Social work as a discipline concentrates on theoretical and philosophical positions such as social justice, equality, and empowerment and these may be described as “philosophies of social work”.(Mackie, 2007) Historically during social works early years, moral concerns laid the foundations for the development of social work and the principal values of the profession, with particular emphasis on the significance of individual worth and dignity and service to humanity (Bisman, 2004). Many of our contemporary professional social work values and ethics have been constructed on the basis of Kantian and Utilitarian philosophies and although mutually they are considered as alternatives; both theories of are based on the assumption of the human being as a freely acting individual and indeed the philosophies share and hold the following approaches: • The moral value of individual persons as autonomous rational beings; • The universality of values and principles;
• The possibility of deducing moral ‘laws’ through rational reflection;
• The goal of individual liberty; freedom and emancipation and in the just ordering of a society. Human rights and social justice are clearly draw from Kantian and Utilitarian social philosophies and today are regarded as fundamental principals in the practice of social work (Banks 2001).
In this paper the author will consider what social philosophy is and what effect if any it has on social work practice in 2011/2012. Political philosophy is influenced by social philosophy which in turn has an impact on the work has carried out by social workers ‘a rigid demarcation between political and social philosophy is impossible, and social philosophers, have influenced recent political philosophy. Social philosophy also deals with philosophical issues relating to institutions such as the family, religion and education. (Bunmin, 2004) Philosophers observed that the development of human behaviour was shaped by their social environment and mainly competitive in nature. From these philosophical origins collectivism grew into what we now know as collectivistic or socialist theories Kantian deontological ethics is a principle-based ethics wherein reason is central. Reasons motivate or predispose action. (Gray, 2010)Kant’s ethical theory is grounded in the respect owed to individuals because they are rational moral agents. As social workers we work with service users to determine ‘what is the right thing to do’. Reasons are seen as more reliable when making moral judgements than emotions. This is not to say that Kant overlooks the importance of emotions, merely that they do not give the moral agent reason for action. Moral motives are attached to moral principles that lead people to do the right thing. (Gray, 2010)
Autonomy and freedom are two absolute values for Kant. He believed that since people were rational beings, they had the ability to create universal laws and follow them. Furthermore, people were self-regulated by their own rules/laws because they were free to determine for themselves without laws imposed by others. Thus, the two notions of autonomy and freedom were identical in Kantian theory and interdependently connected (RHODES, 1986).
In contrast with other theories on ethics, such as hedonism and utilitarianism, Kant believed that the purpose of ethics was not to teach people to reach for their personal happiness. On the contrary, ethical living for Kant was achieved at the cost of our urges and instincts. However it is necessary for individuals to be aware of their own personal needs and wills. Concerning social work ethics, the Kantian ethic of self-determination is one of the most important ethical commitments of the social work profession. Social workers are educated to intervene in human lives in a way that their actions preserve the right of all humans to determine for themselves. Self-determination is a fundamental value that entails us as social workers to respect the person and...
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