Engineering ethics

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Engineering ethics is the field of applied ethics and system of moral principles that apply to the practice of engineering. The field examines and sets the obligations of engineers to society, to their clients, and to the profession. As a scholarly discipline, it is closely related to subjects such as philosophy of science, philosophy of engineering, and ethics of technology.


  • He was stiff and sometimes a little strange, which was what you’d expect from an engineer, but he had a moral backbone as inflexible as a fossilized dinosaur’s.
  • Some aspects of engineering professionalism, such as (1) sensitivity to risk (2) awareness of the social context of technology, (3) respect for nature, and (4) commitment to the public good, cannot be adequately accounted for in terms of rules, certainly not negative rules. Virtue ethics is a more appropriate vehicle for expressing these aspects of engineering professionalism. Some of the unique features of virtue ethics are the greater place it gives for discretion and judgment and also for inner motivation and commitment.
    • Charles E. Harris Jr., The Good Engineer: Giving Virtue its Due in Engineering Ethics in Science and Engineering Ethics, Volume 14, Issue 2 (2008), p. 153
  • As a guide to engineering ethics, I should like to commend to you a liberal adaptation of the injunction contained in the oath of Hippocrates that the professional man do nothing that will harm his client. Since engineering is a profession which affects the material basis of everyone’s life, there is almost always an unconsulted third party involved in any contact between the engineer and those who employ him — and that is the country, the people as a whole. These, too, are the engineer’s clients, albeit involuntarily. Engineering ethics ought therefore to safeguard their interests most carefully. Knowing more about the public effects his work will have, the engineer ought to consider himself an “officer of the court” and keep the general interest always in mind.

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