A Personal Engineering Ethics Threshold 7
engineering programs, mandated that ethics topics be incorporated
into undergraduate engineering curricula. Similarly, the Association to
Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which accredits Masters of
Business Administration (MBA) programs, increased the emphasis on
ethics in its 2004 curriculum learning standard (AACSB, 2004). We wish
that this type of study had been available to us in the classroom. Some of
my colleagues felt strongly enough that they contributed their personal
engineering dilemmas as the anonymous case studies found in Chapter 16.
We believe that engineering ethics should be taught in school to provide
engineers entering industry with a foundation for ethical behavior.
The corporate culture is very powerful and can sway a young engineer’s
For example, Dennis Gioia was promoted to field recall coordinator at
Ford Motor Company in 1973, only 2 years out of school (Bachelor of Science
[BS] in Engineering Science, MBA). Part of his new position involved making
initial recommendations about possible future recalls. Although he received
reports of Pinto fires after low-speed rear-end collisions, Gioia did not recom-
mend a Pinto recall. He does remember, however, “being disquieted by a
field report accompanied by graphic, detailed photos of the remains of a
burned-out Pinto in which several people had died” (Gioia, 1992). Writing
about the Ford Pinto experience 19 years later, Gioia stated that his “own
schematized (scripted) knowledge influenced me to perceive recall issues in
terms of the prevailing decision environment and to unconsciously overlook
key features of the Pinto case, mainly because they did not fit an existing
script” (Gioia, 1992).
By discussing the foundation for engineering ethics and reviewing
national headlines and personalized case studies, my colleagues and I hope
that you will be better prepared to enter the industrial environment. We
will consciously reflect on our moral beliefs within the context of corporate
situations, extending and refining these beliefs. By practicing ethical analy-
sis, we will strengthen our ability to conduct it. It is important to integrate
your professional life with personal convictions in order to maintain your
moral integrity.
We begin our discussion of an engineering ethics foundation by consi-
dering some of the classic ethical theories: utilitarianism, duty ethics, rights
ethics, and virtue ethics. Realizing that a thorough treatment of each theory
would result in four textbooks, we will restrict ourselves to highlights of
each theory. Most of our discussion is based on the ethics textbook by
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