Professional Ethics - Philosophy 359

Dr. David L. Perry
Seattle University, Fall 1993

Introduction and Objectives

Complex and challenging ethical issues arise in professional life. Some writers have argued that the special responsibilities inherent in professional roles justify a kind of immunity to "normal" moral duties. It's been said, for example, that doctors should lie to their patients if the truth might cause them unnecessary stress, or that a lawyer's duty of confidentiality overrides any other ethical consideration, or that deceptive advertising is an acceptable part of the business "game."

This course has the following primary objectives: to foster awareness of ethical concerns across a wide range of professions; to understand the strengths and weaknesses of various ethical assumptions and arguments, including your own; and to reinforce your personal sense of compassion and fairness in the context of your professional roles. Using diverse articles, case studies and films, we will explore topics like: truth-telling vs. well-meaning deception; privacy and confidentiality; personal character and professional training; and whistleblowing.

Required Texts

Joan Callahan, ed., Ethical Issues in Professional Life.
David Perry, ed., "Readings in Professional Ethics."

Course Requirements

Your final grade in the course will be largely determined by averaging the letter grades of a) a midterm exam to be held October 26, b) a final exam to be held December 7, and 3) a research paper of 7-12 pages due December 2.  Attendance and participation will also be taken into account. Unexcused absences and repeated tardiness will have a detrimental effect on your final grade. If you know that you will miss class or will be late in arriving to class, let me know beforehand, e.g., by leaving a message on my answering machine.  Your ability to participate in class discussion depends upon your keeping up with the reading schedule. I may periodically call on individuals by name to ask questions about the readings.

Both the midterm and final exams will be entirely essay-type (no multiple choice or true-false questions). On the Thursday session prior to each exam, I will provide you with a list of possible exam questions (roughly 6-10) from which I will choose the actual exam questions (typically 3-4). If you prepare thoroughly to answer all of the possible questions, you'll have an excellent chance to do well on the actual exam questions. Although this exam method removes most of the guesswork in knowing what to study, it also means that I expect more detailed understanding to be reflected in your answers than if the questions weren't provided beforehand.  At the time of the exam, you will be told which questions you will be required to answer, and you'll write your answers in class on paper which I will provide for you. Do not submit your answers on anything but that paper--I will consider paper substitution to indicate cheating.

The research paper due on December 2 should examine an ethical issue in professional life that concerns or intrigues you, and must incorporate ideas from at least two articles or books not listed in the course reading schedule. Check with me soon if you're not sure that the topic you're considering is suitable. I'm happy to recommend topics or sources for topics (if I'm aware of them). Note also that papers turned in after December 2 will be docked for each day they're late.

A good way to proceed in writing the paper is to find two or more authors who take different approaches to an ethical problem, examine the strengths and weaknesses of each one's arguments, explain who you think makes the best case and why, and perhaps provide your own considered resolution to the problem.

Papers should be typed and double-spaced. Don't use plastic or cardboard covers; the paper itself is sufficient.

Do not plagiarize. If you use an argument that properly belongs to another author, indicate the source in a footnote, or use a brief reference in the text and cite the full reference in a bibliography at the end of the paper. (This means of course that as you do your research you need to keep careful notes about the sources of ideas you encounter.) On matters of format and style, you may want to consult Seattle University's "Student Guide to Editing and Style," which usually sells for $1.00 in the bookstore.

Cheating on exams and plagiarism in papers are serious breaches of academic ethics. One incident can result in your failing the course; multiple cases can lead to your expulsion from Seattle University. Don't make that kind of mistake, even if you panic under pressure and can't think of another option. In emergencies, I can reschedule your exam or (given enough advance notice) I can arrange for you to take a temporary Incomplete.

