Ways of thinking about and teaching ethical problem solving: Microethics and macroethics in engineering

Joseph R. Herkert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Engineering ethics entails three frames of reference: individual, professional, and social "Microethics" considers individuals and internal relations of the engineering profession; "macroethics" applies to the collective social responsibility of the profession and to societal decisions about technology. Most research and teaching in engineering ethics, including online resources, has had a "micro" focus. Mechanisms for incorporating macroethical perspectives include: integrating engineering ethics and science, technology and society (STS); closer integration of engineering ethics and computer ethics; and consideration of the influence of professional engineering societies and corporate social responsibility programs on ethical engineering practice. Integrating macroethical issues and concerns in engineering ethics involves broadening the context of ethical problem solving. This in turn implies: developing courses emphasizing both micro and macro perspectives, providing faculty development that includes training in both STS and practical ethics; and revision of curriculum materials, including online resources. Multidisciplinary collaboration is recommended 1) to create online case studies emphasizing ethical decision making in individual, professional, and societal contexts; 2) to leverage existing online computer ethics resources with relevance to engineering education and practice; and 3) to create transparent linkages between public policy positions advocated by professional societies and codes of ethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-385
Number of pages13
JournalScience and engineering ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Corporate responsibility
  • Engineering ethics
  • Ethical problem solving
  • Macroethics
  • Online resources
  • Professional societies
  • STS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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