Philosophy 318: Professional Ethics
Theodore Gracyk

Outline of Bayles Essay

Central features of all professions:

  • Extensive training not possessed by the average person

  • Training provides intellectual skills for analyzing problems and advising others

  • The service provided is important to society’s continued functioning

Gracyk criticism: But the second of these three is too weak. Many profession decisions are strongly paternalistic, where the professional makes (and even implements) the solution, eliminating the advising of the client.

Common features of many professions:

  • Credentialing: certification and/or licensing (generally self-regulating)

  • Organization of members of the profession

  • Autonomy and high levels of unsupervised discretionary judgment

NOT professions by these standards:
Real estate agent (not much training), business management/administration (training not required), journalism

Gracyk criticism: Real estate agents probably ARE professionals as described by Bayles. They possess the central features (at a low level) and all of the common ones (at a high level).

A job "undergoes professionalization" as the central and common features become standard. This has been happening with criminal justice and law enforcement.

Gracyk observation: A profession can also experience deprofessionalization, as seems to be happening to education. See the essay by A. Gutmann.

CROSS-CUTTING distinctions (apply to some, but not to others):

  • Self-employed versus employee

  • Clients as individuals versus as groups (the general public, or a large group of end users)

Important ethical issues arise because of:

  • Centrality and importance of their services

  • Monopolistic (they provide services that no one else provides, and they limit access to the service by deciding which individuals are qualified to provide the service)

  • Self-regulating ("outsiders" don't have much power to regulate their conduct)



  • Teams replace individual work

  • Greater specialization of each individual

  • Salary instead of fee for service

As a result of these changes in the professions:

Self-interest decreases (??)

Evaluation is increasing

Client privacy is decreasing


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            Last updated Sept. 14, 2011