VERY IMPORTANT TERMS FROM ETHICS AND VALUES IN ENGINEERING PROFESSION

Absolutism A rigid form of universalism in which no exceptions to rules are possible.

Acceptable risk A risk that is morally acceptable. The following considerations are relevant for deciding whether a risk is morally acceptable: (1) the degree of informed consent with the  risk; (2) the degree to which the benefits of a risky activity weigh up against the disadvantages  and risks; (3) the availability of alternatives with a lower risk; and (4) the degree to which  risks and advantages are justly distributed. 

Accountability Backward-looking responsibility in the sense of being held to account for, or justify one’s actions towards others. 

Act utilitarianism The traditional approach to utilitarianism in which the rightness of actions is judged by the (expected) consequences of those actions. 

Active responsibility Responsibility before something has happened referring to a duty or task to care for certain state-of-affairs or persons. 

Actor Any person or group that can make a decision how to act and that can act on that decision. 

Advisory codes A code of conduct that has the objective to help individual professionals or employees to exercise moral judgments in concrete situations. 

Ambiguity The property that different interpretations or meanings can be given to a term.

Anthropocentrism The philosophical view that the environment has only instrumental value, that is, only value for humans and not in itself. 

Anticipating mediation by imagination Trying to imagine the ways technology-in-design could be used. This insight is then used to deliberately shape user operations and interpretations.

Aspirational code A code that expresses the moral values of a profession or company.

Best available technology As an approach to acceptable risk (or acceptable environmental  emissions), best available technology refers to an approach that does not prescribe a specific  technology but uses the best available technological alternative as yardstick for what is acceptable. 

Biocentrism The viewpoint that the environment has intrinsic value (value of its own).

Black-and-white-strategy A strategy for action in which only two options for actions are considered: doing the action or not. 

Blameworthiness Backward-looking responsibility in the sense of being a proper target of blame for one’s actions or the consequences of one’s actions. In order for someone to be  blameworthy, usually the following conditions need to apply: wrong-doing, causal contribution, foreseeability, and freedom. 

Care ethics An ethical theory that emphasizes the importance of relationships, and which holds that the development of morals does not come about by learning general moral principles. 

Carrying capacity The amount of damage that can be done to the environment without that damage being irreversible. 

Categorical imperative A universal principle of the form “Do A” which is the foundation of all moral judgments in Kant’s view. 

Causality argumentation A type of non-deductive argumentation. An argumentation in which an expected consequence is derived from certain actions. 

Certification The process in which it is judged whether a certain technology meets the applicable technical codes and standards. 

Characteristic-judgment argumentation A type of non-deductive argumentation. An argument based on the assumption that a certain judgment about a thing or person can be  derived from certain characteristics of that thing or person. 

Code of conduct A code in which organizations (like companies or professional associations) lay down guidelines for responsible behavior of their members. 

Collective responsibility The responsibility of a collective of people. Collective responsibility model The model in which every member of a collective body is  held responsible for the actions of the other members of that same collective body (and for  the responsibility of the collective). 

Collective risks Risks that affect a collective of people and not just individuals, like the risks of flooding. 

Collingridge dilemma This dilemma refers to a double-bind problem to control the direction of technological development. On the one hand, it is often not possible to predict the consequences of new technologies already in the early phases of technological development.  On the other hand, once the (negative) consequences materialize it often has become very  difficult to change the direction of technological development. 

Common sense method The method that weighs the available options for actions in the light of the relevant values. 

Conceptual design stage The stage in which the designer or the design team generates concept designs. The focus is on an integral approach to the design problem.

Conclusion of an argument The statement that is affirmed on the basis of the premises of the argument. 

Confidentiality duties Duties on employees to keep silent certain information.

Conflict of interest The situation in which one has an interest (personal or professional) that, when pursued, can conflict with meeting one’s professional obligations to an employer  or to (other) clients

Consequentalism The class of ethical theories which hold that the consequences of actions are central to the moral judgment of those actions. 

Contingent validation An approach to express values like safety or sustainability in monetary units by asking people how much they are willing to pay for a certain level of safety or sustainability (for example, the preservation of a piece of beautiful nature). 

Corporate code Code of conduct that is formulated by a company.

Corporate liability Liability of a company (corporation) when it is treated as a legal person. 

