Authors
Eugene Schlossberger
Purdue University Calumet
Abstract
The Ford Pinto’s fuel tank was prone to rupture in collisions above 20 mph, sometimes resulting in burn deaths. An infamous Ford memo estimated the cost of a shield correcting the problem at $11. Should Ford have installed the shield, holding public safety paramount, or, respecting consumer autonomy, have made the shield an option? Answering this question requires distinguishing between three kinds of autonomy: merechoice autonomy, proclamative autonomy, and high-impact autonomy.. Autonomy is thus asymmetric: choosing to do x may be highly proclamative while choosing not to do x is not. In the Pinto case, not giving consumers the option of declining the shield undercuts only mere-choice autonomy. Several arguments are provided that proclamative autonomy, rather than mere-choice autonomy, has significant positive value. More precisely, it is argued that, as a rule, the more proclamative a choice is, other things being equal, the more weight autonomy claims about that choice possess. The paper concludes that common sense is correct about the Pinto case. In some instances, consumer choice may legitimately count more than the engineer’s commitment to public safety. However, losing the opportunity to save $11 is not too large a price to pay in order to counter market pressures against safety by inducing in engineers a professional commitment to put safety first.
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References found in this work BETA

Engineers Who Kill: Professional Ethics and the Paramountcy of Public Safety.Kenneth Kipnis - 1981 - Business and Professional Ethics Journal 1 (1):77-91.

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Citations of this work BETA

Engineering Codes of Ethics and the Duty to Set a Moral Precedent.Eugene Schlossberger - 2016 - Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (5):1333-1344.

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