Is there a sound philosophical foundation in the nature of professional activity for resolving the tension between altruism and self‐interest in favor of virtue and character? I believe there is, and I ground my proposal in six characteristics of the relationship of professionals to those who seek their help. Considered individually, none of these phenomena is unique in kind or degree. They may exist individually in other human relationships and occupations. But as a moral cluster they are, in fact, unique; they generate a kind of “internal morality”—a grounding for the ethics of the professions that is in some way impervious to vacillations in philosophical fashions, as well as social, economic, or political change. This internal morality explains why the ethics of medicine, for example, remained until two decades ago firmly rooted in the ethics of character and virtue, as were the ethics of the Hippocratic and Stoic schools. It is found in the seminal texts of Moslem, Jewish, and Christian medical moralists. It persisted in the eighteenth century in the writings of John Gregory, Thomas Percival, and Samuel Bard, who, although cognizant of the philosophies of Hobbes, Adam Smith, and Hume, nonetheless maintained the traditional dedication of the profession to the welfare of the patient and to a certain set of values. Only in the last two decades has there been—to use Hume's terms—a “sentiment of approbation” regarding self‐interest.
Pellegrino, E.D. and Gray, R.A. (1994), "Character, virtue, and self‐interest in the ethics of the medical profession: Part ii: Toward the restoration of virtue ethics", Reference Services Review, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 41-52. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb049216Download as .RIS
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