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Page 1

Preliminary Examination
ESE 2017
UPSC ENGINEERING SERVICES EXAMINATION

General Studies and
Engineering Aptitude

Paper

Publications

www.madeeasypublications.org

Ethics and Values
in Engineering Profession

10

Comprehensive Theory with Practice Questions

As per new syllabus of ESE 2017

I

Page 2

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ESE-2017 : Preliminary Examination
Paper-I : General Studies and Engineering Aptitude

Ethics and Values in Engineering Profession
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All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval

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otherwise), without the prior written permission of the above mentioned publisher of this book.

1st Edition : 2016

Publications

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Ethical Theories 11

that might cause health problems for people living near these routes. An analysis of WIPP using

utilitarianism might indicate that the disposal of nuclear wastes is a major problem hindering

the implementation of many useful technologies, including medicinal uses of radioisotopes and

nuclear generation of electricity. Solution of this waste disposal problem will benefit society by

providing improved health care and more plentiful electricity. The slight potential for adverse health

effects for individuals living near the transportation routes is far outweighed by the overall benefits

to society. So, WIPP should be allowed to open. As this example demonstrates, the utilitarian

approach can seem to ignore the needs of individuals, especially if these needs seem relatively

insignificant.

• Another objection to utilitarianism is that its implementation depends greatly on knowing what
will lead to the most good. Frequently, it is impossible to know exactly what the consequences
of an action are. It is often impossible to do a complete set of experiments to determine all of

the potential outcomes, especially when humans are involved as subjects of the experiments.

So, maximizing the benefit to society involves guesswork and the risk that the best guess might

be wrong. Despite these objections, utilitarianism is a valuable tool for ethical problem solving,

providing one way of looking at engineering ethics cases.

Before ending our discussion of utilitarianism, it should be noted that there are many flavours of the basic

tenets of utilitarianism. Two of these are act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism.

Act utilitarianism focuses on individual actions rather than on rules. The best known proponent of act
utilitarianism was John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), who felt that most of the common rules of morality (e.g.,

don’t steal, be honest, don’t harm others) are good guidelines derived from centuries of human experience.

However, Mill felt that individual actions should be judged based on whether the most good was produced in

a given situation, and rules should be broken if doing so will lead to the most good.

Rule utilitarianism differs from act utilitarianism in holding that moral rules are most important. As mentioned
previously, these rules include “do not harm others” and “do not steal.” Rule utilitarian’s hold that although

adhering to these rules might not always maximize good in a particular situation, overall, adhering to moral

rules will ultimately lead to the most good. Although these two different types of utilitarianism can lead to

slightly different results when applied in specific situations, in this text, we will consider these ideas together

and not worry about the distinctions between the two.

2.2.1 Cost–Benefit Analysis
One tool often used in engineering analysis, especially when trying to determine whether a project makes

sense, is cost–benefit analysis. Fundamentally, this type of analysis is just an application of utilitarianism.
In cost–benefit analysis, the costs of a project are assessed, as are the benefits. Only those projects with

the highest ratio of benefits to costs will be implemented. This principle is similar to the utilitarian goal of
maximizing the overall good.

As with utilitarianism, there are problems in the use of cost–benefit analysis. While it is often easy to predict

the costs for most projects, the benefits that are derived from them are often harder to predict and to assign a

money value to. Once rupee amounts for the costs and benefits are determined, calculating a mathematical

ratio may seem very objective and therefore may appear to be the best way to make a decision. However,

this ratio can’t take into account many of the more subjective aspects of a decision. For example, from a pure

cost–benefit discussion, it might seem that the building of a dam is an excellent idea. But this analysis won’t

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12 ESE Prelims : Paper-I Ethics and Values in Engineering Profession General Studies &
Engineering Aptitude

include other issues such as whether the benefits outweigh the loss of a scenic wilderness area or the loss of

an endangered species with no current economic value. Finally, it is also important to determine whether those

who stand to reap the benefits are also those who will pay the costs. It is unfair to place all of the costs on one

group while another reaps the benefits.

