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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aristotle. On the Movement of Animals; On the Soul; Nicomachean Ethics; and Eudemian Ethics
B.H. Baumrin. Applying Philosophy. In T.W. Bynum and␣W. Vitek, editors, Applying Philosophy, pp. 1–10. Blackwell, 1988 (A monograph of the Metaphilosophy Foundation)
J.D. Bekenstein. Information in the Holographic Universe. Scientific American, August 2003
T.W. Bynum. Aristotle’s Theory of Human Action. UMI, 1986
T.W. Bynum. The Foundation of Computer Ethics. Computers and Society, June 6–13, 2000
T.W. Bynum. Ethical Challenges to Citizens of “The Automatic Age”: Norbert Wiener on the Information Society. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 2(2): 65–74, 2004
T.W. Bynum. The Impact of the “Automatic Age” on Our Moral Lives. In R. Cavalier, editor, The Impact of the Internet on Our Moral Lives, pp. 11–25. State University of New York Press, 2005
T.W. Bynum. Norbert Wiener and the Rise of Information Ethics. In W.J. van den Hoven and J. Weckert, editors,␣Moral Philosophy and Information Technology. Cambridge University Press, 2007 (forthcoming)
K. Chang. Intelligent Beings in Space! New York Times, May 30, pp. F1, F4, 2006
F. Conway and J. Siegelman. Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics. Basic Books, 2005
J.M. Cooper. Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Harvard University Press, 1975
Floridi L. (1999). Information Ethics: On the Theoretical Foundations of Computer Ethics. Ethics and Information Technology 1.1:37–56
L. Floridi. On the Intrinsic Value of Information Objects and the Infosphere. Ethics and Information Technology, 4(4): 287–304, 2003
L. Floridi. Information Ethics: Its Nature and Scope. In W.J. van den Hoven and J. Weckert, editors, Moral Philosophy and Information Technology. Cambridge University Press, 2006
L. Floridi. Global Information Ethics: The Importance of Being Environmentally Earnest (a forthcoming article)
L. Floridi and J.W. Sanders. The Foundationalist Debate in Computer Ethics. In R.A. Spinello and H.T. Tavani, editors, Readings in CyberEthics, 2nd edition, pp. 81–95. Jones and Bartlett, 2004a
L. Floridi and J.W. Sanders. On the Morality of Artificial Agents. Minds and Machines, 14(3): 349–379, 2004b
B. Gert. Morality: Its Nature and Justification. Oxford University Press, 1998
T.H. Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press, 1962
S. Lloyd. Programming the Universe. Knopf, 2006
W. Maner. Starter Kit on Teaching Computer Ethics. Helvetia Press, 1980 (originally self published in 1978)
J. Markoff. Brainy Robots Start Stepping into Daily Life. New York Times, July 18, pp. A1, C4, 2006
J.H. Moor. What Is Computer Ethics? In T.W. Bynum, editor, Computers and Ethics, pp. 263–275. Blackwell, 1985 [Published as the October 1985 special issue of Metaphilosophy.]
Moor J.H. (1998). Reason, Relativity and Responsibility in Computer Ethics. Computers and Society 28:1
Moor J.H. (1999). Just Consequentialism and Computing. Ethics and Information Technology 1: 65–69
J.H. Moor. An Interview with James Moor. In M.J. Quinn, editor, Ethics for the Information Age, 2nd edition, pp.␣103–105. Addison Wesley, 2006
G. Ryle. The Concept of Mind. University of Chicago Press, 1949
J. Wheeler. Information, Physics, Quantum: The Search for Links. Westview, 1990
N. Wiener. Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Technology Press, 1948
N. Wiener. The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. Houghton Mifflin, 1950 (Second Edition Revised, Doubleday Anchor, 1954).
N. Wiener. God & Golem, Inc. A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion. MIT Press, 1964
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.
About this article
Cite this article
Bynum, T.W. Flourishing Ethics. Ethics Inf Technol 8, 157–173 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-006-9107-1
- Aristotelian ethics
- computer ethics
- cyborg ethics
- good and evil
- information ethics
- just consequentialism
- robot ethics