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Modules in Applied Ethics

The Module Series in Applied Ethics was produced by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions in under a grant from the Exxon Education Foundation. This series is intended for use in a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs in such areas as science and/or technology public policy, and professional ethics courses in engineering, business, and computer science.

Each module consists primarily of an essay, and contains illustrative examples and an annotated bibliography. Scholarly or classroom use of these modules permitted, as long as the following acknowledgements are included:

[Author, title of module] Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt Publishing: [Date] Modules Series in Applied Ethics. Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology

Print editions of this series are also available. The entire set costs $43.30, individual monographs range from $6.95 to $7.75. Individual titles are currently available at a 20% discount, and a discount of 25% is available for the entire set. To order, please visit our publications page or send an email to

Baron, Marcia. The Moral Status of Loyalty, Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt Publishing:1984

This module looks at the moral issue of putting one’s loyalty to his or her company before other moral demands, such as one’s professional judgment and questions of public welfare. Focusing on the issues specific to engineers, the module analyzes the concept and nature of loyalty, isolates its positive and negative features, and determines, within broad parameters, when it is right to act loyally and when other moral considerations take precedence. Includes a bibliography of related materials.

Cameron, Rondo, and A.J. Millard. Technology Assessment: A historical approach. Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt Publishing:1985.

This module discusses the unique role engineers play in technology assessment; or the “process of discovering the potential benefits and risks of new technologies, weighing the social gains against the social costs, and then taking steps to influence the rate and direction of technological change.” This module deals with the ethical decisions of James Watt and his assessment of the steam engine, and Thomas Edison and his assessment of electricity. The module then looks at the more modern example of nuclear power, and shows the problems that arise when engineers fail to properly access the moral and ethical issues raised by the technologies they develop. Includes discussion questions and an annotated bibliography of related materials.

Curd, Martin and Larry May. Professional Responsibility for Harmful Actions. Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt Publishing:1984.

This module discusses the professional responsibility for harmful action, and the legal and moral duty of due care to avoid harming others or risking their harm. The module discusses the relations and differences between legal and moral duty to avoid causing harm, and the differences between intentional and unintentional harm. The author uses examples and cases to illustrate different types of negligence that can occur in the engineering profession, and includes commentary and discussion questions. Includes a bibliography of related materials and legal cases.

Luegenbiehl, Heinz C. and Michael Davis. Engineering Codes of Ethics: Analysis and Applications , 1992 (unpublished)

This module discusses the history of engineering codes of ethics, how these codes are used today, and the important role codes play in the decision-making processes of a professional engineer. The module begins with a short discussion of the Challenger Disaster, and later shows how engineering codes can be used in making similar, difficult decisions.

Peterson, James C. and Dan Farrell. Whistleblowing: Ethical and Legal Issues in Expressing Dissent. Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt Publishing:1986.

This module discusses the history of whistleblowing and some of the ethical dilemmas faced by whistleblowers, including the conflicting values of loyalty to one’s employer and protecting the public good, clashes between professional judgment and organizational authority, and the legal aspects of whistleblowing. It also includes a summary of the Browns Ferry Case (Weil, 1977) and discussion questions. Includes annotated bibliography of related materials.

Sagoff, Mark. Risk-Benefit Analysis in Decisions Concerning Public Safety and Health. Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt Publishing: 1985.

This module looks at the use of risk-benefit analysis to answer questions engineers often face when making decisions about public safety and health. It explains how risk-benefit analysis can be used in answering questions such as “how safe is safe enough?” and then defends the thesis that this form of analysis cannot provide answers to questions about public safety and health. While risk-benefit analysis offers guidance for policy decisions, it does not provide an adequate basis for reaching or for justifying these decisions. The module looks at the ethical basis and free market justification of this form analysis, and then looks at the practical methods that risk-benefit analysis employs and the difficulties faced in using these methods, such as the predictability of harmful events occurring, and the human factor. Includes bibliography of related materials.

Wells, Paula, Hardy Jones, and Michael Davis. Conflicts of Interest in Engineering. Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt Publishing: 1986.

This module begins by examining the Hydrolevel case, and uses this as a way to highlight relevant principles regarding conflict of interest in engineering, and to discuss the importance of these principles for engineers as professionals and moral agents. The module then considers four applications of these principles drawn from the “Opinions” of the Board of Ethical Review of the National Society of Professional Engineers. The module also includes ten short cases to be used in classroom discussion. It also includes professional codes from the National Society of Professional Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.