Flourishing Ethics


This essay describes a new ethical theory that has begun to coalesce from the works of several scholars in the international computer ethics community. I call the new theory ‚Flourishing Ethics’ because of its Aristotelian roots, though it also includes ideas suggestive of Taoism and Buddhism. In spite of its roots in ancient ethical theories, Flourishing Ethics is informed and grounded by recent scientific insights into the nature of living things, human nature and the fundamental nature of the universe – ideas from today’s information theory, astrophysics and genetics. Flourishing Ethics can be divided conveniently into two parts. The first part, which I call ‚Human-Centered FE,’ is focused exclusively upon human beings – their actions, values and characters. The second part, which I call ‚General FE,’ applies to every physical entity in the universe, including humans. Rather than replacing traditional ‚great ethical theories,’ Flourishing Ethics is likely to deepen and broaden our understanding of them.

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An earlier version of this paper, entitled “A Copernican Revolution in Ethics?” was presented as the Georg Fredrik von Wright Ethics Address at E-CAP2005 (European Computers and Philosophy Conference 2005) at Mälardalen University in Sweden in June 2005. I am grateful to Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic and the Program Committee of E-CAP2005 for this opportunity. In addition I would like to thank the Connecticut State University for financial support. A later version, entitled “Flourishing Ethics”, was presented at the 2005 Uehiro/Carnegie Joint Conference “Information Ethics: Agents, Artifacts and New Cultural Perspectives” at Oxford University in December 2005. I am grateful to Julian Savulescu and Luciano Floridi for inviting me to the conference, and to the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, and the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education for financial support. I am grateful for helpful discussions and suggestions from attendees at the two conferences and from colleagues in the Research Center on Computing & Society and the Philosophy Department at Southern Connecticut State University. In particular I wish to thank Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic, Charles Ess, Luciano Floridi, Krystyna Gorniak-Kocikowska, Fran Grodzinsky, Deborah Johnson, Walter Maner, James Moor, and Richard Volkman for their valuable comments. Remaining mistakes and shortcomings, of course, are my own.

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Correspondence to Terrell Ward Bynum.

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Bynum, T.W. Flourishing Ethics. Ethics Inf Technol 8, 157–173 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-006-9107-1

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  • Aristotelian ethics
  • computer ethics
  • cybernetics
  • cyborg ethics
  • entropy
  • good and evil
  • information ethics
  • infosphere
  • just consequentialism
  • robot ethics