Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 175–186 | Cite as

Towards an ontological foundation of information ethics

  • Rafael CapurroEmail author


The paper presents, firstly, a brief review of the long history of information ethics beginning with the Greek concept of parrhesia or freedom of speech as analyzed by Michel Foucault. The recent concept of information ethics is related particularly to problems which arose in the last century with the development of computer technology and the internet. A broader concept of information ethics as dealing with the digital reconstruction of all possible phenomena leads to questions relating to digital ontology. Following Heidegger’s conception of the relation between ontology and metaphysics, the author argues that ontology has to do with Being itself and not just with the Being of beings which is the matter of metaphysics. The primary aim of an ontological foundation of information ethics is to question the metaphysical ambitions of digital ontology understood as today’s pervading understanding of Being. The author analyzes some challenges of digital technology, particularly with regard to the moral status of digital agents. The author argues that information ethics does not only deal with ethical questions relating to the infosphere. This view is contrasted with arguments presented by Luciano Floridi on the foundation of information ethics as well as on the moral status of digital agents. It is argued that a reductionist view of the human body as digital data overlooks the limits of digital ontology and gives up one basis for ethical orientation. Finally issues related to the digital divide as well as to intercultural aspects of information ethics are explored – and long and short-term agendas for appropriate responses are presented.


digital agents digital ontology human existence information ethics infosphere metaphysics reductionism 


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Thanks to Ms Heather Bradshaw (Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics) for her comments and criticisms as well as for polishing my English.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart (HdM) – Stuttgart Media UniversityStuttgartGermany

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