Deciding on Ethical Issues in Engineering Design
Engineers make decisions concerning ethical issues like safety and sustainability in design processes. We argue that the way in which engineers deal with such ethical issues depends on the kind of design process they carry out. Vincenti distinguishes between normal and radical design. In normal design processes the operational principle and normal configuration are given, in radical design processes they are not given. We present four case-studies of actual design processes: two processes of normal design and two of radical design. We show that in the normal design processes, engineers use what we call regulative frameworks to make ethical decisions. Regulative frameworks consist of legislation and technical standards, and interpretations thereof by certifying organizations. Operationalizations of ethical criteria are given in these regulative frameworks. Regulative frameworks also define some minimal requirements on safety and sustainability that the product should meet. In the radical design processes, such frameworks are absent or difficult to apply. Morally warranted trust in engineers can therefore not be based on regulative frameworks in the case of radical design; for radical design a different basis is needed on which to base such trust.
KeywordsDesign Process Ethical Issue Regulative Framework Radical Design Operational Principle
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Arbeidsomstandighedenbesluit, 2004, SdU Uitgevers, The Hague.Google Scholar
- European Committee, 1999, Guide to the implementation of directives based on New Approach and Global Approach, Brussels.Google Scholar
- Hunter, Th. A.,1997, Designing to Codes and Standards, in: ASM Handbook, G.E. Dieter and S. Lampman, eds., pp. 66-71.Google Scholar
- Polanyi, M., 1962, Personal Knowledge, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
- Van Gorp, A. C., 2005, Ethical Issues in Engineering Design; Safety and Sustainability, Simon Stevin Series in the Philosophy of Technology, Delft.Google Scholar
- Vincenti, W. G., 1990, What Engineers Know and How They Know It, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.Google Scholar
- Vincenti, W. G., 1992, Engineering knowledge, type of design, and level of hierarchy: further thoughts about what engineers know …, in: Technological Development and Science in the Industrial Age, P. Kroes and M. Bakker, eds., Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 17-34.Google Scholar
- World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED], 1987, Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford.Google Scholar