The Need for Ethical Reflection in Engineering Design: The Relevance of Type of Design and Design Hierachy

TitleThe Need for Ethical Reflection in Engineering Design: The Relevance of Type of Design and Design Hierachy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsVan de Poel, I., and A.. van Gorp
Secondary TitleScience, Technology & Human Values
Abstract

The authors explore whether the need for ethical reflection on the part of designing engineers is dependent on the type of design process. They use Vincenti’s (1992) distinction between normal and radical design and different levels of design hierarchy. These two dimensions are coupled with the concept of ill-structured problems, which are problems in which possible solutions cannot be ordered on a scale from better to worse. Design problems are better structured at lower hierarchical levels and in cases of normal design. Better structured design problems require less ethical reflection on the part of designing engineers if such situations are characterized by the existence of generally accepted normative frameworks. Engineers could then deal with moral problems within the bounds of such frameworks and without the need for further reflection. On the basis of a number of empirical cases, the authors explore whether these ideas hold water. They discuss four cases ranging from a high-level radical design process to a low-level normal design process.

URLhttp://sth.sagepub.com/content/31/3/333.full.pdf+html