Engineering Ethics of Titanic Sinking

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Steven Miller
Phl 3221
Professor Tapp
5/24/2007

Utilitarianism Look at the Titanic
When engineers design a product many things go in to the decision making process when it comes to selecting materials, design, and the manufacturing processes. One concern that has always been in the decision making process is trying to make sure the outcome will always be ethically good, although this isn’t always the case. Try as they might, no person is perfect, and accidents do happen. When engineering disasters happen there are many factors that may be involved, such as human factors, design flaws, extreme conditions, and materials failures. When these things do happen it is important to look at the ethical aspect of each part of the failure and try to analyze if any one person could be put at fault.

One very famous and very disastrous engineering failure was when the “unsinkable Titanic” hit an iceberg and sank. The Titanic was a British ship originally conceived in 1907 to be a mail and passenger line to go from England to New York by the Harland and Wolff Irish Shipbuilding Company and The White Star Line to compete with the Lusitania and Mauritania which were the two biggest and fastest steamships at the time. When the Titanic was constructed weighed and astounding 46,000 tons, which was one and a half times heavier than the Lusitania and Mauritania. The Titanic was to be far more extravagant than its counterparts. It had luxurious accommodations for its first class passengers including on-board swimming pools, a gymnasium, bathrooms with stained glass windows and comfortable furniture, and even the styles of decor differed from cabin to cabin. The Titanic also had a great number of less glamorous rooms to accommodate middle class passengers, which is where they planned to make a lot of their profit. Although it was more luxurious, the Titanic was slightly slower than its competitors.

The ship set sail on April 10, 1912 for its maiden voyage. It stopped at Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland to let on more passengers and mail before setting off for its final destination around dusk of April 11. The next afternoon, reports of an ice in steamship lanes were heard over the radio, but this was not unordinary for the time of year. As time went on more detailed warnings were being received and it became apparent that an ice field lay in the path of the Titanic. The ship tried to divert its path twice to miss the ice field, but on the night of April 14, lookouts spotted and iceberg in the immediate path of the Titanic. The ship tried to reverse directions when the warning came but it was too late. The Titanic struck an iceberg estimated to be six times more massive than it. This caused the hull, which had become less ductile due to the freezing water temperatures, to buckle allowing vast amounts of water to fill the ship. The Titanic was constructed with 16 watertight compartments, and four would be able to flood without incident, but this collision caused six of the compartments to flood. In less than three hours the massive shia form of ethics in which the aim of action should be to create the largest possible p carrying more than 2,200 people sank in below zero water. Only 705 passengers and crew survived and were picked up by the liner Carpathia the next morning.

To fully understand this disaster and its possible causes and alternate outcomes it is important to look at the possible causes individually as well as a whole. It is also important to look at them from many different ethical perspectives, although, for this look at the sinking of the Titanic I have chosen to focus on a utilitarianism standard. Utilitarianism is a type of ethics popularized by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mills in which the aim of action should be to create the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. In other words, each decision should be made to result in the most...
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