Ethics as engineering

I am not an organized thinker. I love me my disorganized, non-systemic minds, my Ellul (still) and all. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, but it is how I am; discussing that would be useful to write about someday.

So when, on Slacktivist yesterday, one of the old-timers said that "[A unified ethical] framework has the advantage of being more robust, able to answer new questions, like having calculus instead of a book full of logarithms," I responded:
"Unifying theoretical framework" is balls, because ethics is not science: it's engineering.
We do not have the luxury of isolating every variable, controlling the circumstances of the work, and submitting the results to peer review afterward to see if we got it completely right. We have to work with budgets, deadlines, and all kinds of other arbitrary factors, and "getting it wrong" has horrible human consequences. "Explanatory robustness" is a nonissue when you're missing lots of information, when you have to rely on heuristics and best practices, when "good enough" is a valid category.
Pure science, like pure philosophy, may benefit from structure; engineering and ethics need to be load-bearing. Some base in theory is useful, but the superstructure is real and needs to stand on its own merits.

And historically, a lot of great systematizing is used not so much to better build things up in the future, but to tear stuff down now, like Ursula L said.

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