PHL 316: Engineering Ethics
Winter Term, 2004
Daily course schedule
Unit 1: Moral autonomy and moral theory in engineering (Jan.6 - Feb.10)
In this unit we will introduce the concept of moral autonomy and consider its role in studying engineering ethics. We will examine critically two kinds of metaethical theories: ethical relativism and ethical subjectivism. We will also study and evaluate strengths and weaknesses of three influential families of normative ethical theories: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue-based theory. We will begin to use philosophical models of ethical reasoning to analyze case studies in engineering ethics and will continue to refer to these models throughout the course. We will also note the regularity with which ethical concerns arise in relation to engineers' work.
Tu Jan 6
Course introduction. Are engineers bad people? How can philosophical ethics be relevant to engineering?
Th Jan 8
21st century technological challenges to ordinary ethical thinking. Ethics as a form of impartial, practical rationality. Read: Bill Joy, "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" (click here); James Rachels, Ch.1 (pp.1-15). [From class: Some definitions of engineering (click here).]
Tu Jan 13
Ethical relativism. Case study of cross-cultural ethical conflict. Read: Rachels, Ch.2 (pp.16-31). Short writing assignment #1. [Last day for late registration]
Th Jan 15
SW#1 due. Relativism and the Neemix patent. Ethical subjectivism. Read: Michael Gorman, et al., Chs.24-25 (pp.197-209); Rachels, Ch.3 (pp.32-47); Caroline Whitbeck, pp.1-13.
Tu Jan 20
Ethics and religion. Consequentialist theories and utilitarianism. Read: Rachels, Chs.4 and 7 (pp.48-62, 91-101).
Th Jan 22
Criticisms of utilitarianism. Cost-benefit analysis. Read: Rachels, Ch.8 (pp.102-116); Whitbeck, pp.13-18; Mark Dowie, "Pinto Madness" (click here).
Tu Jan 27
Deontological theories and respect for persons. Read: Rachels, Chs.9-10 (pp.117-140). Short writing assignment #2. [Last day to withdraw without record]
Th Jan 29
SW#2 due. Applying deontology to cases. Rights and rules. Read: Whitbeck, pp.18-35. First take-home test posted.
Tu Feb 3
No class. Work on test and continue with reading. Virtue-based ethical theories. Read: Rachels, Chs.12-13 (pp.160-190).
Th Feb 7
Consequences, rules, and virtues in the Challenger and Citicorp cases. Read: Whitbeck, Ch.4 (pp.133-155). Click here for some pictures of the Citicorp Center.
Tu Feb 10
First take-home due. Wrap-up of ethical theory.
Go to Unit 2 schedule
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