Even in the United States, the study of professional ethics is often confused. As discussion of professional ethics has become international, the confusion has become worse. This talk will try to bring some clarity to the discussion by a) distinguishing several senses of “profession” that seem to be current, b) distinguishing three sociological approaches to the most interesting of these senses (making clear the strengths and weaknesses of each), c) distinguishing these from philosophical approaches (making clear the strengths of these). Having clarified questions of method, the talk will conclude by apply one philosophical approach. This application will illustrate some advantages of keeping the distinctions in mind. In particular, it will suggest a research agenda for comparison of professions across national boundaries, one that allows for the possibility that, for example, engineering may be a profession in the Netherlands but not in France, a profession in Japan but not in China.
This colloquium is organized by the philosophy department of the University of Twente. Information on future colloquia can be found here. The colloquia are organised for a wide public and are therefore almost always in English.