One of the main conditions of modern society’s successful development is its dependence on the moral principles and canons which are worked out and accepted by society to regulate the character of relations within it. Moral principles belong to the field of ethics which influences all the aspects of people’s life. Thus, people are oriented to following the moral norms which are developed to control the elements of their personal life and interpersonal relations, and there are also moral codes and canons which can be successfully used for realizing business activities and business relations.
These principles are in the field of business ethics. Moreover, each profession has its code of ethics according to which the relations within the definite industry or company are realized. The codes of ethics for different professions as the aspects of the people’s lives must depend on the traditional approaches to moral norms and principles which were argued by such philosophers as Aristotle, Kant, and Bentham.
Thus, the canons, rules of practice, and professional obligations for engineers are based on the elements of the ethics developed by these philosophers in the context of the person’s voluntary nature to perform this or that action, with dependence on his or her moral duty for this action, or on discussing this action according to its right or wrong consequences.
The Code of Ethics
It is stated in the preamble to the code of ethics for engineers that “the services provided by engineers require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). Thus, the activity of engineers as professionals is oriented to those moral concepts which are also accentuated as influential ones in the persons’ everyday life.
Furthermore, these concepts are also associated with the group of moral virtues such as truthfulness, forgiveness, and integrity which were determined by Aristotle. Shrader-Frechette indicates with references to Aristotle that “one can deliberate only about what is within one’s power to do” (Shrader-Frechette 187). That is why engineers should focus on their specific responsibilities by paying attention to their code of ethics which regulates the moral aspect of the relations between the employers, employees, partners, and clients.
The code of ethics for engineers is based on a range of the fundamental canons about which the rules of practice and professional obligations are stated. Thus, engineers should “hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”).
That is why engineers should orient to the necessities of the public, and one of the engineers’ professional obligations is based on this principle, and it is formulated in such a way that “engineers shall at all times strive to serve the public interest” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). In this case, Bentham’s ideas about the benefits of the actions are met, and Kant’s categories of the universal law and the moral duty are realized according to which a person uses his or her will and control the actions to address the interests of the society (Birks; Velasquez).
These notions are addressed in the context of engineers’ rules of practice in which the main accents are made on justice, legitimacy, and truthfulness. The mentioned principles are also associated with the canon according to which engineers should “issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). Thus, objectivity and truthfulness as the representations of Aristotle’s moral virtues become the main aspects of the positive atmosphere of professional communication. Engineers as any person should determine the priorities of their actions. Following the principles of ethics, these priorities should be directed to the moral good which was accentuated by the philosophers.
One of the rules of practice for engineers states that they “shall perform services only in the areas of their competence” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). Why is this rule so significant with references to the ethical canons? A person should be always responsible for his or her actions. The person’s actions should be supported by the sincere desire of realizing the good action and motivation to do it about the highest good to which it is aimed. Thus, Aristotle indicates that many goods depend not only on the virtues and the balance between the extremes but also on the human voluntary nature and the person’s intention to reach happiness in life (Curzer).
That is why the person’s moral character which develops about the basics of the definite virtues and in combination with orientating to the goals’ completion forms the fundament of the individual’s decision-making process and further actions. Aristotle explains the personal intention to reach happiness as a complex process that can be satisfying only when an individual realizes the definite successful actions for achieving this goal (Curzer).
These actions should be critically thought over and effectively presented. Thus, today people can say that these actions should be proficient or competent. Moreover, according to Aristotle, the phenomenon of overacting is also as negative as the person’s lack of experience or skills. From this point, it is important to concentrate on Aristotle’s principle of the ‘golden mean’ as the balance between two extremes which can be successfully used with references to any field of the people’s activity.
If Aristotle accentuates the human voluntary nature, Bentham develops this notion and indicates that people in their actions should orient to the benefits which could satisfy a great number of persons. According to Bentham, people’s actions are regulated by two main factors or concepts which are the ideas of pain and pleasure. It is an individual’s task to make the choice which depends on the objective vision of the actions’ good or bad results which are presented as pleasure or pain. People can refer to the predictability of the consequences and choose between wrong or right actions with paying attention to minimizing or maximizing their effects (Birks).
