Engineering Ethics at a glance

Introduction Definition Historical Backgrounds Three moral inquiries Senses of Engineering Ethics EE and Philosophy Why study Engineering Ethics Moral Autonomy Theories of moral Development

• • • • • • Positive and negative effects of technology on society is widely connected with the moral and ethical issues. Literary imaginations became real through the inventions of technology. Social demands created the artificial tools and artifacts from nature to be created by the people for the people. But several failures to support humanity demanded the issues of ethical and moral values of the technologists and professionals including engineers. Explosion of Challenger is widely used example of neglecting ethical issues regarding engineers. Other examples may be quoted of collapse of bridges, roads, highways, buildings etc. So, the focal concern of Engineering Ethics is ‘Safety issue’ of public works done by the engineers and to make them concerned.

Introduction (cont.) Society and technology is connected with ethical issues
Social Demands Technology

Positive or negative effects on population Ethical concern or failure

• It is already clear that the work of engineers has moral dimensions which should be of interest to us all. These implications should also be the highest priority for engineers and other professionals involved in technology. And the issue is complex. • As citizens it is necessary to ensure that whistle blowing engineers are not routinely fired and persecuted by their employers as most of them takes place within profit-making corporations which in turn are embedded in an intricate structure of society and government regulation. • How corporations can be better structured to allow responsible engineers to act on their moral convictions and professional judgments. • An enriched understanding is needed to engage in the study of engineering ethics.

Definition of Engineering Ethics
• • • • • It is the study of the moral issues and decision confronting individuals and organizations involved in engineering. The study of related questions about moral conduct, character, ideals, and relationships of people and organizations involved in technological development. It is usually the response to specific problems that prods us to make the world better. Character, general ideals and relationships are equally important foci in approaching engineering ethics. The scope of engineering ethics is wider than the ethics of engineers. Because, engineering ethics include decisions made by the others engaged in the technological enterprise, including scientists, managers, production workers, and their supervisors, technicians, technical writers, governmental officials, lawyers, and the general public.

Historical background
Ethical concern among engineers began as early as the profession of engineering but as an abstract issue. By the 1970s philosophical ethics had become considerably less abstract than in the previous two decades as bioethics and legal ethics emerged in the mean time. The first element in this new view of ethics is the recognition that, as Annette Baier put it, ethical understanding is a cultural product. Ethical discussions has taken an increasingly practical turn in recent decades, and in the 1990s has provided new ground for the development of areas of practical ethics, such as research ethics. In the late nineteenth century, newly emerging professional societies for engineers formally expressed this concern by writing codes of ethics.

Historical background ( cont.)
• Earlier books by Harding and Canfield (1963), Mantell (1964), and Alger et al. (1965), as well as journals such as the Professional Engineer, covered the traditional aspects of engineering ethics very well, but they did not examine its wider implications. During the middle of the 70s Issues in Engineering, was published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE’s), and the Newsletter of the Committee on Social Implications of Technology now Technology and Society Magazine was published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Now in the world, as Lynch reports, nine of the top ten engineering schools have some ethics component in their curriculum. Engineering Ethics became more clearly defined with the National Project on Philosophy and Engineering Ethics carried out under the direction of Robert Baum from 1978 to 1980. The first interdisciplinary conference took place in 1980 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and there have been several others since then.

• • •

• • • • • • • Engineering is the largest profession numerically affects all of us in most areas of our lives. The skill of surgeon’s hands can affect one patient at a time , the judgment of design engineer can influence hundreds of lives at a time. In spite the dramatic impact of engineering on our safety, we have tended to stereotype it as a tool of vast impersonal organizations. Individuals involved in it have frequently be viewed as cogs in machines rather than as responsible decision makers. Engineering products derive from personal creative activity. Engineering products derive from personal creative activity in which responsible conduct can make the difference between large-scale benefit or large scale harm up to and including life and death. It explores the moral dimension of technology from the inside.

Three moral inquiries
• The study of Engineering can be viewed as involving three distinct kinds of inquiry:

Engineering Inquiry




Refers to the moral…Concerned with clarifying… Seeks to provide…

• Normative: Refers to the moral norms or standards which are desirable for action , attitudes, policies, organizational structures and individual character traits. (Pg.9,,Martin and Schinzinger.) • Conceptual : Concerned with clarifying basic ideas, principles, issues and types of argument concerning the moral problems in engineering. • Descriptive : which seeks to provide factual information needed for understanding and dealing with both conceptual and normative issues. • Besides there is macro and micro moral issues.

