The Responsible Scholar: Ethical Considerations in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Responsible Scholar: Ethical Considerations in the Humanities and Social Sciences

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Berthoud, Gerald, and Beat Sitter-Litter, eds., ix + 303pp.


Today it is routine to ask scientists, engineers, and medical researchers to face up to their ethical and social responsibilities. Surely social scientists, too have seen themselves challenged by an analogous demand, yet it seems that they have experienced less social pressure than their colleagues from the aforementioned disciplines. Who has ever asked scholars engaged in the humanities to reflect on and account for their academic endeavors? It is as if their activities are of no social or ethical relevance.

To show that humanities and social sciences are more and more deeply concerned with the moral dimension of their activities is the primary objective of this collection of papers, which were presented at an international, interdisciplinary symposium. In a stimulating and sometimes provocative way, they put forward ideas and proposals for guiding both empirical research and teaching by a number of foundational moral rules. Our consciousness of ethical implications and our insight into moral presuppositions underlying scholarly work are deepened. Light is shed on the responsibility scholars and social scientists ought to assume in their dual roles as members of various collective entities, such as citizens of a national state and members of the human species that should be conceived of and organized as a truly international community.

This is the core message of the book: Since humanities and social sciences are dealing with crucial issues, they should not satisfy themselves with investigating given social realities. Nor should they simply consider what might be possible within human societies. Their normative horizon must be extended beyond such limits so as to include the intense reflection on what would be the necessary and the sufficient conditions of truly humane life for the whole of mankind.


“ . . . an impressive compilation of ideas and observations that will be of intense interest to academicians, scholars, and anyone interested in the humanitarian ethics.” —Midwest Book Review