ATLANTA—Georgia State University researchers and their colleagues have received a two-year, $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to investigate moral injury among U.S. soldiers.
Experts define moral injury as a disorientation and loss of trust in others or self caused by involvement in injustice or wrongdoing. It typically involves shattered understandings of oneself and the loss of confidence in morality and meaning of community.
“We’re focusing on soldiers because this is a group who is doing a lot in the name of the United States and are often put in morally challenging situations,” said Andrew I. Cohen, professor of philosophy at Georgia State. “Moral injury is not unique to soldiers, but they are an important population to study because there are many reports of their struggles with morality after deployment.”
Cohen and Jennifer A. Samp, professor of communication studies at the University of Georgia, are leading the research project in collaboration with Kathryn McClymond, professor and chair of Georgia State’s Department of Religious Studies.
Moral injury is not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), researchers said.
“PTSD has received much more media coverage because it’s a clinical diagnosis,” Samp said. “While moral injury does have some overlap with PTSD, it’s a distinct phenomenon. And just because soldiers don’t have to actively go out and seek assistance, it doesn’t mean that moral injury and the experience of moral injury is any less serious. It’s just less known.”
The two-part study will begin with a series of focus groups with post-deployment Army veterans at multiple locations in the Southeast. The focus groups will be moderated by licensed military-clinical social workers.
The researchers will use the information gathered in the focus groups to create a series of surveys that will deepen overall understanding of moral injury, which may better aid in caring for veterans beyond the clinical diagnosis of PTSD alone.
Georgia State Featured Faculty
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Director of the Jean Beer Blumenfeld
Center for Ethics
College of Arts & Sciences
Cohen’s research focuses on themes in ethics, practical ethics, and social/political philosophy. He has published on themes in Hobbesian political theory, rights theory, and contractarian political morality. His current research focuses on reparations and apologies, the moral standing of nonhuman animals, and global justice.