Computer systems: Moral entities but not moral agents
- 521 Downloads
After discussing the distinction between artifacts and natural entities, and the distinction between artifacts and technology, the conditions of the traditional account of moral agency are identified. While computer system behavior meets four of the five conditions, it does not and cannot meet a key condition. Computer systems do not have mental states, and even if they could be construed as having mental states, they do not have intendings to act, which arise from an agent’s freedom. On the other hand, computer systems have intentionality, and because of this, they should not be dismissed from the realm of morality in the same way that natural objects are dismissed. Natural objects behave from necessity; computer systems and other artifacts behave from necessity after they are created and deployed, but, unlike natural objects, they are intentionally created and deployed. Failure to recognize the intentionality of computer systems and their connection to human intentionality and action hides the moral character of computer systems. Computer systems are components in human moral action. When humans act with artifacts, their actions are constituted by the intentionality and efficacy of the artifact which, in turn, has been constituted by the intentionality and efficacy of the artifact designer. All three components – artifact designer, artifact, and artifact user – are at work when there is an action and all three should be the focus of moral evaluation.
Keywordsaction theory artifact artificial moral agent intentionality moral agent technology
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.B.R. Allenby. Engineering Ethics for an Anthropogenic Planet Emerging. In Technologies and Ethical Issues in␣Engineering, pp. 7–28. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2004Google Scholar
- 2.Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translation from Terence Irwin, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1985Google Scholar
- 3.Bijker W.E. (1994). Sociohistorical Technology Studies. In Jasanoff S., Markle G.E., Petersen J.C., Pinch T. (eds) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Sage, London, pp. 229–256Google Scholar
- 4.Bynum T.W., Moor J.H. (eds) (1998). The Digital Phoenix How Computers are Changing Philosophy. Blackwell Publishers, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- 5.J.H. Fetzer. Computers and Cognition: Why Minds are not Machines. Kluwer Academic Press, 2001Google Scholar
- 7.M. Heidegger. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Translated and with an Introduction by W.␣Lovitt. Harper & Row, New York, 1977Google Scholar
- 8.Hughes T.P. (1994). Technological Momentum. In Marx L., Smith M.R. (eds) Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. The MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 12–12Google Scholar
- 9.D.G. Johnson and T.M. Powers. Computers as Surrogate␣Agents. In J. van den Hoven and J. Weckert, editors,␣Moral Philosophy and Information Technology. Cambridge University Press, 2006Google Scholar
- 10.Law J. (1987) Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering: The Case of Portuguese Expansion. In Bijker W.E., Hughes T.P., Pinch T. (eds) The Social Construction of Technological Systems. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- 11.J. Pitt. Thinking About Technology: Foundations of the Philosophy of Technology. Originally published by Seven Bridges Press, New York, 2000Google Scholar