being when out of experience comes many conceptions and one universal judgment arises about those that are similar… We think that knowing and understanding are present in techne more than is experience and we take the possessors of techne to be wiser than people with experience only, as though in every instance wisdom is more something resulting from and following along with knowing; and this is because the ones know the cause while others do not. For people with experience know the what, but do not know the why, but the others are acquainted with the why and the cause. 5

Just as techne informs praxis and is informed by praxis, so is praxis informed by practical reasoning (phronesis). There can be a disciplined way of reflecting on action and the results of acting. Nancy Sherman, a Georgetown University professor of philosophy explains, “Aristotle insists that the good life is a life studying one’s actions, choices, and emotional responses, and studying them in a way in which one remains open to criticism and reform.” 6

Aristotle is especially interested in reasoning about and reflecting on particular actions in particular situations. Because change is fundamental, Aristotle insists we must carefully consider both unchanging matter and changeable form. Unlike Socrates/Plato, in Aristotle there is no immutable model of justice, beauty, truth, or any other excellence. Rather, there is the best possible outcome in a particular situation. An Aristotelian approach to homeland security is not paralyzed by the vision of some ideal outcome. It will, instead, be concerned with the best possible given the concrete realities at hand.

Reality is composite. It is made up of what changes and what persists. To be wise is to be realistic. So our reasoning must give attention to the material elements of reality that do not change and how the material assumes new forms in response to changing context.

All perceptible independent things have material. And what underlies something is its thinghood, and in one sense this is the material (and by material I mean that which, while not being actively a this, is a this potentially), but in another sense what underlies something is its articulation and form, which being a this, is separate in articulation; and a third sort of underlying thing is what is composed of these, of which alone there is coming into being and destruction, and which is separate simply. 7

It is precisely Aristotle’s embrace of change and his situational ethic that is so effectively calibrated with the needs of homeland security.

Despite manifest evidence of constant change, our intellectual and operational habits are more Platonic than Aristotelian. Despite the demonstrated unpredictability of Quantum Mechanics, we still prefer Newtonian certitude. This is especially true of our typical approach to organizational management where we continue to worship at the altar of Frederick Taylor’s vision of systematic efficiency: seeking predictable answers that are always right.

Aristotle warns of such excess. Plato is not wrong, but Plato’s insights must be applied to fit the specific case. Newton is not wrong, but Newton is only right in certain contexts. Frederick Taylor continues to have value in some situations, but not in all. Because change is real, judgment is required. Judgment, reason, principled reflection, phronesis can be learned. This is fundamental to any homeland security curriculum.

A significant portion of Aristotle’s body of work is committed to explaining phronesis and how it is learned. Hans-Georg Gadamer heroically attempts a summation,

The old Aristotelian distinction between practical and theoretical knowledge is operative here – a distinction which cannot be reduced to that between the true and the probable. Practical knowledge, phronesis, is another kind of knowledge. Primarily, this means it is directed towards the concrete situations. Thus it must grasp the “circumstances” in their infinite variety… this kind of knowledge exists outside the rational concept of knowledge, but this is not in fact mere resignation. The Aristotelian distinction refers to something other than the distinction between knowing on the basis of universal principles and on the basis of the concrete. Nor does (this) mean only the capacity to subsume the individual case under a universal category – what we call “judgment.” Rather there is a positive ethical motif that merges into the Roman Stoic doctrine of sensus communis. The grasp and moral control of the concrete situation require subsuming what is given under the universal – that is, the goal that one is pursuing so that the right thing may result. Hence it presupposes a direction of the will – i.e., moral being. That is why Aristotle considers phronesis an “intellectual virtue.” He sees it not only as a capacity, but as a determination of moral being which cannot exist without the totality of the “ethical virtues,” which in turn cannot exist without it. Although practicing this virtue means that one distinguishes what should be done from what should not, it is not simply practical shrewdness and general cleverness. The distinction between what should and should not be done includes the distinction between the proper and improper and thus supposes a moral attitude, which it continues to develop. 8

In the concrete context of homeland security what are Gadamer’s – and Aristotle’s – key take-aways? This is “another kind of knowledge.” Phronesis reasons about change, what is unpredictable, shifting and uncertain. As such, it is especially appropriate to the natural, accidental, and intentional threats of concern to homeland security.

Phronesis is, among other things, reasoning that articulates the shared wisdom of a community. It requires participation, collaboration and deliberation across whatever boundaries divide a community. This is especially valuable to homeland security where threat, vulnerability and consequence are characteristics of neighborhoods, communities, and regions.

Phronesis depends on a clear purpose. To effectively practice phronesis homeland security must make clear its targets and intended outcomes. Given that our homeland security purpose is X, Y, Z and not A, B, or C, what do we know and how can we advance our purposes using what we know?

