Engineering Character
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Ethics and Morality March 1, 2012 Part A - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Engineering Character. “The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself ” ZAMM. “A man not at peace with himself will not be at peace with others.” “Assembly of Japanese bicycle takes great peace of mind” ZAMM. “Whatever happened to peace on earth?” Willie Nelson

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Engineering Character

“The real cycle you’re working on is

a cycle called yourself” ZAMM

“A man not at peace with himself will

not be at peace with others.”

“Assembly of Japanese bicycle takes

great peace of mind” ZAMM

“Whatever happened to peace on

earth?” Willie Nelson

“On doing the right thing”

“Be a role model and expect

role models”

“If you tell the truth you will not have to

remember what you said”

“Character is destiny”

“All good teachers of ethics come

to remind more than to instruct”

Ethics and Morality

March 1, 2012

Part A

Engineering Character

Is the problem us or our institutions?

What kind of person do I want to be?

How do I become that person?

Means no regrets

How do I make sense of my life?

What am I to do with my freedom?

How can I help others?

What to do with your freedom?



Those who need instruction will profit from this

discussion and those who already have this

knowledge will revive the memory of what they

already know.

Teach others who may need direction or are

confused about the direction of their life.

  • Roadmap to this sequence of classes:

  • Why, examples of bad ethical behavior

  • 60 minutes story on bad ethics

  • Truth and -Isms

  • On going astray

  • Definition of ethics and morals

  • Moral conscience

  • Aristotle’s ethics & happiness

  • Virtue

  • Human actions

  • On ignorance

  • Morality of human actions (object, intention, circumstances)

  • situation ethics, utilitarianism, consequentialism, proportionalism

  • Principles for evaluating human actions

  • Wrap-up & NSPE quiz

  • Gilbane gold video, 60 Minutes story on a Whistle Blower

  • Dilbert ethics game

  • Two ethics essays on virtues and happiness

A focus on Character

Our character is shown by

what we:

1. think about

2. what we say

3. what we do

Character means that at all

times we need to act in

accordance with right reason.

Who or what are you willing to

let control your life?

You can say what you say but

what you are is what you are

Living a moral or ethical life is more than just debating or learning how

to be for or against social and institutional policies.

You are not just a moral spectator trying to sort out what to believe. As

a member of society you are responsible for your human actions.

If you stand for nothing, you

will fall for anything.

But you must consider the importance of your own personal responsibility

and practical decency, your footprint. That is, how we, you, are to behave.

Consider the following examples that highlight how good people went wrong through a failure of personal responsibility: the great, the not so great, people just like you and me:


Toledo Blade, 1/8/10 Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Mark Sanford is the Republican Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

governor of South Carolina. On

June 24, 2009, he held a news

conference in which he admitted to

having an extramarital affair with a

woman in Argentina, after being

confronted by a reporter as he got off

a plane from Buenos Aires. He later

disclosed other flirtations.

Toledo Blade, 2/21/10 Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Wife to be Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

played by



USA Today, March 11, 2008 Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Blade, March 11, 2008 Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Nothing fails like success,

nothing succeeds like failure.

Forgiveness …the Comeback Kid Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

CNN’s Parker & Spitzer

Blade, Jan 24, 2008 Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Blade, Jan 14, 2008

Blade, Feb 6, 2008

Trivia: did you know Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

that JFK, Aldous Huxley,

and C.S. Lewis all died

on Nov 22, 1963?

Blade, Jan 24, 2008

First Flu… Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Then Dogs…

Then Toys…

Then Fish…

Then Shrimp…

Then Heparin…

Now Baby formula


* Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

We live in the age of Toledo Blade, 1/21/10Many –ISM’s

-good news is that the -isms help us to understand the nature of truth in our world

We now live in an age of pluralism. People free to believe whatever they want to believe.

This leads to the practice of “situation ethics” or “casuistry”

where each case or situation stands on its own, no connection to past , present, future.

Danger is that there are no universal moral rules, usually the poor, the weak, the old, the vulnerable are the ones that will suffer.

Moral relativism Toledo Blade, 1/21/10 is the idea that what is praiseworthy or contemptible is a

matter of cultural conditioning, i.e. cultural pluralism, a matter of one’s own

opinion, that there is not a standard of goodness or decency, anything goes.

So is there such a thing as an objective truth to guide our moral life?

Relativity Theory Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Relativism – is basically the belief that all truth is relative,

that there is no such thing as an objective truth, that truth

depends on many factors such as history, the situation, the

people, those in power etc.

Leads to the belief that there are no universal moral rules, we can always imagine a situation where it would be ok to lie, to steal, cheat on your spouse, or even to kill. The end justifies the means.

Snowball and Napoleon (2 young pigs) Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

by their studies had succeeded in reducing

the principles of Animalism to Seven

Commandments, they would form an

unalterable law by which all animals on

Animal Farm must live for ever after. These

Were painted on the wall of the barn for all to

see. The last two were:

6. No animal shall kill any other animal

7. All animals are equal.

However, later, things became corrupted.

“Are the Seven Commandments the same

as they used to be, Benjamin (a donkey)?”

So “he read out to her what was written on

the wall. There was nothing there now except

a Single Commandment. It ran:”

All Animals are equal

but some animals are more

equal than others

Leads to Collectivism Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Mustapha Mond, Resident World Controller for

Western Europe, to Bernard and the Savage:

But as I make the laws here, I can also break

them. With impunity… The world’s stable now.

