Debates that revolve around the topic of morality and fiction rarely explicitly treat virtual worlds like, for example, Second Life. The reason for this disregard cannot be that all users of virtual worlds only do the right thing while online—for they sometimes even virtually kill each other. Is it wrong to kill other people in a virtual world? It depends. This essay analyzes on what it depends, why it is that killing people in a virtual world sometimes is wrong, and how different virtual killings are wrong in different ways. I argue that killing people online is wrong if it is an instance of deliberately and non-consensually evoking disagreeable emotions in others. Establishing this conclusion requires substantial conceptual work, as virtual worlds feature new kinds of fictional agency, particular emotional responses to fiction, and unique ways in which the fiction of the virtual world relates to the wrongness of the killing.
KeywordsFictional agency Killing Morality and fiction Virtual worlds Wrongdoing
This essay has a long history. Chrysostomos Mantzavinos and Marcia Baron particularly shaped its overall approach—and I am deeply grateful for that. Furthermore, I would like to thank Gregory Currie, Luciano Floridi, Lisa Jones, Philip Ebert, Jonathan Lever, André Nyström, and Patrick McDevitt as well as the participants of the Philosophy of Computer Games conference in Bergen (2013) and of Philosophy at Play in Gloucester (2013) for many helpful comments on earlier versions. Special thanks go to an anonymous reviewer who improved the quality of this essay by her/his insightful suggestions.
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