Write a paper of no fewer than ten pages in length (12 point font, double spaced) on one of the following topics: The Usefulness of Professional Codes of Ethics, An Engineer’s Environmental Responsibilities or Computer Ethics. You must utilize at least three philosophical sources.

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Write a paper of no fewer than ten pages in length (12 point font, double spaced) on one of the following topics: The Usefulness of Professional Codes of Ethics, An Engineer’s Environmental Responsibilities or Computer Ethics. You must utilize at least three philosophical sources.

If you choose The Usefulness of Professional Codes of Ethics, one of the sources must be Ladd. If you choose An Engineer’s Environmental Responsibilities, one of the sources must be Leopold. If you choose Computer Ethics, one of the sources must be Moor.

Include a complete bibliography.



THE QUEST FOR A CODE OF PROFESSIONAL ETHICS: AN INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL CONFUSION John Ladd My role as a philosopher is to act as a gadfly. If this were Athens in the fifth century B. c. you would probably throw me in prison for what I shall say, and I would be promptly condemned to death for attacking your idols. But you can’t do that in this day and age; you can’t even ask for your money back, since I am not being paid. All that you can do is to throw eggs at me or simply walk out! My theme is stated in the title: it is that the whole notion of an organized professional ethics is an absurdity-intellectual and moral. Furthermore, I shall argue that there are few positive benefits to be derived from having a code and the possibility of mischievous side effects of adopting a code is substantial. Unfortunately, in the time allotted to me I can only summarize what I have to say on this topic. 1. To begin with, ethics itself is basically an open-ended, reflective and critical intellectual activity. It is essentially problematic and controversial, both as far as its principles are concerned and in its application. Ethics consists of issues to be examined, explored, discussed, deliberated, and argued. Ethical principles can be established only as a result of deliberation and argumentation. These principles are not the kind of thing that can be settled by fiat, by agreement or by authority. To assume that they can be is to confuse ethics with law-making, rule making, policymaking and other kinds of decision making. It follows that, ethical principles, as such, cannot be established by associations, organizations, or by a consensus of their members. To speak of codifying ethics, therefore, makes no more sense than to speak of codifying medicine, anthropology or architecture. 2. Even if substantial agreement could be reached on ethical principles and they could be set out in a code, the attempt to impose such principles on others in the guise Reprinted from Rosemary Chalk, Mark S. Frankel, and Sallie B. Chafer, eds., AAAS Professional Ethics Project: Professional Ethics Activities in the Scientific and Engineering Societies (Washington, D.C.: AAAS, 1980), pp. 15459, with permission from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1) of ethics contradicts the notion of ethics itself, which presumes that persons are autonomous moral agents. In Kant’s terms, such an attempt makes ethicsheteronymous; it confuses ethics with some kind of externally imposed set of rules such as a code of ethics which, indeed, is heteronymous. To put the point in more popular language: ethics must, by its very nature, be self-directed rather than other-directed. 3. Thus, in attaching disciplinary procedures, methods of adjudication and principles that one calls “ethical” one automatically converts them into legal rules or some other kind of authoritative rules of conduct such as the bylaws of an organization, regulations promulgated by an official, club rules, rules of etiquette, or other sorts of social standards of conduct. To label such conventions, rules and standards “ethical” simply reflects an intellectual confusion about the status and function of these conventions, rules and standards. Historically, it should be noted that the term “ethical” was introduced merely to indicate that the code of the Royal College of Physicians was not to be construed as a criminal code (i.e., a legal code). Here “ethical” means simply non-legal. 4. That is not to say that ethics has no relevance for projects involving the creation, certification and enforcement of rules of conduct for members of certain groups. But logically it has the same kind of relevance that it has for the law. As with law, its role in connection with these projects is to appraise, criticize and perhaps even defend (or condemn) the projects themselves, the rules, regulations and procedures they prescribe, and the social and political goals and institutions they represent. But although ethics can be used to judge or evaluate a disciplinary code, penal code, code of honor or what goes by the name of a “code of ethics,” it cannot be identified with any of these, for the reasons that have already been mentioned. SOME GENERAL COMMENTS ON PROFESSIONALISM AND ETHICS 5. Being a professional does not automatically make a person an expert in ethics, even in the ethics of that person’s own particular profession — unless of course we decide to call the “club rules” of a profession its ethics. The reason for this is that there are no experts in ethics in the sense of expert in which professionals have a special expertise that others do not share. As Plato pointed out long ago in the Protagoras, knowledge of virtue is not like the technical knowledge that is possessed by an architect or shipbuilder. In a sense, everyone is, or ought to be, a teacher of virtue; there are no professional qualifications that are necessary for doing ethics. 