Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 469–488 | Cite as

Aristotle and Autism: Reconsidering a Radical Shift to Virtue Ethics in Engineering

  • Heidi FureyEmail author
Original Paper


Virtue-based approaches to engineering ethics have recently received considerable attention within the field of engineering education. Proponents of virtue ethics in engineering argue that the approach is practically and pedagogically superior to traditional approaches to engineering ethics, including the study of professional codes of ethics and normative theories of behavior. This paper argues that a virtue-based approach, as interpreted in the current literature, is neither practically or pedagogically effective for a significant subpopulation within engineering: engineers with high functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Because the main argument for adopting a character-based approach is that it could be more successfully applied to engineering than traditional rule-based or algorithmic ethical approaches, this oversight is problematic for the proponents of the virtue-based view. Furthermore, without addressing these concerns, the wide adoption of a virtue-based approach to engineering ethics has the potential to isolate individuals with ASD and to devalue their contributions to moral practice. In the end, this paper gestures towards a way of incorporating important insights from virtue ethics in engineering that would be more inclusive of those with ASD.


Engineering ethics Virtue ethics Autism spectrum disorder Rules Moral psychology Ethics education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts LowellLowellUSA

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