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Engineering ethics, individuals, and organizations


This article evaluates a family of criticism of how engineering ethics is now generally taught. The short version of the criticism might be put this way: Teachers of engineering ethics devote too much time to individual decisions and not enough time to social context. There are at least six version of this criticism, each corresponding to a specific subject omitted. Teachers of engineering ethics do not (it is said) teach enough about: 1) the culture of organizations; 2) the organization of organizations; 3) the legal environment of organizations; 4) the role of professions in organizations; 5) the role of organizations in professions; or 6) the political environment of organizations. My conclusion is that, while all six are worthy subjects, there is neither much reason to believe that any of them are now absent from courses in engineering ethics nor an obvious way to decide whether they (individually or in combination) are (or are not) now being given their due. What we have here is a dispute about how much is enough. Such disputes are not to be settled without agreement concerning how we are to tell we have enough of this or that. Right now we seem to lack that agreement—and not to have much reason to expect it any time soon.

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Correspondence to Michael Davis.

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Davis, M. Engineering ethics, individuals, and organizations. SCI ENG ETHICS 12, 223–231 (2006).

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  • ethics
  • teaching
  • culture
  • moral theory
  • social sciences
  • context