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Engineering Ethics

Taught by Dr. Martin Luther King Visiting Professor Taft Broome (ESD.932)

Description: The theory and the practice of engineering ethics are introduced using a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural approach. Theory includes ethics and philosophy of engineering. Historical cases are taken primarily from the scholarly literatures on engineering ethics, and hypothetical cases are written by students. Each student will write a story by selecting an ancestor or mythic hero as a substitute for a character in a historical case. Students will compare these cases and recommend action.

Audio/Visual DVD projector & screen.

This course is presented in three phases: theory; case studies; and research & presentation. The greater part of the time in this course is spent in phase-2 on the engineering ethics case studies. The course will be graded from a mid-term covering phase-1 and some topics in phase-2, and from a major paper and presentation. This is a group project on a topic in phase-2 pulling together in-depth researches done by individuals in phase-3.

Phase-1 consists in ethics, philosophy of engineering, and the engineering ethics case study methodology. Major features of Western ethics in the Greek and Latin traditions are studied. Kant, Mill, Kierkegaard and Augustine are among the readings. Ties from the West to other cultural traditions are made by the narrative approach to ethics with emphasis on mythic stories. Joseph Campbell is principal consultant. Philosophy of engineering is laid down in the four major categories of philosophy: metaphysics, ethics, epistemology and education. Readings include, respectively: Aristotle’s The Metaphysics; Pinkus’ Engineering Ethics; Vincenti’s What Engineers Know And How They Know It and B.V. Koen’s Discussion of the Method; and Harvard’s General Education in a Free Society and ASEE’s Grinter Report.

Part-2 consists in engineering ethics case studies. Historical cases are taken primarily from the scholarly literatures on engineering ethics, and hypothetical cases are written by students. Each student will write a story by selecting an ancestor or mythic hero as a substitute for a character in a historical case. Students will compare these cases and recommend action. Readings include: Harris’ Engineering Ethics; and Broome’s The Concrete Sumo.

Part-3 readies the students for their major papers. Cases are selected and teams are organized around them. The cases are studied in-depth in pairs of approaches as was done in phase-2. The in-depth studies are assigned by the team, but conducted by individuals. Dry runs for the presentations are conducted.

Topics for the lectures are as follows:

Part-1: Theory

1. Introduction to the course: Purpose, objectives, scope, methods, discussion
2. Introduction to ethics I
3. Introduction to ethics II
4. Introduction to philosophy of engineering I
5. Introduction to philosophy of engineering II
6. Introduction to engineering ethics: codes of ethics, whistle blowing, etc.
7. Introduction to engineering ethics case study methodology

Part-2: Case Studies

8. The BART
9. The A7D
10. The Pinto
11. The Challenger [Guest presentation]
12. Chernobyl
13. Mid-Term Exam
14. Agnew Bribery Scandal
15. Three-Mile Island
16. Hyatt-Regency Walkway Disaster
17. Love Canal
18. Gilbane Gold [Guest presentation]
19. Glass Ceiling
20. Takoma Narrows Bridge
21. Student-requested case studies: academic ethics
22. Student-requested case studies: technology & ethics, e.g. privacy

Part-3: Research Projects

23. Prep class I
24. Prep class II
25. Dry Runs

Final Exam = Team Presentations

 
   

Event Details:

ESD.932: Engineering Ethics

Spring 2006:
Tues, Thurs
10:30 am - 12:00 noon

Location: E51-151

Notes: Class size is limited; preference given to ESD students; undergraduates may be admitted upon interview with instructor.

 

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