Socjologiczne aspekty etyki zawodowej: zarys problematyki

Jadwiga Koralewicz-Zębik


The purpose of the article is to collect and arrange considerations and views expressed so far about same aspects of professional ethics. Moreover, the article attempts to give a sociological view of these problems. At this stage the author makes same terminological remarks; for instance, she proposes to distinguish between the concepts of „professional ethics” and „professional morality”, which are often used alternatively. By professional ethics we mean a totality of principles of action formulated by certain individuals or groups, often in a form of tenets which should be obligatory for a profession. The author proposes to split the professional morality into two groups: a) the accepted professional morality which includes all moral norms and evaluations valid among people of a given profession with regard to the fulfilment of their professional functions, b) the represented professional morality, i.e. behaviours which are subject to moral evaluation and actually take place in a certain professional group. The author is primarily interested in the professional ethics and in the specific tenets formulated by professional groups and accepted by them. In this connection the following problems are emphasized:

1) What is the relation of professional ethics to the ,,general ethics” as well as the ethics of one profession to that of another one? The professional ethics consists in the application of general principles to certain specific situations with which a person may be faced during the fulfilments of a definite professional role. In the ethical tenets of various professions the hierarchy of norms, the degree of rigorism of their validity, and the distribution of their accents are changing. Different is also the range of functions to which the influence of uniform norms apply. The trespassing of certain prohibitions can have different meanings in different systems, but the latter contain no norms that are in contradiction to the general ethics.

2) What purposes should have the norms contained in ethical tenets? What aims should be realized with their help? The analyses of professional tenets show that they contain three main groups of norms:

  1. Norms of praxiological character related to the main tasks and objects which the members of a certain profession are facing.
  2. Norms determining proper behaviour in conflict situations.
  3. Ethical requirements which should emphasize a particular importance of social functions of a given profession.

3) Which professions should compile their own tenets of professional ethics? All professions or only some of them? In this respect two fundamental points of view exist. The first of them grants to different professions the right of compiling their own tenets, whereas the second one distinguishes only a certain group of professions in which an isolation and formalisation of the ethical principles are needed. Empirical investigations should answer the question whether professional group deprived of a tenet do miss it. What expectations have members of such professional group with regard to those documents etc.?

4) What are the functions of the tenets and sanctions related to them? The educational function of tenets and not the repressive one is emphasized. There arises, therefore, the necessity to investigate the educational influence of tenets. It should be stated if members or candidates of a profession do know the norms of their tenet. By what other channels do they reach the representatives of a definite profession? Which norms have been internalised or, in other words, to what extent has the professional ethics become the accepted morality of a group? Also, the range of agreement with the principles of professional ethics as well as motivation of conformist behaviours should be found.

5) What is the relation between the tenets of professional ethics and other documents determining professional behaviours?

The disciplinary systems and tenets of a definite group are mainly of a repressive character. They are also less detailed and less elastic than tenets of professional ethics.