Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-1999

Abstract

Traditionally the study of computer ethics involves taking students who are not philosophically trained, exposing them to action-guiding theories, presenting them with the codes of ethics of several companies and professional organizations and asking them to make ethical decisions in scenario-based cases. This approach is deliberately action-based and focuses on doing. "What would you do?" is the traditional question we ask our students. While this pedagogical methodology forces them to examine situations and argue from a particular point of view, it does little to influence their character. They see the utilitarian or deontologist as someone other than themselves. There seems to be very little internalization of these action-based theories.Virtue Ethics offers character-forming theory that has been more successful with my students than the action-based theories of computer ethics texts. Why? Virtue Ethics is directed toward character development. The focus is on being rather than doing. It presents a good heuristic or approach to the problem of moral agency. Virtue ethics offers a way of teaching self-reflection through narratives that focus on core values, heroes and moral exemplars. It is grounded in practical wisdom. It is experiential, learning to care about the self, others, the community, living the good life, flourishing and striving for moral excellence. It offers a model for the development of character and personal ethics which will lead to professional ethics. Yet, the strict Virtue Ethics espoused by Aristotle has its limitations. This paper will explore the need for a more integrative approach to contemporary moral theory, one that may be found by revisiting the virtues through the works of Aristotle and Kant. It will offer insight into translating theory into practice for students of computer science and information technology.

DOI

10.1145/382042.382046


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