John Ladd argues that the idea of having a code of ethics to dictate the behaviour of professionals is rather absurd (Snapper and Johnson 8). In his article, The Quest for a Code of Professional Ethics: an Intellectual and Moral Confusion, he explains the basis for his argument. Ladd talks about the side effects of code of ethics and expound on the supposed objectives of these codes. The National Society for professional engineers is a body that governs the professional codes of ethics among engineers in America. The body has come up with codes of ethics that are to be followed by the engineers in the state.
Ladd explains that the concept of ethics is a rather complex intellectual activity. Principles in relation to ethics can therefore not be codified. Ethical principles cannot be made through consensus due to the complexity of their nature. He argues that the concept of ethics must be internally based. They are birthed from an individual’s autonomy. This is to say that an individual cannot impose principles of ethics on others. Principles of ethics must be formulated and followed by the individual himself. The codification of rules automatically transforms them into legal societal codes. In so doing, they look their ethical value. Although laws and ethics are used for the same purpose, the intellectual complexity attached to ethics disqualifies it from being similar to laws (Snapper and Johnson 9).
Ladd goes further to question the logic behind professionals instigating codes of ethics. In his opinion, every individual is his own teacher of ethics (Snapper and Johnson 11). This implies that no can therefore have mastery of ethics. This very perspective nullifies the purpose of NPSE’s principals of ethics. According to Ladd, individual engineers should stipulate code of ethics that regulate their work culture.
The existence of the principles of ethics for engineers implies that they are exempted from other duties carried out by common individuals. Ladd argues that being a professional does not equate to being above social obligations (Snapper and Johnson 12). The ethics stipulated by NPSE do not talk about general duties that bind members of the society. These duties are like those that encourage courtesy among social relations. Ladd argues that the very existence of such professional principles creates a form of immunity against social norms.
NPSE does not concentrate on micro ethical aspects of engineers. Ladd suggests that principles of ethics must be able to set guidelines that regulate interpersonal relationships (Snapper and Johnson 12). The ethical principals for engineers address issues to deal with the relationship of the engineers and the members of the society. It however fails to address the relationship among the engineers themselves.
Ladd argues that the code of ethics among professionals will encourage a sense of complacency (Snapper and Johnson 14). NPSE’s ethical principles restrict engineers to act only in accordance to these codes. The result of this is that employees may fail to give their best, as they will only act within the boundaries of these principals.
One of the objectives of ethics as identified by Ladd is to expose the ethical aspects of the work of professionals (Snapper and Johnson 12). NPSE’s principles of ethics surface the moral obligation accorded to engineers. As a social obligation, the engineers are to protect public health. The codes of ethics also stipulate the moral obligations that they have in regards to their companies and employers. They are to act in ways that will promote the integrity of their company and they are to build and maintain the employer loyalty.
Snapper, John, W. and Johnson, Deborah G. Ethical Issues in the Use of Computers. California: Wadsworth Publishers, 1985. Print.