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Virtuous Engineers

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Ethics is widely perceived as a separate set of rules to follow and group of behaviors to avoid. By contrast, a virtue approach integrates ethics into engineering practice.

Published in: Engineering
  • Hi Jon! In slide 4, you compare types of knowledge with their forms of human activity. Do you have reference to this distinction?
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Virtuous Engineers

  1. 1. 1/25 Virtuous Engineers Jon Alan Schmidt, PE, SECB Associate Structural Engineer Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, MO
  2. 2. 2/25
  3. 3. Summary  Trends in philosophy  Nature of engineering  Theories of ethics  Aspects of engineering 3/25
  4. 4. Philosophy  Kinds of knowledge  Episteme  Techne  Phronesis  Forms of human activity  Theoria = contemplation/thinking  Poiesis = production/making  Praxis = (inter)action/doing 4/25 = theoretical knowledge = technical rationality = practical judgment
  5. 5. 5/25 Theoretical Knowledge Propositional Eternal Truth Conceptual Beliefs Facts Understanding Intelligent Evidence Data Mental Memory Student Instructing Technical Rationality Procedural External Success Instrumental Abilities Proficiencies Skill Competent Method Rules Physical Habits Apprentice Training Practical Judgment Personal Internal Integrity Ethical Dispositions Virtues Wisdom Prudent Intuition Experiences Social Conscience Disciple Mentoring
  6. 6. Theoretical Knowledge Technical Rationality Practical Judgment Propositional Procedural Personal Eternal Truth External Success Internal Integrity Conceptual Beliefs Instrumental Abilities Ethical Dispositions Facts Proficiencies Virtues Understanding Skill Wisdom Intelligent Competent Prudent Evidence Method Intuition Data Rules Experiences Mental Physical Social Memory Habits Conscience Student Apprentice Disciple Instructing Training Mentoring Theoretical Knowledge Technical Rationality Practical Judgment Propositional Procedural Personal Eternal Truth External Success Internal Integrity Conceptual Beliefs Instrumental Abilities Ethical Dispositions Facts Proficiencies Virtues Understanding Skill Wisdom Intelligent Competent Prudent Evidence Method Intuition Data Rules Experiences Mental Physical Social Memory Habits Conscience Student Apprentice Disciple Instructing Training Mentoring Theoretical Knowledge Technical Rationality Practical Judgment Propositional Procedural Personal Eternal Truth External Success Internal Integrity Conceptual Beliefs Instrumental Abilities Ethical Dispositions Facts Proficiencies Virtues Understanding Skill Wisdom Intelligent Competent Prudent Evidence Method Intuition Data Rules Experiences Mental Physical Social Memory Habits Conscience Student Apprentice Disciple Instructing Training Mentoring 6/25
  7. 7. Engineering  Rational solution of technical problems?  Inherently indeterminate  Intentionality vs. rationality  Heuristics  Design procedures 7/25
  8. 8. Modern Ethics  Deontology  Rules, duties, obligations  Code of ethics  Consequentialism  Actual or expected consequences  Liability 8/25
  9. 9. Virtue Ethics  Being good, not just doing good  Heuristic, not rule-based  Aspirational, not preventive  Focused on helping people, not impersonal  Applied within a particular practice 9/25
  10. 10. Social Aspect  Engineering as “human social performance”  Behavior of engineers  60% of time engaging with others  Identify job with analysis & calcs  Marginalize other activities  Engineering as “combined performance” 10/25
  11. 11. End in Itself  Internal goods  Virtues  External goods  Institutions  Proper purpose 11/25
  12. 12. Proper Purpose  Ideal for which practice strives  No such ideal?  Satisfaction?  Contentment?  Quality of life?  Some aspect of eudaimonia  Material well-being of all 12/25
  13. 13. Societal Role  Assess/manage/communicate risk  Definitions of “risk”  Harm that may or may not occur  Cause of harm  Probability of harm  Statistical expectation value of harm  Decision made when outcome probabilities are known 13/25
  14. 14. Societal Role  Definitions of “responsibility”  Cause  Role  Authority  Capacity 14/25  Virtue  Obligation  Accountability  Blameworthiness  Liability
  15. 15. Risk Ethics  Three positions in risk-taking  Decision-maker  Potential harm-bearer  Intended beneficiary  Objective vs. subjective 15/25
  16. 16. Internal Goods  Safety  Protecting people, preserving property  Sustainability  Improving environments, conserving resources  Efficiency  Performing functions, minimizing costs 16/25
  17. 17. Moral Virtues  Grounded in proper purpose and societal role  “Ascribed obligations”  “Ascribed ethics”  Mean between extremes of excess and deficiency (vices) 17/25
  18. 18. Moral Virtues  All practices  Justice, courage, honesty  Engineering specifically  Objectivity, care, honesty  Role of emotions  Alignment with societal role 18/25
  19. 19. Intellectual Virtue  Technical competence  Ethical competence  Practical judgment  Engineering judgment  Disposition (including ability)  Key to integrating ethics  Discipline-specific form of phronesis 19/25
  20. 20. The “What” of Engineering  Social aspect  Engaging in a combined human performance  Societal role  Assessing, managing, and communicating risk 20/25
  21. 21. The “How” of Engineering  Intellectual virtue  Exercising practical judgment  Moral virtues  Exhibiting objectivity, care, and honesty 21/25
  22. 22. The “Why” of Engineering  Proper purpose  Enhancing the material well-being of all people  Internal goods  Achieving safety, sustainability, and efficiency 22/25
  23. 23. 23/25 Virtuous Engineers  Assert their responsibility  For engaging in a combined human performance  That involves the exercise of practical judgment  To enhance the material well-being of all people  By achieving safety, sustainability and efficiency  While exhibiting objectivity, care and honesty  In assessing, managing and communicating risk  “Your Practice IS Your Ethics!”
  24. 24. Pending Issues  Proper purpose  Risk and responsibility  Internal goods and virtues  Additional goods or virtues  Education reform  Concrete applications  Major ethical/technical challenges 24/25
  25. 25. 25/25 Join the Movement! www.VirtuousEngineers.org JonAlanSchmidt@gmail.com twitter.com/JonAlanSchmidt

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