ECE 316
Ethics and Engineering

Section Type Times Days Location Instructor
E2 LCD 1100 - 1220 T R   329 Gregory Hall  Philip Hillmer
E3 LCD 1400 - 1520 T R   329 Gregory Hall  Philip Hillmer
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Official Description Ethical issues in the practice of engineering: safety and liability, professional responsibility to clients and employers, whistle-blowing, codes of ethics, career choice, and legal obligations. Philosophical analysis of normative ethical theories. Case studies. Course Information: Same as PHIL 316. Credit is not given for both ECE 316 and CS 210. Junior standing is required. Prerequisite: RHET 105.
Subject Area Core Curriculum
Course Prerequisites Credit in RHET 105
Course Directors Michael C Loui
Detailed Description and Outline
  • To develop skills in moral reasoning
  • To learn to read critically
  • To improve writing skills in an engineering context


    • Ethical theories: utilitarianism, duty rights
    • The nature of engineering: experimentation, safety, risk, negligence
    • Professionalism, relationships with clients
    • Obligation to employers: loyalty, conflict of interest, confidentiality
    • Whistle-blowing, rights of engineers
    • Codes of ethics
    • Career choice
    • The profession and the law, regulations, licensing
    • Special topics: selections from computer ethics, environmental ethics, social impacts of technology

    Same as: PHIL 316

  • Computer Usage
    Word processing to revise papers for resubmission
    Topical Prerequisities
    Freshman Composition (expository writing)
    C.E. Harris, M.S. Pritchard, and M.J. Rabins, Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases, Wadsworth, 1995.
    ABET Category
    Humanities: 100%
    Course Goals

    1. To develop moral reasoning skills

    2. To learn to read and think critically

    3. To improve writing skills in an engineering context

    4. To explore the fundamental structure of human personhood, the philosophical grounding of moral action, and the development of moral character as the precondition of all integral performance in a profession.

    Instructional Objectives

    Article analysis papers

    • To identify an author's implicit assumptions and perspectives. (e)
    • To evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an argument in an article. (e)
    • To write a clear, accurate, concise summary of the main points of an article. (g)

    Case analysis papers

    • To identify ethical issues such as professional responsibility, loyalty, conflict of interest, safety, and confidentiality in cases. (f)
    • To identify organizational, social, cultural, and legal constraints on possible solutions to ethical problems. (h)
    • To determine what additional facts might be relevant to making a wise decision. (e)
    • To draw careful distinctions between moral concepts, such as bribes and gifts. (e)
    • To propose solutions to ethical problems that honor all relevant moral considerations. (c)
    • To evaluate possible consequences of proposed actions according to both consequentialist and deontological tests. (a)
    • To express ideas clearly in writing. (g)

    Personal mission statement

    • To develop moral character and professional identity by relating personal goals to vocational aspirations. (f, h, i)

    In-class discussions

    • To collaborate in small groups to analyze a case, to formulate arguments for a debate, or to prepare for a role-playing exercise. (d)
    • To speak effectively. (g)

    Daily papers or journals

    • To develop the habit of reading regularly and critically. (i)

    Research paper

    • To use the library and electronic tools to find scholarly sources with information about a contemporary ethical issue. (i, j, k)
    • To formulate a thesis statement, to focus arguments in support of the thesis, and to address possible counter-arguments, clearly in writing. (g)
    • To present the main conclusions orally to other students. (g)
    • To provide constructive suggestions to drafts of other students' research papers in peer editing groups. (d, g)

    Fieldwork assignment (honors section)

    • To apply case analysis skills to a real ethical problem. (e)
    • To ask perceptive questions in interviews. (e)
    • To learn that ethical problems occur every day in professional life. (h)
    • To work in diverse groups to brainstorm about ethical issues and possible solutions. (d)
    • To organize and write a single paper with a case narrative and case analysis. (d, g)
    • To evaluate the performance of each member in the group: cooperation, timeliness, quality of contributions, quantity of contributions. (d)

    Last updated: 2/15/2013