Nancy Sherman


Praise | Publications | Mentions


"Nancy Sherman ends Stoic Warriors with a very pertinent review of Stoic ideas and how a lesson in Stoic empathy and respect might have averted the Abu Ghraib debacle….As the war in Iraq produces more combat deaths, Dr. Sherman describes how the importance of collective grief works in war and the appropriate decorum for a leader facing massive losses. With combat soldiers suffering from increasing incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, we need to think hard and clearly about the mental health of our combat troops and combat veterans. This thoughtful analysis, written engagingly, will contribute to our understanding.”

– Madeleine K. Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001

“This is an unusual, ambitious book and Nancy Sherman succeeds wonderfully. Readable and fascinating, the book helps you explore and understand the military ethos…it speaks in this book not only to our armed forces, but to a self-indulgent society that honors fame more than virtue and pursues material pleasure more than the deeper joys sought by the Stoics.”

– Anthony Lake, U.S. National Security Adviser, 1993-1997

"From kings to prisoners of war, military men have often reached for the wisdom of philosophers to help them understand and cope with their professions. Nancy Sherman, an expert in Stoic philosophy, traveled in the opposite direction – teaching and applying her scholarship inside the military world. Here she tests the wisdom of the ages against the experiences of our naval officers. This book is a gift that permits us all to learn as she did.”

—Richard Danzig, 71st Secretary, U.S. Navy

“Emotion! The enemy of reason …the enemy of right conduct? The best officer has no emotion at all … Right? You would think we get these ideas in the drinking water – but in fact they come mainly from the Greek and Roman Stoics. Professor Sherman’s Stoic Warriors is lively and readable, without losing expert command of the original sources that give this book authority. American officers will profit from re-examining their oldest invisible truths.”

—Jonathan Shay, Chair of Ethics, Leadership, and Personnel Policy in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army (G1); author of Odysseus in America and Achilles in Vietnam

“What emotions should soldiers have? Should they ever be fearful? Angry at their enemies? Grief-stricken at the deaths of comrades? Upset at bodily weakness or injury? The answer to these questions, it turns out, has a great deal to do with the norms of ancient Greek and Roman Stoicism…Written with grace, insight, philosophical rigor, and a profound respect for military culture, Stoic Warriors is a unique and richly illuminating book.”

—Martha C. Nussbaum, University of Chicago

“A brilliant exploration of Stoicism in the context of military culture, where honor, endurance, discipline and the control of anger are constantly in mind, and Stoic ideas resonate. Sherman’s richly anecdotal account is both riveting and moving as she explores Stoic themes in the lives of soldiers present and past. Philosophically sophisticated and deeply informed by Sherman’s experience teaching at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, this book will appeal to a wide audience.”

—Julia Annas, University of Arizona

“A very interesting and valuable insight into the philosophy of Stoicism which appears to guide the actions and influence the culture of many in the military, even those who are not intimately familiar with the philosophy. …of interest to military and civilian readers alike.”

—Admiral Charles Larson, 4 star
and former CINC PAC and USNA superintendent



Publisher's Weekly
, July, 2005
“You don't need a working knowledge of the writings of Cicero, Aristotle, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to appreciate this well-researched, in-depth treatise on the history of stoicism in the military. Sherman, who taught military ethics in a pioneering program at the U.S. Naval Academy, delves deeply into ancient Stoic theory to shine light on the moral and psychological aspects of stoicism among today's military men and women. Or, as she puts it, the book is about "sucking it up." … First-person accounts, derived from extensive interviews Sherman conducted, vividly illustrate her points. Retired Adm. James Stockdale, a student of philosophy, used stoic tenets to keep himself from breaking during seven years as a POW (and was awarded the Medal of Honor). During the My Lai massacre, helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson landed between American troops and Vietnamese civilians and ordered his crew, at gunpoint, to rescue women and children who were about to be slaughtered because it was the right thing to do, even though it meant bearing his men's extreme hatred.”
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Wall Street Journal, Bookmarks July 29, 2005
“The essence of soldierliness is a Stoic ideal, as Ms. Sherman explains: discipline, endurance, a can-do spirit, a stiff upper lip. But she is at pains to show, in wonderfully clear prose, that Stoicism is filled with subtleties and nuance…. There are many such lessons in Stoic Warriors, fit even for those of us who will never pick up a gun."

Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, CA) July 18, 2005 (registration required)
Stoic Warriors is mentioned in an editorial entitled, “Stoic Hero: James Stockdale’s service honored America”--
“One who remembered [Stockdale] was Nancy Sherman, a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, who had interviewed Stockdale in 2001 for a book she wrote called “Stoic Warriors,” inspired by the life of Epictetus, a Greek philosopher and Roman slave. Stockdale had committed one of his works to memory and quoted a particularly relevant passage to her as they talked: “Lameness is an impediment to the leg, not to the will.”

Boston Globe, July 17, 2005
Stoic Warriors is the subject of a probing story on stoicism and mental health, “Stoics in Arms,” by feature writer Chris Shea:
“For every officer who has studied Epictetus, there’s a grunt who instinctively thinks stoicism –small “s” is the military way. While Sherman defends the “soft Stoicism” of them ore moderate Seneca…her larger point is that aspiring to an unfeeling state threatens to cut soldiers off from forming truly close bonds with their brothers in arms and from feelings that may be crucial for emotional health.”

Atlanta Journal Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) July 17, 2005
Interview and feature story entitled “Stoic Warriors,” by Journal Constitution feature editor, Rich Halicks in their Sunday @issue section: “Nancy Sherman… has examined the principles of those ancient thinkers and added a helmet, rifle and combat boots. Her conclusion: The teachings of Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca and the rest are alive and well in the American military…. Stoic philosophy, Sherman writes in a new book, is integral to military life and can help a soldier thorough the extraordinary stress of combat. Stoicism can also keep him from becoming an indiscriminate killer, or from turning into the sort of person who tortures enemy prisoners.”

Gosport/Pensacola (Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL) July 10, 2005
“Stoic Warriors proves remarkably insightful as America’s war on terror escalates and the body count rises to staggering levels. Stoic Warriors is a must read for military and civilian readers alike…”

Washington Jewish Week, (Washington, DC) June 30, 2005
Feature story, “Making Soldiers More Humane,” by Arts Editor Aaron Leibel. The story begins, “Nancy Sherman would like to see American soldiers who are tough but…humane.

New Republic Fall

Scientific American Oct.


Jim Agnew's Pick of week/online July 15, 2005 (blog) July 17, 2005
mentions book & quotes Nancy

Book info
Book description

Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, (Bryn Mawr, PA) Fall, 2005
Mention in magazine

Colloquy Alumni Quarterly (Harvard University) Fall, 2005
Mention of book in their “Off the Shelf” column

Harvard Alumnae Magazine (Harvard University) Fall, 2005
Mention in “Off the Shelf”

Proceedings (US Naval Institute Newspaper) Fall, 2005