Oaths, Professional

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Professional oaths are arguably the oldest form of ethics management, going back at least as far as to Hippocrates of Kos (c. 400 BCE). They are promises made during public ceremonies that exhort oath-takers to treat the oath’s beneficiaries in ways consistent with professional standards. They obtain their justification primarily from the social function of the profession. Their binding force and moral weight are generally larger than those of mere promises, from which they can be distinguished on account of their satisfying a number of additional formal and substantive conditions. Professional oaths, if carefully designed, may foster professionalism, facilitate moral deliberation, and enhance compliance with professional standards. They can be criticized, however, for various reasons, including their dubious efficacy. Prominent examples of professional oaths are the MBA Oath, the Bankers Oath (part of law in the Netherlands), and the Hippocratic oath.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Business and Professional Ethics
EditorsDeborah C. Poff, Alex C. Michalos
Place of PublicationCham
ISBN (Print)9783319235141
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • pledge
  • vow
  • oath


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