posted Jun 16, 2018, 9:37 AM by jeffery jim

Schinzinger and Martin, “Engineering ethics is the study of the moral values, issues, and decisions involved in engineering practice” (Schinzinger and Martin, 2000). Morality encompasses the first-order beliefs and practices about good and evil by which we guide our behavior. Ethics is the second-order, reflective consideration of our moral beliefs and practices (Hinman, 2003). But our decisions are also guided by our moral values; that is, our concern and respect for others. Further, local, state, and federal laws may influence our behavior.

Ethics has sometimes been viewed by engineers as a somewhat arcane theoretical aspect of philosophy having little relevance to their practical activities in the world. Ethics certainly involves philosophical activities such as careful conceptual analysis and contemplation. However, ethics is in essence practical, for the way in which we choose to act and live is the primary objective of such analysis and contemplation. Ethical decisions, like engineering decisions, may have significant consequences for human wellbeing.

Ethics at its core is about how we relate to others. In such relationships, problems may arise for several reasons, including: limited resources and limited sympathy generating competition and conflict rather than mutually beneficial cooperation; limited agreement on goals and different conceptions of “good”; inadequate rationality, insufficient information and limited understanding; poor communication.

This implies the primacy of ethics over morality, but also the necessity of morality for expression of the ethical aim, though with the provision that recourse may be made to the ethical aim if the rules or norms existing at any time prove inadequate for a specific purpose. On this basis, morality expressed as norms or rules constitutes only a limited actualisation of the ethical aims.

On the basis of this convention, most previous books dealing with “engineering ethics”, which have largely been concerned with specific dilemmas arising in the practice of engineering, may be regarded as primarily treatments of engineering morality. Further, the several “ethical codes of conduct” for professional engineers have by their very nature tended to be prescriptions of engineering morality.

The followings described the characteristics of a professional occupation;

(1)Extensive training: with intellectual content more than just practical skills which are grounded in a body of theory and obtained through academic institution. (2)Vital knowledge and skills: vital to the well-being of the larger society where sophisticated scientific and technological base is dependent on its professional elite. (3)Control of services: a profession often attempts to persuade the community that there should be a licensing system for those who want to enter the profession. (4)Autonomy in the workplace: exercise a large degree of individual judgment and creativity in carrying out their professional responsibilities. (5)Claim to ethical regulation: Professionals claim to be regulated by ethical standards, many of which are embodied in a code of ethics. The degree of control that professions possess over the services that are vital to the well-being of the rest of the community.

Engineering as a profession: Advanced expertise, self-regulation, public good.

Definition of professionalism

A profession is a number of individuals in the same occupation voluntarily organized to earn a living by openly serving a moral ideal in a morally permissible way beyond what law, market, morality, and public opinion would otherwise require.

A professional in any field of practice is commonly identified by the following characteristics: 1. A core of basic knowledge and some advanced techniques are mastered before offering service to society 2. Recognition and approval by society as minimally competent to exercise this knowledge in a practical way 3. Adherence to a code of ethics published by leading representative organizations 4. Subjection to a governing body of peers who enforce provisions of an engineer’s practice act 5. Accepts a high level of responsibility for work completed personally or under direct supervision.

Licensing is the process by which a government agency grants an individual permission to engage in an occupation after confirming that a level of minimal competence has been attained, as defined by a recognized gathering of peers. Certification for a variety of practices and skills, on the other hand, may be obtained through any association where the authority to use a particular title is granted based on a set of predefined qualifications. Registration is often a general term, indicating a requirement for all individuals who wish to practice in a specific field of expertise to pay fees and be added to a list maintained by some governmental consumer authority. Engineers authorized to practice within a state’s boundaries are required to affix an identifiable stamp and personal signature to work for which they are directly responsible, as there is intended to be a value placed on such activity and the presence of a seal usually carries that significance.


Concept of professionalism that he believes many people, including many professionals hold

(1) A profession cannot be composed of only one person. It is always composed of a number of individuals. (2) A profession involves a public element. One must openly ‘‘profess’’ to be a physician or attorney, much as the dictionary accounts of the term ‘‘profession’’ suggest. (3) A profession is a way people earn a living and is usually something that occupies them during their working hours. A profession is still an occupation (a way of earning a living) even if the occupation enjoys professional status. (4) A profession is something that people enter into voluntarily and that they can leave voluntarily. (5) Much like advocates of the social practice approach, Davis believes that a profession must serve some morally praiseworthy goal, although this goal may not be unique to a given profession. (6) Professionals must pursue a morally praiseworthy goal by morally permissible means. (7) Ethical standards in a profession should obligate professionals to act in some way that goes beyond what law, market, morality, and public opinion would otherwise require.

