Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 353–361 | Cite as

What’s philosophically interesting about engineering ethics?

  • Michael DavisEmail author


What makes a subject philosophically interesting is hard-to-resolve confusion about fundamental concepts. Engineering ethics suffers from at least three such fundamental confusions. First, there is confusion about what the “ethics” in engineering ethics is (ordinary morality, philosophical ethics, special standards, or something else?) Second, there is confusion about what the profession of engineering is (a function, discipline, occupation, kind of organization, or something else?) Third, there is confusion about what the discipline of engineering is. These fundamental confusions in engineering ethics connect with philosophically interesting work in moral theory, political philosophy, and philosophy of science. Work in these areas may help with the philosophical problems of engineering ethics. But, equally important, work in engineering ethics may help with the philosophical problems in these others fields.


ethics morality profession philosophically interesting engineering 


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  1. b.
    For explanation and defense of this definition, see my Profession, Code, and Ethics (Ashgate Press: Aldershot, England, 2002).Google Scholar
  2. c.
    I speak from personal experience of the effect engineering ethics may have on political philosophy. I have a book, just published, Actual Social Contract and Political Obligation (Edwin Mellen Press: New York, 2002), that explicitly uses approaches originally developed for engineering ethics to interpret the early history of social contract theory.Google Scholar
  3. d.
    See, for example, my own Thinking Like an Engineer (Oxford University Press: New York, 1998).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Ethics in the ProfessionsIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA

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