4. A brief History of Ethical Thought
• The moral and ethical theories that engineers
apply are derived from a Western cultural
5. A brief History of Ethical Thought
• They come from the ancient Greeks and ancient
religious thinking and writing.
• Judaism and its foundations start the religious
thinking and writing.
• The written sources of the Jewish moral tradition
ate the Torah and the Old Testament of the Bible.
• Moral Laws and Ten Commandments are there.
• The Greek philosophers with the greatest
influence are Socrates and Aristotle.
6. A brief History of Ethical Thought
• Greek ethical philosophic ideas were melted
together with early Christians and Jewish thought
and were spread throughout Europe and the
Middle East during the height of the Roman
7. A brief History of Ethical Thought
• The known history of pure ethics or ethics (moral)
theories begin with ancient Greek philosophers
(Sophists, Socrates, Socratic schools, Plato,
Aristotle, Epicurus, Stoics)
• And, after recovered by early English positivists has
been the main topic of discussions in the Medieval
times in Europe.
• As the scholastic doctrines are by-passed (therefore
Christian Ethics is not a scientific term anymore), we
come to the illuminated times after the Medieval, and
continue with Hobbes, the Father of Modern Ethics.
8. Ethical Theories
Offer a framework for decision making.
Solving a problem is not cut and dried as problem solving.
There are relatively large number of theories to be considered
called Moral Theories.
Some of them are: Utilitarianism; Cost-Benefit Analysis; Duty
Ethics and Rights Ethics; Virtue Ethics; and Non Western
9. MORAL THEORY
• Moral Theory: Defines terms in uniform
ways and links ideas and problems
together in consistent ways.
• Moral concept are organized like
scientific theories: organize ideas, define
terms, and facilitate problem solving.
• Moral concept is an important aspect in
the following theories...
10. MORAL THEORIES
• Utilitarianism: Seeks to produce the most utility.
• Cost-Benefit Analysis.
• Duty Ethics: There are some duties that should
• Rights Ethics: We all have moral rights that
should be protected.
• Virtue Ethics: Actions as right that manifest
good character traits and regards actions as
bad that display bad character traits.
• I. What is it?
Good actions are those actions
that serve to maximize human
• II. Benefits:
Maximizes positive affects for
• III. Downfalls:
Ignores the individual.
Difficult to predict consequences
• Problem Solving Approach:
• Determine Benefits to Society.
• Determine Costs to Parties
• Compare Benefits to Costs.
• If Benefits to Society outweigh
Costs, then it is ethical to
16. Building Dams:
a) Stable flow of
b) Flood control.
a) Relocation of flood-
zone residents (Like El
Result: Since the benefits of building the dam outweigh the
costs, it is profitable/ethical to build the dam.
17. Waste Isolation Pilot
• Safe storage of
• Nuclear Power =
• Radioisotopes =
Potential danger to
Result: Since the benefits of building WIPP facilities
outweighs the cost to society, then it is ethical to go ahead
18. Utilitarianism – Two tenets
Act Utilitarianism – Focus
on action, not rules.
• John Stuart Mill (1806 –
• Believe that rules of
morality were derived from
trial and error throughout
the course of time.
• Believe that rules should be
broken in order to maximize
benefits to society.
Rule Utilitarianism – Focus
on moral laws, not on action.
• Believe that moral laws
take precedence over
• Adhere that although
following rules might
not always maximize
benefits to society, it will
ultimately lead to the
best overall. 18
19. COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS
• What is it?
An Application of Utilitarianism
Goal is to maximize Benefit-to-Cost Ratio.
Quantifiable method for analyzing ethical dilemmas.
Similar to utilitarianism in that benefits are often difficult
20. COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS
• In cost-benefit analysis, the cost of a project are
assessed, as are the benefits.
• Only those projects with the highest ratio of
benefits to costs will be implemented.
• This principle is similar to the utilitarian goal of
maximizing the overall good.
21. DUTY AND RIGHT ETHICS
• What are they?
Good actions are those that respect the rights of the
Maximize positive effects for the individual.
Basic rights of one person may conflict with basic rights
of another person.
Doesn’t account for overall betterment of society.
