The launch of Engineering Ethics in Southern Africa was held on the 28th February at Future Space in Sandton, hosted by Wits lecturer Dr Michael Atkins as he interviewed author, Doctor Lorrainne Doherty, and reviewer Louis Lagrange hailing from the University of the Free State’s Engineering Sciences Department.
Dr Atkins began the panel by engaging Lagrange, who emphasised that this book offers the engineering community a vehicle to define the role and importance of ethics, both theoretical and practical, in our everyday lives. This book is not only applicable to engineering, but is a guide for life and how human beings can fit to live together.
Lagrange promoted the title as both an original and reliable solution to the study of this academic subject for engineers. It begins with philosophy, approach and beliefs and from there it takes you to skills, to see not only what you apply, but how you apply it. The strongest part of the book is the third pillar, where actual case studies are covered to see the practical outcomes. In these, the (unintended) consequences of doing – or not doing – something is clearly shown, proving the values of the first two pillars, knowledge and skills, to practical application.
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Michael then spoke to Lorraine about the origins of the book, which was borne from her time as a Complementary Studies Lecturer in the School of Mechanical, Industrial & Aeronautical Engineering Soft at Wits University for the last ten years:
“I quickly saw the gap of soft skills within the hard skills environment of the sciences. Science is measurable, verifiable, calculable, empirical… It was very hard for me to motivate the importance of my subject to science-based students with an important topic that I couldn’t quantify. Because engineering revolves around solving some of the biggest systemic problems in society, it is essential that engineers (and other scientists) can see the philosophy behind human rights to truly understand human dignity. By combining these concepts in my book, where rights are measurable, we make these ethical issues more tangible for them while still encouraging and acknowledging the value of emotive input. By understanding the lacuna between fact and value they come together more than they sit apart, which is apparent in the case studies. This is the first title of its kind to step into that gap.” – Lorraine Doherty
Read Lorraine’s original interview with Juta here.
Michael also raised the introduction of both African Ethics and Environmental Ethics in the first pillar of the book, which Lorraine said were included for both academic and personal reasons. As someone not born in South Africa but someone who made it her home, she chose to pay it forward with the attention to African Ethics, which separates itself from Western Philosophy by raising the importance of concepts like community and uBuntu – “These concepts dominate many of our values, and values determine our actions,” says Doherty. She goes on to say that both African Ethics and Environmental Ethics display the practical nature of moral philosophy, which is as applied philosophy, which means it is organic, it grows. As Lagrange also highlighted, ethics is about values, values are organic, and values change over time through extrinsic forces. So, especially when looking at something like environmental ethics, we can see a change of almost one hundred and eighty degrees when compared to Classical or Medieval Philosophy which were very anthropocentric; our shift in thinking now allows us to see the intrinsic values of nature, rendering us a less cost-focused in our efforts to repair our relationship with nature.
Please note this interview has been condensed. For the full version please watch the launch via our Youtube channel here.
Engineering Ethics in South Africa offers readers, students, lecturers and practising engineers a potential framework to guide them to professional and personal excellence. This book is available in print and ebook on our website.