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Andrew McAninch, Ph.D. - Milwaukee School of Engineering. Milwaukee, WI, US

Andrew McAninch, Ph.D.

Associate Professor | Milwaukee School of Engineering


Dr. Andrew McAninch specializes in ethics and applied ethics, with an emphasis on bioethics, engineering ethics, and ethics of AI.

Education, Licensure and Certification (2)

Ph.D.: Philosophy, Indiana University Bloomington 2012

B.A.: Philosophy and English, The University of Iowa 2001


Andrew McAninch, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in MSOE’s Department of Humanities, Social Science, and Communications. Before arriving at MSOE, he was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also spent a year as Program Director with the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) at the Penn Law School. He works in moral philosophy, broadly construed, and regularly teaches courses in engineering ethics, biomedical ethics, ethics of artificial intelligence, social and political philosophy, philosophy of mind and AI, and epistemology. He serves on the MSOE AI Impact Task Force.

Areas of Expertise (4)

Ethics and Applied Ethics (esp. Bioethics, Engineering Ethics, Ethics of AI)

Philosophy of Action

Moral Psychology



Media Appearances (4)

Guest speaker on Professional Ethics for Engineers

American Society of Plumbing Engineers, WI chapter, HGA Architects and Engineers  

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2023

Subject Matter Expert

Wisconsin State Journal article on WI state AI task forces  print


Subject Matter Expert

CBS58 News  

CBS58 report on AI chatbots and student cheating 2023


PBS Milwaukee  

PBS Milwaukee discussion of documentary film Coded Bias Milwaukee, WI 2021

Event and Speaking Appearances (12)

Demystifying the Science and Ethics of Generative AI: Some Lessons for the Life Sciences (with Dr. Jeremy Kedziora)

Protecting Future Generations- Impacts of Generative AI Beyond Plagiarism: A World BioEthics Day Event  Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2023

Ethical Implications of Teaching and Learning Post-GPT (with Dr. Julian Friedland and Dr. Steve May)

32nd Annual Conference of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics  Portland, Oregon March 2-5, 2023

Machine Learning and Reflective Agency

32nd Annual Conference of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics  Portland, Oregon, March 2-5, 2023

Machine Learning and Reflective Agency

Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology (VMST) Annual Conference  University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas May 19-22, 2022

Moral Distress Across the Professions: Some Parallels and Their Limitations

Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities Grand Rounds Speaker Series  Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin May 17, 2022

Moral Distress Across the Professions: Some Parallels and Their Limitations

30th Annual Conference of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, February 25-27, 2021  Virtual Conference

Go Big or Go Home? Micro-ethics, Macro-ethics, and the Deliberative Perspective in Engineering Ethics Education

Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology (VMST) Annual Conference  University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas May 29-31, 2020 (accepted for presentation 4-2-2020, VMST conference cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic)

Two Perspectives on the Value of Deliberative Reasoning

Illinois Philosophical Association Annual Conference  Normal, IL, 2019

Recent Adventures in Engineering Ethics

Professional Engineers Advancing Knowledge (PEAK) Education Seminars  MSOE

What is the Value of Deliberation?

3rd Annual Tennessee Value and Agency Conference: Reason, Sentiment, and Sensibility in the Moral Life  University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

What is the Value of Deliberation?

Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress  University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Evolution and the Value of Deliberative Reasoning

40th Conference on Value Inquiry: Evolution and the Foundations of Ethics  Neumann University, Aston, PA

Research Grants (6)

CREATE CLO Integration Grant (semester course release)

Milwaukee School of Engineering 


CREATE Curriculum Integration Grant

Milwaukee School of Engineering 


Summer Development Grant, Bioethics

Milwaukee School of Engineering 


Protracted Leave

Milwaukee School of Engineering 


Course Development Grant for Ethics of Digital Technologies and Artificial Intelligence

Milwaukee School of Engineering 


Course Development Grant for Philosophy of Mind and Artificial Intelligence

Milwaukee School of Engineering 


Selected Publications (7)

Go Big or Go Home? A New Case for Integrating Micro-ethics and Macro-ethics in Engineering and Education

Science and Engineering Ethics

McAninch, A.


