Engineering and the Problem of Moral Overload

Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (1):143-155 (2012)
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When thinking about ethics, technology is often only mentioned as the source of our problems, not as a potential solution to our moral dilemmas. When thinking about technology, ethics is often only mentioned as a constraint on developments, not as a source and spring of innovation. In this paper, we argue that ethics can be the source of technological development rather than just a constraint and technological progress can create moral progress rather than just moral problems. We show this by an analysis of how technology can contribute to the solution of so-called moral overload or moral dilemmas. Such dilemmas typically create a moral residue that is the basis of a second-order principle that tells us to reshape the world so that we can meet all our moral obligations. We can do so, among other things, through guided technological innovation



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