by Matthew Barrett
The study of philosophy is often seen as a bunch of idealists talking about the real world without actually living in it. It can be difficult to see its value, as it does not seem to have any real practical relevance to our everyday lives. However, there is one branch of philosophy that is extremely practical and important to all of us. That branch is ethics. The study of right, wrong, and everything in between. This is the study of what we should do each and every day.
There are (seemingly) obvious answers to a lot of ethical questions like “should I steal that small child’s ice cream cone?”, but things become a lot less obvious when we start to wonder about the ethics of subjects like medicine, the environment, engineering, or using the internet. It seems obvious we should do everything we can to save human lives in hospitals, but how much damage is acceptable to do to the environment we all rely on in doing so? Should an autonomous car divert its path to save the lives of several passengers if doing so will kill a bystander? How much damage to natural systems is too much when we make use of natural resources? What principles should we even be drawing on to determine the answers to these kinds of questions?
Philosophy often cannot give clear and easy answers to questions like these, but it can give us the tools to start thinking about them and developing some frameworks we all (or most of us) can agree to work within while we go about our lives.
The BCIT library has a number of resources that deal with the ethics of specific professional areas, just a few are highlighted below.
Ethics for Engineers: A Brief Introduction, Anthony F Bainbridge, 2022
From a primer on what ethics means in a professional context, to discussions of AI and autonomous systems, Ethics for Engineers provides a place to start thinking about ethics for engineering professionals and students. The book aims to be accessible for engineers of any discipline and at any point in their career. It may not provide the answers to ethical dilemmas that arise in the workplace, but it certainly gives the reader the tools and confidence to begin tackling them in a professional manner.
Principles of Green Bioethics, Cristina Richie, 2019
Richie challenges the status quo of bioethics and update thinking to reflect our ecological needs as a species. With a few controversial stances, such as arguing against the use of life support, Principles of Green Bioethics attempts to show how bioethics that take the environmental impact of the medical world extremely seriously would function. At the very least, this one is sure to provoke a reaction and engagement with the topic at hand.
Consisting of twelve chapters written by various philosophers studying different aspects of environmental philosophy, Philosophy: Environmental Ethics uses various disciplines (including film, art, and literature) to ease readers into philosophy. Topics range from climate change to extinction, and give a place to jump off of into and engage with the world of environmental philosophy.
BCIT also has a number of films and videos in its various databases pertaining to ethics. Two from the Kanopy collection to check out are:
Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West, which explores the Colorado River, the various perils that endanger its existence, and proposes some new ways for thinking about natural resources and the ethics of their use.
Cyber Ethics: A Growing Business Challenge, which aims to help viewers identify lapses in ethics related to the use of computers and the internet, as well as gives the basics of cyber ethics policy.