My job and its requirements

In Alex Barber & Sean Cordell (eds.), The Ethics of Social Roles. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press. pp. 236-60 (2023)
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This chapter concerns the ethics and metaphysics of occupations, such as teacher, waiter, and priest. It argues that teacher is a functional kind, but teachers are not functional objects. If you are a practising teacher, it is likely that you perform a function and serve a purpose, that of imparting knowledge and cultivating minds and skills. This is what teachers, generically, are for, and it is what your school is for. But it is not what you are for. Easily confused senses of ‘job’ are distinguished: occupation, position, requirement, and function. The chapter explains that the requirements of your position and occupation do not entail ability, reasons, or fault (if not complied with), and that if you are not as your position and occupation require, you are not as you ought to be, but it does not follow that there is anything wrong with you. The chapter includes some metaphysical speculation about positions, and examines some sources of, and remedies for, workplace alienation and anxiety.



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Thomas H. Smith
University of Manchester

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