Engineering Ethics - Introduction

Engineering is the process of developing an efficient mechanism which quickens and eases the work using limited resources, with the help of technology. Ethics are the principles accepted by the society, which also equate to the moral standards of human beings. An engineer with ethics, can help the society in a better way.

Hence the study of Engineering ethics, where such ethics are implemented in engineering by the engineers, is necessary for the good of the society. Engineering Ethics is the study of decisions, policies and values that are morally desirable in engineering practice and research.


The word “Morality” originates from the Latin word “mos” meaning “custom”. Morals are the principles or habits with respect to right or wrong of one’s own conduct. They are not imposed by anyone. Morals are what you think is good and bad personally.

Though morals are not imposed, they can be understood as the preaching of our inner self. Depending on a few factors, our mind filters things as good or bad. These are the ideas that help frame our personality so that we can distinguish between what is right and what is wrong.

A moral is the code of conduct that you develop over time and set for yourself to follow, just like

  • Being good to everyone
  • Speaking only the truth
  • Going against what you know is wrong
  • Having chastity
  • Avoid cheating
  • Being a nice human being etc.

Morals are always defined by one’s own personality. Morals can be changed according to one’s beliefs as they are completely dependent on one’s perception towards the ethical values.


The word “Ethics” originates from the Greek word “ethos” meaning “character”. Ethics are a set of rules or principles that are generally considered as standards or good and bad or right and wrong, which are usually imposed by an external group or a society or a profession or so.

Ethics can be understood as the rules of conduct proposed by a society or recognized with respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group or culture. Ethics are dependent on others definition. They may or may not vary from context to context.


A person who strictly follows a set of ethical principles, may not have any moral at all while a person who violates ethical principles at times, may maintain a high moral integrity. The ethical theories include duty ethics, right ethics, virtue ethics and so on. A best example that can explain ethics is utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is the philosophy which explains that the happiness or pleasure of a greatest number of people in the society is considered as the greatest good. According to this philosophy, an action is morally right if its consequences leads to happiness of the people and wrong if the action leads to their unhappiness. This theory moves beyond the scope of one’s own interests and takes into account the interests of others.

Ethics in Engineering

Ethics are principles followed depending upon the moral responsibility that a person feels. The study of related questions about moral ideals, character, policies and relationships of people and organizations involved in technological activity, can be termed as Engineering ethics.

An engineer whether he works individually or works for a company, has to go through some ethical issues, mostly under the conditions such as, conceptualization of a product, issues arising in design and testing departments, or may be on the issues involving the manufacturing, sales and services. Questions related to morality also arise during supervision and team works.

The ethical decisions and moral values of an engineer need to be considered because the decisions of an engineer have an impact the products and services - how safe they are to use, the company and its shareholders who believe in the goodwill of the company, the public and the society who trusts the company regarding the benefits of the people, the law which cares about how legislation affects the profession and industry, the job and his moral responsibilities and about how the environment gets affected, etc.

Ethics in Engineering

Not only an engineer, but everyone has to follow a set of morals in order to keep away from getting morally degraded. Our behavior should include the following −

  • Respecting others and ourselves.
  • Respecting the rights of others.
  • Keeping promises.
  • Avoiding unnecessary problems to others.
  • Avoiding cheating and dishonesty.
  • Showing gratitude towards others and encourage them to work.

Morality commands respect for persons, both others and ourselves. It involves being fair and just, meeting obligations and respecting rights and not causing unnecessary harm by dishonesty and cruelty or by hubris.

Steps to Deal with Issues

Whenever there occurs an issue, one should possess a few skills in order to sort out the problem. The issues that engineers face, have to be dealt with patience and few moral goals have to be kept in mind while dealing with such issues. They are as follows −

  • Moral Awareness − One should be able to recognize the moral problems and issues that occur in Engineering. The analysis on the problem is necessary in order to differentiate and judge according to ethics or according to the rules to follow.

  • Cogent Moral Reasoning − In order to come to a conclusion on an issue, the argument has to be assessed and comprehended. The argument on both sides has to be considered with all the probabilities and the nature of the argument should be logical and moral.

  • Moral Coherence − After having gone through all the logical and moral facts, consistent and comprehensive view points are to be formed based upon a consideration of relevant facts.

  • Moral Imagination − The moral issues and the practical issues have to be dealt separately. Alternative responses are to be found out for dealing with moral issues while creative solutions should be found out for practical difficulties.

  • Moral Communication − The language to communicate about one’s moral views should be so precise and clear, that the expression or words should not alter the original meaning.

Though one has all these moral goals, the ethical reasoning for achieving moral conduct with responsibility and commitment is obtained by a few skills that are described below.

Important Skills for Ethical Reasoning

Let us now discuss the important skills for ethical reasoning −

  • Moral Reasonableness − The ability and willingness to be morally reasonable that one should have while dealing such issues. Unless one is willing and improve such ability, justice cannot be done.

  • Respect for Persons − The persons involved in the issue, should be treated with genuine concern by one. Such concern should also be there with oneself along with being there for others.

  • Tolerance of diversity − One should have a broader perspective towards ethnic and religious differences that the people have. Every person differs with another when compared on grounds of moral reasoning. The acceptance of those differences is really important.

  • Moral hope − The moral conflicts can be resolved by using better communication and having rational dialogue which is evident-based and open-ended which is acceptable and appreciable by both the parties.

  • Integrity − The moral integrity has to be maintained. Being honest and having strong moral principles helps one to resolve an issue in an efficient manner. An individual also needs to consider other’s professional life and personal convictions while solving a problem.