Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 551–573 | Cite as

Utilitarianism and the Evolution of Ecological Ethics

  • Gary VarnerEmail author
Original Paper


R.M. Hare’s two-level utilitarianism provides a useful framework for understanding the evolution of codes of professional ethics. From a Harean perspective, the codes reflect both the fact that members of various professions face special kinds of ethically charged situations in the normal course of their work, and the need for people in special roles to acquire various habits of thought and action. This highlights the role of virtue in professional ethics and provides guidance to professional societies when considering modifications to their codes. From a Harean perspective, a professional society should ask both “Are there kinds of situations that members of this profession will normally encounter which members of other professions and/or the general public will not?” and “What habits of thought and action would it be good for individuals encountering such situations to have?”


Ethics Utilitarianism R.M. Hare Professional ethics Codes of ethics 



Research for this paper was supported in part by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant #0620808, but the opinions expressed herein are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF. Jonathan Newman, Ed Harris, and Gary Comstock provided feedback on an early draft of this essay. An anonymous reviewer for this journal also provided particularly focused criticisms that goaded me into shoring up the argument and analysis at various points.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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