Ethics and the Professions Autumn 1998

Second Writing Assignment

Please write a paper on a general ethical issue in ethics in the professions, including numbered sections as follows:

1. Carefully state a deep and difficult moral issue that has application to the work of professionals. By an "issue" here I mean not a single decision, but a question of what general principle is correct. Such issues can often be stated in the form of a general moral question.

Examples of such moral issues are:

  • Under what circumstances should one report to authorities outside a company some misconduct by someone inside the company?
  • To what extent should employers be allowed to demand information from employees about how they conduct their lives outside of the workplace?
  • What limits, if any, should be placed on journalists in regard to what information (verbal or visual) they may publish about people without the consent of those people?
  • Under what circumstances, if any, should one refuse to obey the direct orders of one's supervisor?
Please pick an issue (not necessarily one listed above) that has not been already exhaustively discussed in class. (I want to see you do ethical reasoning on your own, not simply repeat what has been presented to you.) You may wish to check with me to see that the issue you choose is an appropriate one.
2.Before considering arguments for any positions on the issue (one way or another), clarify the issue by elucidating any important distinctions. (So, for example, if one were discussing euthanasia one might discuss the difference between killing and letting die. If one were discussing some form of deception, one should explore the difference between lying and other forms of deception.)
3.State and explain at least two significantly different, but defensible, positions on the issue (or answers to the general moral question). Each of these might be expressed in a sentence.
4.Provide arguments for each of the positions. The arguments should be clearly stated and have as their conclusions a general moral claim.
5.Critique each of the arguments offered in the previous part. I.e., tell me what is wrong (or could reasonably be considered wrong) with the arguments you have offered.
6. What, after all the preceding argumentation, is your considered view on the matter? Why?

Note: For this assignment you need not use any materials apart from those in the class texts--indeed you are encouraged not to. However, no matter what sources of information or ideas you use--even the textbook--be sure to make adequate and specific attribution (e.g., in footnotes). You are expected to do your own work. Use of unacknowledged sources (e.g., books, friends, tutors, other papers) for this assignment constitutes cheating.
Any use of sources should be footnoted adequately. If you got an idea from somewhere, indicate that. If you refer me to a book or an article be sure to give me enough information (title, author, edition, page number) for me to find the reference. If you think I may not have access to the article, you should consider providing a photocopy of it. Failure to provide adequate citations may hurt your grade.

This assignment should be typed (or printed out by computer--or better yet, submitted electronically to, if possible. It is due on the indicated due date.

Please put your name on your paper. If you submit it on paper, a genuine staple in the upper left-hand corner would be appreciated. No fancy covers or binders, please. Please number each page.

If you submit the paper electronically to obviously you don't have to worry about staples. If you "attach" the file, be sure you indicate (on the envelope, as it were) what word processor was used to generate it. But you can simply include the paper as text in a mail file. In that case it should be single spaced. Emphasis (italics or underlining) can be indicated by surrounding by asterisks, by capitalization, or in some other clear and suitable convention. If you submit the paper electronically, ask for an electronic receipt (i.e. that I mail you back telling you I received it.)

Richard Lee,, last modified: 30 October 1998