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Engineering In A Morally Deep World: Applications And Reflections

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering and Poverty

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.638.1 - 12.638.14



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Paper Authors

author page

George Catalano State University of New York-Binghamton

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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: Applications and Reflections


At the foundation of a morally deep world view is the importance of an integral community. The implications of a morally deep world view in engineering are explored. Engineering design based on such a view is compared and contrasted with other design algorithms. An engineering design case study is presented which focuses upon the Arctic ecosystem with particular attention to the plight and the future of polar bears.


A new approach to engineering ethics, one based on the notion of a morally deep world, has been developed and reported.1 The morally deep world was first developed within the context of environmental ethics. A key element in its development in environmental ethics is the identification of an integral community. The present work makes the case for extending the identified integral community to include not only the environment but also other segments of society which have not been included in engineering ethics cases in the past. Prior to examining a case study in which the morally deep code will be utilized, a brief review of the philosophical underpinnings of the paradigm will be presented.

Borrowing from Environmental Ethics

In A Sand County Almanac2, Leopold declares: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." According to Leopold, acting ethically is a matter of concern both for us and for others with whom we are in some sort of community. The notion of a community deserves some discussion. We perhaps are most comfortable with community referring to a body of people having common rights, privileges, or interests, or living in the same place under the same laws and regulations; as, a community of Franciscan monks. In biology or ecology, community refers to an interacting group of various species in a common location. For example, a forest of trees and undergrowth plants, inhabited by animals and rooted in soil containing bacteria and fungi, constitutes an integral community. Extending the notion of community in this way is consistent with the pattern evidenced in human society over the centuries. We have progressively enlarged the boundaries of our understanding of community and recognized the membership of slaves, foreigners, etc., those for whom membership was not extended at earlier times in history. Leopold’s land ethic then "simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land."

Johnson discusses how non-sentient land can count morally and focuses upon the concept of a living being.3 For Johnson, a living being is best thought of not as a thing of some sort but as a living system, an ongoing life-process. A life-process has a character significantly different from those of other processes such as thermodynamics processes

Catalano, G. (2007, June), Engineering In A Morally Deep World: Applications And Reflections Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1574

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