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Studying Ethics and Committing Theft

If you study ethics, you might be more likely to steal books.

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Here's one we really didn't see coming: Ethicists steal more than people outside the field. At least that was the surprising conclusion drawn by a philosophy professor in California whose research showed that contemporary ethics texts mainly borrowed from libraries by academics in the field were about 50 percent more likely to go missing than other books [source: Schwitzgebel].

Does that mean that studying about moral behavior makes one less moral? No, says study author Eric Schwitzgebel, but it might undermine morality when it supports rationalization. "Rationalization may be especially likely when conventional norms and ordinary behavior are both morally good and contrary to self-interest -- as in the case of the return of library books."

"We are not conducting this inquiry in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good," Aristotle is believed to have said about the study of philosophy and ethics. Better keep hitting the books. Just remember to return them.

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