Professions, Ethics and Unity


  • Victor Kestenbaum


Professional Ethics, Theory of Knowledge, Unity of Knowledge, Expertise, Professional Community


Unity of knowledge, skills, practices, and values is a necessary condition or presupposition of professionalism. A professional searches for order, comprehensiveness, and unity in his or her area of expertise. A profession's knowledge base determines, perhaps overdetermines, what is permissible and required of its practitioners. The unified knowledge frontiers of a profession are not necessarily the frontiers of ethical problems posed and invented by that profession. Unity may be an epistemological value but not an ethical value. If this is so, every profession attempting to formulate a statement of its professional ethics must consider two questions related to the concept of unity: what concept of unity, if any, is appropriate to a profession and its ethics? What concept of unity might allow a profession to govern and organize itself, yet transcend its tendencies to egocentric awareness? In short, should professional ethics be based upon an ideal of unity derived from the hopes it has for its knowledge base? It is argued that the unified oudook of a professional community, derived from a knowledge base thought to approach perfection as it approaches unity, threatens professional ethics.



Regular Papers