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September 2003

Teaching and Learning Ethics

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2003 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2003

Arch Ophthalmol. 2003;121(9):1342. doi:10.1001/archopht.121.9.1342-a

In the "Correspondence" section of the February 2003 issue of the ARCHIVES, Dr. George M. Bohigian considers whether ethics can be taught.1 This issue is frequently raised and deserves a thoughtful response.

Some of the world's great thinkers believe that free will is an illusion and that human beings cannot actually make choices. They may be correct that every aspect of behavior is determined at the time of conception, or perhaps before that, or if not fully determined at that point, is modified by forces that are external to the individual and are not under the individual's control in any way. But other great thinkers have argued that behavior can be modified as the individual develops. These thinkers believed that at least some is learned. If behavior is learned, then clearly it can be taught.

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