Course Schedule

September 23 - In "Readings": excerpts from A. MacIntyre, A Short History of Ethics; Plato, Meno, Socrates' Defense and Gorgias; The Bible; Machiavelli, Prince; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics and Politics; Hobbes, Leviathan; Hutcheson, An Inquiry concerning Moral Good and Evil; Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals; and Ross, The Right and the Good

September 28 - M. Bayles, "The Professions," E. Hughes, "Professions," J. Merrill, "The Professionalization of Journalism," W. May, "Contract or Covenant?" and M. Bayles, "The Professional-Client Relationship" (in Callahan, Ethical Issues in Professional Life, pp. 27-35, 39-44, 92-95, and 113-119)

September 30 - S. Gorovitz, "Good Doctors," A. Eschete, "Does a Lawyer's Character Matter?" and "Case: Doctors Punish Lawyers" (in Callahan pp. 424-433, 384-385, and 392-399)

October 5 - A. Carr, "Is Business Bluffing Ethical?" N. Gillespie, "The Business of Ethics," and M. Friedman, "The Social Responsibility of Business" (in Callahan pp. 69-76 and 349-350), and in "Readings": "Prima Facie Duties in Business Ethics"

October 7 - A. Kaufman, "Access to Legal Services," and M. Freedman, "Access to the Legal System" (in Callahan pp. 357-374), and in "Readings": C. Ostrom, "Lawyer's ad: Greed or public service?"

October 12 - G. Winslow, "From Loyalty to Advocacy: A New Metaphor for Nursing," J. Muyskens, "The Nurse as an Employee," and case of the "Nurse's Dilemma" (in Callahan pp. 95-103, 309-314, and 4-5), and in "Readings": R. Green, "Medical Joint-Venturing"

October 14 - G. James, "In Defense of Whistle Blowing," M. Glazer, "Ten Whistleblowers and How They Fared," S. Bok, "Whistleblowing and Professional Responsibilities," and cases of Ford Pinto, leaking an investigatory report, and the Space Shuttle Challenger (in Callahan pp. 315-340, 296-297, and 341-342)

October 19 - Majority and dissenting opinions in the Tarasoff case (in Callahan pp. 239-248)

October 21 - M. Freedman, "Professional Responsibility of the Criminal Defense Lawyer: The Three Hardest Questions," and A. Donagan, "Confidentiality in the Adversary System," (in Callahan pp. 51-57 and 250-255), and in "Readings": S. Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape; also discuss study questions for midterm exam

October 26 - MIDTERM EXAM

October 28 - No class (I must attend a board meeting in Chicago.)

November 2 - In "Readings": G. Marx, chapters five and seven of Undercover: Police Surveillance in America

November 4 - In "Readings": P. French, "Dirty Hands," and S. Holmes, "State Dept. Balkan Aides Explain Why They Quit"

November 9 - S. Bok, "Lying and Lies to the Sick and Dying," S. Gorovitz, "Informed Consent and Patient Autonomy," and case of the "Potent Placebo" (in Callahan pp. 141-150, 182-188, and 167-168)

November 11 - No class--Veterans' Day

November 16 - J. Mitford, "Cheaper than Chimpanzees," C. Cohen, "Medical Experimentation on Prisoners," and Terry Pinkard, "Invasions of Privacy in Social Science Research" (in Callahan pp. 189-201 and 225-230)

November 18 - In "Readings": C. Cohen, "The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research," and E. Hettinger, "The Responsible Use of Animals in Biomedical Research"

November 23 - In "Readings": W. Gaylin, "Harvesting the Dead," and G. Kolata, "Organ Shortage Leads to Nontraditional Transplants, and Ethical Concerns"

November 25 - No class--Thanksgiving Day

November 30 - View film "Choosing Death" on euthanasia in the Netherlands

December 2 - RESEARCH PAPER DUE; concluding lecture; discuss study questions for final exam; fill out course evaluation

December 7 - FINAL EXAM: 2:00-3:50

Your graded final exams and papers may be picked up on or after December 13 at the reception desk in the Department of Philosophy.


Go to Dr. Perry's CV.