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Teaching Ethics

Volume 18, Issue 2, Fall 2018

Wade Robison
Pages 127-147

Understanding Cases within Professions

It seems commonly assumed that presenting data is value-neutral. The data is what it is, and it is for those assessing it to make judgments of value. So a chart of earnings just tells us what a company has earned. The chart does not tell us whether the earnings are a good or bad sign. That valuation is to be made by those looking at the chart and is independent of the chart itself. This view of the relation between presentations of data and value judgments is mistaken. Presentations are value-laden in at least two ways. How we choose to represent data is itself an ethically loaded value-judgment, and, second, presentations cause responses, including value-laden judgments. We shall first look at how hard it can be to get inside a profession to be able to understand the problems those in that profession face so we can represent it properly. We shall then examine a case where a failure to understand the problem led to a mistaken moral judgment that has taken on a life of its own because of the power of how the problem is mistakenly presented.

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