Concepts and theories of ethics
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Concepts and Theories of Ethics. A Module in the Micro-eCourse: Introduction to Engineering Ethics Prepared by: Dr. Prem Chopra Professor of Engineering Management University of Tennessee at Chattanooga August 2003. What is Ethics?.

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Concepts and theories of ethics

Concepts and Theoriesof Ethics

A Module in the Micro-eCourse: Introduction to Engineering Ethics

Prepared by: Dr. Prem Chopra

Professor of Engineering Management

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

August 2003


What is ethics

What is Ethics?

“Ethics is simply the concept of good and evil expressed through a set of values” (reference 1)

“Engineering Ethics is the study of the moral values, issues, and decisions involved in engineering practice” (reference 2)


Value system

Value System

  • Weaves ethical considerations into all aspects of action through “core values”

  • Defined by the individual, organization or society

  • Must be applied to all actions in order to be meaningful


What is morality

What is Morality?

  • “Reasons centered in respect for other people as well as for ourselves, reasons that involve caring for their good as well as our own” (reference 2)

  • “Universal concepts of giving and taking provide a more balanced perspective of ethics than good and evil, which vary with time, place and context” (reference 1)


Ethical problems

Ethical Problems

Miss-information

  • Arise out of:

    • miss-information or misjudgment, or both—or differences of opinion about these

    • actions in pursuit of desires that are contradictory to Positive Core Values

    • actions in pursuit of desires fanned by Negative Core Values

Misjudgment

Navigating

Taking

Giving


Ethical theories

Ethical Theories

  • Provide a rational basis for examining and addressing ethical problems

  • Provide a way to deal with ethical problems in a fair and balanced manner

  • Three classical ethical theories are: Utilitarianism, Rights Ethics, and Duty Ethics

  • These theories approach ethics from beliefs and arguments that appear contradictory, but generally lead one to similar ethical conclusions


Utilitarianism john stuart mill 1806 1873

Utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill 1806-1873)

  • Provide the most good for the most people, giving equal considerations to everyone affected.

  • Questions:

    • who decides?

    • how is good measured?

    • should you weigh good against bad?

    • should you consider actions or consequences?

    • should you consider motivation or results?

  • One solution is to establish moral rules or codes of conduct

  • Assess actions, modify behavior and codes to achieve desired results, reward and reprimand as appropriate.


Rights ethics john locke 1632 1704

Rights Ethics (John Locke 1632-1704)

  • Human rights—not good consequences—are fundamental

  • Actions that respect human rights are expected, even when they do not maximize good

  • Human rights are the end sought, not maximum good and well-being of the most

  • Questions:

    • who decides?

    • what rights are unalienable?

    • how do you balance personal liberty against welfare rights?

    • For example, should you respect the rights of the smoker or the individual subjected to second-hand smoke?

  • Solutions may be found in moral rules, codes or laws


Duty ethics immanuel kant 1724 1804

Duty Ethics (Immanuel Kant 1724-1804)

  • Ethical actions are those that are guided by duties—that express respect for persons (giving, not taking)

  • Duty ethics provides clues to some of the earliest forms of governance for human action:

    • The Bhagavat Gita and Ramayan (Dharam and Karam Yogi)

    • The Old Testament (The 10 Commandments)

    • The Koran (5 Pillars of Islam)

    • The Dhamapada (The Noble Truths of The Buddha)

  • Questions:

    • who decides?

    • what duties precede others in importance if there is conflict?

  • Solutions may be found in core values expressed through codes of obligation, standards or laws


Core values

Core Values

  • Expressed as positive beliefs or values that should be inculcated or negative beliefs or values that should be avoided in all thoughts and actions

  • Positive Core Values promote actions that respect the rights and increase the good of others. Such values lead to Sharing and Giving

  • Negative Core Values foster actions that deprive others of their rights and generally reduce good for most. Such values lead to Self-Centering and Taking

  • Questions:

    • who decides?

    • what values precede others in importance if there is conflict?

  • Solutions may be found in personal or professional codes of obligation, standards or laws


Five positive core values reference 1

Five Positive Core Values (reference 1)

  • Integrity – truthfulness and trustworthiness

  • Commitment – dedication to rightful duties to serve for the good of others

  • Persistence – staying the course committed to until the logical conclusion of the commitment

  • Teamwork – recognizing the universality of humankind and acting in harmony with the most good

  • Communication – sharing ideas and information in a way to foster and reinforce the other core values

  • Solutions may be found in personal or professional codes of obligation, standards or laws


Five negative core values reference 1

Five Negative Core Values (reference 1)

  • Lust – the drive to acquire and consume, to take the goods, products and corporations (and rights) of others

  • Anger – mental and emotional imbalance caused by loss, fear of loss, missed opportunity to acquire, or by voluntary or involuntary acts of others

  • Greed – insatiable desire to acquire and consume at all costs and at the expense of others

  • Attachment – desire to own and exercise mental, emotional and physical control over the property, lives and actions of others

  • Arrogance – blinding desire to be considered better endowed with the good than others

  • Solutions may be found in personal or professional codes of obligation, standards or laws


References for this module

References for this Module

1. "Leadership and Ethics in Action," by Prem Chopra, Hanrow Press, 2002

2. "Introduction to Engineering Ethics," by Roland Schinzinger and Mike W. Martin, McGraw Hill, 2000.


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