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Conflict of Interest and the Onus of Disclosure: An Essential Virtue of Discourse Going Neglected in Our Times

Posted 02/08/2017
Submitted by Brian Skelly
Category: Campus Announcements, Student Announcements

Join us at this week’s Philosophy Club meeting Thursday, February 9, from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. in 421 Auerbach Hall for discussion of the presented topic: Conflict of Interest and the Onus of Disclosure: An Essential Virtue of Discourse Going Neglected in Our Times

Here is an excerpt from the paper to be presented by Brian Skelly (see attached for complete essay):

Conflict of interest is a well-known source of corruption or other kinds of dysfunction in organizational life. For this reason, preventive mechanisms are commonly installed in constitutions, business plans, professional codes of ethics, etc. to avert the kind of harm it can do. To be sure, we need to do more in this regard, since new conflicts of interest are always arising, and old ones are sometimes so deeply imbedded that people begin to take them for granted and let them slip past their notice. But at least it is a problem that is being formally addressed on an ongoing basis.

This is less true of conflicts of interest afflicting speakers in the public forum. Here, it happens quite often that speakers keep their other interests private as they advocate for matters in ways that may well be subservient to ulterior motives, thus impugning the integrity of their discourse.

It is not that we should expect all who advocate a particular cause in the public forum not to have other commitments; but we ourselves should consider it our obligation to disclose to our audience any background commitments that one might reasonably suspect may limit our ability or willingness to argue in the disinterested manner that distinguishes what Plato called dialectic argument, or cooperative, truth-oriented dialog, from what he called rhetoric, or competitive, winning-oriented argument. Only the former can be considered productive, in the sense that it brings all its earnest participants closer to the truth in the long term. The latter, on the other hand, is only good for manipulating audiences in the short-term.


Conflict of Interest Essay
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