The social ascription of obligations to engineers
Purchase on Springer.com
$39.95 / €34.95 / £29.95*
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.
Discovering obligations that are ascribed to them by others is potentially an important element in the development of the moral imagination of engineers. Moral imagination cannot reasonably be developed by contemplating oneself and one’s task alone: there must be some element of discovering the expectations of people one could put at risk. In practice it may be impossible to meet ascribed obligations if they are completely general and allow no exceptions — for example if they demand an unlimited duty to avoid harm. But they can still serve to modify engineers’ prior ethics, for example by limiting a purely utilitarian approach to deciding who should bear risk and how much risk they should bear. Ascribed obligations can also give engineers insight into the public reaction to risks that arise from engineered systems, and the consequent expectations that the public have about how much protection is desirable and where the responsibility for this protection lies. This article analyses the case for taking ascribed obligations seriously, and reviews some of the obligations that have been ascribed in the aftermath of recent engineering failures. It also proposes ways in which ascribed obligations could be used in engineers’ moral development.
- Grunwald, A. (2001) The application of ethics to engineering and the engineer’s moral responsibility: perspectives for a research agenda. Science and Engineering Ethics 7: 415–428. CrossRef
- Johnson, M. (1993) Moral Imagination. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Goldman, S.L. (1991) The social captivity of engineering. In Durbin, P. (ed.), Critical Perspectives on Nonacademic Science and Engineering, Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem, PA, pp. 121–45.
- DeGeorge, R.T. (1991) Ethical responsibilities of engineers in large organizations: the Pinto case. In May, L. and Hoffman, S. (eds.), Collective Responsibility: Five decades of Debate in Theoretical & Applied Ethics, Rowman & Littlefield, Savage MD, 151–166.
- Van de Poel, I. (2001) Investigating ethical issues in engineering design. Science and Engineering Ethics 7: 429–446. CrossRef
- Loui, M.C. (1998) The engineer’s responsibility for quality. Science and Engineering Ethics 4: 347–350. CrossRef
- Vesilind, P.A. and Gunn, A.S. (1998) Engineering, Ethics and the Environment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Lloyd, P. and Busby, J.S. (2001) “Things that went well — no serious injuries or deaths.” Ethical reasoning in the design process. 13th International Conference on Engineering Design ICED01, Glasgow, 21–23 August.
- Davis, M. (1989) Explaining wrongdoing. Journal of Social Philosophy 20: 74–90. CrossRef
- Berk, R.A., Korenman, S.G. and Wenger, N.S. (2000) Measuring consensus about scientific research norms. Science and Engineering Ethics 6: 315–340. CrossRef
- Robinson S and Dixon R (1997) The professional engineer: virtues and learning. Science and Engineering Ethics 3: 339–348. CrossRef
- Pritchard, M.S. (1998) Professional responsibility: focussing on the exemplary. Science and Engineering Ethics 4: 215–233. CrossRef
- Norman, R. (1983) The Moral Philosophers. Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 221.
- Atkins, K. (2000) Autonomy and the subjective character of experience. Journal of Applied Philosophy 17: 71–79. CrossRef
- Reason, J. (1997) Managing the Risks of Organisational Accidents. Ashgate, Aldershot, p. 6.
- Fischhoff, B., Lichtenstein, S., Slovic, P., Derby, S.L. and Keeney, R.L. (1981) Acceptable Risk, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Mehalik, M.M. and Gorman, M.E. (2002) Technology, strategic security, and moral imagination. Conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology, York 1–3 August.
- Spier, R. (2001) Ethics, Tools, and the Engineer. CRC Press, Boca Raton FL, p. 99.
- Whitbeck, C. (1995) Teaching ethics to scientists and engineers: moral agents and moral problems. Science and Engineering Ethics 1: 299–308. CrossRef
- Martin, M.W. and Schinzinger, R. (1989) Ethics in Engineering. 2nd Ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, p.56.
- The social ascription of obligations to engineers
Science and Engineering Ethics
Volume 9, Issue 3 , pp 363-376
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Kluwer Academic Publishers
- Additional Links
- ascribed ethics
- moral imagination