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The Whammy Line As A Tool For Fostering Moral Imagination

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1052.1 - 6.1052.9



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Paper Authors

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W. Bernard Carlson

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Rosanne Welker

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A central goal of engineering ethics instruction should be to help students develop their moral imaginations. According to Patricia Werhane, moral imagination refers to the ability of professionals to imagine a variety of outcomes for their decisions. Werhane emphasizes that if one is unable to imagine different scenarios, then one cannot assess the risk or apply a framework for moral reasoning (such as utilitarianism, Kantian duty ethics, Lockean rights ethics, or Aristotelian virtue ethics).1 However, we have discovered that students find it difficult to grasp the notion of moral imagination and apply it to detailed case studies. While we know that there are several tools (such as stakeholder analysis) that can be used in conjunction with moral imagination, we have devised a new teaching tool to foster moral imagination, which we call the Whammy Line. In using the Whammy Line to cultivate moral imagination, we have the students read a variety of materials. Because traditional ethics cases (for instance, the Poletown Dilemma) often gloss over the ambiguity surrounding consequences in real life, we use short stories and novels to tease out how individuals may fail to imagine fully the negative consequences of their actions or designs. Complementing the literary approach, we also use several historical cases in order to show students both positive and negative episodes of how real-life technologists dealt with consequences. In this paper, we will describe the Whammy Line and outline some of the texts we are using to develop in the classroom.

Carlson, W. B., & Welker, R. (2001, June), The Whammy Line As A Tool For Fostering Moral Imagination Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--10022

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