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Resources - Ethics and professionalism

Introductory texts and references to explore ethics further.

On this page we have suggested some good introductory texts for those who would like to explore ethics further. As well as introductions to ethics in general, and to engineering ethics in particular, we have included some texts which examine specific central issues in engineering ethics, and some short articles which provide food for thought on a number of ethical questions.

You can also see a more comprehensive bibliography of all the ethics texts available from the IET Library.

An [L] after the title of a text below indicates that it is available from the IET Library.

General introductions to ethics

Benn, P., 1998. Ethics. London: Routledge.

An accessible, but challenging introduction to some of the central questions of philosophical ethics. Is morality just a matter of personal opinion? Are the consequences of your actions all that matter? What are virtue and vice? Without presupposing a knowledge of philosophy on the part of the reader, but also without underplaying the complexity of the issues, this book offers a great entry point to understanding the philosophical approach to fundamental ethical questions.

Singer, P., ed. 1991. A Companion to Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.

A comprehensive collection of articles covering a wide range of topics in ethics, from its beginnings in primitive societies, to its application to the difficult social problems of today. This book can be read from cover to cover by those looking for an in-depth journey through the world of academic ethics, or can be used as a reference book to explore particular issues and questions.

Lafollette, H., ed. 2002. Ethics in Practice. Oxford: Blackwell.

Another collection of articles, this time concentrating on specific issues in applied ethics. Arranged in four sections – Life and Death, The Personal Life, Liberty and Equality, Justice – these sixty-four articles shed light on a great number of contentious issues, from abortion and euthanasia to world hunger and respect for the environment.

Ethics and engineering

Davis, M., 1998. Thinking Like an Engineer: studies in the ethics of a profession. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [L]

A good place to start if you want to explore further the idea of engineering as a profession, with unique ethical implications. Davis offers an analysis of what is distinctive about the profession of engineering, drawing on real-life case studies to illustrate his points.

Humphreys, K. K., 1999. What every engineer should know about ethics. New York: Dekker. [L]

Offering an impressively detailed analysis of complex cases, this book will also be useful to anyone interested in the application and interpretation of professional codes of conduct. Pitched at the right level for professional engineers who are looking for guidance in resolving ethical difficulties.

Martin, M. & Schinzinger, R., 2005. Ethics in Engineering. 4th edition, New York: McGraw-Hill.

A text book which is aimed at students and professionals alike. A comprehensive and far-reaching study guide to ethical issues in engineering.

Business ethics

Crane, A. and Matten, A., 2003. Business Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

A great introduction to ethical issues in the world of business. Crane and Matten also maintain an excellent blog

Science and technology

Spier, R. E., 2001. Science and technology ethics. London: Routledge. [L]

With technology and scientific knowledge advancing with incredible speed, are our ethical discussions – and legal frameworks – keeping pace? A multi-disciplinary assessment of the issues, which also suggests new approaches to processes and products.

Computing ethics

Baase, S., 2008. Gift of fire: social, legal, and ethical issues for computing and the internet. 3rd edition, Cambridge: Pearson. [L]

Computing issues change at a furious pace, but this book is as up-to-date as any available. A valuable contribution to the understanding of IT and its implications for human beings.

Duquenoy, P., 2010. Ethics in the provision and use of IT for business. The Institute of Business Ethics in association with the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

Why should business executives concern themselves with IT ethics?

The environment

Benson, J., 2000. Environmental Ethics: An introduction with readings. London: Routledge.

An excellent introduction to the study of environmental ethics which focuses on one key question: is a concern with human well-being an adequate basis for environmental ethics? This leads the author into a critical evaluation of a wide range of environmental issues, each of which is helpfully linked to further readings.

War and defence

Walzer, M., 2006. Just and Unjust Wars. 4th edition, New York: Basic Books.

Almost all books on engineering ethics will contain a section dealing with what is a central issue for many engineers. This book looks at war in general, and the concept of a just war. It offers a mature discussion of the morality of war, drawing on numerous historical examples. presentations

Mountbatten Lecture 2009: Ethical leadership keypoints

Panel Discussion: Perspectives on Synthetic Biology: Ethics, Public Engagement, Biosecurity and more.

Articles and letters from Engineering & Technology magazine

Training course

Online MA in Applied and Professional Ethics – an online distance learning course on applied and professional ethics appropriate for engineers is offered by the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied CETL at the University of Leeds.

Miscellaneous articles

Bennett, J., 1974. The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn. Philosophy, 49, pp. 123-134.

Ethics is just a matter of following your conscience, isn’t it? This fascinating article suggests that matters of conscience might not be as simple as they first appear.

PDF J Bennett (135 k)

Smith, H., 1983. Culpable Ignorance. Philosophical Review, 92(4), pp. 543-571.

When does ignorance stop being a defence and itself become a source of guilt?

Calhoun, C., 1995. Standing for Something. Journal of Philosophy, XCII, pp. 235-260.

A view of integrity which argues that having integrity involves standing for something beyond your own moral well-being. An article with important implications for professionals.