How Engineers Can Care from a Distance: Promoting Moral Sensitivity in Engineering Ethics Education

In Glenn Miller, Helena Mateus Jerónimo & Qin Zhu (eds.), Thinking through Science and Technology. Philosophy, Religion, and Politics in an Engineered World. Rowman & Littlefield International. pp. 141-163 (2023)
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Moral (or ethical) sensitivity is widely viewed as a foundational learning goal in engineering ethics education. We have argued in this paper is that this view of moral sensitivity cannot be readily transported from the nursing context to the engineering context on the basis of a care-analogy. The particularized care characteristic of the nursing context is decisively different from the generalized and universalized forms of care characteristic of the engineering context. Through a focus on care and maintenance, the engineering student’s moral sensitivity can be refined, opening up a perceptual awakening and affectivity towards the complex nature of the engineer’s Other. This awakening is in part promoted through an understanding of the ideology of neutrality as a moment in the history engineering. Becoming aware of this ideology as an ideology can then be seen as an activity of dividing loyalties that allows for a reflexive and critical view of the biases and presuppositions inherited within the world of engineering. This process of deepening the engineering student’s moral sensitivity is perhaps as much a process of the student becoming aware of her professional world, how it shapes her understanding of herself, and what it means to be a good engineer.

Author Profiles

Neelke Doorn
Delft University of Technology
Janna Van Grunsven
Delft University of Technology
Lavinia Marin
Delft University of Technology
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