Course Websites

ECE 316 - Ethics and Engineering

Last offered Fall 2024

Official Description

Ethical issues in the practice of engineering: safety and liability, professional responsibility to clients and employers, whistle-blowing, codes of ethics, career choice, and legal obligations. Philosophical analysis of normative ethical theories. Case studies. Course Information: Same as PHIL 316. Credit is not given for both ECE 316 and either CS 210 or CS 211. Junior standing is required. Prerequisite: RHET 105.

Related Faculty

Subject Area

  • Core Curriculum

Course Director


Ethical issues in the practice of engineering: safety and liability, professional responsibility to clients and employers, whistle-blowing, codes of ethics, career choice, legal obligations; case studies.


Same as: PHIL 316


  • To read and think critically
  • To develop moral reasoning skills
  • To improve writing skills in an engineering context
  • To understand multiple perspectives and to respect others of diverse persuasions
  • To study the fundamental structure of human personhood — what does it mean to be a human being — the grounding of moral action, and the development of moral character as the precondition of integral work in a profession and the essential foundation necessary for our life together in society


  • Ethical Theories: Teleological and Deontological Perspectives
  • The Nature of Engineering: Experimentation, Safety, Risk, and Liability
  • Attributes of a Profession, Relationship with Clients
  • Obligations to Employers: Loyalty, Conflict of interest, Confidentiality
  • Whistle-Blowing (i.e., Bringing Moral Issues to Light), Rights of Engineers
  • Codes of Ethics
  • Career Choice
  • The Profession and Legal Obligations, Licensing
  • Social Impact of Technology, Environmental Ethics, Stewardship and Sustainability

Detailed Description and Outline

Same as PHIL 316

See "Goals" and "Topics"

Computer Usage

Word processing (using Microsoft Word format) needed for submission and revision of papers.

Topical Prerequisites

Beginning Level Composition (Expository Writing)


  • Charles E. Harris, Jr., Michael S. Pritchard, Ray James, Elaine Englehardt, Michael J. Rabins, Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2019)
  • A three-volume integrated set of course readings — Volume 1: Introduction, Volume 2: Normative Ethical Theories, and Volume 3: Windows into Applied Ethics — will be accessible digitally through the Universtiy canvas course site beginning in the fall semester, 2023.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017) — available online through the University Library home page at See the direct link through the course home page under “Important Tools” at
  • William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1920) — available online through “Project Gutenberg.” See the link on the course home page under “Important Tools” at

ABET Category

Humanities: 100%

Course Goals

See the beginning category of "Goals" above (after "Notes").

Instructional Objectives

Instructional Objectives

Charles E. Harris, Jr., et al., Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases (Boston, MA: Cengage)

  • To read critically — and to engage in informed in-class discussion and dialogue — selected chapters from Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases. (3, 4, 7)

Reflection Papers (eight one-page reflection papers on the assigned readings — submitted electronically and evaluated with comments)

  • To develop the skill of critical reading and writing. (3, 7)
  • To relate all that we read to our career-path responsibilities. (4)
  • To understand and inculcate the importance of life-long learning. (7)

Writing Skills Assessment (a take-home assignment demonstrating a working knowledge of accurate source citation (using Chicago Manual of Style “Notes and Bibliography” format) and principles of effective writing (drawing upon the readings and discussion in class)

  • To learn the skill, the purpose, and the logic of source citation (3)
  • To understand and apply the principles of effective writing (3, 4)

Position Paper One: Article Analysis (three pages, evaluated draft + final version)

  • To write a clear, accurate, and concise summary of the mains points of an article. (3)
  • To identify an author's implicit presuppositions and informing worldview. (3, 4, 7)
  • To evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an argument in an article. (3, 4, 7)

Position Paper Two: Normative Ethical Perspectives (five pages, evaluated draft + final version)

  • To explore the grounding of the fundamental principles of moral action that will guide a person throughout one’s life, and will provide a worldview perspective informing all of one’s decisions in one’s chosen career path. (3, 4, 7)
  • To acquire conceptual tools necessary to evaluate possible consequences to proposed actions from both a teleological and deontological perspective. (3, 4, 7)
  • To express ideas in clear writing — and in dialogue with one’s neighbor in peer-review analysis. (3, 4, 5, 7)
  • To revisit the readings from the beginning weeks of the course in light of our work together on normative ethical theories, and to apply worldview analysis and moral principles in our study of the readings and case studies in the final stage of the course entitled “windows into applied ethics.” (3, 4, 5, 7)

Final Research Project and Paper (nine pages, evaluated draft + final version)

  • To use the library and electronic tools to find scholarly sources that will enable one to engage and explore a contemporary ethical issue. (3, 4, 7)
  • To formulate a thesis statement, to construct and focus sound arguments in support of the thesis, and to address possible counter-arguments to one’s position — clearly in writing. (3, 4 7)
  • To learn the importance of peer-review analysis, continuing the peer-review exchange and discussion with one’s neighbor that was begun in the review of position paper two. (3, 4, 5, 7)
  • To develop skills in spoken communication by presenting the main conclusions of the research project in a five minute slide presentation, followed by questions and dialogue with the class. (3)

Personal Mission Statement (three pages, evaluated draft + final version)

  • To explore the relationship between moral character and professional identity by relating personal goals to vocational objectives. (3, 4, 7)
  • To develop the skill of textual analysis, interpretation, and application — focused on the study of one’s own self — addressing the constraints and obstacles one may face (internally and externally) that could block, hinder, or diminish the actualization of one’s goals and professional responsibilities in one's chosen career path (3, 4, 6, 7)
Ethics and EngineeringE136862LEC31100 - 1220 T R  329 Gregory Hall Philip Hillmer
Ethics and EngineeringE236869LEC31400 - 1520 T R  329 Gregory Hall Philip Hillmer