Journal of Military Ethics 16 (3-4):191-204 (2017)

This article investigates the communication of professional ethos, the ethical standards of a profession in training, from passing on ideas of patients’ welfare in medical schools to communicating values in military academies. The article examines this through a consideration of the consequences of Wittgenstein’s discussions on the nature of language: how words and sentences acquire meaning. Wittgenstein’s rule-following paradox, the paradox that any act can be brought into correspondence with a rule and thereby that any “meaning” might be applicable to what is being taught, must make us re-evaluate assumptions about a professional ethos as a guide for professionals in their future practice. If, as Wittgenstein asserts, the meaning of a word is its use, we must abandon ideas of an essence of professional ethos encapsulated in words. Ethical standards of the professions are not reducible to a set of rules. Instead teachers must seek to expand the learner’s repertoire of responses and invite different answers rather than a pre-established correct answer.
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DOI 10.1080/15027570.2017.1412125
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