Mike W. Martin

in Meaningful Work

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780195133257
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848706 | DOI:

Series: Practical and Professional Ethics


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As professionals, engineers live by codes of ethics that ascribe to them a paramount obligation to protect the safety, health, and welfare of the public, an obligation that frequently implies whistleblowing. Yet, as employees of corporations, their obligation is to respect the authority of managers who sometimes give insufficient attention to safety and who also severely punish whistleblowers for their alleged disloyalty and damage to the corporation. The upshot is a clash of professional obligations to employers and to the public, as well as conflicts between codified professional duties, personal ideals, and personal well-being. The voluminous literature on whistleblowing has neglected the relevance of personal commitments to professional responsibilities. This chapter examines personal rights and responsibilities in deciding how to meet professional obligations; increased personal burdens when others involved in collective endeavors fail to meet their responsibilities; the role of virtues, especially personal integrity and self-respect, as they bear on “living with oneself”; and personal commitments to moral ideals beyond minimum requirements.

Keywords: whistleblowing; engineers; code of ethics; authority; safety; professional obligations; personal ideals; personal commitments; virtues; moral ideals

Chapter.  6126 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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