Essay 3-Moral Concepts And Theories

Essay 3-Moral Concepts And Theories - Moral Concepts And...

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Moral Concepts And Theories (ESSAY #3) Introduction In considering issues in engineering ethics, a distinction is sometimes made between morals and ethics. When this distinction is made, the term morals is taken to refer to generally accepted standards of right and wrong in a society and the term ethics is taken to refer to more abstract principles which might appear in a code of professional ethics or in a textbook in ethical theory. However, the terms moral philosophy or moral theory would refer to a set of abstract moral principles as appropriately as the term ethics , so it may be more practical to use the words interchangeably. Both of the terms refer to standards of right conduct and the judgments of particular actions as right or wrong by those standards. Moral and ethical statements must be distinguished from two other types of statements, namely those in etiquette and those in law. Referring to a rule of etiquette, we might say, "You should compliment your host or hostess after a good meal ." Here we have used the word should , and this suggests that we have made an ethical judgment. However, there are at least two important differences between statements of etiquette and statements of ethics. First, moral and ethical statements are generally thought to have greater importance than statements of etiquette. Most of us probably feel that a violation of a rule such as "An engineer should protect the safety of the public" is much more serious than a violation of a rule such as "You should not eat peas with your knife." A second difference between ethics and etiquette is that ethical norms cannot be changed by books of rules or by authoritative bodies, but rules of etiquette may be. Moral and ethical statements should also be distinguished from laws. The fact that an action is legally permissible does not establish that it is morally and ethically permissible. Suppose an engineer discovers that her company is emitting a substance into the atmosphere that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Suppose further that the engineer reads some scientific literature that indicates the pollutant causes respiratory problems and may cause other more serious health problems. Should she reveal this information to the EPA? Whatever your views on this matter, it is clear that the mere fact that emitting the substance is legally permissible does not also mean it is morally permissible to do so. It does not settle the question as to what the engineer should do. Just as legality does not imply morality, illegality does not imply immorality. It would be illegal to introduce very small amounts of a chemical into the atmosphere if doing so violates EPA standards, but one might make a good argument that there are cases in which it is not immoral to do so and that in fact the EPA standards in this case are too strict and fail to balance costs and benefits in a rational way. If we wanted to draw a Venn diagram of the relationship between law and morality, it might look like the
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This note was uploaded on 09/17/2009 for the course ENGR 30 taught by Professor Chen during the Spring '09 term at Pacific.

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Essay 3-Moral Concepts And Theories - Moral Concepts And...

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