21 December 2010

Ethicists are possibly short on ethics. This is a conclusion to be drawn from research highlighted in an article in the Guardian.

The research compared the number of philosophy books that were missing from university libraries.  It found that relatively obscure, contemporary ethics books of the sort likely to be borrowed mainly by academics and senior students were  about 50% more likely to be missing than non-ethics books.

This research, which first received media attention in 2005, has new “legs” because of recent experience interacting with participants at a conference of the American Philosophical Association.  Sweets were offered as an inducement to complete a questionnaire about the ethical behaviour of ethicists they knew. Many took sweets without completing the questionnaire, or took more sweets than was considered appropriate.

The conclusion reportedly published in the journal Mind, is that “on the whole, ethicists behave no more ethically than do other persons”.

The expectation of State servants is that they do behave more ethically than others.  The standards of integrity and conduct set by the State Services Commissioner, and the spirit of service prescribed in the State Sector Act, are explicit characteristics of public service professionalism. The requirement to be fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy, is more demanding than community norms.