6. Moreover, there is no special ethics belonging to professionals. Professionals are not, simply because they are professionals, exempt from the common obligations, duties and responsibilities that are binding on ordinary people. They do not have a special moral status that allows them to do things that no one else can. Doctors have no special -right to be rude, to deceive, or to order people around like children, etc. Likewise, lawyers do not have a special right to bend the law to help their clients, to bully witnesses, or to be cruel and brutal-simply because they think that it is in the interests of their client. Professional codes cannot, therefore, confer such rights and immunities; for there is no such thing as professional ethical immunity. (2) 7. We might ask: do professionals, by virtue of their special professional status, have special duties and obligations over and above those they would have as ordinary people? Before we can answer this question, we must first decide what is meant: by the terms “profession” and “professional,” which are very loose terms that are used as labels for a variety of different occupational categories. The distinctive element in professionalism is generally held to be that professionals have undergone advanced, specialized training and that they exercise control over the nature of their job and the services they provide. In addition, the older professions, lawyers, physicians, professors and ministers typically have clients to whom they provide services as individuals. (I use the term “client” generically so as to include patients, students, and parishioners.) When professionals have “individual clients, new moral relationships are created that demand special types of trust and loyalty. Thus, in order to answer the question, we need to examine the context under which special duties and obligations of professionals might arise. 8. In discussing specific ethical issues relating to the professions, it is convenient to divide them into issues of macro-ethics and micro-ethics. The former comprise what might be called collective or social problems, that is problems confronting members of a profession as a group in their relation to society; the latter, issues of micro-ethics, are concerned with moral aspects of personal relationships between individual professionals and other individuals who are their clients, their colleagues and their employers. Clearly the particulars in both kinds of ethics vary considerably from one profession to another. I shall make only two general comments. 9. Micro-ethical issues concern the personal relationships between individuals. Many of these issues simply involve the application of ordinary notions of honesty, decency, civility, humanity, considerateness, respect and responsibility. Therefore, it should not be necessary to devise a special code to tell professionals that they ought to refrain from cheating and lying, or to make them treat their clients (and patients) with respect, or to tell them that they ought to ask for informed consent for invasive actions. It is a common mistake to assume that all the extralegal norms and conventions governing professional relationships have a moral status, for every profession has norms and conventions that have as little to do with morality as the ceremonial dress and titles that are customarily associated with the older professions. 10. The macro–ethical problems in professionalism are more problematic and controversial. What are the social responsibilities of professionals as a group? What can and should they do to influence social policy? Here, I submit, the issue is not one of professional roles, but of professional power. For professionals as a group have a great deal of power; and power begets responsibility. Physicians as a group can, for instance, exercise a great deal of influence on the quality and cost of health care; and lawyers can have a great deal of influence on how the law is made and administered, etc. 11. So-called “codes of professional ethics” have nothing to contribute either to micro-ethics or to macro–ethics as just outlined. It should also be obvious that they do not fit under either of these two categories. Any association, including a professional association, can, of course, adopt a code of conduct for its members and lay down disciplinary procedures and sanctions to enforce conformity with its rules. But to call such a disciplinary code a code of ethics is at once pretentious and sanctimonious. Even (3) worse, it is to make a false and misleading claim, namely, that