What Do We Teach to Engineering Students: Embedded Ethics, Morality, and Politics

Avigail Ferdman, Emanuele Ratti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In the past few years, calls for integrating ethics modules in engineering curricula have multiplied. Despite this positive trend, a number of issues with these ‘embedded’ programs remains. First, learning goals are underspecified. A second limitation is the conflation of different dimensions under the same banner, in particular confusion between ethics curricula geared towards addressing the ethics of individual conduct and curricula geared towards addressing ethics at the societal level. In this article, we propose a tripartite framework to overcome these difficulties. Our framework analytically decomposes an ethics module into three dimensions. First, there is the ethical dimension, which pertains to the learning goals. Second, there is the moral dimension, which addresses the moral relevance of engineers’ conduct. Finally, there is the political dimension, which scales up issues of moral relevance at the civic level. All in all, our framework has two advantages. First, it provides analytic clarity, i.e. it enables course instructors to locate ethical dilemmas in either the moral or political realm and to make use of the tools and resources from moral and/or political philosophy. Second, it depicts a comprehensive ethical training, which enables students to both reason about moral issues in the abstract, and to socially contextualize potential solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Embedded ethics
  • Morality
  • Politics
  • Teaching ethics
  • Virtues


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