Voluntary Service

Mike W. Martin

in Meaningful Work

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780195133257
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848706 | DOI:

Series: Practical and Professional Ethics

Voluntary Service

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Voluntary service beyond minimum requirements is an important aspect of professionalism, yet it has received little attention in the study of professional ethics. The dominance of the consensus paradigm partly explains the neglect: if professional ethics is nothing but the duties incumbent on all members of a profession, together with resolving the dilemmas when duties conflict, then optional voluntary service is automatically excluded from consideration. A related reason for the neglect of voluntary service (or philanthropy) is the more general preoccupation of ethicists (over the last two hundred years) with universal duties, to the neglect of personal ideals of service. This chapter discusses three overlapping dimensions of voluntary service in the professions: pro bono service, work in nonprofit organizations, and supererogatory commitments. Each highlights personal commitments in professional ethics, but the last topic especially leads into wider issues in ethical theory. The chapter tries to make sense of how some courses of action can become responsibilities and yet remain supererogatory — how they can be supererogatory responsibilities.

Keywords: voluntary service; professional ethics; pro bono service; nonprofit organizations; supererogatory commitments; personal commitments; supererogatory responsibilities; personal ideals; philanthropy

Chapter.  7324 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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