Corporate Social Responsibility The responsibility of companies towards stakeholders and to society at large that extends beyond meeting the law and serving shareholders’ interests. 

Creativity The virtue of being able to think out or invent new, often unexpected, options or ideas. Creativity is an important professional virtue for designers. 

Decision stage The stage of the design process in which various concept designs are com￾pared with each other and a choice is made for a design that has to be detailed.

Deductive argument An argument which has a conclusion that is enclosed in (implied by) the premises. 

Degradation Structural damage to the environment. An example is soil erosion.

Descriptive ethics The branch of ethics that describes existing morality, including customs and habits, opinions about good and evil, responsible and irresponsible behavior, and acceptable and unacceptable action. 

Descriptive judgment A judgment that describes what is actually the case (the present), what was the case (the past), or what will be the case (the future). 

Detail design stage The stage in which a chosen design is elaborated on and detailed.

Development risks In the context of product liability: Risks that could not have been foreseen given the state of scientific and technical knowledge at the time the product was put into circulation. 

Disciplinary code A code that has the objective to achieve that the behavior of all professionals or employees meets certain values and norms.

Duty ethics Also known as deontological ethics. The class of approaches in ethics in which an action is considered morally right if it is in agreement with a certain moral rule (law, norm,  or principle). 

Duty of care The legal obligation to adhere to a reasonable standard of care when performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.

Ecological footprint A measure for the total environmental impact of a person’s lifestyle expressed in an amount of space required to support this lifestyle 

Environmental space The (maximum) amount of use of renewable and non-renewable  resources that does not exceed the boundaries of what the environment can take.

Ethical cycle A tool in structuring and improving moral decisions by making a systematic and  thorough analysis of the moral problem, which helps to come to a moral judgment and to  justify the final decision in moral terms. 

Ethics The systematic reflection on morality.

 

Exhaustion A type of. environmental problem in which something valuable is removed from the environment that cannot, or at least not easily, be renewed. 

External auditing Assessing of a company in terms of its code of conduct by an external organization. 

 

Freedom principle The moral principle that everyone is free to strive for his/her own pleas￾ure, as long as they do not deny or hinder the pleasure of others.

Global code of conduct A code of conduct that is believed to apply worldwide.

Good will A central notion in Kantian ethics. According to Kant, we can speak of good will if our actions are led by the categorical imperative. Kant believes that the good will is the only  thing that is unconditionally good. 

Hazard Possible damage or otherwise undesirable effect.

Hedonism The idea that pleasure is the only thing that is good in itself and to which all other things are instrumental. 

Hierarchical responsibility model The model in which only the organization’s top level of personnel is held responsible for the actions of (people in) the organization.

Honesty Telling what one has good reasons to believe to be true and disclosing all relevant information. 

 

Hypothetical norm A condition norm, that is, a norm which only applies undercertain circumstances, usually of the form “If you want X do Y.” 

Ideals Ideas or strivings which are particularly motivating and inspiring for the person having them, and which aim at achieving an optimum or maximum. 

Ignorance Lack of knowledge. Refers to the situation in which we do not know what we do not know. 

 

Integrity Living by one’s own (moral) values, norms and commitments.

Interests Things actors strive for because they are beneficial or advantageous for them.

 

Liability Legal responsibility: backward-looking responsibility according to the law. Usually related to the obligation to pay a fine or repair or repay damages. 

Limited liability The principle that the liability of shareholders for the corporation’s debts and obligations is limited to the value of their shares.

Moral deliberation An extensive and careful consideration or discussion of moral arguments
and reasons for and against certain actions.

Moral dilemmas A moral problem with the crucial feature that the agent has only two (or a
limited number of) options for action and that whatever he chooses he will commit a moral
wrong.

Moral fairness requirement The requirement that a distribution of responsibility should be
fair (just). In case of passive responsibility, this can be interpreted as that a person should only be held responsible if that person can be reasonably held responsible according the following
conditions wrong-doing; causal contribution; foreseeability; and freedom of action. In
terms of active responsibility it can be interpreted as implying that persons should only be
allocated responsibilities that they can live by.

Moral problem Problem in which two or more positive moral values or norms cannot be
fully realized at the same time.

Moral responsibility Responsibility that is based on moral obligations, moral norms or moral
duties.

Morality The totality of opinions, decisions, and actions with which people express, individually or collectively, what they think is good or right.