the profession in question has the authority or special competence to create an ethics, that it is able authoritatively to set forth what the principles of ethics are, and that it has its own brand of ethics that it can impose on its, members and on society. I have briefly stated the case against taking a code of professional ethics to be a serious ethical enterprise. It might be objected, however, that I have neglected to recognize some of the benefits that come from having professional codes of ethics. In order to discuss these possible benefits, I shall first examine what some of the objectives of codes of ethics might be, then I shall consider some possible benefits of having a code, and, finally, I shall point out some of the mischievous aspect of codes. OBJECTIVES OF CODES OF PROFESSIONAL “ETHICS” In order to be crystal clear about the purposes and objectives of a code, we must begin by asking: to whom is the code addressed? Although ostensibly codes of ethics are addressed to the members of the profession, their true purposes and objectives are sometimes easier to ascertain if we recognize that codes are in fact often directed at other addressees than members. Accordingly, the real addressees might be any of the following- (a) members of the profession, (b) clients or buyers of the professional services, (c) other agents dealing with professionals, such as government or private institutions like universities or hospitals, or (d) the public at large. With this in mind, let us examine some possible objectives. First, the objective of a professional code might be “inspirational,” that is, it might be used to inspire members to be more “ethical” in their conduct. The assumption on which this objective is premised is that professionals are somehow likely to be amoral or submoral, perhaps, as the result of becoming professionals, and so it is necessary to exhort them to be moral, e.g., to be honest. I suppose there is nothing objectionable to having a code for this reason, it would be something like the Boy Scout’s Code of Honor, something to frame and hang in one’s office. I have severe reservations, however, about whether a code is really needed for this purpose and whether it will do any good; for those to whom it is addressed and who need it the most will not adhere to it anyway, and the rest of the good people in the profession will not need it because they already know what they ought to do. For this reason, many respectable members of a profession regard its code as a joke and as something not to be taken seriously. (Incidentally, for much the same kind of reasons as those just given, there are no professional codes in the academic or clerical professions.) A second objective might be to alert professionals to the morals aspects of their work that they might have overlooked. In jargon, it might serve to sensitize them or to raise their consciousness. This, of course, “is a worthy goal it is the goal of moral education. Morality, after all, is not just a matter of doing or not doing, but also a matter of feeling and thinking. But, here again, it is doubtful that it is possible to make people have the right feelings or think rightly through enacting a code. A code is hardly the best means for teaching morality. Thirdly, a code might, as it was traditionally, be a disciplinary code or a “penal” (4) code used to enforce certain rules of the profession on its members in order to defend the integrity of the professional and to protect its professional standards. This kind of function is often referred to as “self-policing.” It is unlikely, however, that the kind of disciplining that is in question here could be handled in a code of ethics, a code that would set forth in detail criteria for determining malpractice. On the contrary, the “ethical” code of -a profession is usually used to discipline its members for other sorts of “unethical conduct, ” such as stealing a client away from a colleague, for making disparaging remarks about a colleague in public, or for departing from some other sort of norm of the profession. (In the original code of the Royal College of Physicians, members who failed to attend the funeral of a colleague were subject to a fine!) It is clear that when we talk of a disciplinary code, as distinguished from an exhortatory code, a lot of new questions arise that cannot be treated here; for a disciplinary code is quasi-legal in nature, it involves adjudicative organs and processes, and it is usually connected with complicated issues relating to such things as licensing. A fourth objective might be to offer advice in cases of moral perplexity about what to do: e.g., should one report a colleague for malfeasance? Should one let a severely defective newborn die? If such cases present genuine perplexities, then they cannot and should not be solved by reference to a code. To try to solve them through a code is like trying to do surgery with a carving knife! If it is not a genuine perplexity, then the code would be unnecessary. A fifth objective of a professional code of ethics is to alert, prospective clients and employers to what they may and may not expect by way of service from a member of the profession concerned. The