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Three Kinds Of Ethics For Three Kinds Of Engineering

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.666.1 - 5.666.13



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Paper Authors

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Gene Moriarty

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



Authentic discussion of the nature and ethics of the engineering enterprise demands contextual considerations. Yet, we engineers typically take context as an add-on, often as a feature we are forced to address. The social context of engineering, for example, can be reduced to strategies for compliance with FCC or EPA regulations. Context is marginalized and seldom given voice by the contemporary engineering enterprise. But, context is world, and engineering is inherently and fundamentally an in-the-world enterprise. The impetus to drive the engineering enterprise comes from the world and the products of the enterprise are let loose into the world. Precisely ignoring its fundamental worldliness allows the engineering enterprise to proceed in its business-as-usual fashion. Is this reductiveness, though, incontestable? Recouping the fundamental worldliness of engineering might in fact embellish rather than derail the enterprise. What kind of context conditions and colors the way engineers engineer the engineered? What are the dimensions of that context? Economic and environmental aspects are not the only ones. Political, historical, and psychological concerns are all involved. So are social justice and quality of life issues.

Context becomes crucial in instances when an enterprise experiences a breakdown or a breakthrough. [1] A breakdown like the 1986 Challenger disaster called context into direct consideration. There was much political wrangling about the decision not to delay the flight because it would prove to be an embarrassment to President Reagan. Environmental concern arose about damage to the ozone layer that shuttle flights produced. Social justice concerns were voiced about all the millions spent on shuttles that could feed the starving people of the world. Yet, as the Challenger incident receded into history, so did the contextual turmoil it engendered.

Breakdowns are fortunately sporadic but breakthroughs seem to be almost continuous. In particular, cyber-world breakthroughs have become everyday occurrences. The rise of net life has been raising eyebrows around the globe for several years now. What to make of this new virtuality and what is the role of engineering in the increasingly virtual world to come? The big


Moriarty, G. (2000, June), Three Kinds Of Ethics For Three Kinds Of Engineering Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8774

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