Journal of Economic Methodology
Published online: 05 Apr 2017
Recent years have witnessed a rapid increase in initiatives to expand ethics instruction in higher education. Numerous empirical studies have examined the possible effects on students of discipline-based ethics instruction, such business ethics and medical ethics. Nevertheless, the largest share of college ethics instruction has traditionally fallen to philosophy departments, and there is a paucity of empirical research on the individual effects of that approach. This paper examines possible effects of exposure to readings and lectures in mandatory philosophy classes on student views of morality. Specifically, it focuses on an ethical topic of importance to both economics and philosophy, viz. economic (or distributive) justice. The questionnaire study is designed to avoid features suspected of generating false positives in past research while calibrating the measurement so as to increase the likelihood of detecting even a modest true effect. The results provide little evidence that the philosophical ethics approach studied here systematically affects the fairness views of students. The possible implications for future research and for ethics instruction are briefly discussed.
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