In this paper we suggest an alternative approach to ethics in social work: virtue ethics. We argue that Habermas’s theory of communicative action and discourse ethics needs to be supplemented with virtue ethics to provide an account useful to social work. In these times, sensitivity to others is needed for social work to succeed as a profession interested in combating the complacency, self interest and lack of compassion evident in cutbacks to social welfare programs and the resultant concerns with outcomes and efficiencies that have all but obliterated care and compassion. We see in Habermas a furthering of Aristotelian and Thomist philosophy, most importantly with respect to his focus on emancipatory knowing – the critically reflective knower who knows self as the person doing the knowing. Habermas’s distinction between values (objective), ethics (social) and morals (subjective) makes the province of emancipatory knowing (his epistemological theory) consistent with his moral theory – morality is personal.
Ethics and Social Welfare Vol. 1, Issue 3, p. 310-328
This is an electronic version of an article published in Ethics and Social Welfare, Vol. 1, Issue 3, p. 310-328. Ethics and Social Welfare is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=1749-6535&volume=1&issue=3&spage=310