, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 71-79
Date: 12 Feb 2009

Why unreal punishments in response to unreal crimes might actually be a really good thing

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Abstract

In this article I explore ways to argue about punishment of personal representations in virtual reality. I will defend the idea that such punishing might sometimes be morally required. I offer four different lines of argument: one consequentialistic, one appealing to an idea of appropriateness, one using the notion of organic wholes, and one starting from a supposed inability to determine the limits of the extension of the moral agent. I conclude that all four approaches could, in some cases, justify punishing a virtual reality representation; an avatar. As a consequence of my conclusion, I suggest that our institutionalized criminal justice system must be broadened in scope and punitive measures, in order to cover the new and difficult cases arising in virtual reality.