That is why these actions should be not only good but also competent, and the issue of competence is also discussed as the rule of practice for engineers which is based on the principles of their truthfulness. It is formulated as “engineers may express publicly technical opinions that are founded upon knowledge of the facts and competence in the subject matter” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). Engineers should be skillful and experienced to be sure that the results or consequences of their professional activity are positive, and according to Bentham, they provide benefits or ‘pleasures’.
Moreover, the person’s actions should be so good that they could be perceived as addressed to the universal laws and that is why, according to Kant, they should form the categorical imperative. The ethics performed by Kant is known as deontological ethics. That is why its main concepts are the ideas of duties, laws, and rules (Velasquez). Kant disagrees with Bentham about the point that the human choice is influenced by the objective vision of the situation.
Kant is inclined to refer to the personal choice of this or that action which is based only on the subjective understanding of the concept of moral duty. However, this action should become a categorical imperative. The notion of the categorical imperative depends on the idea of maxims or major moral rules and duties which people should follow in their everyday life. This conception can be also used with references to the profession of engineers.
All their professional actions should be so morally right that this type of behavior could be followed by other people. According to Kant, it means that these actions could be perceived as the universal laws of morality. Thus, not to make harm to those people who are involved in the process, engineers should be competent in their actions and be responsible for their performance in the field of morality. It is stated in the code of ethics that “engineers shall avoid deceptive acts” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). This formulation can be explained as the realization of Kant’s principle in practice.
Engineers’ professional obligations also include such a point according to which engineers should “adhere to the principles of sustainable development to protect the environment for future generations” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). The problem of technological sustainability is closely connected with the possible technological risks which can be the result of the industry’s activity. Shrader-Frechette argues the fringe between the advantages of those technologies which are risky and the moral obligation of those persons who are involved in their production (Shrader-Frechette).
If the person’s moral task is to orient to the benefits for the people, is it possible to realize the hazardous technologies which can be harmful to the public and nature? According to the ideas of Utilitarianism, these technologies have both the right and wrong consequences for various people and different aspects of life (Birks). However, according to Kant’s principles, such a situation is morally wrong because it is not universally good (Velasquez).
To present the universally good actions, a person should not be influenced by any other opinions or visions of this or that issue. From this point, Aristotle emphasizes the necessity of personal self-control and liberality as one of the influential virtues (Curzer). To be satisfied and happy without the inclination to experience the impact of other people’s ideas on morality, an individual should be independent and should not concentrate on his or her financial state and as a result, betray the moral principles. However, one of the main risks for the person is the orientation to pleasure which is accentuated as an important concept by Aristotle and Bentham.
People can also strive to reach pleasure with references to immoral or wrong actions. That is why it is mentioned in the list of the engineers’ professional obligations that they “shall not be influenced in their professional duties by conflicting interests” (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). This obligation is associated with the problem of a person’s moral choice. Despite the fact, the majority of people are inclined to admit the necessity of the following life according to the moral virtues proclaimed by Aristotle and according to the principles stated by Kant and Bentham, a person always tries to find the most beneficial approach for his or her realization, and this approach can be based on any bad factors which can lead to the negative consequences.
Thus, the origins of the person’s morality and the person’s code of ethics are in his voluntary nature which forms motivation and in his will and duty. To follow the universal moral laws or live according to the moral virtues are not an easy task, but according to the philosophers, it is a single way to a happy life full of pleasures that is in harmony with the laws of nature. That is why people develop the codes of ethics about which it is possible to regulate the aspects of life in society and also use these principles in the organization of their professional activity.
Any company functions as a group of people who are in constant relations, and to guarantee the development of the company with a minimum of negative and conflict situations, it is necessary to work out the code of ethics according to which the interactions are regulated and controlled. Moreover, many professions have their specific features which should be also reflected in the code. That is why the code of ethics for engineers which depends on the main moral principles is significant for the profession’s development.
Birks, Thomas Rawson. Modern Utilitarianism; Or, the Systems of Paley, Bentham, and Mill Examined and Compared. USA: Nabu Press, 2010. Print.
Curzer, Howard. Aristotle and the virtues. USA: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers 2006. Web.
Shrader-Frechette, Kristin. “Technology and Ethics”. Philosophy of technology. Eds. Robert Scharff and Val Dusek. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003. 187-190. Print.
Velasquez, Manuel. “Moral Reasoning”. The Blackwell Guide to Business Ethics. Ed. Norman E. Bowie. USA: Blackwell, 2002. 102-116. Print.