 

 

Normative ethics The branch of ethics that judges morality and tries to formulate normative recommendations about how to act or live. 

Normative judgment Judgment about whether something is good or bad, desirable or undesirable, right or wrong. 

Normative relativism An ethical theory that argues that all moral points of view – all values, norms, and virtues – are equally valid. 

Norms Rules that prescribe what actions are required, permitted, or forbidden.

Passive responsibility Backward-looking responsibility, relevant after something undesirable occurred; specific forms which relates passive responsibility  are accountability, blameworthiness, and liability.

Polluter pays principle The principle that damage to the environment must be repaired bythe party responsible for the damage.

Practical wisdom The intellectual virtue that enables one to make the right choice for action.It consists in the ability to choose the right mean between two vices.

Premises The statements, which are affirmed (or assumed) as providing support or reasons for accepting the conclusion. 

Prima facie norms Prima facie norms are the applicable norms, unless they are overruled by other more important norms that become evident when we take everything into consideration. 

Product liability Liability of manufacturers for defects in a product, without the need to proof that those manufacturers acted negligently. 

Profession Often mentioned characteristics of a profession include: 1) use of specialized knowledge and skills; 2) a monopoly on the carrying out of the occupation; 3) assessment  only possible by peers. In addition the following two requirements are also sometimes mentioned: 4) service orientation to society; and 5) ethical standards. 

Professional autonomy The ideal that individual professionals achieve themselves moral conclusions by reasoning clearly and carefully. 

Professional code Code of conduct that is formulated by a professional association.

Regulation A legal tool that can forbid the development, production, or use of certain technological products, but more often it formulates a set of the boundary conditions for the design, production, and use of technologies. 

 

Risk A risk is a specification of a hazard. The most often used definition of risk is the product of the probability of an undesirable event and the effect of that event. 

Risk assessment A systematic investigation in which the risks of a technology of an activity are mapped and expressed quantitatively in a certain risk measure. 

Risk communicators Specialists that inform, or advise how to inform, the public about risks and hazards. 

Safety The condition that refers to a situation in which the risks have been reduced as far as reasonably feasible and desirable.

Safety factor A factor or ratio by which an installation is made safer than is needed to with￾stand either the expected or the maximum (expected) load.

Script A prescription how to act that is built (designed) into an artifact.

Social ethics of engineering An approach to the ethics of engineering that focuses on
the social arrangements in engineering rather than on individual decisions. If these social
arrangements meet certain procedural norms the resulting decisions are considered
acceptable.

Stakeholder principles Principles that guide the relationship between a company and its
stakeholders.

Stakeholders Actors that have an interest (“a stake”) in the development of a technology.

Sustainable development Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The good life The highest good or eudaimonia: a state of being in which one realizes one’s uniquely human potential. According to Aristotle, the good life is the final goal of human  action. 

Trade-off Compromise between design criteria. For example, you trade off a certain level of safety for a certain level of sustainability. 

Uncertainty A lack of knowledge. Refers to situations in which we know the type of consequences, but cannot meaningfully attribute probabilities to the occurrence of such consequences 

 

Universalism An ethical theory that states that there is a system of norms and values that is universally applicable to everyone, independent of time, place, or culture. 

Universality principle First formulation of the categorical imperative: Act only on that maxim which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. 

Utilitarianism A type of consequentialism based on the utility principle. In utilitarianism, actions are judged by the amount of pleasure and pain they bring about. The action that  brings the greatest happiness for the greatest number should be chosen. 

Valid argument An argument whose conclusion follows with necessity from its premises: if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. 

Value conflict A value conflict arises if (1) a choice has to be made between at least two options for which at least two values are relevant as choice criteria, (2) at least two different values select  at least two different options as best, and (3) the values do not trump each other. 

Values Lasting convictions or matters that people feel should be strived for in general and not just for themselves to be able to lead a good life or to realize a just society.

Virtue ethics An ethical theory that focuses on the nature of the acting person. This theory indicates which good or desirable characteristics people should have or develop to be moral.

Virtues A certain type of human characteristics or qualities.

Whistle-blowing The disclosure of certain abuses in a company by an employee in which he or she is employed, without the consent of his/her superiors, and in order to remedy these abuses and/or to warn the public about these abuses.

Window-dressing Presenting a favorable impression that is not based on the actual facts.