Phronesis requires a moral capacity and commitment. We are, I suggest, back to taking vows. “Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit… no aspect of moral excellence arises in us by nature… states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because states of character correspond to the difference between these.” 9

Fundamentals of Professional Development for Homeland Security

Western education has, especially in the last sixty years, suffered from misapplication of Newtonian principles to all sorts of learning. The profound success of science since the Enlightenment engendered envy among other academic disciplines. Envy encouraged emulation. Emulation has resulted in awkward – even perverse – efforts to apply knowledge of what does not change to contexts that are constantly changing.

As a new or, at least, potential discipline, homeland security can avoid this dead end. Academic programs in homeland security should focus on the properties of change. What do we know about change?

We know that change is explored through action and principled reflection on action. This is Aristotle’s praxis. By combining what we know about what changes and what does not change – about both material and formal reality – we can begin to accurately observe reality as a whole. The disciplines of praxis are essential to any profession of homeland security and should be prominent in any academic preparation for the profession.

Did our action produce a result consistent with our purpose? Did we understand our purpose sufficiently to calibrate it with what we know about change and changelessness, about material and formal reality? Was our choice of action well-suited to reality? Did we nudge emerging reality in our desired direction or did we unleash an unintended consequence that upended our purpose? These are questions of phronesis: practical reasoning over purposeful action. Learning to ask such questions may be the most important aspect of academic preparation for the activity of homeland security.

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What these three interactive processes of learning do not tell us – cannot tell us – is why we act. What function does homeland security fulfill? What is the purpose(s) of homeland security? Without such purpose it is difficult to assess the value of what we learn. This is, though, hardly unprecedented. Purpose – or what Aristotle calls telos – is simultaneously of great importance and notoriously elusive. But here too Aristotle provides some clues.

Given the prominence of change in Aristotle’s work, he gives careful attention to the sequence of emergence. 10 Each step creates preconditions – even the cause – for each subsequent step. Aristotle gives particular attention to four aspects of an object or activity. By understanding the preconditions of homeland security’s purpose, we might better discern our purpose.

  • Material Cause: Of what materials does homeland security consist? It consists of various specializations – law enforcement, firefighting, emergency management, public health, private security, intelligence, military, and many more. It consists of risk management, prevention, mitigation, response, recovery, and other concepts and practices.
  • Efficient Cause: What knowledge is the “primary source of movement or rest” within homeland security? Is this, perhaps, unexpected death, injury, and destruction? Certainly 9/11 and Katrina are specific efficient causes of what we know as homeland security. Legislation, regulation, and funding cause movement within homeland security. The efficient cause brings together the material from which the object or activity emerges.
  • Formal Cause: What is the “essential formula and the classes which contain it… and the parts of the formula” that make the object or activity recognizable? I would argue that this has not yet been achieved in a coherent way. But we seem to be best able to differentiate homeland security from its material components when there is collaboration and strategic integration of the material components focused on meaningful aspects of the efficient cause. The formal cause is a particular organizing of material.
  • Final cause: To what end do the material, efficient, and formal causes point? What is the essential function of homeland security? How is that function fulfilled? What is the telos of homeland security?

For Aristotle while purpose may be deliberate, it can also be innate. In organizing material to achieve a particular form, we attempt to endow object or activity with particular purpose. But the thing may have immanent purpose beyond any explicit concept of form or function. To discern the final cause – the true purpose – of any object or activity Aristotle encourages us to examine the relationships between material, efficient, and formal causes and to study the outcomes of the object or activity. Discerning homeland security’s final cause is an appropriate and important academic task. It is not yet apparent. Often it is in dispute.

Doing Homeland Security

As with most of Aristotelian reality, homeland security is a coming-to-be or a passing-away. If homeland security persists as a coming-to-be it will find or craft a function… purpose… telos… that unfolds toward fulfillment, as an acorn unfolds into an oak. If not it will pass away.

While purpose is fundamental to Aristotle’s understanding of reality, his sort of purpose cannot be proclaimed by the White House, QHSR, or in a speech by the secretary of homeland security. Each of these activities may contribute to knowledge of the final cause or telos of this homeland security thing, but so will a host of other – and often contrary – actions and intentions.

Aristotle argues that every activity, such as homeland security, has two beginnings: that of resolve (ou eneka) and that of movement (ou kenesis). We can certainly perceive movement in homeland security. Can we perceive resolve?

I perceive a multiplicity of resolves. Depending on the specifics of threat, vulnerability, consequence, and each perceiver’s angle on each object or activity, resolve proliferates, complicates, and occasionally complements, spawning reverberations worthy of the most complex fractal.

