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PROFESSIONAL ETHICS IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING CD5590 LECTURE 2. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic Department of Computer Science and Engineering Mälardalen University 2004. LECTURE1 HIGHLIGHTS Course Preliminaries Identifying Moral Issues Basic Moral Orientations Overview. Course Preliminaries.

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Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic Department of Computer Science and Engineering Mälardalen University 2004

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Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic

Department of Computer Science and EngineeringMälardalen University2004

LECTURE1 HIGHLIGHTSCourse PreliminariesIdentifying Moral IssuesBasic Moral Orientations Overview

Course Preliminaries

  • All information about the course at:

Course Preliminaries

  • New classroom TURING

  • New schedule

Planning for the course (1)Examination


    Research paper (2p)

    Class participation [Class notes Presentation/leading discussion ] (3p)

Planning for the course (2)Examination


    Choose white paper topic now! See even suggested topics in Cybernetics on the course home page, exam.

    Papers are written individually.Topics should be specific for everyone.

Planning for the courseChoose which in-class activity you would like to lead

23 Nov L6/E1



Codes of Ethics. Whistle Blowing (Stig)

In-class activity: CASE STUDIES

23 Nov L7/E2



In-class activity: CASE STUDIES

30 Nov L8/E3



In-class activity: CASE STUDIES

Planning for the courseChoose which in-class activity you would like to lead

30 Nov L10/E4



In-class activity: CASE STUDIES

14 Dec L13/E5



In-class activity: CASE STUDIES

Identifying Moral Issues

Based on: Lawrence M. Hinman, Ph.D.

Director, The Values Institute

University of San Diego

Ethics and MoralityEtymology

Morality and ethics have same roots, mores which means manner and customs from the Latin and etos which means custom and habits from the Greek.

Robert Louden, Morality and Moral Theory

Ethics and MoralityWhat are they?

Strictly speaking, morality is used to refer to what we would call moral standards and moral conduct while ethics is used to refer to the formalstudy of those standards and conduct. For this reason, the study of ethics is also often called "moral philosophy."

Theoretical ethics

Practical ethics


Theoretical Ethics

  • Metaethics or analytical ethics: theoretical study that inquires into semantic, logical, and epistemological issues in ethics. It investigates the meaning of ethical terms, the nature of value judgements, and the justification of ethical theories and judgements.

  • Normative ethics: theory which justifies which acts are morally good/bad.

Practical Ethics

  • Engineering ethics

  • Ethics of science

  • Bioethics

  • Medical ethics

  • Environmental ethics

  • Public ethics

  • Media ethics

  • Political ethics

Normative Systems

  • Games

  • Law

  • Religion

  • Morality

  • Habits





ETICS CONTINUUMEthics as an Ongoing Conversation

  • Professional discussions of ethical issues in journals.

  • We come back to ideas again and again, finding new meaning in them.

    See Swedish)

What to Expect from Ethics?

Functions of theory:

  • Describe (What?)

  • Explain (Why?)

  • Prescribe (How?)

  • Give strength (support)

    • Open new possibilities and insights

    • Wonder

The Point of Ethical Reflection

  • Ethics as the evaluation of other people’s behavior

  • Ethics as the search for the meaning of our own lives

Basic Moral OrientationsOverview

On what basis do we make moral decisions? (1)

  • Divine Command Theories --“Do what the sacred text tells you” or the Will of God

  • Utilitarianism --““The action is best, which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number…”

  • Virtue Ethics --“Maximize virtue, minimize vices”

  • The Ethics of Duty --“Do your duty”

  • Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory The categorical imperative: --“Act so that the maxim [determining motive of the will] may be capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings."

  • Ethical Egoism -- “Watch out for #1”

On what basis do we make moral decisions? (2)

  • The Ethics of Natural and Human Rights --“...all people are created ...with certain unalienable rights”

  • Social Contract Ethics (We agree to be civil to one another under threat of punishment from a government established for this purpose. [Plato, Republic. Thomas Hobbes])

  • Moral Reason versus Moral Feeling

  • Evolutionary Ethics -- Being social increases our chances to survive

On what basis do we make moral decisions? (3)

  • Emotivism/Value nihilism Alfred Jules Ayer (1910-1989), Axel Hägerström (1868 - 1939). When I say “It is wrong to commit genocide” I am not making a factual statement. Instead, I am merely expressing my personal attitudes and feelings.

     "X is right" means "I like X."

     We pick out our moral principles by following our feelings.

    The "Immoral Feelings" Objection: Assume that I like getting drunk and, while I'm drunk, I like to hurt people and animals.

    If emotivism is true, then it is morally right for me to hurt people and animals.

    But it is morally wrong to hurt people and animals simply because one feels like doing so.

On what basis do we make moral decisions? (4)

  • Existentialist Ethics The existentialists emphasize freedom, individuality, and subjectivity .

