Engineering Ethics and Political Imagination

  • Langdon Winner
Part of the Philosophy and Technology book series (PHTE, volume 7)


Recent attempts by American colleges and universities to teach ethics for scientists and engineers deserve strong praise. They represent a shift away from the idea that questions about ethics and morality are best left to humanists or to elder statesmen of science, a recognition that such matters ought to be an important part of education in the technical professions. One can hope that through these efforts a new generation of men and women will obtain a firm grounding in the ethical aspects of their vocations early enough to make a difference.


Engineering Education Engineer Ethic Engineering Ethic Political Imagination Technical Professional 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, Stephen H. Unger, Controlling Technology: Ethics and the Responsible Engineer (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a defense of this method see C. Roland Christenenet al., Teaching and the Case Method (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    David F. Noble, America by Design: Science, Technology and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism (New York: Knopf, 1977 ).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Max Weber explores a similar issue in “Science as a Vocation,” in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970), chapter 9.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    I discuss this topic in “Techne and Politeia,” in The Whale and the Reactor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), chapter 3.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    An early but overly optimistic attempt to portray computer scientists in this light can be found in Robert Boguslaw, The New Utopians: A Study of Systems Design and Social Change (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965 ).Google Scholar
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    Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Knopf, 1964 ).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    An exception is John Tirman, ed., Empty Promise: The Growing Case against Star Wars (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth (New York: Knopf, 1982 ).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    An excellent discussion of Reagan’s rhetoric here is Janice Hocker Rushing, “Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ Address: Mythic Containment of Technical Reasoning,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 72 (1986): 415–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Martin Kenneth Starr, ed., Global Competitiveness: Getting the U.S. Back on Track (New York: Norton, 1988).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Langdon Winner
    • 1
  1. 1.Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteUSA

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