Aiming Professional Ethics Courses Toward Identity Development
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The many elements of professional ethics programs can be oriented by the goal of identity development situated within a teleological virtue ethics structure. This structure supports the integration of an individuals values, acts, and goals and the framework (including ethical codes, laws, common practices, and the social good) of their profession. Professional ethics understood in this way extends beyond the normal focus on propositional and practical knowledge to include other important aspects of professional activity. The kinds of activities that are of particular interest in this analysis are those that fit under Alasdair MacIntyres concept of practice that take place within distinct moral spaces. By combining the idea of practice and distinct moral spaces, professional ethics can be expanded to draw awareness to characteristic virtues dominant in different ethical fields, offering critical distance and promoting agent self-awareness. Ones identity arises through answering what Charles Taylor called qualitative questions, used to define ones self, which depends on what one has already done and what one aims to do, guided by what one holds to be significant. Thoughtful answers require mental deliberation and discourse; their articulation and the development of a coherent moral identity that combines personal and professional intentions, actions, and goals are closely correlated with exemplary professional behavior, according to research done by social psychologists. According to this argument, ones unique identity is expressed in the imaginative composition of words, virtues developed, and practices to which they are applied, over the course of ones life.