Aesthetics and Ethics in Engineering: Insights from Polanyi

TitleAesthetics and Ethics in Engineering: Insights from Polanyi
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDias, P.
Secondary TitleScience and Engineering Ethics
ISBN Number1353-3452
KeywordsAesthetics, ethics, Inter-subjective, Polanyi, Professional institution, Values

Polanyi insisted that scientific knowledge was intensely personal in nature, though held with universal intent. His insights regarding the personal values of beauty and morality in science are first enunciated. These are then explored for their relevance to engineering. It is shown that the practice of engineering is also governed by aesthetics and ethics. For example, Polanyi’s three spheres of morality in science-that of the individual scientist, the scientific community and the wider society-has parallel entities in engineering. The existence of shared values in engineering is also demonstrated, in aesthetics through an example that shows convergence of practitioner opinion to solutions that represent accepted models of aesthetics; and in ethics through the recognition that many professional engineering institutions hold that the safety of the public supersedes the interests of the client. Such professional consensus can be seen as justification for studying engineering aesthetics and ethics as inter-subjective disciplines.