The eight pieces constituting this Meeting Report are summaries of presentations made during a panel session at the 2011 Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) annual meeting held between March 3rd and 6th in Cincinnati. Lisa Newton organized the session and served as chair. The panel of eight consisted both of pioneers in the field and more recent arrivals. It covered a range of topics from how the field has developed to where it should be going, from identification of (...) issues needing further study to problems of training the next generation of engineers and engineering-ethics scholars. (shrink)
Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen’s Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong (Oxford University Press, 2009) explores efforts to develop machines that, not only can be employed for good or bad ends, but which themselves can be held morally accountable for what they do— artificial moral agents (AMAs). This essay is a critical response to Wallach and Allen’s conjectures. Although Wallach and Allen do not suggest that we are close to being able to create full-fledged AMAs, they do talk seriously (...) about making incremental progress in the direction of creating them (even if we never fully succeed). However, there are important questions about the moral development of AMAs that Moral Machines does not address. Given the responsibilities entrusted to human moral agents, we take questions about their moral development very seriously. In the case of children, the hope is that eventually they will develop into full-fledged moral agents. How might we expect this to go with less than fully formed AMAs? Will there be a comparable story of moral development and moral education that we can tell? (shrink)
Adam Smith and Thomas Reid follow Joseph Butler's lead in discussing the moral significance of resentment in great detail. David Hume does not. For Smith and Reid, resentment reveals shortcomings in Hume's attempt to ground justice solely in terms of self-interest and public utility. This can be seen most clearly in Reid's critique of Hume's response to the sensible knave. Reid argues that Hume's appeal to our integrity can have force only if Hume concedes that there are elements of justice (...) that are grounded in neither self-interest nor public utility. (shrink)
Engineering Ethics literature tends to emphasize wrongdoing, its avoidance, or its prevention. It also tends to focus on identifiable events, especially those that involve unfortunate, sometimes disastrous consequences. This paper shifts attention to the positive in engineering practice; and, as a result, the need for addressing questions of character and imagination becomes apparent.
This paper discusses the growing prominence of character education and the role moral philosophy can play here. It examines the place of inquiry in character education, and the ways in which moral philosophy can help young people to develop the virtue of reasonableness. Reasonableness, as herein described, takes into account the views and feelings of others, the willingness to allow one’s views to be scrutinized by others, and the acceptance of some degree of uncertainty about whether one’s views are necessarily (...) right. The paper illustrates ways in which philosophical exploration about morality can help children to cultivate reasonableness. (shrink)
This paper explores ways in which service-learning programs can enhance ethics education in engineering. Service-learning programs combine volunteer work and academic study. The National Society for Professional Engineers (NSPE) and American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) codes of ethics explicitly encourage engineers to seek opportunities, beyond their work-related responsibilities, to serve their communities. Examples of how this can be encouraged as a part of the educational experiences of engineering students are explored. Calvin: How good do you have to be to (...) qualify as good? I haven’t killed anybody. See, that’s good, right? I haven’t committed any felonics. I didn’t start any wars. I don’t practice cannibalism. Wouldn’t you say I should get lots of presents? (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to clarify the concept of bribery, and to do this in a way that reveals its underlying normative features. Bribery, like lying is not a value neutral concept. It has a negative connotation and is regarded by most as generally, although not necessarily universally, wrong. At the very least, those who resort to bribery bear a burden of justification for what they do. This is no small point, as no such burden must be (...) borne for the vast majority of human activities, such as engaging in conversation or taking a walk, which normally do not. As Sissela Bok says of lying, we might say that a negative moral weight attaches to every act of bribery; it may be possible to counter this negative weight in some instances, but not without an argument (the provision of good reasons).1 Why should a negative moral weight be attached to every act of bribery? It might be thought that, even if most instances of bribery are morally objectionable, the concept of bribery itself is morally neutral.2 However, enticing people to violate what they take to be their positional duties does seem to call for some sort of moral justification. This seems to be so even in extreme cases, for example, when bribing a Nazi guard to allow concentration camp prisoners to escape. The ready availability of a moral justification in such circumstances does not eliminate the need for one. (shrink)
The literature on ethics in science and engineering tends to dwell on the negative, emphasizing disasters, scandals, and problems of wrongdoing in everyday practice. This paper shifts to the positive, focusing on the exemplary. After outlining different possible conceptions of responsibility (ranging from a minimalist view of “staying out of trouble” to “going above and beyond the call of duty”), the paper discusses the importance of certain virtues for scientists and engineers. Finally, a broad range of examples of exemplary practice (...) is offered. (shrink)
In contrast to The Methods of Ethics, Sidgwick’s Practical Ethics counsels not trying to “get to the bottom of things” in our efforts to reach “some results of value for practical guidance and life.” For Sidgwick, both practical and theoretical ethics should start from the Morality of Common Sense. Although he retained his utilitarian outlook in Practical Ethics, this paper suggests that the Morality of Common Sense has the resources to hold its own against utilitarian revision.
Although the participants in the initial situation of justice in John Rawls’ Theory of Justice choose principles of justice only, their choices have implications for other moral concerns. The only check on the self-interest of the participants is that there be unanimous acceptance of the principles. But, since animals are not participants, it is possible that principles will be adopted which confiict with what Rawls calls“duties of compassion and humanity” toward animals. This is a consequence of the initial situation’s assumption (...) that principles of justice can be determined independently of other moral considerations. We question this assumption, and show that satisfactory modifications of Rawls’ initial situation undermine its contractarian basis and require the rejection of exclusively self-interested participants. (shrink)