Altruism, Egoism, and Risk

by Richard H. McCuen, (A.M.ASCE), Assoc. Dean; Coll. of Engrg., Univ. of Maryland, College Park, Md. 20742,

Serial Information: Issues in Engineering: Journal of Professional Activities, 1981, Vol. 107, Issue 2, Pg. 111-120

Document Type: Journal Paper


The conflict between self-sacrificial and self-interest motives in professional conduct is investigated. Engineering risk appears to be a link between the competing philosophical theories of altruism and egoism. Professional codes of ethics are not insensitive to egoistic motives, especially when judged from the standpoint of the profession or of engineers in a collective sense. Ethical decision problems faced by engineers are shown to be value conflicts in which altruistic and egoistic motives must be weighed, with engineering risk being the weighting function. The competing moral obligations in cases involving whistle-blowing and kickbacks are dicussed, and the implications for engineering education are investigated.

Subject Headings: Risk management | Ethics | Engineering education | Standards and codes | Value engineering | Dispute resolution

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