In Autumn 2019 I am teaching Engineering Ethics (Phil 1332) for the Department of Philosophy.
Here is something I wrote the last time around the I taught Engineering Ethics, in Spring 2016, and I retain the same main influences in my pedagogical approach:
In teaching this course, I am influenced by the school of thought that engineering ethics should move away from “preventative” and micro-level ethics to “aspirational” and macro-level ethics.
I strive to move away from exclusive focus on the actions of individual engineers (i.e., cases and questions of the “What should Engineer A do in this situation?” sort) to look more broadly at the ethical implications of the work of engineers. Representative topics include privacy, technological unemployment, intellectual property, the environmental impact of technologies, and military uses of technology. Moreover, when I do lead discussions on the ethicality of actions of individual engineers, I always aim to situate these actions in their wider professional, social, economic, and political context–and encourage students to do the same.
Additionally, I move away from exclusive focus on the avoidance of wrongdoing (e.g., “disaster cases” like the Challenger, Chernobyl, and Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and other famed cases wrongdoing such as the VW emission scandal). I always devote some time to look at ways that engineers can use their expertise for moral good, teaching units on humanitarian engineering and sustainable development.