Virtues in Engineering

Topics: Virtue, Engineering, Professional Engineer Pages: 3 (980 words) Published: March 25, 2009
Virtues in Engineering
William F. May said of the expert: “He had better be virtuous. Few may be in a position to discredit him. The knowledge explosion is also an ignorance explosion; if knowledge is power, then ignorance is powerlessness” (Harris 30). In the context of engineering, this places engineers in a very special position. Because of this power, which few may ever possess, it becomes necessary for engineers to be virtuous or posses certain attributes for the welfare of the public and in order to be good engineers. However, what are these virtues and why are they so critical to the function and operation of being an engineer? In establishing a list of necessary virtues, one must first consider the purpose of engineering. Webster’s Dictionary defines engineering as “the science concerned with putting scientific knowledge into practical uses” (“Engineering” 1a). Therefore, an engineer is a person who applies knowledge in such a way that others can benefit thereby. Knowing this, the task of discovering the virtues of engineers becomes much easier. In order to be a good engineer one must therefore be technically competent. Without this, it matters little whether or not the engineer is honest, responsible, benevolent, just, reliable, compassionate, or generous. He will still fail in his basic purpose to alter the material environment by using his knowledge of math and science because he is not competent. An 18th century English writer and critic, Samuel Johnson, penned, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful” (“Engineering Quotes). Reflecting on this with respect to engineering, it becomes evident that knowledge without integrity or character directly affects the “safety, health, and welfare of the public” (Harris 376). Engineers are therefore intertwined with the public in a very symbiotic way. Each thrives off and is directly affected by the other. Engineers exist to fix...


Cited: “Engineering.” Def. 1a. Webster’s New World Dictionary. 2nd College ed. 1978.
“Engineering Quotes.” 26 February 2005. Think Exist.com.
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Harris Jr., Charles E., Michael S. Pritchard and Michael J. Rabins. Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases. 3rd ed. Belmont, California: Malloy, Inc. 2005.
Hinckley, Gordon B. Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal our Hearts and Homes. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000.
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