Essay: Ethics in Mechanical Engineering Ethical Conflicts

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Ethics in Mechanical Engineering

Ethical conflicts for mechanical engineers usually rest in a discrepancy between the personal ethical values of the individual, and the values their profession represents. The field of mechanical engineering in general is based on the design and development of machines or machinery operated production equipment. However, according to StateUniversity.com (2010, p. 1), "Within each branch of mechanical engineering there are specific jobs. Some engineers design products. They must determine the needs of the user, the physical problems of building the equipment, the cost of the equipment, and its effect on the environment. Other mechanical engineers supervise the production and installation"

Just as the field of mechanical engineering can entail a variety of functions, it can also produce many different types of ethical dilemmas. For example, in Mike W. Martin & Roland Schinzinger's 2004 book Ethics in Engineering, a case study is presented in which an engineer, Bob, is struggling with his function in working for a company that manufactures bombs. Bob is faced with an ethical dilemma that pits his values of being committed to his employer and financially supporting his family against his value of human life and the avoidance of contribution to human suffering. Although Bob does not directly handle the bombs that his company produces, "he enables the factory to run efficiently" (p. 267).

Bob is able to rationalize his conflict of values by telling himself that basically, someone has to produce the bombs, and if he did not do his job, then someone else would. In other words, no matter what decisions he makes, the bombs will still be produced, so he might as well just do his job to the best of his ability and reap the rewards. This is a common and rather effective rationale for people facing ethical dilemmas, in that it not only helps to ease some of the guilt associated with doing something that someone like Bob feels in his gut to be unethical, but it also provides a rational motivation to continue the behavior in question.

Also allowing Bob to continue in his position without unbearable guilt is the fact that his commitments to his family and to his employer are indeed legitimate ethical values. Therefore, Bob is essentially trading one ethical value for another, which in his mind, serves to 'even out' the imbalance and eliminate any feelings of wrongdoing. Then again, the first tenet of the 2000 Australian Code of Ethics for Engineers states that "Members shall at all times place their responsibility for the welfare, health and safety of the community before their responsibility to sectional or private interests, or to other members." Taking that into consideration, Bob must then decide if weapons production is good for the community in terms of protection and income, or harmful to the community because weapons have the single purpose of violence.

The fifth tenet of the 2000 Australian Code of Ethics for Engineers states that "Members shall apply their skill and knowledge in the interest of their employer or client for whom they shall act as faithful agents or advisers, without compromising the welfare, health and safety of the community." But what if the loyalty to the employer and the safety of the community are contradictory? According to Lang (1990, p. 21). "organizational commitment is defined as the manifestation of the congruency between individual and organizational value systems, moderated by the effects… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Ethics in Mechanical Engineering Ethical Conflicts.  (2010, July 19).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/ethics-mechanical-engineering-ethical/12831

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"Ethics in Mechanical Engineering Ethical Conflicts."  Essaytown.com.  July 19, 2010.  Accessed July 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/ethics-mechanical-engineering-ethical/12831.