Six common qualities of professional engineers and professional practitioners: Integrity, independence, impartiality, responsibility, competence, and discretion.

Importance of professional institution: (1) Enable the professional development of moral awareness, skills, responsibility and identity, through codes, dialogues and training. (2) Ensure its processes and organizations are conducive to the development of moral responsibility. (3) Provide support and the opportunity for professionals to work through decision-making and any conflicts of interest. (4) Regulate the practice of the individual professional.  (5) Play a major role in communicating with the public. (6) Set standards for admissions to institutions and for initial and continuing professional training. (7) Act as a learned society, contributing to the advancement of science and technology of engineering.

Professional code is good for; the environment, mankind, my associates (other professionals, citizens, countrymen), my family and myself

What is Engineering?

The outcomes of engineering are practical. Such outcomes are most usually considered to be the design, manufacture and operation of useful devices, products and processes, often on a notably large scale. The practical emphasis of engineering distinguishes it from science. Simply expressed, the primary goal of science is a better understanding of the nature of the universe, and especially of the physical and biological phenomena of the world. Correspondingly, the most challenging engineering often seeks to exploit recent scientific discoveries. Indeed, engineers may themselves advance scientific understanding in their quest for better engineering solutions. It may be suggested that engineering is to science as ethics is to philosophy – both engineering and ethics are driven by a need for action, with philosophy and science being driven by a love of knowledge.

Engineering codes contain or address; 1. Responsibility to the profession. 2. Responsibility to oneself. 3. Responsibility to the employer, with the member acting as an employee. 4. Responsibility to the client. 5. Responsibility to the other individual members of the group or profession. 6. Responsibility to the community. 7. Responsibility to the environment. 8. Responsibility to other groups or professions. 9. In addition, the code will have to address issues concerning responsibilities of confidentiality – and probably cover whistleblowing. 10. Finally the code will also have to contain statements of how it will be determined if members have broken the institution’s ethical guidelines – and the consequences if they are shown to have done so.

Two models of professionalism: The business model and the professional model.

Three types of ethic or morality: Common morality (belief system), personal morality (integrity-like), and professional ethics

Professional principles: Fundamental principles – respect for the autonomy of the client, justice, beneficence and non-maleficence. Procedural principals – confidentiality, informed consent or decision-making, cost-benefit analysis and risk-benefit analysis.


Professional ethics:

First, unlike common morality and personal morality, professional ethics is usually stated in a formal code. Second, the professional codes of ethics of a given profession focus on the issues that are important in that profession. Third, when one is in a professional relationship, professional ethics is supposed to take precedence over personal morality—at least ordinarily. Fourth, professional ethics sometimes differs from personal morality in its degree of restriction of personal conduct. Fifth, professional ethics, like ethics generally, has a negative and a positive dimension. Being ethical has two aspects: preventing and avoiding evil and doing or promoting good.

Engineering Ethics: Negative face (preventive ethics) and positive face (aspirational ethics)


Rights Ethics

According to rights ethics, the morality of an action is determined by the right, or permission to act, of a rights holder and the imposed duty of a rights observer when this holder and observer interact. If a duty is negative, the observer refrains from interfering with the rights holder’s exercise of the right. If the duty is positive, the observer takes positive steps to ensure the right is respected.

Rights ethics has several limitations. First, atheists, because they do not believe in God, will not be convinced to take human rights more seriously because these rights are alleged to be founded in God’s will. Second, many philosophers maintain that rights are secondary to, and derivative of, other moral considerations.


Virtue Ethics

According to virtue ethics, morality is not related to action, but to virtue. Virtue, as defined by Aristotle, is a habit of the soul, involving both feeling and action, to seek the mean in all things relative to us. Here, the soul refers to a person’s fundamental character, and the mean refers to that middle ground between the two extremes of excess and deficiency. Virtue leads to happiness or human flourishing.

Virtue ethics has several limitations. First, Aristotle looks for the highest, rather than lowest, common denominator, and considers reason the only character that makes humans unique. By overemphasizing reason, the positive role of emotions and feelings in moral life is neglected. Second, his ethics are for the ruling class only, because much time was to be spent in leisurely contemplation. Fundamentally, virtue ethics fails to tell us how to act because it emphasizes good character over action.

Value conflict: Values need to be clearly articulated, at which point there may be congruence and agreement between values or value conflict. Value conflict may emerge in terms of a dilemma. A dilemma is where there is a choice only between two equally bad alternatives, or where there are two equally important values that need to be fulfilled.