My first experiences with ethical theory and the concept of human morality came at a very young age. As an infant, my path through life was built around those who made choices for me due to my extremely limited capacity to make choices on my own, whether good or bad. Choice was mostly a matter of survival: food, shelter, clothing, and instruction. I was taught very simple principles of the ethical theory to which my parents ascribed, most often in the form of commands like “play nicely,” “don’t put your finger in that,” and “eat all of your peaches.”
As I got older, others still made choices for me, but the types of decisions expanded into entertainment, fashion, culture, and taste. It did not always depend on whether I accepted the choice that was made for me, but sometimes I could exert my influence by crying, pouting, pleading, or destroying things. I considered a choice good if it served me well: food should be tasty, shelter should make me feel safe, clothing should be comfortable, and instruction should be fun. When my family experienced times of financial hardship, however, these goals were not always met. Another lesson taught by my parents: be satisfied with what you have. The concept of good took on a more unselfish meaning, and I was beginning to develop a deeper sense of compassion for others.
The study of ethics is ultimately a study of human behavior in making choices. As professional engineers, our choices directly affect other people and society as a whole. The decision-making process is a direct reflection of education, training, experience, intuition, courage, and determination, but it is also a reflection of the inner voice that beckons all human beings: “Why should I choose to make a particular decision?” For a licensed professional, the decision is not only a matter of ethics, but also a matter of competence. Not that a perfect choice will be made (or that one is required), but a choice will be made within the bounds of a properly justified standard of care. Choices may be good or bad, with negligible or significant consequences, but society trusts that a professional will do their best to make good choices with acceptable outcomes and that engineers will recognize the level of risk that is acceptable to the public.
My goal in writing this book is to provide tools for practicing civil and structural engineers that can be useful in improving the ability to make good, professional choices on matters of ethics and to be able to defend those choices to others and to oneself. Choices that will have a lasting effect on one’s career and ultimately on one’s personal fulfillment. We bring a core set of personal values to the profession but then are introduced to another system of values, or an ethical philosophy, which those licensed within that profession are strongly encouraged to adopt and implement in the decision-making process. As you study this book, you will also develop an understanding of legal requirements for professional civil and structural engineers and how those may be different from ethical codes of conduct published by engineering societies all over the world.
I should also point out that the material in this book is for informational purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for applicable legal or technical advice. I am not an attorney, but as a licensed civil and structural engineer (close to 30 years), I have become well acquainted with aspects of practice dealing with a legal standard of care and common ethical issues. I truly hope you will find the information in this book helpful, enlightening, and encouraging.
Table of Contents
- A Dedication
- B About the Author
- C Preface
- View sub-sections1 Introduction to Ethics and Morality
- View sub-sections2 Defining and Understanding Competence
- View sub-sections3 Professional Responsibility
- View sub-sections4 Legal Expectation of Care in Practice
- View sub-sections5 Historical Development of Ethical Thought
- View sub-sections6 Ethical Codes of Engineering Practice
- View sub-sections7 Justification for Competent and Ethical Choices
- View sub-sections8 Case Studies in Ethics and Standard of Care
- View sub-sections9 The Globally Conscious Engineer
- A Appendix A: Answers to Selected Review Problems
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