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    This social contract is more symbolic and explanatory than real.

  • Codes allow the profession to document to society that it has developed proper standards and intends to enforce them. They express the profession's trust in society to keep its side of the bargain by granting autonomy, prestige, and monopoly. Of course this contract has never been explicitly enacted at a point in historical time. But the notion of a social contract with a mutually beneficial exchange (a quid pro quo) provides a useful device for modeling the relation that has actually evolved between society and its professions.

    Professions and responsibility

  • Professions have been created to exercise stewardship over knowledge and skill domains.
  • Exercising stewardship over X generally means watching over, preserving, protecting, and even improving X. Stewardship is a forward-looking kind of responsibility similar to the responsibility that a parent exercises toward his or her children. The steward is a trusted servant or agent of the landowner who acts in the owner's place while the later is absent or incapacitated.
  • "Stewardship," thus, refers to the profession's responsibility to safeguard its specific domain of knowledge and skill. This domain is essential to society in some way (it provides society with a basic, common good) and society delegates responsibility for this domain to its members who are specially suited to exercise it.
  • So, generally speaking, professions can be characterized in terms of epistemological and ethical responsibilities.
  • The epistemological responsibility refers to stewardship over the knowledge and skills that characterizes the profession. The profession preserves, transmit, and advances this domain of knowledge and skill. (Epistemology = study of knowledge.)
  • The ethical dimension refers to the responsibility of the profession to safeguard knowledge and skill for the good of society. Society trusts the profession to do this for the sake of the comnmon good. Society also trusts the profession to regulate its own activities by developing and enforcing ethical and professional standards.

Objections to and mischievous side effects of codes of ethics

    These objections are taken from john ladd, "the quest for a code of professional ethics: an intellectual and moral confusion." this article can be found in deborah g. johnson, editor, (1991) ethical issues in engineering, new jersey: prentice hall: 130-136. the author of this module has taken some liberties in this presentation.

  • Codes "confuse ethics with law-making" (Ladd, 130). Ethics is deliberative and argumentative while law-making focuses on activities such as making and enforcing rules and policies.
  • A code of ethics is an oxymoron. Ethics requires autonomy of the individual while a code assumes the legitimacy of an external authority imposing rule and order on that individual.
  • Obedience to moral law for autonomous individuals is motivated by respect for the moral law. On the other hand, obedience to civil law is motivated by fear of punishment. Thus, Ladd informs us that when one attaches "discipinary procedures, methods of adjudication and sanctions, formal and informal, to the principles that one calls 'ethical' one automatically converts them into legal rules or some other kind of authoritative rules of conduct...."(Ladd 131) Accompanying code provisions with punishments replaces obedience based on respect for the (moral) law with conformity based on fear of punishment.
  • Codes lead to the dangerous tendency to reduce the ethical to the legal. Ethical principles can be used to judge or evaluate a disciplinary or legal code. But the reverse is not true; existing laws cannot trump ethical principles in debates over ethical issues and ethical decisions. As Ladd puts it, "That is not to say that ethics has no relevance for projects involving the creation, certification and enforcement of rules of conduct for members of certain groups....[I]ts [ethics's]role in connection with these projects is to appraise, criticize and perhaps even defend (or condemn) the projects themselves, the rules, regulations and procedures they prescribe, and the social and political goals and institutions they represent." (Ladd 130)
  • Codes have been used to justify immoral actions . Professional codes have been misued by individuals to justify actions that go against common morality. For example, lawyers may use the fact that the law is an adversarial system to justify lying. Ladd responds in the following way to this dodge: "{T}here is no special ethics belonging to professionals. Professionals are not, simply because they are professionals, exempt from the common obligations, duties and responsibilities that are binding on ordinary people. They do not have a special moral status that allows them to do things that no one else can." (Ladd 131)

    Mischievous side-effects of codes (from john ladd)

  • Codes make professionals complacent . (Ladd 135) First, they reduce the ethical to the minimally acceptable. Second, they cover up wrongful actions or policies by calling them--within the context of the code--"ethical". For example, the NSPE code of ethics used to prohibit competitive bidding. Enshrining it in their code of ethics gave it the appearance of being ethical when in fact it was motivated primarily by self interest. This provision was removed when it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court for violating the Anti-Trust law.
  • Because codes focus on micro-ethical problems, "they tend to divert attention from macro-ethical problems of a profession." (Ladd 135) For example, in Puerto Rico, the actions of the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico tend to focus on individual engineers who violate code provisions concerned with individual acts of corruption; these include conflicts of interest, failing to serve as faithful agents or trustees, and participating in corrupt actions such as taking or giving bribes. On the other hand, the CIAPR does not place equal attention on macro-ethical problems such as "the social responsibilities of professionals as a group" (Ladd 132), the role of the profession and its members in society (Ladd 135), and the "role professions play in determining the use of technology, its development and expansion, and the distribution of the costs." (Ladd 135)

Exercise: questions for reflection

  • Which of Ladd's criticisms apply to the Pirate Creed?
  • How does your group's code of ethics stand in relation to Ladd's criticisms?
  • Do Ladd's objections apply t the ABET, NSPE, or CIAPR codes?

Word file

Module Exercises.

Questions & Answers

what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
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Source:  OpenStax, Corporate governance. OpenStax CNX. Aug 20, 2007 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10396/1.10
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