In this paper, I make a novel case for an expansive approach to engineering ethics education, one that regards micro-ethics and macro-ethics as essentially complementary. Although others have voiced support for including macro-ethical reflection within engineering ethics education, I advance a stronger claim, arguing that isolating engineering ethics from macro-level issues risks rendering even micro-ethical inquiry morally meaningless. I divide my proposal into four parts. First, I clarify the distinction between micro-ethics and macro-ethics as I am construing it, defending my characterization against a potential worry. Second, I consider but reject some arguments for a restrictive approach, one that excludes macro-ethical reflection from engineering ethics education. Third, I offer my central argument for an expansive approach. Finally, I suggest that macro-ethics education can learn something valuable from micro-ethics pedagogy. On my proposal, students consider both micro- and macro-ethical problems from the deliberative perspective, situating micro-ethical problems within a broader social framework but also situating macro-ethical problems within an engaged, practical framework. By emphasizing the value of the deliberative perspective, my proposal contributes to a growing call to broaden the scope of engineering ethics education while maintaining its practical relevance.

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International Encyclopedia of Ethics

Baron, M., McAninch, A.


DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee743.pub2

Hopes and Misconceptions: Comment on Gert*

American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Medicine

McAninch, A.

*Accepted for publication Fall 2018; newsletter discontinued by APA prior to scheduled publication.

Moral Distress, Moral Injury, and Moral Luck

The American Journal of Bioethics

McAninch, A.

2016 Moral Distress, Moral Injury, and Moral Luck unacceptable course of action. Vague speculation, groundless fears, and imaginary devils do not justify knowingly doing the wrong thing. By the same token, additional information can markedly change the picture, lending credibility to actions that formerly appeared unacceptable. Equally important, one should search for viable, reduced risk avenues for accomplishing the moral objective. Quite possibly, other team members are also uncomfortable. Thoughtful conversation and …

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Activity, Passivity, and Normative Avowal

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly

McAninch, A.

2015 The idea that agents can be active with respect to some of their actions, and passive with respect to others, is a widely held assumption within moral philosophy. But exactly how to characterize these notions is controversial. I argue that an agent is active just in case (A) her action is one whose motive she can truly avow as reason‐giving, or (B) her action is one whose motive she can disavow, provided her disavowal effects appropriate modifications in her future motives. This view maintains a link between activity, reason‐responsiveness, and answerability, while avoiding commitments to an implausible theory of motivation.

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Acting for a Reason and Following a Principle

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

McAninch, A.

2015 According to an influential view of practical reason and rational agency, a person acts for a reason only if she recognizes some consideration to be a reason, where this recognition motivates her to act. I call this requirement the guidance condition on acting for a reason. Despite its intuitive appeal, the guidance condition appears to generate a vicious regress. At least one proponent of the guidance condition, Christine M. Korsgaard, is sensitive to this regress worry, and her appeal in recent work to the constitutive principles of action can be seen, in part, as a response to it. I argue, however, that if we are to appeal to the constitutive principles of action to resolve the regress, then we must determine whether acting on such principles is also subject to the guidance condition. This raises a dilemma. If following these principles is subject to the guidance condition, then the regress remains unresolved. But if not, then the rationale for applying it to acting for a reason vanishes as well. I conclude that we should embrace an account of acting for a reason that rejects the guidance condition.

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Animal Communication and Neo-Expressivism

The Philosophy of Animal Minds

McAninch, A., Goodrich, G., Allen, C.

2009 One of the earliest issues in cognitive ethology concerned the meaning of animal signals. In the 1970s and 1980s this debate was most active with respect to the question of whether animal alarm calls convey information about the emotional states of animals or whether they “refer” directly to predators in the environment (Seyfarth, Cheney, & Marler 1980; see Radick 2007 for a historical account), but other areas, such as vocalizations about food and social contact, were also widely discussed.

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