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Published on May 2, 2013
With 2.2 million US soldiers returning from the current wars, and thousands more from allied nations, how soldiers can thrive after war is a subject of urgent public interest. Military medicine has proven remarkable in limb and facial reconstruction, and increasingly in diagnosing traumatic brain injuries and posttraumatic stress. But the specific moral dimensions of psychological injuries still elude much focus. These injuries are moral for they are about how individuals hold themselves and each other morally responsible. Taking off the uniform can bring with it varieties of guilt, shame, and resentment—negative and biting ways of holding self and others morally accountable for real and apparent, commissive and omissive, wronging, and being wronged, and falling short. In general normative discussion, philosophers have tended to dwell on reactive attitudes that are negative. By and large, with a few exceptions, they have neglected the more positive reactive attitudes of holding self and others to account. And those few who have explored notions of moral repair in terms of positive reactive attitudes have typically focused on hope (and "hope in" self or others) trust, or gratitude. Self-empathy is never discussed. And yet, as I argue in this paper, self-empathy is a critical part of moral repair and a sense of recovering lost goodness. It is an important notion to explore in thinking about moral recovery from war.