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1. Topics: Engineering & Science Education [Prof. Didier, France]

Start Date:
23. June 2015, 09:00
Finish date:
23. June 2015, 09:45
MESHS - Espace Baïetto



Engineering Ethics: A Cross-Cultural Approach


Abstract Course

Ethical reflections applied to engineering are a lot more recent than those applied to other professional activities. Nevertheless, there is a subject called “engineering ethics”. Established as an autonomous field of academic research in the United States at the end of the 1970s (Baum 1978, Schaub&Pavlovic 1983, Johnson 1991), it has since developed in other countries, starting with those where professional organizations had already been publishing codes of ethics (Racine et al 1991, Andrew&Kemper 1992). The first one was adopted in the United Kingdom in 1910 by the Institute of Civil Engineers. It was followed by many others in the US and a few in some other countries. But while the codes are discussed and regularly amended in the American associations who adopted them, in other places they sometimes just “exist”(Didier 2015). While some observers question their theoretical foundations and methods, others simply doubt that engineers’ professional activities may raise specific ethical questions. Thus, nobody seems to be surprised when philosophers and ethicists question certain aspects of technological development; technological development that is barely imaginable in the absence of engineers. (Mitcham 1994, Goujon et al. 2001) Here are two established facts: first, technological development brings up ethical questions; second, engineers contribute, by definition, to the existence and deployment of these techniques. For some authors, this confrontation compels us to question engineering ethically (Martin 1983, Harris et al 1995). For others, the ethical challenge of these techniques does not concern engineers.

In this contribution, I will first say a few words about the concept of engineering ethics, which is sometimes hard to translate into languages other than English, and to be understood in other cultural contexts than those which developed under Anglo-American influence (Didier 2010a). Then, I will try to identify the specific characteristics of engineering as a type of human activity. Finally, I will go back to the engineers. If they are not the only ones concerned with engineering ethics, what can be said about their individual and collective moral responsibility? What can be done to improve and enhance engineers’ awareness towards ethical challenges of their profession? (Bégin 2006, Didier&Derouet 2013).



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