Regulation or Responsibility? Autonomy, Moral Imagination, and Engineering

Mark Coeckelbergh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic

59 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


A prima facie analysis suggests that there are essentially two, mutually exclusive, ways in which risk arising from engineering design can be managed: by imposing external constraints on engineers or by engendering their feelings of responsibility and respect their autonomy. The author discusses the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches. However, he then shows that this opposition is a false one and that there is no simple relation between regulation and autonomy. Furthermore, the author argues that the most pressing need is not more or less regulation but the further development of moral imagination. The enhancement of moral imagination can help engineers to discern the moral relevance of design problems, to create new design options, and to envisage the possible outcomes of their designs. The author suggests a dual program of developing regulatory frameworks that support engineers’ autonomy and responsibility simultaneously with efforts to promote their moral imagination. He describes how some existing institutional changes have started off in this direction and proposes empirical research to take this further
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)237-260
JournalScience, technology & human values
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • IR-76134

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