official code of an association, say, of engineers, provides as authoritative statement of what is proper and what is improper conduct of the professional. Thus, a code serves to protect a professional from improper demands on the part of employer or client, e.g., that he lie about or cover up defective work that constitutes a public hazard. Codes may thus serve to protect “whistleblowers.” (The real addressee in this case is the employer or client.) SECONDARY OBJECTIVES OF CODES–NOT ALWAYS SALUTARY I now come to what I shall call “secondary objectives,” that is, objectives that one might hesitate always to call “ethical,” especially since they often provide an opportunity for abuse. The first secondary objective is to enhance the image of the profession in the public eye. The code is supposed to communicate to the general public (the addressee) the idea that the members of the profession concerned are service oriented and that the interests of the client are always given first place over the interests of the professional himself. Because they have a code they may be expected to be trustworthy. Another secondary objective of a code is to protect the monopoly of the profession in question. Historically, this appears to have been the principal objective of a so -called code of ethics, e. g., Percival’s code of medical ethics. Its aim is to exclude from practice those who are outside the professional in-group and to regulate the conduct of the members of the profession so as to protect it from encroachment from outside. (5) Sometimes this kind of professional monopoly is in the public interest and often it is not. Another secondary objective of professional codes of ethics, mentioned in some of the literature, is that having a code serves as a status symbol; one of the credentials to be considered a profession is that you have a code of ethics. If you want to make your occupation a profession, then you must frame a code of ethics for it; so there are codes for real estate agents, insurance agents, used car dealers, electricians, barbers, etc., and these codes serve, at least in the eyes of some, to raise their members to the social status of lawyers and doctors. MISCHIEVOUS SIDE EFFECTS OF CODES OF ETHICS I now want to call attention to some of the mischievous side-effects of adopting a code of ethics: The first and most obvious bit of mischief, is that having a code will give a sense of complacency to professionals about their conduct. “We have a code of ethics,” they will say, “so everything we do is ethical.” Inasmuch as a code, of necessity, prescribes what is minimal, a professional may be encouraged by the code to deliver what is minimal rather than the best that he can do. “I did everything that the code requires”. Even more mischievous than complacency and the consequent selfcongratulation, is the fact that a code of ethics can be used as a cover-up for what might be called basically “unethical” or “irresponsible” conduct. Perhaps the most mischievous side-effect of codes of ethics is that they tend to divert attention from the macro-ethical problems of a profession to its micro-ethical problems. There is a lot of talk about whistle-blowing. But it concerns individuals almost exclusively. What is really needed is a thorough scrutiny of professions as collective bodies, of their role in society and their effect on the public interest. What role should the professions play in determining the use of technology, its development and expansion, and the distribution of the costs (e.g., disposition of toxic wastes) as well as the benefits of technology? What is the significance of professionalism from the moral point of view for democracy, social equality, liberty and justice? There are lots of ethical problems to be dealt with. To concentrate on codes of ethics as if they represented the real ethical problems connected with professionalism is to capitulate to struthianism (from the Greek word struthos=ostrich). One final objection to codes that needs to be mentioned is that they inevitably represent what John Stuart Mill called the “tyranny of the majority” or, if not that, the “tyranny of the establishment.” They serve to and are designed to discourage if not suppress the dissenter, the innovator, the critic. By way of conclusion, let me say a few words about what an association of professionals can do about ethics. On theoretical grounds, I have argued that it cannot codify an ethics and it cannot authoritatively establish ethical principles or prescribed guidelines for the conduct of its members as if it were creating an ethics! But there is still much that associations can do to promote further understanding of and sensitivity to ethical issues connected with (6) professional activities. For example, they can fill a very useful educational function by encouraging their members to participate in extended discussions of issues of both micro – ethics and macro – ethics, e.g., questions about responsibility; for these issues obviously need to be examined and discussed much more extensively than they are at present especially by those who are in a position to do something about them. (7) Return …
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