Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 19–29 | Cite as

Artificial agency, consciousness, and the criteria for moral agency: what properties must an artificial agent have to be a moral agent?

  • Kenneth Einar Himma


In this essay, I describe and explain the standard accounts of agency, natural agency, artificial agency, and moral agency, as well as articulate what are widely taken to be the criteria for moral agency, supporting the contention that this is the standard account with citations from such widely used and respected professional resources as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I then flesh out the implications of some of these well-settled theories with respect to the prerequisites that an ICT must satisfy in order to count as a moral agent accountable for its behavior. I argue that each of the various elements of the necessary conditions for moral agency presupposes consciousness, i.e., the capacity for inner subjective experience like that of pain or, as Nagel puts it, the possession of an internal something-of-which-it is-is-to-be-like. I ultimately conclude that the issue of whether artificial moral agency is possible depends on the issue of whether it is possible for ICTs to be conscious.


accountability agency artificial agents consciousness ethics moral agency natural agents 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySeattle Pacific UniversitySeattleUSA

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