  • Nietzsche, F. (Writings include Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Human All Too Human, etc.)

  • Sartre, J.P. (Writings include Being and Nothingness, Nausea, etc.)

Moral Reason versus Moral Feeling

  • Morality is strictly a matter of rational judgment: Samuel Clarke (1675-1729)

  • Since time of Plato: moral truths exist in a spiritual realm.

  • Moral truths like mathematical truths are eternal.

  • Morality is strictly a matter of feeling (emotion): David Hume (1711-1729)

  • We have a moral sense

Samuel Clarke


David Hume


Ethical Relativism, Absolutism, and Pluralism

Based on: Lawrence M. Hinman, Ph.D.

Director, The Values Institute

University of San Diego

Classical Ethical/Cultural RelativismThe Greek Skeptics (1)

  • Xenophanes (570-475 BCE)

    “Ethiopians say that their gods are flat-nosed and dark, Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired. If oxen and horses and lions had hands and were able to draw with their hands and do the same things as men, horses would draw the shapes of gods to look like horses and oxen to look like ox, and each would make the god’s bodies have the same shape as they themselves had.”

  • The historian Heroditus(484-425 BCE)

    “Everyone without exception believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best.”

Classical Ethical/Cultural RelativismThe Greek Skeptics (2)

  • Sextus Empiricus (fl. 200 CE)

    Gives example after example of moral standards that differ from one society to another, such as attitudes about homosexuality, incest, cannibalism, human sacrifice, the killing of elderly, infanticide, theft, consumption of animal flesh…

    Sextus Empiricus concludes that we should doubt the existence of an independent and universal standard of morality, and instead regard moral values as the result of cultural preferences.

Later Ethical Relativism (1)

  • French philosopher Michael de Montaigne (1533-1592):

    Custom has the power to shape every possible kind of cultural practice. Although we pretend that morality is a fixed feature of nature, morality too is formed through custom.

  • Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776)

    “fashion, vogue, custom, and law are the chief foundation of all moral determinations”

Arguments for Ethical Relativism

  • Cultural Differences Argument

    (1) Different cultures have different moral codes. (2) Moral opinions vary from culture to culture. (3) Neither opinion is right or wrong. _____________________________________

    There is no objective truth in morality.

Insights of Ethical Relativism

Ethical relativism has several important insights:

  • The fact of moral diversity

  • The need for tolerance and understanding

  • We should not pass judgment on practices in other cultures when we don’t understand them

  • Sometimes reasonable people may differ on what’s morally acceptable

Three Questions about the Meaning of Relativism

  • What part of morality is relative?

  • Behavior

  • Peripheral values

  • Fundamental values

Morality is relative.

  • Relative to what?

  • Individuals

  • Cultures

  • Nations

  • Groups

  • How much of morality is relative?

  • All

  • Most

  • Some

Relative to what?

  • Descriptive ethical relativists say that moral values are relative, but to what:

    • Culture

    • Nation

    • Group

    • Individual—subjectivism

  • How do we individuate cultures?

What is relative?

  • Behavior

    • Different behaviors may exemplify the same value

    • The same behavior may exemplify different values in different culture

  • Core values

    • Are there central values found in all cultures?

  • Peripheral values

    • Obviously some culturally-specific values

Ethical Relativism: Limitations

  • Presupposes an epistemological solipsism*

  • Is unhelpful in dealing with overlaps of cultures--precisely where we need help.

    • Commerce and trade

    • Media

    • World Wide Web

      [*Solipsism - belief in self as only reality: the belief that the only thing somebody can be sure of is that he or she exists, and that true knowledge of anything else is impossible]

Ethical Relativism:Solipsism

  • Sometimes we say that we can’t judge other cultures because we can’t fully understand them.

  • Do we need full understanding to judge something?

  • Do we even have full understanding of ourselves?

  • Would this eliminate anthropology as a discipline?

  • Does it deny a main goal of multiculturalism?

Ethical Relativism:Overlapping Cultures, 1

  • Ethical relativism suggests that we let each culture live as it sees fit

  • This is only feasible when cultures don’t have to interact with one another.

Ethical Relativism:Overlapping Cultures, 2

  • The challenge of the coming century is precisely overlapping cultures:

    • Multinational corporations

    • International media--BBC, MTV, CNN

    • International sports--Olympics

    • World Wide Web

Ethical Relativism:Overlapping Cultures, 3

  • The actual situation in today’s world is much closer to the diagram at the right.

Ethical Relativism:A Self-Defensive Position

  • Ethical relativism maintains that we cannot make moral judgments about other cultures

  • The corollary of this is that we are protected in principle against the judgments made by other cultures

Different kids of clothing

Rembrandt Monk Reading, 1661

Nuns uniforms

Fencer – protective suit

Taliban law requires women in Afghanistan to wear a chador or burqa that covers the face and entire body.

