Teaching ethics to scientists and engineers: Moral agents and moral problems

Science and Engineering Ethics 1 (3):299-308 (1995)
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Abstract

In this paper I outline an “agent-centered” approach to learning ethics. The approach is “agent-centered” in that its central aim is to prepare students toact wisely and responsibly when faced with moral problems. The methods characteristic of this approach are suitable for integrating material on professional and research ethics into technical courses, as well as for free-standing ethics courses. The analogy I draw between ethical problems and design problems clarifies the character of ethical problems as they are experienced by those who must respond to them. It exposes the mistake, common in ethics teaching, of misrepresenting moral problems as multiple-choice problems, especially in the form of ‘dilemmas’, that is, a forced choice between two unacceptable alternatives. Furthermore, I clarify the importance for responsible practice of recognizing any ambiguity in the problem situation.

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