I ask the question as a follow-on from the question I posed earlier, "Are philosophers more like lawyers or car salesmen?" I am provoked to it (so blame him!) by my old e-pal, 'Norm', who has been reading naughty magazines, in this case, The Journal of Philosophical Psychiatry. I say "naughty" because how else can you describe a rag that implies that professional ethicists are a bunch of oafs and grunt-snufflers? I am shocked, I tell you, shocked!
If philosophical moral reflection tends to promote moral behavior, one might think that professional ethicists would behave morally better than do socially comparable non-ethicists. We examined three types of courteous and discourteous behavior at American Philosophical Association conferences: talking audibly while the speaker is talking (versus remaining silent), allowing the door to slam shut while entering or exiting mid-session (versus attempting to close the door quietly), and leaving behind clutter at the end of a session (versus leaving one's seat tidy). By these three measures, audiences in ethics sessions did not appear to behave any more courteously than did audiences in non-ethics sessions.
'Norm', himself a moral philosopher of impeccable courtesy and considerable intelligence, asks a couple of very acute questions. First:
What were these ethicists like before they became ethicists? Maybe they were real hooligans - like just totally?
In other words, a good course, or dose, perhaps, of moral philosophy might be a way of de-yobbing yobs! I remain unconvinced, myself, having just experienced some religious philosophers at first hand. Their Christian beliefs do not run as far as courtesy and kindness to anyone who disagrees with them, but then again, that is a characteristic that makes constant re-appearances throughout the history of their religion of 'love and charity'!
The second point 'Norm' raises is that their sins of omission and commission do not rate very highly in yobbery terms. Certainly, they would not be enough to gain you entry into my gang! He asks:
Second, have the authors tested to see how ethicists and non-ethicists compare when judged on more serious delinquencies, such as: throwing rotten fruit at the speaker; elbowing others aside and knocking them down so as to get to, or out of, the door first; smashing up the furniture?
Ah, now, that's more like it! Well, I suppose I could try and attend one of Edward Feser's lectures and propose that "classic theism" is a load of old cods - just so long as I was by the door and able to make a quick getaway!