Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
This paper explores how the relationship between ethics and engineering has been and could be framed. Specifically, two distinct framings will be conceptualized and explored: ethics in engineering and engineering in ethics. As with other disciplines, engineering typically subsumes ethics, appropriating it as its own unique subfield. As a framing, ethics in engineering produces specialized standards, codes, values, perspectives, and problems distinct to engineering thought and practice. These form an engineering education discourse with which engineers engage. It is epistemological in its focus, meaning that this framing constructs knowledge of proper disciplinary conduct. On the other hand, engineering in ethics as a framing device insists that engineering become a specialized articulation of ethical thought and action. Here, “engineer” and “engineering” are not nouns but verbs, referring to particular processes and technologies for transformation. One is not an “engineer;” rather, one “engineers.” One is first an ethical subject – an historical aggregate of continuous experiences/becomings – concerned with the pursuit of “the good” in the present; then, when contextually relevant, such a subject’s engineering knowledge and skills may be employed as powerful means for the becoming-good of shared worlds.
In this paper, engineering in ethics is further conceptualized through a playful intermingling of an ethic of care, via the scholarship of Joan Tronto, and a Deweyian approach to ethical inquiry. Tronto’s four elements of care – attentiveness, responsibility, competence, and responsiveness – are joined with what are arguably four key components of Dewey’s process of ethical inquiry: awareness, judgment, experimentation, and iteration. This paper argues that 1) being attentive is required to achieve awareness of a given need or problem, 2) taking responsibility is a necessary practice for making and acting on one’s judgements related to the need at hand, 3) competence in a relevant skill is needed to experiment with one’s judgements, and 4) careful consideration of how others respond to how one has addressed a need is essential for the purposes of iteration. While all four contribute to the notion of engineering in ethics, the relationship between competence and experimentation is where engineering is most evidently seized as an ethical expression. How one competently wields engineering knowledge and skillfully performs disciplinary techniques is, here, foremost about actively inquiring into how to provide care for a specific need and, in doing so, creating a world aligned with one’s vision of “the good.” This paper will close with a brief consideration of the educational implications of engineering in ethics.
Fore, G. A., & Hess, J. L., & Katz, A. (2020, June), Ethics in Engineering or Engineering in Ethics? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34590
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