By Design: Ethics, Theology, and the Practice of Engineering

By Brad J. Kallenberg

An examination of the parallels between problem-solving in engineering and in theological ethics, showing how ‘design reasoning’ can be adapted as a heuristic.

ISBN: 9780227174173


Both engineering and human living take place in a messy world, one full of unknowns and contingencies. ‘Design reasoning’ is the way engineers cope with real-world contingency. Because of the messiness, books about engineering design cannot have ‘ideal solutions’ printed in the back in the same way that mathematics textbooks can. Design reasoning does not produce a single, ideally correct answer to a given problem but rather generates a wide variety of rival solutions that vie against each other for their relative level of ‘satisfactoriness’.

A reasoning process analogous to design is needed in ethics. Since the realm of interpersonal relations is itself a fluid and highly contingent real-world affair, design reasoning offers the promise of a useful paradigm for ethical reasoning. This volume undertakes two tasks. First, it employs design reasoning to illustrate how technological artefacts can be assessed for their inherent moral properties. Second, it uses the design paradigm as a means for bringing engineering ethics into conversation with Christian theology in order to show how each can be for the other a catalyst for the revolutionary task of living by design.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 326
Illustrations b&w

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Brad J. Kallenberg is Professor of Theology at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. He is author of Ethics as Grammar (2001), Live to Tell (2002), God and Gadgets (2011), and numerous scholarly articles.



1. The Messy World We Inhabit
2. Ethics as Design
3. Arguing about Good Design
4. Reading Professional Codes of Ethics through Design
5. Design Reasoning
6. Design Can Change Your Life
7. So Be Good for Goodness’ Sake!
8. Design as a Social Practice
9. Cross-Domain Transfer and Design
10. Engineering as Christian Vocation

Appendix: Following the Rules in Design


Endorsements and Reviews

By Design first draws a parallel between the discipline of engineering and the discipline of ethics by identifying both as areas that (to use the author’s term) are ‘messy,’ and hence require the use of heuristics. It is extremely well written, well researched, and well illustrated, with numerous authoritative examples carefully chosen from engineering and religion. I highly recommend this book.
Billy V. Koen, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

… an inspiring vision for how engineering can be understood as a Christian vocation, so long as its particular practice serves both moral means and ends. This book is intended first for wellread engineering undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty, but also for students of theology and ethics who are interested in a creative and helpful interdisciplinary project.
J. David Moser, in Theological Book Review, Vol 26, No 1

Kallenberg is to be commended for seeking to write a substantial account of engineering ethics from a Christian perspective. He has clearly understood important aspects of engineering thinking and linked them well to ethical thinking. Much philosophical and theological scholarship underlies the text. Several of the approaches adopted are innovative and have significant potential for further development. Especially welcome is the emphasis on approaches that stimulate the ethical imagination … Professional engineers with a particular interest in ethics will find the book interesting. Wider dissemination and discussion of the book’s account of professional ethical codes could be of great benefit to the development of the profession.
W. Richard Bowen, in Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol 27.3