You might expect someone who goes by the title “ethicist”–which is to say someone who teaches others about ethics–to exemplify their trade, right?
Alas, this may not be so according to a new study in the journal Philosophical Psychology. The study was brilliantly quirky in its simplicity: identify books that are typically borrowed by ethics professors or ethics graduate students, and then examine the rate at which these books are stolen from academic libraries.
Here are the findings from the study abstract:
Study 1 found that relatively obscure, contemporary ethics books of the sort likely to be borrowed mainly by professors and advanced students of philosophy were actually about 50% more likely to be missing than non-ethics books. Study 2 found that classic (pre-1900) ethics books were about twice as likely to be missing.
Check out the table below for the theft rates by pre-1900 book. Obviously the researchers can’t prove that professional ethicists are the culprits, but whether they are or not, it’s still incredibly ironic that so many foundational books about ethics get lifted.