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Engineering And New Frames Of Reference

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Tree-huggers, Diggers, and Queers--Oh my!

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.542.1 - 14.542.15



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Paper Authors

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George Catalano State University of New York, Binghamton

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Caroline Baillie Queens University, Kingston

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Engineering and New Frames of Reference

I. Introduction

Engineers make choices in nearly all aspects of their work. As we move farther into the 21st century, engineers will become more directly involved in issues of conflict, development and environmental sustainability. The present work confronts those issues head on and offers a variety of frames of reference for decision making including traditional approaches used in engineering throughout the modern era as well as new ideas which have just recently been applied to the professions. In the spirit of the Diggers from the 1960’s, the present work offers new ‘frames of reference’ from which you can consider your decisions. The Diggers focused on promoting a new vision of society free from many of the trappings of private property, materialism and consumerism. Our hope is to offer a new vision of engineering which takes into account many of the elements of our society and our planet which have been historically ignored.

As described by NSPE, “engineering ethics is (1) the study of moral issues and decisions confronting individuals and organizations involved in engineering and (2) the study of related questions about moral conduct, character, ideals and relationships of peoples and organizations involved in technological development.”1 Harris et al2 describe their approach to engineering ethics as bridging the gap between theory and practice using current case studies available such as Hurricane Katrina and global warming. Fledderman3 seeks to provide a text and a resource for the study of engineering ethics and to help future engineers be prepared for confronting and resolving ethical dilemmas that they might encounter during their professional careers. Martin and Schinzinger4 provide an introduction to the key issues in engineering ethics, taking account of both specific organizational contexts and broader technological trends. Baura5 approaches engineering ethics from an industrial perspective. Vesilind et al6 focuses upon the special nature of responsibility that engineers have towards the environment.

There are many other texts and websites which focus upon engineering ethics.7 We seek in the present work to build on the approaches taken in the past to engineering ethical dilemmas through first introducing and then examining several additional paradigms for ethical decision making including ones based on freedom, on chaos, on the concept of a morally deep world, on a global ethic and lastly one based on love. Our strong and determined belief is that by adding to the number of available approaches towards examining ethical dilemmas we can only benefit as a profession and ultimately as a society.

The present work is structured in the following manner: (1) new paradigms for ethical decision-making are introduced; (2) a specific ethics case is introduced and examined; and (3) series of reflective questions for the ethics case from the perspective of each of the new paradigms are generated; and (4) final thoughts and commentary are offered. The first approach we shall examine is an outgrowth of the ethics of freedom.

Catalano, G., & Baillie, C. (2009, June), Engineering And New Frames Of Reference Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5293

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