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Engineering Ethics 1


Engineering Ethics 1 Ethical Theories & Thoughts Engr Prof Dr Sam Man Keong CEng, CMath, CSci, CQP, CEnv. Email: ; HP : 96740515 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Engineering Ethics 1

Engineering Ethics 1 Ethical Theories Thoughts
  • Engr Prof Dr Sam Man Keong
  • ???
  • CEng, CMath, CSci, CQP, CEnv.
  • Email HP 96740515

  • Introduction.
  • Why study Engineering Ethics?
  • Personal vs Professional or Business Ethics
  • Ethics and the Law.
  • A Brief History of Ethical Thought.
  • Ethical Theories.
  • Questions Answers.

About the Speaker Prof Sam Man Keong
  • Singapore SP/NUS/NTU.
  • Australia MelbU/RMIT/CQU.
  • Chartered Engineer (UK/Ireland/Australia)
  • Chartered Builder (UK)
  • Chartered Mathematician (UK)
  • Chartered Scientist (UK)
  • Chartered Environmentalist (UK).

The Great Wall of China
  • Why study Engineering Ethics?
  • Personal vs Professional or Business Ethics
  • Ethics and the Law.

Why Study Engineering Ethics?
  • The work of engineers can affect public health
    and safety and can influence business practices
    and even politics.
  • To sensitize you to important ethical issues
    before you have to confront them.
  • You will learn techniques for analyzing and
    resolving ethical problems when they arize.

Personal vs Business or Professional Ethics
  • Personal ethics deals with how we treat others
    in our day-to-day lives. Many of these principles
    are applicable in business and engineering.
  • Engineering ethics is the rules and standards
    governing the conduct of engineers in their role
    as professionals.

Personal vs Business or Professional Ethics
  • Engineering ethics encompasses the more general
    definition of ethics, but applied it more
    specifically to situations involving engineers in
    their professional lives.
  • Engineering ethics often involves choices on an
    organizational level rather than a personal level.

Thus, engineering ethics is a body of philosophy
indicating the ways that engineers should conduct
themselves in their professional capacity.
Ethics and the Law
  • The practice of engineering is governed by many
  • Many of these laws are based on ethical
    principles, although many are purely of a
    practical, rather than a philosophical nature.

Ethics and the Law
  • There is also a distinction between what is legal
    and what is ethical.
  • Many things that are legal could be considered
    unethical. For example, designing a process that
    releases a known toxic, but unregulated,
    substance into the environment is probably
    unethical, although it is legal.

A Brief History of Ethical Thought
  • Western Greek philosophers (e.g. Socrates,
    Aristotle,) Jewish Torah and the Old
    Testament of the Bible (e.g. the Ten
  • East Confucius, Lao Zi.
  • Ancient religious thinking and writing
    Christainity, Buddhism, Hindusism, Islam,

The Ten Commandments Exodus 20 2 17
  • 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of
    the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery
  • 3 Do not have any other gods before me.
  • 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol,
    whether in the form of anything that is in heaven
    above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that
    is in the water under the earth.
  • 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them
    for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,
    punishing children for the iniquity of parents,
    to the third and the fourth generation of those
    who reject me.

The Ten Commandments Exodus 20 2 17
  • 12 Honor your father and your mother, so that
    your days may be long in the land that the Lord
    your God is giving you.
  • 13 You shall not murder.
  • 14 You shall not commit adultery.
  • 15 You shall not steal.
  • 16 You shall not bear false witness against your
  • 17 You shall not covet your neighbors house you
    shall not covet your neighbors wife, or male or
    female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that
    belongs to your neighbor.

A Brief History of Ethical Thought
  • Ethical ideas were continually refined during the
    course of history.
  • Great thinkers/philosophers (e.g. Locke, Kant,
    and Mill) wrote about moral and ethical issues
    is especially important for our study of
    engineering ethics since they do not rely on
    religion to underpin their moral thinking.
    Rather, they acknowledged that moral principles
    are universal, regardless of their origin, and
    are applicable even in secular settings.

Ethical conduct is fundamentally grounded in a
concern for other people. It is not just about
law or religion.
Ethical Theories
  • What is a Moral Theory?
  • A moral theory defines terms in uniform ways that
    links ideas and problems together in consistent
  • Why having multiple theories?
  • Allowing problems to be looked at from different
    angles, since each theory stresses different
    aspects of a problem (? same solution??)
  • FOUR ethical theories
  • Utilitarianism,
  • Duty ethics,
  • Right ethics, and
  • Virtue ethics.

  • Utilitarianism seeks to produce the most utility,
    defined as a balance between good and bad
    consequences of an action, taking into account
    the consequences for everyone affected.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis an application of
    utilitarianism maximizing the overall good. But
    CBA is not really an ethical analysis tool.
  • John Stuart Mill (1806 1973).

John Stuart Mill
  • John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 8 May 1873),
    English philosopher, political theorist,
    political economist, civil servant and Member of
    Parliament, was an influential British Classical
    liberal thinker of the 19th century whose works
    on liberty justified freedom of the individual in
    opposition to unlimited state control. He was a
    proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory
    developed by Jeremy Bentham, although his
    conception of it was very different from
    Bentham's. Hoping to remedy the problems found in
    an inductive approach to science, such as
    confirmation bias, he clearly set forth the
    premises of falsification as the key component in
    the scientific method.

Duty Ethics
  • Duty ethics contents that there are duties that
    should be performed (for example, the duty to
    treat others fairly or the duty not to injure
    others) regardless of whether these acts lead to
    the most good.
  • Immanuel Kant (1724 1804) moral duties are
    fundamental list of duties be honest, dont
    cause suffering to other people, be fair to
    others, etc.

