Thinking otherwise: Ethics, technology and other subjects


Ethics is ordinarily understood as being concerned with questions of responsibility for and in the face of an other. This other is more often than not conceived of as another human being and, as such, necessarily excludes others – most notably animals and machines. This essay examines the ethics of such exclusivity. It is divided into three parts. The first part investigates the exclusive anthropocentrism of traditional forms of moral␣thinking and, following the example of recent innovations in animal rights philosophy, questions the mechanisms of such exclusion. Although recent work in animal- and bio-ethics has successfully implemented strategies for the inclusion of the animal as a legitimate subject of moral consideration, its other, the machine, has remained conspicuously excluded. The second part looks at recent attempts to include these machinic others in moral thinking and critiques the assumptions, values, and strategies that have been employed by these various innovations. And the third part proposes a means for thinking otherwise. That is, it introduces an alternative way to consider these other forms of otherness that is not simply reducible to the conceptual order that has structured and limited moral philosophy’s own concern with and for others.

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Correspondence to David J. Gunkel.

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Gunkel, D.J. Thinking otherwise: Ethics, technology and other subjects. Ethics Inf Technol 9, 165–177 (2007).

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  • computer ethics
  • computers-social aspects
  • Emmanuel Levinas
  • otherness
  • philosophy of technology
  • machine ethics