Toward an ethics of professional understanding

Nicolas Tanchuk, Carly Scramstad, Marc Kruse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: In this paper, we advance a novel conception of normative ethics and draw out its implications within the domain of professional ethics. We argue that all moral agents, and thus professionals, share a fundamental and constitutive normative interest in correctly conceiving of their ends. All professionals, we claim, by virtue of their positions of social power, have special role responsibilities in cultivating and sustaining societies oriented by this shared ideal of practically oriented ethical understanding. We defend this conception against a familiar opponent of a philosophical approach to professional ethics: the morally skeptical student (or university administrator). By taking the skeptic’s challenge seriously, we clarify the conditions for a sound account of normative ethics and then provide a response that meets this test. Against this type of skeptic, we claim that a fundamental commitment to the ideal of understanding our ends ought to be included within any curriculum of professional ethics that reflects moral reality. We argue that endorsing such a curriculum would make a significant difference in our sense of professional advocacy and in conceiving of who, what, and how we teach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-16
Number of pages12
JournalEthics and Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Foundations of professional ethics
  • moral agency
  • moral skepticism
  • professional advocacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy


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