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Professional Ethics and Human Values

by Suhas Mondal
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Professional Ethics and Human Values by Suhas Mondal

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Suhas Mondal
Suhas Mondal

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Suhas Mondal
Suhas Mondal
Chapter – 1 Human Values 1.0 OBJECTIVES (WHY ENGINEERING ETHICS?) The objectives of this course on ‘Professional Ethics and Human Values’ are: (a) to understand the moral values that ought to guide the Engineering profession, (b) resolve the moral issues in the profession, and (c) justify the moral judgment concerning the profession. It is intended to develop a set of beliefs, attitudes, and habits that engineers should display concerning morality. The prime objective is to increase one’s ability to deal effectively with moral complexity in engineering practice. Alternatively, the objectives of the study on Professional Ethics may be listed as: (A) Improvement of the cognitive skills (skills of the intellect in thinking clearly) 1. Moral awareness (proficiency in recognizing moral problems in engineering) 2. Cogent moral reasoning (comprehending, assessing different views) 3. Moral coherence (forming consistent viewpoints based on facts) 4. Moral imagination (searching beyond obvious the alternative responses to issues and being receptive to creative solutions) 5. Moral communication, to express and support one’s views to others. (B) To act in morally desirable ways, towards moral commitment and responsible conduct 6. Moral reasonableness i.e., willing and able to be morally responsible. 7. Respect for persons, which means showing concern for the well-being of others, besides oneself. 8. Tolerance of diversity i.e., respect for ethnic and religious differences, and acceptance of reasonable differences in moral perspectives. 9. Moral hope i.e., believe in using rational dialogue for resolving moral conflicts. 10. Integrity, which means moral integrity, and integrating one’s professional life and personal convictions. 1
1.1 MORALS Morals are the welfare principles enunciated by the wise people, based on their experience and wisdom. They were edited, changed or modified or evolved to suit the geography of the region, rulers (dynasty), and in accordance with development of knowledge in science and technology and with time. Morality is concerned with principles and practices of morals such as: (a) What ought or ought not to be done in a given situation? (b) What is right or wrong about the handling of a situation? and (c) What is good or bad about the people, policies, and ideals involved? Morality is different from Ethics in the following ways: Morality Ethics 1. More general and prescriptive based on customs and traditions. 1. Specific and descriptive. It is a critical reflection on morals. 2. More concerned with the results of wrong action, when done. 2. More concerned with the results of a right action, when not done. 3. Thrust is on judgment and punishment, in the name of God or by laws. 3. Thrust is on influence, education, training through codes, guidelines, and correction. 4. In case of conflict between the two, morality is given top priority, because the damage is more. It is more common and basic. 4. Less serious, hence second priority only. Less common. But relevant today, because of complex interactions in the modern society. 5. Example: Character flaw, corruption, extortion, and crime. 5. Example: Notions or beliefs about manners, tastes, customs, and towards laws. As against morals and ethics, laws are norms, formally approved by state, power or national or international political bodies. Breaking the norms is called crime, and invite specific punishment. 1.2 VALUES 1.2.1 Definition Humans have the unique ability to define their identity, choose their values and establish their beliefs. All three of these directly influence a person’s behavior. People have gone to great lengths to demonstrate the validity of their beliefs, including war and sacrificing their own life! Conversely, people are not motivated to support or validate the beliefs of another, when those beliefs are contrary to their own. People will act congruent with their personal values or what they deem to be important. A value is defined as a principle that promotes well-being or prevents harm.” Another definition is: Values are our guidelines for our success—our paradigm about what is acceptable.” Personal values are defined as: “Emotional beliefs in principles regarded as particularly favorable or important for the individual.” Our values associate emotions to our experiences and guide our choices, decisions and actions. 2
A person’s observations on its environment are filtered through his values to determine whether or not he should expend energy to do something about his experiences. A person who values gold and sees a large bag of gold (a positive value) in his path as he walks, will be motivated to reach down and pick it up. A person who values his life and knows about venomous snakes will retreat from the sound of a rattlesnake (a negative value) from nearby, when he is walking in the desert. Said in another way, “Values are the scales we use to weigh our choices for our actions, whether to move towards or away from something.” Not all values have the same weight or priority. Some are more important than others and must be satisfied before others can be addressed. Dr. Abraham Maslow illustrated this with his hierarchy of human needs. Survival has a higher priority than security, which has a higher priority than social acceptance. Self-esteem can only be addressed to the degree that social acceptance is fulfilled. Similarly, self-actualization can only be pursued to the degree that self-esteem has been