People are happy; they get what they want,

and they never want what they can’t get. They’re

well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not

afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of

passion and old age; they’re plagued with no

mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or

children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re

so conditioned that they practically can’t help

behaving as they ought to behave. And if

anything should go wrong, there’s soma.

Man becomes a tool, to be used and

discarded when no longer useful. Read Animal Farm, BNW, or move to China or North Korea

A Two Flavor World: Objective vs. Subjective Truth Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Objective truth is that which

lies outside of ourselves or

our personal beliefs.

Truth is not an attitude and not

how we know, i.e. a process, the

truth is what we know.

Objective does not mean “known

by all” or even “believed by all”,

you don’t get to the truth by simply counting noses. Even if everyone

believes a lie, a lie is still a lie.

Even liars know about objective

truth, since the best way to lie is to

sprinkle in a little bit of objective


Most arguments about ethics or moral issues come down to this question. So what objective means is that it is independent of the knower and not an opinion, “I itch” is a subjective truth, “Huxley wrote BNW” is an objective truth. Objective truth is then “telling it like it is.”

The World of Subjective Truth Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Subjectivism – claims that all truth is

subjective, that is it is “in” or dependent on

each person individually (the subject).

Sort of like “what you say may be true for you,

but not for me.” “That the truth is relative,” or

“What right do you have to impose

your beliefs on me. You are judgmental.” What

may be “true for you” may not necessarily be

“true for me.”

Everyone is entitled to their own

opinion, leads to indifference.

The contradiction lies in the subjectivists claim

that truth is absolutely or objectively

subjective! Hence subjectivism

itself cannot be true for a subjectivist.

Ethics classes are more about

moral values (subjective) instead

of moral laws (objective). Laws

are objective.

Alternative Theories of the Truth Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Skepticism – claims that no truth is knowable.

But this is also contradictory for it claims

to know that it is true that no one can know the truth.

It is an objective truth that says there is no

objective truth!

The Pragmatist Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Pragmatism – truth is whatever works, or what you think works, or what works for you.

Pragmatism is a form of subjectivism and relativism.


what is true is not always practical (e.g. a flat tire) and what is practical is not always true (e.g. a “successful” lie), leads to the idea that the end justifies the means.

Empiricism Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Empiricism – truth is only what we can experience, for example by experiments.

Some things we sense are not true (i.e. mirages), some things we all know are true are not sensed, i.e.:

Empiricism is simply that

everything we need to know about our world is knowable by our senses as a fact, a form of materialism.

Rationalism Toledo Blade, 1/21/10 – “truth is what can be clearly and distinctly understood by reason” or “what can be proved by reason alone.”

You can’t prove that

truth is only what can be proved.

Some truths are not perfectly clear, some things are a mystery. Why do two people fall in love? Why would you risk your life to save someone?

The Rationalist

Emotivism Toledo Blade, 1/21/10

Emotivism – “truth is what I feel,” sort of like 2 + 2 = 5!!!!

But many feelings

are false.

Just because I feel that I did well on an exam does not mean in an objective sense that I did!

Civilization depends on the civilized imposing their standards on the

uncivilized. But who decides who the civilized are? The civilized do, that’s

who. If you cannot accept that then you are against civilization.

Although this may seem hard to accept then consider the fact that science

is what scientists say it is. And who decides who scientists are? The

scientists. Or who defines “biotransport,” me and some others as well. They set

the standards by which persons are recognized as doing properly scientific

work or for that matter bioengineering, as opposed to dilettanism, quackery,

or magic. This is not arrogance, although there can be abuses, but simply

recognizes that there is an objective truth as a result of human minds trying

to make sense of our world within the bounds of a specific field of endeavor.

Those engaged in a profession must develop the standards of the profession

and must judge who are the persons qualified to practice it.

But what about deciding what is bad or good? Is there an objective standard

here as well, an objective truth? What is our responsibility to ourselves

and to others?

But this seems to open the door to a moral relativism or value judgments

which we have seen are subjective and relative. But ask yourself how

relative are our judgments about human goodness and evil or badness?

Consider the following two lists of opposites:

life death

nourishment starvation

material wellbeing destitution

health sickness

community isolation

common good individualism

respect humiliation

friendship hatred

marriage celibacy or adultery

family alone

knowledge ignorance

truth lies and error

meaning/purpose meaninglessness/nothingness

Any doubt which of the above is the good and capable of being chosen

for its own sake? No one pursues the RHS as ends in themselves. We

pursue the good since they address the basic needs of human nature

(what we ought to be or ought to do). A society based on the RHS would

be unbearable and likely fail and would not be human in its essence.

So, what is ethics or being ethical? value judgments

Ethics – comes from the Gk word ethikos or ethos which is the fundamental

character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that

informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; a body

of moral principles or values; pertaining or dealing with morals or the

principles of morality, that is right and wrong conduct or practice, the

standards of a profession, also making sense of the way we make sense

of our lives. How should I live? What am I to do? , i.e Oughtness

Moral – of or pertaining to, or concerned with right conduct or its principles,

conforming to these principles rather than to just law or custom, that is a

moral obligation,

Where does ethics or morality come from? - family, your faith or religion,

your community, your education, your culture, your nationality,

your history, experiences, your nature as a well-adjusted human being

So what we are really talking about in ethics is being moral

and doing the right thing. There is right and wrong.