Original Paper


, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 3-20

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Nano-ethics as NEST-ethics: Patterns of Moral Argumentation About New and Emerging Science and Technology

  • Tsjalling SwierstraAffiliated withAfdeling Wijsbegeerte, Faculteit Gedragswetenschappen, Universiteit Twente Email author 
  • , Arie RipAffiliated withAfdeling Wijsbegeerte, Faculteit Gedragswetenschappen, Universiteit Twente


There might not be a specific nano-ethics, but there definitely is an ethics of new & emerging science and technology (NEST), with characteristic tropes and patterns of moral argumentation. Ethical discussion in and around nanoscience and technology reflects such NEST-ethics. We offer an inventory of the arguments, and show patterns in their evolution, in arenas full of proponents and opponents. We also show that there are some nano-specific issues: in how size matters, and when agency is delegated to smart devices. Our overall approach is a pragmatist ethics, and we conclude that struggle (and learning) might be more productive than models emphasizing consensus.


New & emerging science and technology Moral argumentation Consequentialism Opponents Good life Ethics Ambivalences Arena model