Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 391–402 | Cite as

Responsible engineering: The importance of character and imagination

  • Michael S. PritchardEmail author


Engineering Ethics literature tends to emphasize wrongdoing, its avoidance, or its prevention. It also tends to focus on identifiable events, especially those that involve unfortunate, sometimes disastrous consequences. This paper shifts attention to the positive in engineering practice; and, as a result, the need for addressing questions of character and imagination becomes apparent.


character counterfactuals dedicate dispositions luck imagination public safety readiness responsible engineering wrongdoing 


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    For a discussion of some of the results of this project, see Michael S. Pritchard (1988) Professional Responsibility: Focusing on the Exemplary, Science and Engineering Ethics 4 (2): 215–233. This was supported by National Science Foundation Grant #SBR-930257.Google Scholar
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    My account is based on Joseph Morgenstern’s excellent, “The Fifty-Nine Story Crisis,” The New Yorker, May 29, 1995.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. Social psychologist Irving Janis’s important work on group dynamies seems to focus primarily on social explanations of wrongdoing. However, his more positive account of how groups can resist the shortcomings of “groupthink” seems to presuppose that certain qualities of character on the part of individual members of groups can make a crucial difference (e.g., the commitment to developing and sustaining independent, critical judgment even in the face of pressure to go along with others, and the courage to speak up in opposition to apparent consensus). See Janis, Irving (1982) Groupthink, 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin, Boston, USA.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of the exercise of imagination in addressing Z-Corp’s problems, see Michael Pritchard and Mark Holtzapple’s (1997) Responsible Engineering: Gilbane Gold Revisited, Science and Engineering Ethics 3 (2): 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    ABET is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. For the precise wording of ABET 2000 requirements, see: Scholar

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Ethics in SocietyWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA

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