Editor's note: This paper was read at the eighth annual University of Dayton Philosophy Colloquium, held in 1979.

Although the concept of collective responsibility adopted by the engineering profession is essentially the same as that of other professional groups, there are special difficulties that attend the realization of that concept. A large majority of engineers are employed by organizations rather than engaged in independent practice and, as a consequence, their ability to exercise collective responsibility is greatly limited. Since collective responsibility is an important characteristic of professionalism, this result raises serious questions about the status of engineering as a profession. In what follows I develop these issues in three steps: first, a brief outline of the concept of collective responsibility as it is understood in the engineering profession; second, an examination of the problems that arise in putting that concept into practice; third, the implications of these problems for engineers as professionals.



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