PHL 316: Engineering Ethics
Winter Term, 2004
Short writing assignment #2 (20 points)
Answer the two-part question below in a 1-2 page, typed essay, due in class on Thursday, Jan. 29.
Read the case in Whitbeck, Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research, pp.42-43. (This case is based on an actual situation analyzed by the National Society of Professional Engineers' Board of Ethical Review.) In the case, the structural engineer, Lyle, seems to face two conflicting ethical duties. On the one hand, he has a duty to protect the safety of the building's tenants, who have no knowledge of the serious risks they face. On the other hand, Lyle has a contractual duty to keep this information confidential. The attorney for the building's owner hired Lyle to inspect the building and testify for the owner. Thus, the attorney has the right to control who has access to the results of Lyle's report.
The case can also be described as one involving conflicting rights: The tenants have a right to know about conditions in the building that immediately threaten their safety. Yet the owner's attorney also has the right to protect the confidentiality of information he has obtained by hiring Lyle to inspect the building for the owner.
a) First, discuss which duty of Lyle's should have priority, in your judgment, and what he should have done to fulfill that duty. Briefly present reasons to support your position. b) Second, present a Kantian argument, using some version of the Categorical Imperative (see Rachels, Chapters 9-10), to defend the position you take in part a) above.
Go back to Unit 1 schedule
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