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Three kinds of ethics for three kinds of engineering

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1 Author(s)
Moriarty, Gene ; Dept. of Electr. Eng., San Jose State Univ., CA, USA

The phenomenon of the engineering enterprise stands within a web of contextual relationships, and the elements of (1) the engineer, (2) engineering and (3) the engineered stand out as fundamental to the engineering enterprise. Each element is contextual in the sense of being integrated into a more or less coherent realm of discourse consisting of thoughts, actions, words, things, roles and goals. That realm of discourse indicates the contexts that condition and are conditioned by the engineering enterprise. Corresponding to each of the three elements of the engineering enterprise is an appropriate and distinct type of ethics. (1) Virtue ethics is appropriate to the engineer who engineers the engineered. It asks how the engineer can be good in a moral sense. (2) Conceptual ethics is appropriate to engineering, which aims at the production of the engineered and requires the engagement of engineers. It asks how engineers can do good engineering. (3) Material ethics is appropriate to the engineered, which follows from the engineering process via the efforts of the engineer. It asks how engineering can make products that contribute to the common good in a convivial society. Being, doing and making are all bound up in the statement “The engineer engineers the engineered”. We cannot separate the engineer, engineering and the engineered, either from each other or from the contexts in which they are embedded, but we can distinguish them, and with each we can associate a different kind of ethics

Published in:

Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:20 ,  Issue: 3 )