22. DUTY AND RIGHT ETHICS
Immanuel Kant (1724-
Ethical actions are those
that can be written as a list
of duties (e.g. “Be Honest,
Be Fair, etc.)
• Right Ethics
John Locke (1632-1704)
People have fundamental
rights that people have a
duty to respect.
“Both are already just two different sides of the same
coin” (Fleddermann, Ch. 2014, 42)
23. Virtue Ethics
• What is a virtue?
A 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
• Virtue Ethics determine what kind of people we should
• A virtuous person exhibits good and beneficial qualities.
• Personal morality cannot be separated from business
morality. If a person is virtuous in his personal life, then
he is also in his business life as well.
24. Virtue Ethics
• In using Virtue Ethics, it is important to ensure that
the traits you identify as virtues are indeed virtuous
and will not lead to negative consequences.
• Honor: (dignity, integrity, pride).
• This may seem good because of integrity but it might give
you negative consequences because of pride (wars to
preserve honor of nation).
25. Personal vs. Corporate Morality
• Is there a distinction between the ethics practiced by
an individual and those practiced by a corporation?
• How can a company display human traits like
honesty and loyalty?
• While dealing with individuals, corporations should
be considered pseudo-moral agents and should be
held accountable in the same way that individuals
• A corporation must respect the rights of individuals
and should exhibit the same virtues that we expect
of individuals. 25
26. Which One Theory to Use
• How do we decide which theory to use?
• In order to obtain a complete understanding of a
problem, it is best to analyze the situation using
multiple ethical theories.
• Example: A chemical plant discharges a hazardous
waste into the groundwater the city will be
compromised with health problems.
27. Which Theory to Use
• Rights Ethics indicate that this is unethical.
• Utilitarian Analysis indicates the same.
Economic benefits would be outweighed by
negative effect of pollution and costs to ensure
a safe municipal water supply.
• Virtue Ethics indicate this is irresponsible and
• They all show the same conclusion.
28. Which Theory to Use
• What if they produce different conclusions?
• The answers should be weighed.
• Generally, rights and duty ethics should take
precedence over utilitarian consideration
because the rights of individuals should receive
stronger weight than the needs of society as a
29. Non-Western Ethical Thinking
• Ethics are not geographical or cultural
• Ethics standards are similar worldwide
• “When in Rome, do as the Romans” Not applicable
to personal morality
• In Arab countries: Foundations of ethical principles
grounded in traditions of Islam and Islam is very
similar to Christianity
• Ethical principles of Buddhists, Hindus, and all
major religions of world are similar.
30. Non-Western Ethical Thinking
• Chinese ethical philosophy originates with the
writing of Kongzi, more commonly known as
Confucius (551-479 BCE)
• Emphasizes the importance of balancing individual
rights with the needs of the larger community:
• The individual depends on the groups and so must
take group concerns into account
• But also the group must recognize its dependence
on individuals and must respect individual rights.
31. Non-Western Ethical Thinking
• Indian philosophical tradition are the oldest
surviving written philosophical systems in human
• Indian philosophical and ethical thinking have their
origins in the ancient texts known as the Vedas,
further developed through the Upanishads, Jainism,
Buddhism, and also expressed in the Bhagavad-
• Continued by Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru into the
33. Non-Western Ethical Thinking
• Muslin Ethics is derived from principles set forth in the
• Specific virtues mentioned are humility, honesty, giving
to the poor, kindness, and trustworthiness.
• Qur’an also mentions vices such as boasting,
blasphemy, and slander.
• While blasphemy is only applicable in a religious
context, the other two vices do speak to engineering
• For example, Codes of Ethics prohibit engineers from
making false claims about other engineers
34. Non-Western Ethical Thinking
• Buddhist has its origins between the 6th and 4th
• Is based on the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama also
known as Buddha.
• Buddhist speaks of five major vices: destruction of life;
taking what is not given; licentiousness, lying, and
• Also speaks of virtues such as friendship, spiritual
development, learning, mastery of skills, filial piety,
generosity, diligence, patience, and sense of proportion
• Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2003.
• Fledderman, Ch. (2014). Engineering Ethics.
International Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall.
• Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science.
• McGuire, S. (2018). 20 timeline template
examples and desing tips.
• WILLIAMS INTERNATIONAL. (2014). The power
of vision. Company: Timeline. http://www.williams-