Ethics and Excuses: The Crisis in Professional Responsibility

By Banks McDowell | Go to book overview

2
Responsibility and Excuses

If the problems facing professionals are not ones of learning the expectations of professional ethics, but rather of complying with them, we need to look closely at the excuses offered and, even more important, those that are accepted for alleged lapses from ethical standards. As a preliminary matter before we get to the typical excuses, I want to discuss several central questions. (a) What do we mean by saying that a professional is responsible? (b) What is the function of excuses? (c) How do we describe successful or unsuccessful excuses? (d) Who decides whether an excuse works?


WHEN CAN WE SAY A PROFESSIONAL IS RESPONSIBLE?

In simple moral analysis, responsibility is the consequence of obligation and the failure to comply, the conclusion of a syllogism in which the major premise is the duty and the minor premise is the breach. In other words, it is an inference or conclusion from the presence of other factors.

Responsibility is the major concern of most evaluative judgments of human action. If we think in causal terms about people, we must identify which actor should be credited for some result we either approve or disapprove of. We then describe that person as the responsible party. Otherwise we would have to label the occurrence as an accident, act of nature, or act of God, which are conclusions egocentric human beings are reluctant to draw. We may need to seriously reexamine the traditional assumption that we ought to identify a responsible individual for most actions. We will consider that question in Chapter 7.

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Ethics and Excuses: The Crisis in Professional Responsibility
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introduction: The Ethical Crisis? 1
  • Notes 10
  • 2 - Responsibility and Excuses 13
  • Notes 23
  • 3 - Ethical Excuses 27
  • Notes 44
  • 4 - Law and Ethics: The Different Systems 47
  • Notes 61
  • 5 - Defenses: The Legal Excuses 63
  • Conclusion 79
  • 6 - The Fallibility of Human Beings 85
  • Notes 96
  • 7 - The Informal Moral Codes 97
  • 8 - The Need to Reformulate Ethical Expectations 111
  • Notes 130
  • 9 - The Professional and the Market--Is Efficiency the Predominant Value? 133
  • Notes 144
  • 10 - The Responsibility of Others Toward the Excuse Giver: The Need for Dialogue 147
  • Notes 157
  • 11 - Conclusion 159
  • Bibliography 163
  • Index 167
  • About the Author 171
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