Ethics for Engineers

Course No.: L.048.65016

Type: V2, no exercise

Credits: 3

Semester: Summer semester

Location and Schedule:

Online with negotiable schedule.

On Wednesday, April, 8th 2020 an introductory meeting will be held via Skype. Please send your Skype-ID to Prof. Scheytt via email. 

Short description

The continuous technical progress improves human living conditions, but also changes the lives of people. Engineers, computer scientists, and scientists cause changes in many spheres, such as economy, culture, science, private relations, environment etc.  Many of these changes are foreseeable, others occur unexpectedly. Since technology interacts with many of these areas, the assessment of technology impacts is often subject to great uncertainty. Even an ethical assessment of technological developments is often difficult, because in many cases technology has both good and bad consequences (e.g. artificial intelligence can be used to improve the detection of diseases, but potentially also destroys jobs).

The lecture gives an introduction into philosophy and ethics of technology. The students shall be enabled to assess technical progress from an interdisciplinary perspective and to understand the relationship of technology with other important spheres of life. The attendants will also learn about prerequisites of ethical assessments as well as how ethical assessments can be deduced by means of ethical reasoning. The lecture will be held in German. The courses will be graded based on a seminar paper (20 to 30 pages) and a presentation.

Content

The lecture is subdivided in 3 parts:

I: Analysis of technology and consequences technology

  • Definition of technology and objectives for technology development
  • Historical foundations of technology in middle ages and modern times (Aristoteles, Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Popper)
  • Relationship of technology and natural science
  • Relationship of economy and technology
  • Relationship of man and technology

II: Conflicting developments of technology

  • Technical liberation
  • Consumption and technology
  • Contradictions and limits of technological progress
  • Objectives of technical construction

III: Technology Ethics

  • Ethics vs. morality
  • Hume’s law (“natural fallacy”)
  • Epistemic conditions of ethics
  • Basic ethic concepts (virtue ethics, deontology, teleological ethics)
  • Exemplary Ethics (Aristoteles, Utilitarism, Kant, Christian ethics, Naturalistic ethics, postmodern ethics)

The course can be taken within the module “Soft Skills” in the Bachelor Computer Engineering or within “Studium Generale” in Bachelor / Master Electrical Engineering and Bachelor / Master Computer Science.

Literature

  • Dieter Wandschneider “Technikphilosophie” C. C. Buchner, Bamberg, 2004
  •  Dietmar Hübner „Einführung in die philosophische Ethik“, Vandenoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2014