The Moral Authority of a Professional Code

TitleThe Moral Authority of a Professional Code
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1986
AuthorsDavis, M
Secondary AuthorsPennock, RJ, Chapman, JN
Book TitleAuthority Revisited
Series TitleNOMOS
VolumeXXIX
Chapter16
Pagination302-337
Date Published1986
PublisherNew York University Press
Place PublishedNew York
ISBN Number9780814766019
KeywordsENGINEERING , PHILOSOPHY , professional codes of ethics , PROFESSIONAL ethics , SCIENCE , SOCIAL sciences
AbstractFor many, the claim that a professional code can have moral authority is perplexing. Either a code is enforceable, or it is not. If it is, it certainly has authority but the authority is law-like, that of a command backed by force, not necessarily moral authority. On the other hand, if a code is not enforceable, there are other problems in explaining its moral authority. It seems that a code must either state what any decent person knows (for instance, "don't lie") or seek to impose obligations beyond what ordinary morality requires. This chapter tries to explain the moral authority of a professional code by first, summarizing our philosophical understanding of authority, second explaining how, and in what sense, a professional codes can have authority, and finally, explaining the relationship between professional codes and society.
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