It should be noted that although cost–benefit analysis shares many similarities with utilitarianism,
cost–benefit analysis isn’t really an ethical analysis tool. The goal of an ethical analysis is to determine
what the ethical path is. The goal of a cost–benefit analysis is to determine the feasibility of a project based
on costs. When looking at an ethical problem, the first step should be to determine what the right course
of action is and then factor in the financial costs in choosing between ethical alternatives.

Q.
Questions

for Practice

Q.1. Statement (I): A virtue is a positive trait or quality deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a
foundation of principle and good moral being.

Statement (II): Teleological approach focuses on one’s duty and consider it as the right choice.
(a) Both Statement (I) and Statement (II) are individually true and Statement (II) is the correct explanation

of Statement (I)
(b) Both Statement (I) and Statement (II) are individually true but Statement (II) is not the correct

explanation of Statement (I)
(c) Statement (I) is true but Statement (II) is false
(d) Statement (I) is false but Statement (II) is true

Q.2. Statement (I): The emphasis in utilitarianism is on maximizing the well-being of the individual.
Statement (II): Utilitarianism is fundamental to risk–benefit analysis and cost–benefit analysis.

(a) Both Statement (I) and Statement (II) are individually true and Statement (II) is the correct explanation
of Statement (I)

(b) Both Statement (I) and Statement (II) are individually true but Statement (II) is not the correct
explanation of Statement (I)

(c) Statement (I) is true but Statement (II) is false
(d) Statement (I) is false but Statement (II) is true

Q.3 Consider the following statements:
1. Utilitarianism tries to balance the needs of society with the needs of the individual.
2. Act utilitarianism focuses on individual actions rather than on rules.
3. A problem with utilitarian approach is to know what will cause maximum good.
4. According to rule utilitarian, rules should be broken, if doing so will lead to the most good.
Which of the above statements are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only (b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3 only (d) 1, 2, 3 and 4 only

Q.4 Consider the following statements:
1. Two different types of utilitarianism can lead to slightly different results when applied in specific

situations.

2. In cost–benefit analysis, the costs of a project are assessed, as are the benefits.

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18 ESE Prelims : Paper-I Ethics and Values in Engineering Profession General Studies &
Engineering Aptitude

certain behaviour in a given situation, engineers need to be guided, and ethical theories provide

necessary guide that would point them in the right direction. For example, consequential theory

is outcome based, which concern morality of a decision and the consequences of the outcome.

Deontological theory of ethics places emphasis on following rules, and doing one’s duty. The

ethical theory of virtue concerns desirable characteristics, which one should have as moral or

virtuous person.

2.6 Which Theory to Use?
Now that we have discussed four different ethical theories, the question arises: How do we decide which theory

is applicable to a given problem? The good news is that in solving ethical problems, we don’t have to choose

from among these theories. Rather, we can use all of them to analyse a problem from different angles and see

what result each of the theories gives us. This allows us to examine a problem from different perspectives to

see what conclusion each one reaches. Frequently, the result will be the same even though the theories are

very different. Take, for example, a chemical plant near a small city that discharges a hazardous waste into

the groundwater. If the city takes its water from wells, the water supply for the city will be compromised and

significant health problems for the community may result. Rights ethics indicates that this pollution is unethical,

since it causes harm to many of the residents. A utilitarian analysis would probably also come to the same

conclusion, since the economic benefits of the plant would almost certainly be outweighed by the negative

effects of the pollution and the costs required to ensure a safe municipal water supply. Virtue ethics would

say that discharging wastes into groundwater is irresponsible and harmful to individuals and so shouldn’t be

done. In this case, all of the ethical theories lead to the same conclusion. What happens when the different

theories seem to give different answers? This scenario can be illustrated by the discussion of WIPP presented

previously. Rights ethics indicated that transporting wastes through communities is not a good idea, whereas

utilitarianism concluded that WIPP would be beneficial to society as a whole. This is a trickier situation, and the

answers given by each of the theories must be examined in detail, compared with each other, and carefully

weighed. After thorough analysis using all of the theories, a balanced judgment can be formed.

