. "7 Roundtable Discussion: The Intersection of Humanitarian Action, Social Justice, and Sustainable Community Development." Engineering, Social Justice, and Sustainable Community Development: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2010.
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Engineering, Social Justice, and Sustainable Community Development: Summary of a Workshop
philosophical training and his current career, as well as his training and professional experience as a mechanical engineer in both design and construction in civilian and military life here in the United States and, most recently, in Afghanistan. He also noted that in talking about community sustainable development and social justice he could draw on his experience as a member of the South Carolina National Guard and the U.S. Northern Command whose Joint Support Group responded to Hurricane Katrina.
Dr. Bertha focused on the teaching of engineering ethics education. He noted that practicing engineers often criticize the philosophical approach to teaching ethics for being too theoretical, while philosophers often criticize applied courses as teaching compliance rather than ethics. He suggested that a casuistical approach, a focus on ethical issues in particular cases, would help improve engineering practice. He argued that philosophers might contribute to engineering courses by providing ethical analyses of cases being developed or used in engineering departments. Philosophers could teach these course components or help engineering faculty teach them.
A casuistical approach would require that engineering students recognize that no mathematical formula can provide “the one” solution. However, the correct approach is not “all subjective” either. It entails arguing through the ethical content of a specific case and identifying the morally relevant aspects of the case. A provisional resolution might be developed, but it might have to be changed later.
“[T]hey [students] need to wrestle with the fact that there are situations for which there are no formulas and that the best you can do is put together a cogent argument.”
Carlos Bertha, U.S. Air Force Academy
In his work in Afghanistan, Dr. Bertha said, it was important to guard against paternalism, that is, assuming that the intervening party (in this case, the engineer) knows how to solve the problem (and that the home party wants to be passive). It was also important to guard against moral relativism, for instance, a situation in which the intervening party may condone bribery because it is common practice. Exchanges that educate engineers about cultural differences would help them approach sustainable community development in foreign countries, such as Afghanistan, more effectively, he said. He suggested forming multinational engineer-