Senses of E. Ethics.
• Basically there are three distinct senses of Engineering Ethics. • First, Ethics is a discipline or area of study dealing with moral problems. E. ethics is the discipline of the moral issues arising in and surrounding engineering. • Second, when we speak of ethical problems, we mean to distinguish them from unethical problems regarding politics, law, or etc. but E.E. in this sense deals with the moral problems and issues related to engineering. • Third, is purely descriptive because it concerns merely the facts about what engineers and others believe as regards moral problems in engineering.

Why study E. Ethics
• It increases the ability of engineers, managers, citizens and others to confront the urgent moral questions raised by technological activity. • The aim is to empower individuals to reason more effectively concerning moral questions. • The aim should be to strengthen moral autonomy. • An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs. • An ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams.

• An ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering ethical problems. • An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility. • An ability to communicate effectively with personnel of other related disciplines • The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context. • A knowledge of contemporary issues.

Moral Autonomy
• • • • • • • Adult moral concern can be evoked by any number of influences: friends, ministers, social events, novels, movies, etc. The main topic of taking a course on applied ethics should be to improve the ability to reflect critically on moral issues. This can be accomplished by improving various practical skills. Proficiency in recognizing moral problems involved in engineering. Skills in critically assessing arguments on opposing sides of moral issues. The ability to form comprehensive viewpoints Imaginative awareness of alternative responses to the issues.

• Sensitivity to genuine difficulties which includes a willingness to tolerate some uncertainty in making troublesome moral judgments. • Increased precision in the use of a common ethical language. • Enriched appreciation of both the possibilities of using rational dialogue in resolving moral conflicts and of the need of tolerance of differences of opinions. • It is an integral part of being a responsible person.

Theories of Moral Development
• We will discuss the • Kohlberg’s theory Kohlberg’s theory following two theories of Moral development • Kohlberg’s Theory Pre-conventional level Conventional Level • Gilligan’s Theory
Post conventional Level

Kohlberg’s theory
• Pre-conventional Level: Right conduct is regarded as whatever directly benefits oneself. • Individuals are motivated primarily by the desire to avoid punishment by unquestioning deference to power, or by a desire to satisfy their own needs. • This is the level of all young children and few adults who never manage to go beyond it. • Conventional level : Norms o one’s family, group or society are accepted as the final standard of morality. • These norms or conventions are uncritically adopted as being correct because they represent authority.

• Individuals at this level are motivated by the desire to please others and to meet the expectations of the social unit, regardless of immediate affects on their selfinterest. • Loyalty and close identification with others have overriding importance. • This studies reveal that most adults never mature much beyond this stage.

• Post conventional Stage : It is attained when an individual comes to regard the standard of right and wrong as a set of principles having to do with rights and the general good that are not reducible to self-interest or to social conventions. • Kohlberg calls these individuals autonomous because they think for themselves and do not assume that customs are always right. • They also seek to reason and live by general principles. • They maintain moral integrity, self-respect and the respect of others autonomous individuals • Criticism: How did he come to know that these are correct stages ? And that higher stages represents more advanced stages of moral maturity.

Gilligan’s Theory
• In the book In a different Voice Carol Gilligan charges that Kohlberg’s studies are male biased. • According to Gilligan. There is some tendency for men to be more interested in trying to solve moral problems by applying abstract moral principles. • Males tend to resolve moral dilemmas by determining which moral rule is most important and should override other moral rules relevant to the dilemma. • Women, by contrast try harder to preserve personal relationships with all people involved in a situation. • In order to do so they focus greater attention on the details of the context in which the dilemma arises, rather than invoking and trying to rank general rules. • Ethics of rules and rights and ethics of care.

• • • Both males and females sometimes use both kinds of ethics. Pre-conventional stage: Same as Kohlberg’s first level. The conventional level: There is the opposite preoccupation with not hurting others and with a willingness to sacrifice one’s own interests in order to help or nurture others. • The post conventional level: The individual becomes able to strike a reasonable balance between caring about other people and perusing one’s own self-interest while exercising one’s rights. • The aim is to balance one’s own needs of others , while maintaining relationship with the mutual based on mutual caring.

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