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Aspects of Engineering Ethics


Since the very genesis of human civilization, the peculiarities of interpersonal communication have been predisposed by a variety of socio-cultural factors and implicit moral codes. In such a way, the patterns of interactions could have been established and passed over the generations. However, whereas there exist canons of human behavior, which are regarded as a constant, the perception of some actions may vary greatly depending on the communicative context. In order to establish the ways to deal with behavioral norms in a specific environment, people have outlined the notion of ethical norms. In terms of the present paper, an attempt will be made to dwell on the definition of ethics, its major theoretical approaches, and its application to the field of engineering.

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The Definition of Ethics

The definition of the field of ethics has always been a topic for continuous discussion due to the fact that the researchers face a challenge when identifying the scope matter. Still, a general identification of the term states that ethics is a branch of moral philosophy aimed at outlining the principles of appropriate conduct guiding either an individual or a separate social group (“Ethic”). Thus, the notion of ethics stands for a set of guidelines governing human behavior in a given setting. One of the most confusing aspects of ethics is the overall tendency to synonymize the concept with the idea of moral principles. Although the latter has a significant influence on ethical consideration, ethics does not reclaim the already established moral principles of right and wrong. Instead, the studies place emphasis on defining the extent to which certain concepts may be right or wrong in a specific social environment. In order to compile an appropriate set of principles, the researchers have outlined various theoretical frameworks for conduct assessment.

Moral Theories

Prior to the discussion of the theoretical frameworks, it is of paramount importance to emphasize the fact that theories by no means present a step-by-step resolution of any ethical feud. Instead, they propose frameworks according to which an individual may define the “right” and “wrong” paradigms in a specific situation. Hence, the most widely encountered moral theories include:

  • Theory of utilitarianism. The following framework states that the norms of ethically appropriate behavior include decisions, which are considered the most beneficial for society as a whole. Thus, the theory is frequently criticized due to the fact that it is impossible for an individual to calculate all the possible consequences of a single decision, which makes practically no conduct ethically justifiable.
  • The duty theory. This framework, also known as deontology, is focused on the person’s commitment to moral obligations. Hence, even though one’s duties may not lead to the best possible outcome, they should be performed.
  • The rights theory. Like the previous framework, rights ethics aims at establishing proper human cooperation patterns through respect and obligation. Since every person is born with moral rights, nobody is allowed to violate them deliberately.
  • The virtue ethics. Being one of the oldest interpretations of ethical frameworks, virtue ethics treats every human action as inherently good (virtue) or bad (vice). In such a way, the theory claims ethics to be an issue that is formed within an individual and not by the duties and roles prescribed by society.

Engineering Ethics and Professionalism

The professional environment is rightfully regarded as one of the most challenging in terms of the implementation of ethics, as the workspace and organization model as a whole may be driven by legal and business-related considerations. Frequently, these considerations contradict the basic ethical norms for the sake of tangible outcomes. Hence, when talking about such widespread professional spheres as engineering, it is of paramount importance to define the cases where ethics play a significant role and learn to operate ethical norms in the set environment.

As far as engineering is concerned, such ethical challenges as public safety, workplace safety, research honesty, and conflict of interest are regarded as the most widespread yet complicated in terms of resolution. Thus, in order to avoid any contradictions, the decision was made to create nationwide sets of ethically appropriate conduct known as codes of ethics. The most complex codes in the field of engineering are the ones compiled by the National Society of Professional Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It goes without saying that even the most explicit compilation of ethical standards is not able to serve as a means for any professional discrepancy resolution. Still, the codes of ethics are developed as blueprints for ethical feud resolution in the workplace.


The notion of ethics has now become a term used in virtually every aspect of human life, yet many people still do not understand the actual meaning of the concept. Hence, this paper interpreted the term as a branch of philosophy aimed at establishing the frameworks of morally accepted conduct in a given environment. Ethics is extremely important for the context of the professional environment, as it provides the team with a basic understanding of “rights” and “wrongs” in terms of the working process. As a result, professionals study ethics in order to anticipate, analyze, and resolve ethical disputes in the workplace with minimal loss.

Work Cited

“Ethic.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2021.

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