An Example of Integrity
In Values Analysis yesterday we discussed the concept of “integrity” and whether it is important. Regardless of your particular ethical beliefs or system, it seems to me that integrity is usually a virtue that most people can get behind and support. To me, integrity has a number of components:
1. Striving to know why you believe what you believe (understanding the presuppositions that motivate your beliefs)
2. Understanding the implications of those presuppositions (what sort of behavior they will demand of you in the world).
3. Acting in accord with what your beliefs demand of you.
4. Keeping yourself open to the possibility that your current beliefs might actually be wrong. This doesn’t mean that you do #1 through #3 with any less passion, but rather that you always “have your eye open” to possible ways in which your current beliefs might need to be revised in light of further information and/or experience.
I came across this story today about a professor who was awarded the APA’s (American Psychological Association) Presidential Citation Award. This is clearly a highly prestigious award, and it most certainly bestows a lot of academic and inter-disciplinary fame and recognition on the person who receives it. Note here in the story that the professor struggled with the fact that she received the award, granted that the then-President of the APA awarding it sanctioned the use of psychologists to aid in the development of “aggressive means” (perhaps even torture) techniques used in government-run detention centers. The professor in question here struggled with the decision — this is a highly prestigious award. Still, in the end, she recognized that her beliefs — specifically in this situation her ethical beliefs as a psychologist — demanded of her that she not accept the award, as she felt that it would be a tacit acceptance of the unethical policies of the APA President awarding the degree. Understanding the demands of her ethical beliefs on her, she returned the award and maintained her integrity.
Note that my point here is not political — it’s not a question of whether you believe that such policies are right or not. But it is a question of whether — if you think they are wrong — you can accept an award from a person who sanctions them, as it might send a message that you too agree with such policies. A clear example of integrity in action, regardless of politics.