Very recently, I was asked to find a professional code of conduct or ethics statement for my academic discipline. The academic discipline I am currently in is philosophy. In looking for a professional code of conduct, one of the more trusted sources is the American Philosophical Association (APA). Thus, it seemed most logical to consider the “Statements and Policies” page on the APA website, where there are links to 22 distinct statements. Hence, I took some time to examine the Statements and Policies page. However, the Statements and Policies page seems quite disorderly to me in the following ways: (1) there is a large number of disparate statements; (2) the statements themselves vary widely in length (i.e., from one sentence long to several pages long); (3) many of the statements give recommendations or suggestions on what philosophers may do, as opposed to setting rules or clear guidelines on what is ethically (un)acceptable (e.g., sexual harassment, discrimination) for actual practice.
Overall, the APA Statements and Policies page provides plenty of useful information on the importance of studying philosophy well and the nature of philosophical inquiry. However, such information about the nature of studying the discipline itself is not what I think about when exposed to the phrase “professional code of conduct” or “ethics statement.” Instead, what comes to my mind in looking for a professional code of conduct is something similar to a code of conduct for engineers, or a code of ethics for engineering education, or a code of ethics for educational research: a single document that clearly lays out rules of practice, or ethical standards (e.g., plagiarism, avoiding harm), or principles/guidelines that aid in establishing ethical courses of action in different contexts. Moreover, I see such principles or guidelines for philosophical practice – if they exist – as consisting of normative statements of appropriate ethical behavior for philosophers, as well as providing direction on the types of issues that philosophers are likely to encounter in their professional work. After all, I do not think that philosophical research is done in a vacuum (i.e., without interacting with other people), even though philosophers may not necessarily conduct experiments in the same way as researchers in disciplines that emphasize empirical approaches (e.g., science, engineering, business). Besides, I think that a professional code of conduct for philosophy could be used to highlight how similar philosophy is to various disciplines, in terms of ethical standards not being drastically different across disciplines (e.g., honesty, integrity, respect).
Having described what I look for in a professional code of conduct or ethics statement, such a code of conduct does not seem to exist for philosophy. Or, if such a code of conduct exists then it is safe to infer that not all philosophers are aware of its existence. It seems hidden because most participants in my program are not aware of such a code of conduct or ethics statement, whereas graduate students in other disciplines (especially engineering) are exposed to such professional codes of conduct earlier in their training. Nonetheless, I will end by asking other philosophers (or philosophically-minded people) the following questions: do you know of a professional code of conduct or ethics statement for philosophy that meets my expectations (stated in the previous paragraph)? Do you think the existence of a code of conduct is beneficial (or not) for philosophy as a profession?