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Integrity and the moral complexity of professional practice

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Abstract:

Abstract

The paper offers an account of integrity as the capacity to deliberate and reflect usefully in the light of context, knowledge, experience, and information (that of self and others) on complex and conflicting factors bearing on action or potential action. Such an account of integrity seeks to encompass the moral complexity and conflict of the professional environment, and the need for compromises in professional practice. In addition, it accepts that humans are social beings who must respect and engage with the moral position of others. This account is contrasted with a more traditional view of integrity as the rigid maintenance of consistency between professional practice and deeply held, but inflexible, moral principles. While this strong sense of moral conviction may be valuable as a source of moral motivation, e.g. in the case of whistle-blowers, it is equally likely to lead to dogmatism and hubris. Professionals and their organizations are encouraged to foster the more complex and reflective form of integrity.

Keywords: moral reflection; personal integrity; professional integrity; whistle-blowing

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-769X.2010.00481.x

Affiliations: Head of Department ofTheology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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