The InFocus article on “Knowledge, Rationality, and Judgment” (July 2012) explains the importance of practical judgment in the engineering profession based on virtue ethics cultivated and possessed by engineers. It reminded me of the following sentence that I read few weeks ago in a piece titled “One Virtue at a Time, Please” in The New York Review of Books (June 21, 2012) regarding Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century, by Howard Gardner:
“Nonetheless, Gardner is firmly on Keats’s side in wanting us, in our efforts to educate the young and ourselves, to take beauty seriously, to cultivate our aesthetic sensibilities, and to learn how to form intelligent judgments about works of art of all sorts.”
The engineering profession also needs to identify and cultivate our own virtues, and to learn how to form intelligent judgments about the role of technology in our civic life, so that we extend its benefits equitably to all of mankind, but do so sustainably, respecting the environmental constraints of our finite earth.
The bimonthly InFocus articles on virtue ethics concepts applied to reframing engineering ethics in the twenty-first century are timely and much needed. The technical rationality developed over two hundred years of technological revolution so distorts our notions of knowledge and judgement that we need to reframe both in the digital age, which otherwise promises an even greater stranglehold of technical rationality on the engineering profession.
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Ashvin A. Shah, P.E., F.ASCE