From the solitude of the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia, a monk works as an electronic scrivener on the Internet.

A proper dress for her?

Astronaut – protective suit

Different kids of clothing

Dieric Bouts - Madonna and Child

Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine 1483-90

Jane Seymour by Holbein,1537

Catherine of Aragon in middle age, c. 1525

Tudor England dress

Arguments Against Ethical Relativism

  • There Are Some Universals in Codes of Behavior across Cultures

    Three core common values:

  • caring for children

  • truth telling (trust) and

  • prohibitions against murder

    The society must guard against killing, abusing the young, lying, breaking promises or other commitments at its own peril. Were the society not to establish some rules against such behaviors, the society itself would cease to exist.

Plato (427-347 BCE)

Ethical Objectivism

  • The view that moral principles have objective validity whether or not people recognize them as such, that is, moral rightness or wrongness does not depend on social approval, but on such independent considerations as whether the act or principle promotes human flourishing or ameliorates human suffering.

Ethical Absolutism/Universalism/Realism

  • Ethical Absolutism:

    Morality is eternal and unchanging and holds for all rational beings at all times and places. In other words, moral right and wrong are fundamentally the same for all people. (Morality is considered different than mere etiquette).

    There is only one correct answer to every moral problem. A completely absolutist ethic consists of absolute principles that provide an answer for every possible situation in life, regardless of culture.

Ethical Absolutism

  • Absolutism comes in many versions--including the divine right of kings

  • Absolutism is less about what we believe and more about how we believe it

  • Common elements:

    • There is a single Truth

    • Their position embodies that truth

Louis XIV(1638 – 1715)Louis the Great, The Sun King

Ethical Absolutism

  • Ethical absolutism gets some things right

    • We need to make judgments

    • Certain things are intolerable

  • But it gets some things wrong, including:

    • Our truth is the truth

    • We can’t learn from others

Ethical Pluralism (1)

  • Combines insights of both relativism and absolutism:

    • The central challenge: how to live together with differing and conflicting values

    • Fallibilism: recognizes that we might be mistaken

    • Sees disagreement as a possible strength

Ethical Pluralism (2)

  • Moral pluralists maintain that there are moral truths, but they do not form a body of coherent and consistent truths in the way that one finds in the science or mathematics. Moral truths are real, but partial. Moreover, they are inescapably plural. There are many moral truths, not just one–and they may conflict with one another.

Ethical Pluralism (3)

  • Pluralism is the cultural manifestation of ethical individualism; it is implied by the respect for the human being, for what it means to be human.

  • We have differing moral perspectives, but we must often inhabit a common world.

Ethical Pluralism (4)

Ethical pluralism offers three categories to describe actions:

  • Prohibited: those actions which are not seen as permissible at all

    • Absolutism sees the importance of this

  • Tolerated: those actions and values in which legitimate differences are possible

    • Relativism sees the importance of this

  • Ideal: a moral vision of what the ideal society would be like

Ethical Pluralism (5)

  • For each action or policy, we can place it in one of three regions:

    • Ideal--Center

    • Permitted--Middle

      • Respected

      • Tolerated

    • Prohibited--Outside

Five Questions

  • What is the present state?

  • What is the ideal state?

  • What is the minimally acceptable state?

  • How do we get from the present to the minimally acceptable state?

  • How do we get from the minimum to the ideal state?

Developing a Moral Stance

Here’s a way of visualizing these issues:

What is the present state?

  • 1)Overall, the actual state of race and ethnicity in our society is:

    • a) Excellent

    • B Very good

    • c) Good

    • d) Poor

    • e) Terrible

  • 2)List three important facts that support your evaluation in #1

    • a)

    • b)

    • c)

  • What is the present state?--#2

    • #3. What are the three most important issues facing us in regard to race and ethnicity today?

      • a)

      • b)

      • c)

    What is the minimally acceptable state?

    • What are the minimum conditions necessary for a just society in regard to race and ethnicity? List at least three characteristics or conditions.

      • #1

      • #2

      • #3

    What is the ideal state?

    • What are the ideal conditions necessary for a just society in regard to race and ethnicity? List at least three characteristics or conditions.

      • #1

      • #2

      • #3

    How should we get from the present to the minimally acceptable state?

    • How should we get from the actual state to the minimally acceptable state? List specific ways of getting from the actual state of society to the minimal conditions listed earlier.

      • Examples: laws, taxes, regulations, protests, civil disobedience

    How should we get from the present to the ideal state?

    • How should we get from the actual state to the ideal state? List specific ways of getting from the actual state of society to the ideal conditions listed above.

      • Examples: Public relations campaigns, education, tax incentives, laws

    AppendixDeveloping Moral Common Ground


    • Understanding

      • ourselves

      • others

      • the issue

    • Common Ground

      • agreement where appropriate

      • living with some disagreements

      • changing the situation

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