The expression “professional ethics” can mean three things: de facto morality, justified morality, and moral inquiry. Professional ethics consists entirely of the moral requirements attached to a profession and imposed on all its members, together with the ethical dilemmas created when the requirements conflict or are too vague to provide guidance. This dominant perspective is called the consensus paradigm, which the present book argues is implausible and constricting. The consensus paradigm neglects how personal moral commitments and ideals motivate, sustain, and guide professionals in their work. In exploring personal commitments, this book introduces narrative case studies and also includes portrayals of professionals in works of fiction. Case studies are ubiquitous in studying professional ethics, but almost invariably they consist of episodic (time-slice) dilemmas about how to act when confronted with conflicting obligations. A diachronic perspective reveals the importance of caring relationships, meaningful work, voluntary service, burnout, self-betrayal, balancing family with other commitments, and other topics examined in this book.
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