Immanuel Kant
  • Immanuel Kant (German pronunciation (22 April
    1724 12 February 1804) was an 18th-century
    German philosopher from the Prussian city of
    Königsberg. Kant was the last influential
    philosopher of modern Europe in the classic
    sequence of the theory of knowledge during the
    Enlightenment beginning with thinkers John Locke,
    George Berkeley, and David Hume.

Right Ethics
  • Right ethics emphasizes that we all have moral
    rights, and any action that violates these rights
    is ethically unacceptable. Like duty ethics, the
    ultimate overall good of the actions is not taken
    into account.
  • John Jocke (1632 1704) humans have the right
    to life, liberty, and property.

John Locke
  • John Locke (29 August 1632 28 October 1704),
    widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an
    English philosopher and physician regarded as one
    of the most influential of Enlightenment
  • Locke's theory of mind is often cited as the
    origin of modern conceptions of identity and the
    self, figuring prominently in the work of later
    philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau and Kant.

Duty Ethics vs Right Ethics
  • Duty ethics and right ethics are really just two
    different sides of the same coin.
  • Both of these theories achieve the same end
    Individual persons must be respected, and actions
    are ethical that maintain this respect for the
    individual. In duty ethics, people have duties,
    an important one of which is to protect the
    rights of others. And in right ethics, people
    have fundamental rights that others have duties
    to protect.

Virtue Ethics
  • Virtue ethics regards actions as right that
    manifest good character traits (virtues) and
    regards actions as bad that display bad character
    traits (vices) this ethical theory focuses on
    the type of person we should strive to be.
  • Virtues responsibility, honesty, competence,
    and loyalty trustworthiness, fairness, caring,
    citizenship, and respect.
  • Vices dishonesty, disloyalty, irresponsibility,
    or incompetence.

Virtue Ethics
  • Virtue ethics is closely tied to personal
  • If a behavior is virtuous in the individuals
    personal life, the behavior is virtuous in his or
    her business life as well.

Virtue Ethics
  • To use virtue ethics in an analysis of an ethical
    problem, you should first identify the virtues or
    vices that are applicable to the situations.
    Then, determine what course of action each of
    these suggests.
  • In using virtue ethics, it is important to ensure
    that the traits you identify as virtues are
    indeed virtuous and will not lead to negative

Which Theory to Use?
  • We can use all of them to analyze a problem from
    different angles and see which results each of
    the theories give us.
  • Frequently, the result will be the same even
    though the theories are very different.
  • What happens when the different theories seem to
    give different answers? (? a balanced judgment)

Example 1 Building of Dams
  • Dams often lead to great benefit to society
    providing stable supplies of drinking water,
    flood control, and recreational opportunities.
    However, these benefits often come at the expense
    of people who live in areas that will be flooded
    by the dam and are required to find new homes.

Example 1 Building of Dams
  • Some examples of Dams
  • China Three Gorges Dam
  • India Narmada Dam
  • Malaysia Bakun Dam
  • Australia Franklin Dam in Tasmania.
  • Asia Dams along Mekong River Basin
  • Africa Aswan Dam in Egypt

To build or Not to build?
  • People have the right to use their property. If
    their land happens to be in the way of a proposed
    dam, then right ethics would hold that this
    property right is paramount and is sufficient to
    stop the dam project. A single property holders
    objection would require that the project be

To build or Not to build?
  • However, there is a need for others living nearby
    communities to have a reliable water supply and
    to be safe from continual flooding. Whos rights
    are paramount here? Rights and duty ethics dont
    resolve this conflict very well hence, the
    utilitarian approach of trying to determine the
    most good is more useful in this case.

Example 2 Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea
  • The Ok Tedi Mine is located near the headwaters
    of the Ok Tedi River, in the Star Mountains Rural
    LLG of the North Fly District of the Western
    Province of Papua New Guinea.
  • The mine is operated by Ok Tedi Mining Limited
    (OTML) which is majority owned by the PNG
    Sustainable Development Program Limited
    (PNGSDPL). Prior to 2002, it was majority owned
    by BHP Billitonthe largest mining company in the
    world since a merger in 2001.
  • Located in a remote area of PNG, above 2,000 m
    (6,600 ft) on Mount Fubilan, in a region of high
    rainfall and frequent earthquakes, mine
    development posed serious challenges.

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Ok Tedi Mine - Environmental impact
  • In 1999, BHP reported that the project was the
    cause of "major environmental damage". The mine
    operators discharge 80 million tons of
    contaminated tailings, overburden and
    mine-induced erosion into the river system each

Ok Tedi Mine - Environmental impact
  • The discharge caused widespread and diverse harm,
    both environmentally and socially, to the 50,000
    people who live in the 120 villages downstream of
    the mine.Chemicals from the tailings killed or
    contaminated fish, which subsequently caused harm
    to all animal species that live in the area as
    well as the indigenous people. The dumping
    changed the riverbed, causing a relatively deep
    and slow river to become shallower and develop
    rapids thereby disrupting indigenous
    transportation routes. Flooding caused by the
    raised riverbed left a thick layer of
    contaminated mud on the flood plain the
    plantations of taro, bananas and sago palm that
    are the staples of the local diet.

Ok Tedi Mine - Environmental impact
  • About 1300 square kilometers (500 mi²) were
    damaged in this way. Although the concentration
    of copper in the water is about 30 times above
    the standard level, it is still below the World
    Health Organization (WHO) standards.

Thank You
Questions Answers
Thank You
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