, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 407-428

Is there a profession of engineering?

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Abstract

This article examines three common arguments for the claim that engineering is not a profession: 1) that engineering lacks an ideal internal to its practice; 2) that engineering’s ideal, whether internal or not, is merely technical; and 3) that engineering lacks the social arrangements characteristic of a true profession. All three arguments are shown to rely on one or another definition of profession, each of which is inadequate. An alternative to these definition is offered. It has at least two advantages. On the one hand, it emphasizes the importance of professional community, the role of occupation in defining profession, the centrality of a moral ideal, and the necessity for morally binding standards (beyond ordinary morality). On the other hand, the alternative definition is in part independent both of moral theory and sociology. This article concludes by considering what light the alternative definition can throw on the professional status of engineers serving the Nazis.