CR Drost (kentox) wrote,
CR Drost
kentox

We took our first "Ethics in Engineering" lecture today. The lectures are optional; but there are compulsory discussion sections. And nobody that I've talked to likes our lecturer.

The professor stated several times that ethical systems were correct or incorrect mostly based on their consistency. During the lecture-break, I went up to him privately and argued that he was dead wrong. He more or less floundered.

If you don't see why he is dead wrong, take any ethical system you like, and add on the premise, "also, only people with mustaches can justify ethical beliefs according to those principles; everybody else should ask someone with a 'stache about what's ethical or not." It's not obvious that this new ethical system is any less consistent than the old one, but it certainly seems much more wrong.

At one point I also pointed out that in English, things can be contrary without being contradictory -- e.g. it is both true that (1) the sky is blue, and (2) the sky is black and speckled with stars. The first is known to any schoolboy; but the second is true at this particular moment in this particular place. (Actually, it was rainy for all of today, so I doubt that there are stars. Same difference, though.) His response to that was to (apparently) redefine "contradictory" to include that. I told him that then he was throwing away his precise sense of logical contradiction. And then he lost track of where we were and said "listen, I have to go do... stuff," and ran away.

Is he a scientist? I don't know. But I don't think he's a philosopher. They said that they're importing an American who will take over the course, so I'm hoping-against-hope that such a person doesn't say such crazy things.

The discussion section was a bit better, but my classmates got stuck on the epistemic questions -- how do we know that the chemical is poisonous / that we are polluting the environment / that our Proplast TMJ implant will malfunction? I asked in the middle if we could maybe turn to interesting ethical questions like what value is, and which values were conflicting in our hypothetical scenarios, and how you resolve a conflict if you have two opposing values of your own. People took the bait a little, but not really.
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