“Things that went well — no serious injuries or deaths”: Ethical reasoning in a normal engineering design process

Science and Engineering Ethics 9 (4):503-516 (2003)
We argue that considering only a few ‘big’ ethical decisions in any engineering design process — both in education and practice — only reinforces the mistaken idea of engineering design as a series of independent sub-problems. Using data collected in engineering design organisations over a seven year period, we show how an ethical component to engineering decisions is much more pervasive. We distinguish three types of ethical justification for engineering decisions: (1) consequential, (2) deontological or non-consequential, and (3) virtue-based. We find that although there is some evidence for engineering designers as ‘classic’ consequentialists, a more egocentric consequentialism would appear more fitting. We also explain how the idea of a ‘folk ethics’ — a justification in the second category that consciously weighs one thing with another — fits with the idea of the engineering design process as social negotiation rather than as technological progress.
Keywords engineering practice  decision making  design process
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-003-0047-4
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References found in this work BETA
Jonathan Baron (1994). Nonconsequentialist decisions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17 (1):1.

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Peter Lloyd & Ibo van de Poel (2008). Designing Games to Teach Ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics 14 (3):433-447.

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