satisfied. A person’s beliefs, values and identity are usually acquired unconsciously based on his personal experience or observations of others’ experiences as to what produces desirable or undesirable results in the environment. A baby’s learning to walk and talk is a clear example of identifying with human adults, valuing the act of being able to have the mobility and communication ability of an adult and the belief, based on unconscious observation, that humans can do walk and do talk with each other. Physiologists have identified the parts of the human brain that are involved in producing behavior in accordance with beliefs and values. All information collected by human senses is passed through a net-like group of cells, known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS), located near the top of the brain stem. The RAS compares the data received with accepted values, positive and negative (threats), and beliefs stored in memory and determines whether or not immediate action is required. The results of the RAS’s comparison are communicated to the ‘amygdala’ near the mid-brain. The ‘amygdala’ produces neuro-chemicals that cause emotions consistent with the nature of and proportional to the match between environment and values and beliefs. The neuro-chemicals initiate the chemical processes needed for the action to be taken. If the emotions produced are strong enough, the perceived information is blocked from reaching the logical, rational and conscious executive center of the brain, the pre-frontal lobes. In which case, the resulting behavior will be automatic, not necessarily logical or rational, and completely in accordance with the person’s strongest held beliefs, values and/or identity. By positive affirmations, one can modify or create new beliefs about a person’s identity and/or what is important to him (values). Verbal repetition of statements intended to become new beliefs, and values will result in these being stored for use by the RAS for comparison with the environment being experienced. This is the mechanism how the beliefs or values are modified. 1.2.2 Types of Values2 The five core human values are: (1) Right conduct, (2) Peace, (3) Truth, (4) Love, and (5) Nonviolence. 1. Values related to RIGHT CONDUCT are: (a) SELF-HELP SKILLS: Care of possessions, diet, hygiene, modesty, posture, self reliance, and tidy appearance (b) SOCIAL SKILLS: Good behavior, good manners, good relationships, helpfulness, No wastage, and good environment, and (c) ETHICAL SKILLS: Code of conduct, courage, dependability, duty, efficiency, 3
ingenuity, initiative, perseverance, punctuality, resourcefulness, respect for all, and responsibility 2. Values related to PEACE are: Attention, calmness, concentration, contentment, dignity, discipline, equality, equanimity, faithfulness, focus, gratitude, happiness, harmony, humility, inner silence, optimism, patience, reflection, satisfaction, self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-control, self-discipline, self-esteem, self-respect, sense control, tolerance, and understanding 3. Values related to TRUTH are: Accuracy, curiosity, discernment, fairness, fearlessness, honesty, integrity (unity of thought, word, and deed), intuition, justice, optimism, purity, quest for knowledge, reason, self-analysis, sincerity, sprit of enquiry, synthesis, trust, truthfulness, and determination. 4. Values related to LOVE are: Acceptance, affection, care, compassion, consideration, dedication, devotion, empathy, forbearance, forgiveness, friendship, generosity, gentleness, humanness, interdependence, kindness, patience, patriotism, reverence, sacrifice, selflessness, service, sharing, sympathy, thoughtfulness, tolerance and trust 5. Values related to NON-VIOLENCE are: (a) PSYCHOLOGICAL: Benevolence, compassion, concern for others, consideration, forbearance, forgiveness, manners, happiness, loyalty, morality, and universal love (b) SOCIAL: Appreciation of other cultures and religions, brotherhood, care of environment, citizenship, equality, harmlessness, national awareness, perseverance, respect for property, and social justice. PERSEVERANCE is defined as persistence, determination, resolution, tenacity, dedication, commitment, constancy, steadfastness, stamina, endurance and indefatigability. To persevere is described as to continue, carry on, stick at it (in formal), keep going, persist, plug away, (informal), remain, stand firm, stand fast, hold on and hang on. Perseverance builds character. ACCURACY means freedom from mistake or error; conformity to truth or to a standard or model and exactness. Accuracy is defined as correctness, exactness, authenticity, truth, veracity, closeness to truth (true value) and carefulness. The value of accuracy embraces a large area and has many implications. Engineers are encouraged to demonstrate accuracy in their behavior through the medium of praise and other incentives. Accuracy includes telling the truth, not exaggerating, and taking care over one’s work. DISCERNMENT means discrimination, perception, penetration, and insight. Discernment means the power to see what is not obvious to the average mind. It stresses accuracy, especially in reading character or motives. Discrimination stresses the power to distinguish or select what is true or genuinely excellent. Perception implies quick and often sympathetic discernment, as of shades of feelings. Penetration implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial. Insight suggests depth of discernment. Definitions of other terms are given in the appropriate pages of this book. 1.2.3 Evolution of Human Values The human values evolve because of the following factors: 1. The impact of norms of the society on the fulfillment of the individual’s needs or desires. 4

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