Skip to main content

Ethics education in the professions: an unorthodox approach

Abstract

Ethics education in the professions has become close to compulsory with continuing education following suit. What is the de facto as opposed to the de jure function of an ethics education program? Have they increased compliance with laws and codes of conduct? Is that the goal? What would an ethics education program look like that was not primarily concerned with compliance with relevant laws or professional codes and not merely an exercise in good public relations? I argue that, ultimately, ethics education is about happiness… not happiness as we generally think of it today, but in the Aristotelian sense of “fulfillment” and the collateral good that is generated for clients (or patients) and the profession. As a result of this point of view I argue that ethics is not a subject in the normal sense of the term but a meta-subject which implies that teaching ethics as a class or stand alone module in a law, policy or practice management course is usually ineffective. Another implication is that the richest source for moral reflection within a profession are case studies generated by students in clinical assignments, despite the inherent risks associated with making these cases prominent.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. This article is written with health related professional programs in mind, though I believe the concepts are easily adapted to other professions.

  2. One of my favorite editions of The Republic is Richards, I. A., trans. Plato’s Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press (1966). Print.

  3. “For a large class of cases of the employment of the word ‘meaning’—though not for all—this word can be explained in this way: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.” (Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Trans. Elizabeth Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell (1953). Print.)

  4. Bailey, Norman. An Optometrist’s Guide to Clinical Ethics. St. Louis: American Optometric Association (2000). Print.

  5. See https://www.pacificu.edu/about-us/faculty/john-m-medeiros-pt-phd

  6. Plato, The Republic, (514a–520a)

  7. Citek, Karl and (my name), Standard Nine, Institutional Integrity, unpublished report to accreditation committee, Pacific University, 2007.

References

  • Bailey, Norman. 2000. An Optometrist's Guide to Clinical Ethics. St. Louis: American optometric association. Print.

  • Richards, I. A., trans. 1966. Plato's Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press. Print.

  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. Trans. Elizabeth Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Print.

Download references

Acknowledgements

Working closely over the years with Paul Kohl from Pacific University’s College of Optometry (now deceased) and John Medeiros from the School of Physical Therapy was largely the inspiration for this paper.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marc Marenco.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest statement

I have no conflict of interests related to the writing or publishing of this manuscript.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Marenco, M. Ethics education in the professions: an unorthodox approach. International Journal of Ethics Education 3, 193–206 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40889-018-0057-3

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40889-018-0057-3

Keywords

  • Ethics education
  • Philosophy
  • Aristotle