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Faculty of Engineering

Computer Engineering

Engineering Ethics

Chapter 3 :
Understanding Ethical Problems
1 Introduction. brief history of ethical thought.
2 Ethical theories.( moral theory)
3. Utilitarianism.
4. Cost-Benefit analysis
5. Duty ethics and rights ethics.
6. Virtue Ethics.
7 Personal Vs. Corporate Morality
8. Which theory to use?

Bhopal Disaster

Bhopal Disaster
In late 1984, a pressure-relief valve on a tank used to store methyl
isocyanate (MIC) at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, accidentally
opened. MIC is a poisonous compound used in the manufacture of
insect killers. When the valve opened, MIC was released from the tank,
and a cloud of toxic gas formed over the area surrounding the plant.
Unfortunately, this neighborhood was very densely populated.
Two thousand people were killed, and thousands more were injured
as a result of the accident. Many of the injured have remained
permanently disabled.
The causes of the accident are not completely clear, but there appear
to have been many contributing factors:
-Pipes in the plant were misconnected.
-Essential safety systems were either broken or had been taken off-line
for maintenance

The Bhopal disaster brings up many questions

of balancing risk to the local community with
the economic benefits to the larger community
of the state or nation.


How can we decide if on balance the

economic benefit brought by any plant
outweighed the potential safety hazards ?

We need a framework for analyzing ethical


Examine and Develop moral theories and

see how they can also be used as a means for
analyzing ethical cases.

Brief history of ethical thought

The moral and ethical
theories in
engineering ethics



Ancient Religion

Religion ethics started

with Judaism and it's

The written sources of

1. Torah.
2. The old testament of the

For Islamic and Arabs community, from

where they derive its moral theories and

The Quran.
The Sunnah of Muhammad (PUH)
Islamic jurists.
The pre-Islamic Arabian tradition.
Non-Arabic elements (including Persian
and Greek ideas).

Ancient Greeks

Greeks ethics

originated from it's

famous Greek


In order to develop workable ethical

problem-solving techniques, we must know

ethical theories.
But ethical theories arent like theories in
engineering classes where theres one
general theory to solve a problem.

In engineering ethics we have several theories

we need to consider when having a problem,
and thats actually a good thing;
because were going to have more than one
approach to every problem then we can
analyze these approaches and determine
which theory has the best solution.

There are four ( Moral )ethical theories to

1. Utilitarianism ( :( it seeks to
produce the most gain, defined as a balance
between good and bad consequences of an
action, considering the consequences of
everyone affected.

2. duty ethics: there are duties that should

be performed like treating others fairly or
not injuring others, regardless of whether
these acts lead to the most good.
3. rights ethics: we all have moral rights,
and any action that violates these rights is
ethically unacceptable.

4. virtue ethics : there are right

actions we have to do, and wrong actions
we have to avoid, this theory focuses on
the type of person we should want to be.
Responsibility, honesty,
competence, and loyalty,
trustworthiness, fairness, caring,
citizenship, and respect.

(Tradeoff , Balance )
Balance the needs of society with the need of individual.
Actions are good that serve to maximize human well-being.
Utilitarianism do what is well-being for the society as whole
regardless the individual.

(Tradeoff , Balance )
To balance good and bad consequences of an
action, with an emphasis on what will provide
the most benefit to the most people.
Utilitarianism is fundamental to many types of
engineering analysis such as:
1- Risk-benefit analysis.
2- Cost benefit analysis.

An example of this theory

is the building of dam.

Problems with this theory:

Sometimes what is best for everyone may
be bad for a particular individual or group
of individuals, as seen in the example of the
Another example:
The proposed Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
(WIPP) in New Mexico City.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

WIPP is designed to be a permanent repository for
nuclear waste generated in the United States.

Analysis of WIPP by using utilitarianism.

Good effect:
the disposal of nuclear wastes is a major
problem hindering the implementation of many
useful technologies, such as:
1. medicinal uses of radioisotopes.
2. nuclear generation of electricity.

So it will benefit society by providing improved

health care and more electricity.

Bad effect:
Health effect if the individuals living near
the transportation routes.

So utilitarianism theory sees that the WIPP

should be allowed to open.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

It is a tool used in engineering analysis especially

when trying to determine whether a project makes

an application of

utilitarianism: in cost-benefit

analysis, the cost of a project assessed as are the


Only those projects with the highest ratio of benefits

to cost will be implemented.

The aim of a cost-benefit analysis is:

To determine the feasibility of a project
based on costs.

looking at an ethical problem, the

first step should be determine what the

right course of action is, and then factor in
the financial cost in choosing between
ethical alternatives.

Duty ethics and right ethics

These are theories: similar to each other and
considered together.
These theories are good respect of the rights
of individual.
Ethical actions (actions could be written
down a list):
1.Be honest.
2.Dont cause suffering to other people.
3.Be fair to others.


Are actions which:
Express an unqualified regard for
autonomous moral agents.
Express respect for persons.
Are universal principles.
Immanuel Kant (German Philosopher):
A major proponent of duty ethics.
Held that moral duties fundamental.

Right Ethics
People have fundamental rights that other

ones have a duty to respect.

Was formulated by John Locke who said

that humans have the right to life, liberty,

and was paraphrased in the declaration of
independence of the soon-to-be U.S.A.

The problems of Duty Ethics and Right

The basic rights of a person (or group)
may conflict with the basic rights of
another group.
These theories dont always account for
the overall good of society very well.

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics is interested in determining

what kind of people we should be.

Virtue is often defined as moral distinction

and goodness.

In virtue ethics, actions are considered

right if they support good character traits
(virtues) and wrong if they support bad
character traits.

Virtue ethics focuses on words such as

responsibility, honestly, competence, and
loyalty which are virtues.

Virtue ethics is closely tied to personal

character. We do things because we are
virtuous people and seek to enhance these
character traits in ourselves and in others.

Theory may seem to be mostly personal

ethics and not particularly applicable to
engineering or business ethics, however,
personal morality cannot be separated from
business morality so, if a behavior is virtuous
in the individuals life, the behavior is
virtuous in his business life as well.

How can virtue ethics be applied?

We can use virtue ethics in our engineering
career by answering question such as: Is this
action honest?

Will this action demonstrate loyalty to my

community or my employer?

To use virtue ethics in an analysis of an ethical

problem, you should first identify the virtues or
vice that are applicable to the situation. Then,
determine what course of action each of these

Which Theory to Use?

Right ethics, utilitarian,
or Virtue ?

In solving ethical problems, we dont have

to choose from the theories.
Rather, we can use all of them to analyze
the problem from different angles and see
what result each of the theories give us.
Theories maybe :
1- Give us the same results.
2- Give us different answers.

Right ethics indicated that transporting

wastes through communities is not a good
The utilitarianism concluded the (WIPP) as a
beneficial to society as a whole.
The rights of individuals should receive
relatively stronger weight than the needs of
society as a whole.

Non-Western Ethical Thinking

is much the same as western ethical

Ethics is not geographic or cultural.

ethical thinking has developed
similarly around the word and is not

dependent on a western cultural or religious.

Ethical standards are similar worldwide.

personal ethics are not determined
by geography.

An exception.
In some societies, bribes are a standard
part of doing business.

The U.S. has a law against its citizens

paying bribes, even in other countries.