Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 727–743 | Cite as

Distributed Morality in an Information Society

  • Luciano Floridi
Original Paper


The phenomenon of distributed knowledge is well-known in epistemic logic. In this paper, a similar phenomenon in ethics, somewhat neglected so far, is investigated, namely distributed morality. The article explains the nature of distributed morality, as a feature of moral agency, and explores the implications of its occurrence in advanced information societies. In the course of the analysis, the concept of infraethics is introduced, in order to refer to the ensemble of moral enablers, which, although morally neutral per se, can significantly facilitate or hinder both positive and negative moral behaviours.


Distributed morality Information and communication technologies Information ethics Infraethics Moral enablers Multiagent systems 



Previous versions of this article were presented at (a) CEPE 2007The Seventh International Computer Ethics Conference (University of San Diego, 13 July 2007); (b) the International Workshop on Moral Agency and Technical Artefacts, organised by the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS, 10-12 May 2007); (c) a research seminar, organised by the Oxford Uehiro Centre and the Programme on the Ethics of the New Biosciences (University of Oxford, 26 November 2007); (d) the Internet Ethics Seminar, organised by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII, 30 April, 2010); (e) a departmental seminar, organised by the Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford (Oxford, 14 July, 2010). I wish to thank all the participants to those meetings for their feedback and, for their kind invitations and the opportunity to present and discuss this research, Lawrence M. Hinman and Esther Aguilar in relation to (a); Peter Kroes, Henneke Filiz-Piekhaar, Jeroen van den Hoven, Eline van der Ploeg, in relation to (b); Jo Armitage, Miriam Wood, and Julian Savulescu, in relation to (c); Yorick Wilks, Matthew Carlos, and Karen Melham in relation to (d); and Alexandru Baltag in relation to (e). David Davenport, Massimo Durante, Ugo Pagallo, and Judith Simon provided some very useful comments on the penultimate version. I would also like to acknowledge the useful comments by the two anonymous reviewers. Penny Driscoll skilfully copyedited the final version.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of HertfordshireHertfordshireUK

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