What Ethics Owes Engineering

  • Glen MillerEmail author
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 31)


The relationship between ethics and engineering has largely been depicted as one-directional in which ethics enlightens engineers and their practices. The opposite contribution, from engineering to ethics, which has received far less attention, can be organized in three main categories. First, engineering leads to a wider separation between intention and ends, which are often unclear and sometimes not obtained, and a multiplication of means and mediation, which can increase uncertainty in ethical assessments. Second, engineering reduces the amount of time spent satisfying basic needs, which increases the amount of time and energy directed toward voluntary goals while amplifying human power and providing the material and social conditions that have been associated with philosophical activity since the time of the ancient Greeks. Third, engineering successes have also brought into relief an innovative understanding of desire and its social implications, catalyzed a more expansive scope of moral reasoning and universal imperatives, and illuminated the interrelated nature of existence between humans and the non-human world. Taken together, such insights have rejuvenated ethical inquiry and so have led to better understandings of the “good life” and authentic development. Engineering can be thought of as a “gadfly” that can shake the dogmatic ethical “horse” into action.


Engineering and technological mediation Engineering ethics Engineering, needs, and desire Engineering, technology, and freedom Environmental and communal dimensions of engineering work 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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