Does teaching ethics come with obligations?
This is an enduring dilemma in the area of ethics and one that has recently come to light with charges of unethical behavior brought against a prominent philosopher, Professor Thomas Pogge of Yale University. Pogge has been accused of manipulating younger women in his field into sexual relationships, a charge he has strenuously denied.
Without making any judgment on the case itself, this situation raises larger questions about how the behavior of the experts in ethics is to be reviewed and evaluated.
As with most professions, there are no “ethics police” in the professions themselves. We who work in these professions are expected to police ourselves according to our codes of ethics, as is the case, for example, with physicians, lawyers and clergy members. Obviously, law enforcement comes into the picture with actions that are against the law.
Of course, we know that these professions also harbor people who do engage in unethical behavior, but in the case of experts in ethics, should we expect a higher standard of good behavior simply because they are experts in ethics?