Toward a more ethical engineering : four habits of highly ethical engineering practice
Author(s)Sugie, Masayuki Luke
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AbstractGraduation date: 2010
In this thesis, I conduct an analysis of paradigmatic background assumptions deployed in engineering decision-making processes, in order to understand how these assumptions, operating tacitly and in tension with each other, contribute to decisions that are ethically less effective and less substantial than they would otherwise be. I do so by exploring the role of background assumptions in evidential reasoning processes, the operational features of paradigmatic background assumptions, and the idea that engineering is an inherently moral activity. I argue that current attempts to resolve the tension introduced by paradigmatic background assumptions are ineffective, and if engineering communities wish to maintain legitimacy as material problem-solvers of our shared world, then decision-making processes should be able to adjudicate between paradigmatic background assumptions. I argue that the four features of objective scientific communities identified by Helen Longino – public standards, venues for criticism, critical uptake, and tempered equality – provide a useful framework for engineering communities to begin discussing, revising, rejecting, and embracing particular paradigmatic background assumptions. This process would lead to engineering decisions that have the potential to be more ethically effective and substantial. I conclude by outlining potential objections to my analysis and raising questions for further research.