Books  |    |  December 1, 2008

Engineering Ethics: Outline of an Aspirational Approach

Book by William Richard Bowen.
Published by Springer.
119 pages.

Engineering has made an enormous contribution to providing the material well-being that promotes human flourishing. It can also be the cause of immense human suffering. The ethics of engineering is relatively unexplored compared to other professions such as medicine and business, but interest is undergoing a revival.

Engineering Ethics: Outline of an Aspirational Approach aims to provide engineers with an inspiring view of the overall ethical direction of their profession in a way that has direct practical outcomes for their work practices. Key features of this original text include:

  • Concern with the overall ethical direction of engineering rather than simply specific moral quandaries.
  • The use of two key exemplars as a focus for the ethical issues: military engineering and water provision in developing countries.
  • The relation of engineering ethics to medical ethics and business ethics.
  • The development of an original and imaginative ethical analysis, providing a challenge to currently prevailing views.
  • An original analysis that leads to specific suggestions for changes in engineering education, engineering institutions, industry practices and the public positioning of engineering, as well as suggesting an aspirational role for engineering in international political initiatives.

    Engineering Ethics: Outline of an Aspirational Approach will provoke debate among engineers, philosophers and the educated public.

    Table of Contents


    • A Beginning
    • What is Engineering?
    • What is Ethics?
    • What is the Issue?
    • Traditional Ethical Viewpoints
    • Other Professions: Medicine and Business
    • Outline of an Aspirational Engineering Ethics
    • Practical Outcomes

    What is the Issue?

    • Introduction
    • Military Technology
      • “Just” War
      • International Conventions and Treaties
      • Cluster Munitions and Nuclear Weapons
    • Water
    • Engineering for the Promotion of Peace and Prosperity
    • The Scale of Modern Engineering Activity

    Traditional Ethical Viewpoints

    • Introduction
    • Consequentialism
    • Contractualism
    • Kantian Duty
    • Virtue Ethics

    Ethics in Medicine and Business

    • Ethics in Medicine
    • Philosophical Medical Ethics
    • Ethics in Business
    • Philosophical Business Ethics


    • On War
    • On Hunger and Thirst
    • Responsibility and Aspiration

    Outline of an Aspirational Engineering Ethics

    • Introduction
    • The Priority of People
    • Continuity and Coherence: the Practice of Engineering
    • Continuity and Coherence: the Life of the Individual Engineer
    • I, I-Thou and I-You: Self Care, Proximate Care, and Care Beyond Proximity

    Practical Outcomes

    • Overview of Analysis
    • Engineering Education
    • Engineering Institutions
    • Industry and Work Practices
    • Positioning Engineering in the Public and Intellectual Mainstreams
    • An Aspirational Role for Engineering in International Political Initiatives
    • An Aspirational Engineering Ethical Ethos Across Cultures
    • Final Suggestions

    About the Author

    William Richard Bowen is a Fellow of the UK Royal Academy of Engineering. He holds chairs in the Schools of Engineering at the University of Wales Swansea and the University of Surrey. He has carried out extensive consultancy for industry, government departments, research councils and universities on an international basis, currently through i-NewtonWales.