A Small Study in Oversight

Whose purpose is to see if I can attract more than 20 followers, or at least 21. The last number is the baseline for a well-known Canadian test for male intelligence: as in, “the ability to count to 21-23 in winter without taking off one’s mitts, boots, and dropping one’s long johns.”  The facts underlying the study begin after the break.

Some lawyers and many others know some version of a joke about oxymoronic phrases that includes “legal ethics”.

With that in mind –

From the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, as of November 2, 2016 –

Bear in mind that Oxford has one of the most highly regarded faculties of law in the world.

In 2002 the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education, chaired by Mr Eiji Uehiro, established the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. The following year, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics was created within the Philosophy Faculty.

The goal of the Centre is to encourage and support debate and deeper rational reflection on practical ethics.

Practical ethics should not only advance knowledge by deeper, rational ethical reflection and dialogue, it should change people’s hearts and so better their own lives and the lives of others.

… The fate of humanity in the 21st Century and following centuries will to a greater extent than ever before be determined by the choices made by human beings, the leaders and citizens of nations. It is the values, principles and wider ethics of these people that will determine their choices. We aim to enable practical ethics to develop and more effectively guide human choice.


We research a broad range of topics in practical ethics and moral philosophy. Core areas of expertise include:

  • Bioethics especially cloning, stem cell research and genetics
  • Medical ethics
  • Neuroethics
  • Just War Theory and terrorism
  • Business ethics
  • International justice

Our research program is highly interdisciplinary. We work closely with medical, law, politics, international relations and religious studies departments both within Oxford and internationally.

(emphasis added by me)

What should? ought? might? could? one conclude from the fact that the Centre does not claim “legal ethics” as one of its “core areas of expertise”?  Or even as a subsidiary area? Or any area at all? Even though it states it works “closely with … [the] law … department”.

That, perhaps, the Centre does not believe “legal ethics” exist in western civilization?

Or they ascribe to the more draconian interpretation of Dick the Butcher’s famous line in Henry VI, part 2 | Act 4, Scene 2?

What conclusion ought one to draw, at least about “western” legal ethics, from the fact that the Centre’s international advisory board sets out a long list of VIPs, only one of whom is listed as a member of a law faculty. However, that faculty is not any of the faculties of law that a casual reviewer of the Centre’s site would have expected given its physical location.

Might we? Ought we to? conclude a majority of Oxford’s Philosophy Faculty don’t believe in the existence of “legal ethics”? (That some members of that faculty teach at the law faculty, even teach graduate and undergraduates isn’t evidence either way.)

The floor (or the basement) is yours if you wish. This being a site run by a lawyer, feel free not to reach for heaven. If irony or sarcasm aren’t your forte, aim for the light.


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