Any academic treatment of homeland security must engage both random movement and this multiplicity of resolves. As Aristotle shows us, there is value in an organized, explicit effort to categorize experiences and make sense of the various elements and relationships that constitute experience. We can be surprised to find predictability where, in the absence of careful examination, we assumed there was only ceaseless change. Or where we confirm change, careful examination and explanation may help us know the characteristics of change.

But while an academic engagement with homeland security may helpfully describe its reality, the thing-itself will be created from practice. The telos of homeland security, if any, will emerge from its praxis.

This brings us back to being a profession, which is largely about what we will profess as our purpose. Professing does not – as we can see in the behavior of many lawyers, physicians, and priests – ensure the purpose is achieved or even consistently embraced. But professing may have some influence on how the coming-to-be will unfold.

Acknowledging we seldom achieve all that we undertake, regardless of strength or sincerity, what might be the long-term outcomes of a profession seriously engaged in actualizing the following?

I resolve to fulfill according to my ability and judgment this public commitment:

I will preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States of America.

I will apply all that I know to preserve and protect the people of the United States; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will increase my knowledge of threat, vulnerability, and consequence; seeking to deal responsibly and realistically with risk.

I will increase my knowledge of collaboration, deliberation, decision, and action; seeking to prevent harm and strengthen resilience.

I will honor the relationships that emerge from shared learning and doing.

I will embrace change and variability as susceptible to understanding, imagination, and creativity.

I will avoid mistaking personal preference for considered judgment and will daily endeavor to strengthen the humility, knowledge, awareness, and discipline whereby I may contribute, along with others, to a true and reasoned capacity to act with regard to what is good or bad for humankind. 11

Intention is not sufficient to do good, but it is something. If a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand share similar intentions – and act with intention – how might this shape emerging reality?

Homeland security is emerging. It is changing. Homeland security is of the class of knowledge in which change is continuous. As professionals – and as those trying to prepare professionals – we can share what we know about change, we can share what we know about choosing and acting in the midst of change, and we can reflect together about how we might more effectively choose and act in the future. Our reason is limited, but it is the best we have to offer.

Philip J. Palin is a research fellow with the Pace University graduate program in Management for Public Safety and Homeland Security Professionals. He is the principal author of the Catastrophe Preparation and Prevention series from McGraw-Hill. Other publications include Consequence Management (2008) and Threat, Vulnerability, Consequence, Risk (2009). Mr. Palin chaired the General Preparedness Working Group of the Obama presidential campaign’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. He is a former college president, foundation executive, and corporate chief executive officer. Mr. Palin can be contacted at ppalin@nisp.us.


  1. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1139, a-b. The quotations and analysis of Aristotle noted in this essay draw on the Nicomachean Ethics and the Metaphysics. Citations reflect the so-called Bekker number of the quotation. There are many translations of Aristotle. In the mid-19th century Immanuel Bekker produced an authoritative corpus of Aristotle’s original Greek for the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Bekker numbers allow a reader to identify the place of a reference regardless of translation, lay-out, or other variations. I have sometimes given my own twist to the translation. As a result it would be wrong to share blame with other translators I may have consulted. With Aristotle it is worth remembering that most of what has come down to us are rough-draft lecture notes, not carefully crafted final drafts. Reasonable people may disagree over Aristotle’s meaning. I expect this ambiguity has much to do with why Aristotle can be so perpetually fresh.
  2. Nicomachean Ethics, 1140.
  3. Nicomachean Ethics, 1139.
  4. Metaphysics, 1069.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Nancy Sherman, Making a Necessity of Virtue: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue (Cambridge University Press, 1997), 245.
  7. Metaphysics, 1042.
  8. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (Continuum Press, 1998), 21-22.
  9. Nicomachean Ethics, 1103.
  10. Metaphysics, 1013.
  11. The final phrase, “…a true and reasoned capacity to act with regard to what is good or bad for humankind” is from Nicomachean Ethics, 1112, and is key to Aristotle’s definition of phronesis.

This article was originally published at the URLs https://www.hsaj.org/?article=6.2.2 and https://www.hsaj.org/?fullarticle=6.2.2.

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Homeland Security Affairs is an academic journal available free of charge to individuals and institutions. Because the purpose of this publication is the widest possible dissemination of knowledge, copies of this journal and the articles contained herein may be printed or downloaded and redistributed for personal, research or educational purposes free of charge and without permission. Any commercial use of Homeland Security Affairs or the articles published herein is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the copyright holder. The copyright of all articles published in Homeland Security Affairs rests with the author(s) of the article. Homeland Security Affairs is the online journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS). https://www.hsaj.org

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