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9/25/2012

Ethics and
Professionalism

Professionalism & Morality


Is it a moral obligation to be as professional as possible
in ones work?
Is it a mark of professionalism to act morally?
Or, do professionalism and morality have nothing to do
with each other?
Does morality sometimes demand unprofessional
conduct?
Must one ever violate the standards of professionalism
in the name of something more important?

9/25/2012

What is a Profession?
Narrow definition: limits professions to
learned professions: medicine, law,
architecture and Engineering
Broad definition: virtually all occupations
More common definition: learned
professions, scholars, teachers, engineers,
scientists, accountants, business
specialists, journalists, government
officials
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What is a Profession?
A profession serves the general welfare in
a complex society. The general welfare can
be achieved only by assigning the
responsibility for special aspects of the
welfare of particular groups to specialized
experts.
IF patron loyalty takes priority over
public interest...., the stream of
professional practice will be polluted.
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What is ethics?
Refers to ideals and aspirations as well as
rules of conduct
Concern is not with rules, but with the
outlook, the conception of mission and the
responsibility they reflect
Comprehensive norms that generate rules
or concrete objectives or modes of being

Importance of
Professional Ethics
Professionals occupy a strategic position in
modern society
shape our ideas
make decisions that affect large numbers of
people without their consent or knowledge
services are highly valued
service the major economic, political, and
cultural institutions of industrial society

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Ethical dilemmas
Professionals face ethical dilemmas
How they resolve these dilemmas
determine
the moral quality of their lives
the welfare of those affected by their
action

Basic Ethical Premise


On any occasion, one ought to perform
that act which, on reasonable
reflection, promises to maximize
benefits for the moral community and
distribute them fairly
Focus is on the personal responsibility
to attend to the character and
consequences of his/her individual
actions
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Three Primary
Philosophies of Ethics
Deontological: focus on absolute
obligations that overrule a simple
argument as to the desirability of the
consequences of an action.
Teleological: focus on the comparative
amount of good produced as the
consequences of an action.
Contractarian: focus on explicit and
implicit contracts formed in society and
are often established through social
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norms.

Principle of Utility
1. To judge the morality of actions, we
must estimate their utility. A
things utility means its probable
contribution to the happiness and
reduction of unhappiness, less its
probably contribution to the
unhappiness and reduction of
happiness of people. This value is
determined intuitively.
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Principle of Utility
2. We must be cognizant of our
inevitable ignorance of other who
may be affected by our actions.
Conversely, we must assume that
certain interests are basic for
everyone. In addition our perception
of our needs is not always correct.

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Principle of Utility
3. Until we identify differences among
those affected by our actions, we should
treat them alike. Since we must think
first in terms of basic needs, we should
strive to see that all receive a fair share
of these. Basic goods are precisely those
which everyone or almost everyone needs
for happiness.

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Principle of Utility
4. Informed individuals are usually the
best judges of what will make them
happy, even though they often must
resort to experts to achieve it.
Professionals should defer to the
wishes of competent clients.

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The Moral Community


5. The moral community includes all human
beings and higher animals, and any
nonhuman persons that turn up. Moral
considerations mean taking their
interests seriously and furthering their
interests.
6. The principle of indifference requires us
to treat persons alike when we know of
no differences that exist. The principle
of individuality requires us to seek out
differences.

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The Element of Justice


7. A standard objection to the principle of
utility is that it sanctions the sacrifice of
some persons in favor of others. Whether
or not the system of professionalism adds
to the total happiness of society, our sense
of justice is violated at the thought of
professions serving privileged groups more
than others. Thus, the trade off between
utility and justice. If the injustice inflicted
is great and the increment in utility is small,
choose justice. If the utility is great and
the injustice is small, choose utility.
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The Element of Justice


8. Conflicts between justice and utility
are rare.

Benefits distributed evenly usually have


more marginal utility than the same
benefits concentrated on just a few
While all members of a moral community
deserve moral consideration, we usually
have an opportunity to affect only
persons in our vicinity

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The Element of Justice


9. We should treat all persons alike
unless there are individual
differences that are relevant.
Relevance here is a function of the
persons special needs.

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Rules, Ideals and Discretion


10. There is utility in adhering to rules
on occasions where adherence sets
a precedent, strengthens a practice
or reinforces a habit.
11. Rules are justified as a means to
promote shared happiness, but if
other means work better, rules
should be disregarded.

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Rules, Ideals and Discretion


12. Overemphasis on rules in professional codes
sometimes lead the practitioner to assume
that no actions not prescribed are
obligatory and all actions that are not
prohibited are permitted.
13. Society should regulate behavior only to the
degree necessary to provide essential
goods, prevent major harm, and sustain a
system of mutual expectations and
dependable obligations in the moral
community. The details of life should be
left to individual judgment and negotiation.
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The Moral Point of View


Evaluated in terms of relations, conditions,
principles, consequences, and practices, in
contrast to impulsive, passionate, ignorant,
and habit-bound reactions
Two people with differing positions can
agree about how each should behave since
they both want to contribute to a single
end
Professions must seek ways to elevate the
level of morality
Remember the purpose of the professionhow it can serve humanity
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Professions and
Institutions
While there are individual considerations
that must be made as a professional,
parameters for individual choices and their
consequences are determined by their
institutional context.
The institutions within which professionals
practice empower them to act and provide
them with considerable autonomy in action,
while setting limits to those actions.
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Professions as Institutions
Individuals who participate in
institutions may be replaced without
altering expectations for their
successors, institutions endure
beyond the tenure of particular sets
of role occupants and have
characteristics different from those
occupants.

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Professions as Institutions
Individuals must choose whether to enter a
profession and what profession to enter
They must decide where to place themselves
in their chosen profession and institutions
and how to play their roles there
They must decide whether and how to try to
effect changes in the profession, its
structure and practices
Social structure is a given but it is not so
tight and obdurate as to preclude discretion

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Personal Considerations
What is my true vocation?
Whom do I want to serve and how?
What stance should I take toward the practices of
the occupation charged with this kind of work?
Should I follow the code of the group or my own
lights?
Should I be active in the formal organizations of
the profession or ignore them?
Should I pursue the causes of the group?
Should I devote time to influencing its practices or
the policies?

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Personal Considerations
Ask yourself, How am I to decide
whether an occupation is worthy of
lifelong dedication unless I assess the
impact on human welfare?

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Professions, Institutions
and Society
Our own society is not a perfect moral
organism nor are professions perfect
organisms in society, but they approach
the ideal sufficiently for moral persons to
utilize them as vehicles for action. There
is no way to act apart from society. The
moral life can be achieved only by working
through and beyond the roles provided by
imperfect institutions in an imperfect
society.
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Some Thoughts
1.

2.

3.
4.

Professionals should be accountable to society for their


decisions. It is up to the rest of us to evaluate their behavior by
their principles, and their principles by our own conception of
ethics.
Perhaps this conception of ethics would suffice if the
obligations of professionals were clear and obvious and could be
met without difficulty or sacrifice, if professionals never faced
ethical dilemmas and could always be counted on to do what is
right as a matter of routine.
. . . The individual cannot take refuge from moral responsibility
behind rules no matter how well devised.
Generally, if the injustice inflicted is great and the increment in
utility is small, choose justice. If the utility is great and the
injustice is small choose utility.

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