2.7 Ethical Principles that Guide Engineering Practice

*Principle: a general law or rule that provides a guide for action
There are ethical principles that guide engineering practice and they are the principles of respect for autonomy,

beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. As ethical dilemmas often arise when principles conflict, therefore

in this part we shall discuss those principles that more than often guides an engineer in making an ethically

justifiable action.

2.7.1 Respect for Autonomy
In a literal sense, autonomy means self-rule or self-determination. According to Beauchamp and Childress, a

person should have the right to hold his or her own views, make choices, and take actions based on personal

values and beliefs. This means that every individual has the right to express themselves, make their own

choices, and take actions based on their own preferences, personal values, and cultural beliefs. As stated by

Immanuel Kant, people should be treated as ends in themselves and never merely as means to some end.

The principle requires that we respect that we respect the autonomy of others. It asserts a right of non-

interference and correlatively an obligation not to constrain or interfere with the autonomous actions of others.

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Ethical Theories 19

It is based on the idea that persons possess “autonomy,” that is, they are free, self-governing, and self-

determining beings. An individual is autonomous in the absence of internal or external constraints that would

compromise the ability to act voluntarily toward a chosen course of action or to fulfil a chosen life-span.

2.7.2 Beneficence
The ethical principle of beneficence places a moral obligation upon one to do what is considered good and

prevent harm to others. In the words of Beauchamp and Childress, “the principle of beneficence refers to a

moral obligation to act for the benefit of others.” It refers to decisions taken for the benefit of others, and is

closely associated with mercy, kindness, charity, altruism, love, benevolence, empathy, understanding, and

humanity.

The principle of beneficence is a positive injunction that imposes obligations both to provide benefits and to
prevent and remove harms. According to William Frankena, the principle of beneficence imposes four duties:

• One ought not to inflict evil or harm

• One ought to prevent evil or harm

• One ought to remove evil

• One ought to do or promote good

2.7.3 Non-maleficence
The principle of non-maleficence requires that a person do not intentionally or deliberately, do harm to others.
According to the 19th century philosopher J S Mill, we can “cause evil” to others by both our actions and
our inactions. General usage of this principle refers to arms caused through actions, that is, positive acts or

commissions, and not through our inactions, or omissions. For example, the duty of non-maleficence requires

that we forebear from inflicting harm or injury on others by stealing from them or assaulting them, but it does

not require that we rescue a person who is drowning. Thus, the principle of non-maleficence is sometimes

referred to as a negative injunction since it tells us what not to do.

2.7.4 Justice
Gillon has interpreted the principle of justice as fair distribution of resources (distributive justice), respect for

people’s rights (rights based justice), and respect for morally acceptable laws (legal justice). We may not

follow this particular order in the discussion of ethical principle of justice. Justice could be defined simply as

moral obligation to act on the basis of fairness. It refers to the duty to treat people equitably and according
their needs. It is a common knowledge that equality is at the heart of justice, but as Aristotle argued, justice
is more than mere equality as people can be treated unjustly even when they are treated equally. Justice and
equity can be seen as synonymous and imply that everyone should have an opportunity to attain his or her full
potential for health and other aspects of life.

Injustice, on the other hand, means a wrongful act or omission that denies people their due benefits or fails to

distribute burdens fairly. Injustice also means treating people unfavourably because of their age, health status,

ethnicity, gender, disability, and so on.

2.7.5 Honesty or Truth Telling
The principle requires full and impartial disclosure of any information that could be considered legitimately

important to others.

2.7.6 Fidelity or Promise Keeping
Recognises an obligation to honour just agreements and keep promises freely entered into and deliberately made.

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