Creativity and Conformity in Professional Ethics
Gideon Calder, University of Wales, Newport
This paper explores relationships between academic theory, professional imperatives and individual practice in the teaching of programmes in Professional Ethics. In recent years these have mushroomed: more and more, vocational degrees programme involve an ethical component at the centre of the curriculum, rather than at its periphery. Even so, in this paper I argue that while most theoretical discussion of professional codes of ethics has tended to concentrate on the coherence and practicability of the principles involved, they have tended to overlook a certain paradox at the heart of the very idea of such a code of ethics. That paradox is roughly this: that if codes of ethics are adhered to strictly, this is likely to turn the process of ethical decision-making into a mechanical, uncritical, uncreative and so not particularly ethical exercise. The more directive a code, the less room for manoeuvre for the individual in displaying the virtues of a critically reflective practitioner. And yet the cultivation of the latter is typically at the heart of the stated aims of the profession in question. Mere obedience or conformity does not, as it were, an ethical decision-maker make.