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Engineering In A Morally Deep World

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Engineering Practice for a Moral World

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.568.1 - 11.568.15



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Paper Authors


George Catalano State University of New York-Binghamton

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Dr. Catalano is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He researches and teaches in the areas of engineering design, the fluid dynamics of the natural world and applied mathematics and is included in the Philosophers’ Index for his work in environmental ethics

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

Engineering in a Morally Deep World


A new code of ethics is offered for engineering and is compared and contrasted to presently existing codes. Present day engineering codes are examined and their linkage to models of the natural world from the Middle Ages through the Age of Enlightenment is explored. A new model for the natural world, nature as a self-organizing system is described. A self-organizing system is characterized by synthesis rather than analysis and suggests a new code of ethical responsibility based upon community rather than individuality. Using the model of nature as a self-organizing system, a new code of ethics for engineers is offered. Having established the importance of community of interests in questions involving engineering responsibilities towards the environment, the notion of a morally deep world is extended to include the interests of those often ignored or unheard: the working poor, the sick and enfeebled, children and the elderly, all those dispossessed or powerless in our society.

Keywords: Engineering ethics, codes of conduct, models of nature, a morally deep world


Engineering applies technical knowledge to solve human problems. More completely, engineering is a technological activity that uses professional imagination, judgment, integrity, and intellectual discipline in the application of science, technology, mathematics, and practical experience to design, produce, and operate useful objects or processes that meet the needs and desires of a client.1 Today engineering is seen as a profession which refers specifically to fields that require extensive study and mastery of specialized knowledge and a voluntary and abiding commitment to a code of conduct which prescribes ethical behavior. The present work explores the notion of ethical behavior as outlined in various codes of conduct in engineering today and offers a more expansive view of what it means to be an ethical engineer in the context of a morally deep world.

The discussion will begin with an examination of the existing codes of conduct offered by various engineering societies and engineering education accrediting agencies. After that discussion, an effort will be made to explain how exactly engineering arrived at this point in its understanding of ethical responsibility. A new paradigm will be offered for engineering one based on a morally deep world view as first formulated in environmental ethics. Finally, with this new foundation of ethics in place, an argument will be made that the promotion of social justice is equally relevant in careful consideration of engineering decisions. If the natural world is identified as having interests and being a part of a greater community, is it in turn equally as important to include the interests of other members of the human family whose voices are rarely if ever heard in engineering – the voices of the poor, of indigenous peoples, of the sick, the old, and the dispossessed?

Reviewing the Codes of Ethics and Conduct

Catalano, G. (2006, June), Engineering In A Morally Deep World Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--139

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