The Ethical Chemist Professionalism and Ethics in Science - Jeffery Kovac

Chapter 1 Introduction

In the last line of the introduction, chapter 1, Dr. Kovak makes what I find to be a very interesting observation. Dr. Kovak claims that he has "Tried to show that most, if not all, decisions in science have ethical dimensions. Thus, no one can be properly educated in chemistry or any other science without understanding the basis of professional ethics and learning the art of moral decision making." (p.3) The Committee on Professional Training - American Chemical Society - recomends that the chemistry undergraduate curriculum include education in professional ethics. As early as 1933 (this is according to Dr. Kovac) there was concern that science was in trouble. At the center of this "trouble" was a concern about ethics. Problems of personal integrity and the relationship of science with society caused concern. I want to thank Dr. Leah O'Brien, Dr. Robert P. Dixon, and Dr. Edward Navarre for all their work in making this class possible. The subject matter that we will be covering in the next four weeks is a relatively new area of study. Recently, there has been quite a flurry of articles about ethics and the chemist. The book that we will be using for this class has been reviewed extensively. Many of the articles are code of conduct articles (There is an appendix at the end of the text that contains many reprints of accepted codes of conduct for the chemist.These are well worth taking a look at) One concern about introducing some form of ethical subject matter to the student chemist besides the already enormous course load that most student are bearing up under is the enormity of the field of study when it comes to "ethics". One of the very first systematic investigations of "ethics" was formulated somewhere around 350BC - Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics- The subject has only become wider and deeper since that time .I teach Phil 320 - Ethics. Phil320 is broad survey course - historical analysis of the main players in Western philosophy - Some discussion of meta-ethics (where do we get our moral principles from?) is included in this course. Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics attempts to answer the question ,"What is the purpose of life?" A nobel enterprise but hardly the focus of these lectures on the Ethical Chemist" Overall, Phil 320 is a general introduction to the study of ethics. I also teach a course in medical ethics. Medical ethics is often referred to as an applied ethics course. The medical ethics course is closer to what these four lectures are intended to accomplish. However, there are some differences between these classes.Generally, the medical ethics course is designed for the nursing and pharmacy students. The medical ethics course is topic specific. Controversial topics such as abortion, cloning, animal rights, organ transplants, universal health care, etc. are addressed by the medical ethic's student. I intend to make these lectures more focussed . Instead of discussing what it means to be an ethical (moral) person as we do in Phil320 these lectures are intended to explore what it means to be an ethical (moral) scientist (more specifically a ethical (moral)chemist). I don't intend to argue that these two conditions are mutually exclusive - You can be a moral person and a moral chemist simultaneously. However, it is the "moral chemist" that will be considered in the next four weeks. The topic of professionalism and ethics in science is the focus of these lectures. I agree with Dr. Kovac when he claims that, "ethics is integral to science." Chapter 5 , "Cases and Commentaries" will provide a variety of case studies that will illustrate the impossibility of separating the practice of science from ethical(moral) decsion making.

Chapter 2 - Ethics, Morals, and Ethical Theory


For the purpose of these lectures ethics and morals are synonymous.

3 types of ethics:

Metaethics investigates where our ethical principles come from, and what they mean. Are they merely social inventions? 
            Metaphysical isssues - Realitivism - Objectivism

Psychological issues
    i. Egoism and Altruism
                ii. Emotion and Reason
                iii. Male and Female Morality

Normative ethics takes on a more practical task, which is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behavior on others.

   a. Virtue Theories - The ethics of Aristotle is a good example of a virtue ethics. The difference between virtue ethics and the duty (deontic - the philophy of what "ought" to be done) and the consequentialist theory is that duty theory judges the character of the individual actor. What it means to be a good person. Duty theories and consequentialist theories focus on the act.
   b. Duty Theories
   c. Consequentialist Theories
                i. Types of Utilitarianism
                ii. Ethical Egoism and Social Contract Theory

 Applied Ethics
        a. Normative Principles in Applied Ethics
        b. Issues in Applied Ethics applied ethics involves examining specific controversial issues, such as abortion, infanticide, animal rights, environmental concerns, homosexuality, capital punishment, or nuclear war. By using the conceptual tools of metaethics and normative ethics, discussions in applied ethics try to resolve these controversial issues.














Supererogatory enters into the discussion of an ethical action when using the Utilitarian principles to determine the worth of an action. The principle of altruism is called into question. There are some actions that are wrong to omit. The soldier is not required by any ethical principle to throw himself or herself on the grenade. This action of self sacrifice is seen as supererogatory. This act of self sacrifice is viewed by most to be good. However it, is not an act that is required of an individual. If an individual doesn't perform the action of self-sacrifice that individual is not judged as morally wrong.