CMPE80E, Spring 2014, Section 01: UC Santa Cruz – CMPE 80E – Summer 2014

Engineering Ethics 


UC Santa Cruz – CMPE 80E – Summer 2014


MW 9:00–11:45PM / Engr2 Room 192




Instructor: Gene Moriarty

Office: E2 339B

Office Phone: 831.713 9045


Office Hours: MW 11:45-12:45



Gene Moriarty, The Engineering Project: Its Nature, Ethics, and Promise, hardback or paperback edition (referred to as EP), Penn State University Press, 2008/2009.

Other readings will be available on the WEB or at the course website or through email attachments.


Overview of the course

CMPE80E (Engineering Ethics) looks at engineering ethics in particular and the engineering project in general in their historical and philosophical contexts. The course stresses ethical theories and analyses and their application to issues in the practice of engineering, such as safety and liability, professional responsibility to clients, employers, and the public. Codes of ethics, legal obligations, environmental issues, and social issues are of prime concern. Through the use of case studies, the course emphasizes developing an independent ethical sensitivity and a moral imagination.


Required Skills to pass the course

1. Should be able to critically read and analyze written information, including:

          • Critically read descriptions and data for biased information.

          • Analyze the information in a written description to identify the factual issues and conceptual issues, determine the obligations and responsibilities of the participants, assess the relevant ethical values.

          • Based on the ethical analysis, propose possible solutions using an articulated ethical position/theory.

2. Should be able to form an opinion based on a reasoned ethical position. This opinion must be supported with facts and evidence to further the weight of the opinion being expressed.

3. Show development of an awareness of the ethical component of daily engineering decisions.


Core Topics

1. Ethical Theories and Analysis

          • Virtue Ethics

          • Process Ethics

          • Material Ethics

2. Safety, Risk, and Liability

3. Professionalism

          • Responsibility to Clients

          • Responsibility to Employers

          • Responsibility to Society

• Work place issues

4. Codes of Ethics

          • ACM


5. Legal Obligations

          • Whistle Blowing

          • Intellectual Property

          • Professional Integrity

6. Environmental Ethics & Environmental Justice

7. Material Ethics Assessment of the Engineered World

8. Engineering and Sustainable Development


Evaluation Criteria                                                                

A        Class participation and in-class quizzes and writings-------------------20%

B        Weekend homework writing assignments -------------------------------           20%

C        MIDTERM (45 minutes) ---------------------------------------------------           20%

D        Final Exam -----------------------------------------------------------------           40%

          TOTAL                                                                                           100%


Course Schedule


Week 1 Introduction and Overview

Goals: to introduce myself and have you do the same / to discuss the course

syllabus / to introduce some basic ideas about ethics from presentations by Lawrence Hinman / to introduce fundamental ideas concerning engineering ethics and provide a course overview via a Power Point Presentation called “Engineering Ethics in 3-D” / to consider the micro and macro perspectives on the engineering project and the three types of ethics to be looked at in this class / to discuss case studies in engineering ethics drawing from another Power Point Presentation and to have a half-page in-class written response to a case study.

Readings due: none.

Assignments (due next week): read EP Introduction / read the essay “Collective and Individual Moral Responsibility in Engineering,” John Ladd, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 1982 /write (type) a one-pager showing how the notions of collectivity and individuality are crucial to the practicing engineer.


Week 2 – Rifkin Video and Case Study Analysis

Goals: to present a video of a talk by Jeremy Rifkin entitled The Empathic Civilization (the title of his recent book) and to consider how empathy relates to collective moral responsibility / to form into groups and have an in-class group exercise

Readings (due this week): EP Introduction, Ladd essay.

Assignments (due next week): EP Chapter 1 (Process) / read the essays “Engineering Ethics and Political Imagination,” Langdon Winner, Broad and Narrow Interpretations of Philosophy of Technology, P. T. Durbin (ed.), 1990 and “Design Ecology Ethics and The Making of Things,” William McDonough, from The Online Ethics Center, 1993 / write a one-pager showing how the ideas of Winner complement the design ethics of McDonough.


Week 3 – Professionalism and Processes of the Engineering Project

Goals: to discuss and critique Winner’s position on engineering ethics / to discuss the fundamental constituents of the process of the modern engineering enterprise: engineering science, engineering design, and engineering professionalism / to understand and discuss the fundamental elements of a profession and how engineering can be taken as a profession / to appreciate the need for a profession to embrace a sense of obligation and thereby be guided by a system of ethics / to have an in-class group exercise / to have a half-page in-class written response to course material.

Readings (due this week): EP Chapter 1, Winner essay, McDonough essay.

Assignment (due next week): EP Chapter 2 (Process Ethics) /read the essays “The Public Health, Safety and Welfare,” Michael McFarland, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 1986 and “Professional Ethics, Ethos, and the Integrity of the Professions,” William Sullivan, The Centennial, 1990/ write a one page essay discussing whether or not protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public is a sufficient value for engineers to pursue in order to be true professionals.


Week 4 Engineering Codes and Process Ethics

Goals: to understand the rather long-winded ACM Code of Ethics and the succinct IEEE Code / to show how these codes can be applied to case studies / to understand fundamental ethical theories like deontology and consequentialism / to have a Power Point presentation on Utilitarianism / to show how these theories are embedded in codes of ethics / to appreciate the need to embrace the health, safety, and welfare of society as paramount / to have an in-class group exercise / to have a half-page in-class written response to course material.

Readings (due this week): EP Chapter 2, McFarland essay, Sullivan essay.

