The Responsibilities of Engineers
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Knowledge of the responsibilities of engineers is key to answering ethical questions about the work of engineers, because the decisions made by engineers often have ethical dimensions and implications. Engineers develop and implement technologies that influence and shape the way we live, at times in manners unanticipated by those who develop such technologies. To be able to answer important ethical questions, it is essential first to define what the responsibilities of engineers are. This paper defines the responsibilities of engineers by considering what constitutes the nature of engineering as a particular form of activity. Specifically, this paper focuses on the responsibilities of engineers qua engineers, where that refers to the duties acquired in virtue of being a member of a group. In order to answer this question, this paper examines the practice of engineering, drawing on the idea of practices developed by philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and showing how the elements of a practice are important for finding and justifying the responsibilities of engineers. To demonstrate the contribution that knowledge of the responsibilities of engineers makes to engineering ethics, a case study is discussed at the end of the paper which deals with ethical questions in the discipline of structural engineering. The circumstances surrounding the failure of the Sleipner A platform off the coast of Norway in 1991 will be discussed to demonstrate how the responsibilities of engineers can be derived from knowledge of the nature of engineering and its context.
Smith, Justin Douglas 1978- (2012). The Responsibilities of Engineers. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from