The Institutional Framework of Professional Virtue

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The turn to virtue in professional ethics (see, for example, Cocking & Oakley, 2001 and Banks & Gallagher, 2009) has meant greater focus on the importance of the moral character of professional practitioners as well as on the form of deliberation and judgement that Aristotle characterised as phronesis or practical wisdom. However, the case for professional exercise of practical wisdom also raises a number of issues regarding the institutional or organisational setting in which professional practices are embedded and conducted. In this chapter, I shall first indicate how and why virtue ethics may be considered especially suited to understand and address some of the ethical challenges facing contemporary professional practices, and then draw on a broadly Aristotelian understanding of phronesis or practical wisdom to explore the complex nature of professional deliberation and judgement. The main present aim is, however, to show how cultivation and employment of this form of practical reasoning is only possible in an organisational and institutional setting conducive to providing professional practitioners with scope and opportunities to consider a diverse range of professionally significant aims, issues and available courses of action. Furthermore, in the light of this exploration of the implications of organisational constraints for the cultivation and exercise of professional phronesis, it will here be shown what may happen if such opportunities are unduly restricted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultivating Moral Character and Virtue in Professional Practice : Theory into Practice
EditorsDavid Carr
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-74231-4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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