Assignment (due next week): read the essays “Technology, Sustainability, and Development,” Arnd Jurgensen, Bulletin of STS (2000) and also “Sustainability: A Practitioner’s Reflection,” Albert F. Appleton, Technology in Society (2006) / in a one-pager answer the question posed in 2nd essay: “Is the wave of interest and activity that sustainability has spurred a false dawn that will peter out as it runs against real choices?”


Week 5 – Further Discussion of Process Ethics

Goals: to understand how the value of health & safety operates within the process ethics framework / to understand how the value of environmental sustainability operates within the process ethics framework / to understand how the value of social justice operates within the process ethics framework  / to present a case study video (Incident at Morales) in dramatized form and have you analyze the ethical issues involved and write a ½ page in-class response to these issues in terms of your understanding of process ethics (one question to answer is at what point in the video did ethical issues first arise?) / to have a MIDTERM EXAM.  

Readings (due this week): the Appleton essay, the Jurgensen essay.

Assignment (due next week): read EP Chapters 3 and 6 and the “Notes on Habermas” as well as the short book review “What Else Is New?” Steven Shapin, The New Yorker, 2007 / write one page pointing out where Technological Determinism and Social Constructionism appear in the Shapin review.


Week 6 The Shift from a Micro View to a Macro View and Back

Goals: to understand the Technological Determinism vs. Social Constructionism debate / to understand the contextualization and colonization distinction / to discuss the shift from process in the modern engineering enterprise to person in the pre-modern engineering endeavor / to have an in-class group exercise / to write a half-page in-class response to course material.

Readings (due this week): EP Chapters 3 and 6, Shapin essay, notes on Habermas.

Assignments (due next week): read EP Chapter 4 (Person) / read the essay “Capitalism, Work, and Character,” Bertram and Sharpe, The American Prospect, 2002 / read the essay “Platonic Virtue Theory and Business Ethics,” Sherwin Klein, Business & Professional Ethics Journal, 1989 / read the short piece on “The Earliest Engineers” / write one page explaining the relevance of the Platonic system of ethics for the modern engineering enterprise.


Week 7 – The Person of the Engineer and Virtue Ethics

Goals: to understand who the engineer is, her or his personality and character / to understand the structures of being-toward, being-with, and being-for grounding the virtues of objectivity, honesty, and care / to show a video about Tesla / to present a Hinman Power Point on Aristotle’s virtue ethics / to have an in-class group exercise / to write a half-page in-class response to course material.

Readings (due this week): EP Chapter 4, the essays assigned last week.

Assignments (due next week): EP Chapter 5 (Virtue Ethics) / read the web essay “A Different Voice by Carol Gilligan” / write a one pager showing how Gilligan’s sense of care is essential to the technological personality especially in the era of the empathic civilization.


Week 8 Focal Products, Focal Engineering, Material Ethics

Goals: to understand what the products of the engineering process are / how these products can be Focal Products / to inquire about these systems, services, structures, devices, organisms, and networks which are being let loose upon the planet: are they good products? Do they fulfill and engage our lives in a deep and meaningful manner? / to have an in-class group exercise / to write a half-page in-class response to course material.

Readings (due this week): EP Chapter 5, the Gilligan essay.

Assignments (due/do before the Final): EP Chapter 7 (Product) and Chapter 8 (Material Ethics) and Chapter 9 (Balance) / read “New Media and the Quality of Life,” Philip Brey, Phil and Tech, 1997 / “The Moral Significance of Material Culture,” Albert Borgmann, in his collection of essays Power Failure, 2006.


Final Exam: short answer and/or multiple choice questions plus short essay questions covering the whole course. CLOSED BOOK EXAM. There will also be a take-home part of the Final Exam, due on the day of the Final. Only a pen or pencil will be needed.


Grading Information:

90% and above                  A

80% - 90%                       B

70% - 80%                       C

60% - 70%                       D

below 60%                        F




University-Based Ethics Resources on the Web

See the following web sites for more materials on engineering ethics and professionalism:

The Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science:

National Institute for Engineering Ethics:

Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at IIT:

Association for Practical and Professional Ethics at IU:

IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee:

IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology:

Texas A&M Univ. engineering ethics:

NSF Workshops, Teaching Ethics and Computing, K. Bowyer, Univ. Notre Dame:

NSPE Board of Ethical Review:

Ethics Officer Association:

Journal, "Science and Engineering Ethics":

The WEB cite for Computer Ethics at


Academic Integrity and Social Integrity

UCSC’s policy on Academic Integrity:

Please read this policy fully.


Disability Resource Center (DRC)

If you qualify for classroom accommodations because of a disability, please submit your Accommodation Authorization from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to me during my office hours in a timely manner, preferably within the first two weeks of the quarter. Contact DRC at 459-2089 (voice), 459-4806 (TTY)


Course Policy on Social Integrity

This course will require a lot of thought, reactions and discussions. You will be asked to do readings and discuss and critique the readings. You will have in and out of class discussions. The goal is to empower you with a set of ethical standards to help you make decisions as engineers. We want you to get used to standing up for what you think is correct. But – and this is important – personal opinion is not enough in this class. You must be able to provide and state a reasoned and supported position.

To this end strong discussions are expected and hoped for. However there is a line of acceptable behavior, when discussing anything. You are responsible for your conduct in class and out regardless of circumstances. Actions of disrespect or intolerance towards anyone are unacceptable in any academic or professional setting. Discrimination on the basis of age, creed, ethnicity, gender, political views, religion or sexual orientation will not be allowed and will be dealt with appropriately. You can disagree with a person’s view; you can argue that the ethical basis on which they make their decisions is wrong. But you must do it within the norms of academic discourse and be civil about it.