A Personal Engineering Ethics Threshold 13
he tell the CEO that Mr. Early Retirement is wrong. Mr. Concerned’s
compassion requires that he consider how others will suffer if they use
faulty equipment. Using virtue ethics, Mr. Concerned is obligated to tell
the CEO that the product is not ready to transfer to manufacturing.
In the previous section, we reviewed four classic ethical theories and
demonstrated how these theories could influence our engineering decision
process. However, we are not suggesting that the direct influence of Kant,
Aristotle, or another philosopher impacts our daily decisions. Rather, these
theories and others we have learned provide a framework for our ethical
Other sources for our decision framework are the ethics codes of various
engineering societies. The codes of the National Society of Professional
Engineers (NSPE) and the International Society of Electrical and Electronic
Engineers (IEEE) are provided in the Appendix of this text as examples.
These and other professional codes establish shared minimum standards and
provide guidance and support for responsible engineers.
NSPE is the only engineering society that represents engineers across all
disciplines. Its original code of ethics was approved in 1946. The current code
is fairly comprehensive, and details rules of practice as well as professional
obligations. Public safety, technical competence, accurate data, avoidance of
conflict of interest and other improprieties, professional behavior based on
integrity, and professional development are emphasized in this code.
In contrast, the IEEE code is much shorter and more general. The roots
of this code date back to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers
code adopted in 1912. The current code provides guidelines to protect
both engineers and the public. Many of the features of older ethics codes
pertaining to topics such as professional courtesy and business ethics for
consultants were purposely removed.
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