At 09:27 PM 04/23/2001 -0700, David F Siemens wrote:
>The matter of lawyers brings back memories. In the college where I
>taught, there were classes in real estate ethics taught by a lawyer.
>Every time the class listings came out, one of the members of the
>philosophy team would object that only philosophers were competent to
>teach ethics. Each time we had to assure him that what went on in that
>class had nothing to do with ethics and the principles of right and
>wrong. Rather, it was a presentation of what the realtors had to do to
>keep their license and to avoid being sent to jail.
>The ethics of the legal profession are similar. They have nothing to do
>with right and wrong, moral and immoral actions. It's purely a matter of
>keeping a license (although behavior has to be egregiously violative of
>all standards in many states to even rate a reprimand, let alone being
>relieved of the license to practice), and of getting a fee.
Just one quick comment.
As one who teaches professional ethics to law students (and engineers, and
law enforcement agents), I have watched during the last several years as
"professional ethics" has been reduced to "compliance." The underlying
assumption, as Dave has aptly pointed out, is that adherence to statutory
regulation is the only norm that needs to be observed by the professional.
Those statutory regulations are frequently imposed on the profession from
the outside, either by the government or by the institution (or
corporation, or agency) that houses the specific professional community.
Thus, an "ethical violation" means nothing more than a violation of a
standard which has been produced external to the professional community of
practice, and enforced upon it. Any sense of professional virtue, or the
inherent integrity of the professional practice, or recognition of the
goods internal to the practice, tends to disappear under this system.
That's why I favor emphasizing internal regulation (especially the model of
ethical mentoring) of each professional community (as opposed to external
regulation), where the practice-specific virtues and norms can be
articulated from within the profession, and an encouragement of individuals
to acquire the ethical goods that are central to the practice of the
profession can be nurtured (this, I hasten to add, is a goal, and not
always the current reality).
Who is better positioned to embody and express ethical discipline for, say,
young scientists -- other scientists who understand the nature and
requirements of the profession, or an external regulator who seeks only to
Thomas D. Pearson
Department of History & Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American
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