The Ethics of Technology: Response to Critics


The Ethics of Technology: A Geometric Analysis of Five Moral Principles proposes five moral principles for analyzing ethical issues related to engineering and technology. The objections raised by several authors to the multidimensional scaling technique used in the book reveal a lack of familiarity with this widely used technique.

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Fig. 1

Reproduced with permission from Peterson (2017)


  1. 1.

    The five principles are formulated as follows: A technological intervention, to which the principle is applicable, is morally right only if…

    CBA: the net surplus of benefits over costs for all those affected is at least as large as that of every alternative.

    PP: reasonable precautionary measures are taken to safeguard against uncertain but non-negligible threats.

    ST: the technological intervention does not lead to any significant long-term depletion of natural, social or economic resources.

    AUT: the technological intervention does not reduce the independence, self-governance or freedom of the people affected by it.

    FP: the technological intervention does not lead to unfair inequalities among the people affected by it.

  2. 2.

    The inspiration for this approach comes from Peter Gärdenfors’ (2000, 2014) influential work on conceptual spaces.

  3. 3.

    The most influential study on casuistry in recent years is Albert Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin’s book The abuse of casuistry: A history of moral reasoning (1988).

  4. 4.

    Note that casuists reject the notion of moral principles embraced by advocates of the geometric method.

  5. 5.

    The experiment was approved by the Texas A&M Institutional Review Board, decision IRB2015-0281D.


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The author wishes to thank Ed Harris and Glen Miller for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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Correspondence to Martin Peterson.

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Peterson, M. The Ethics of Technology: Response to Critics. Sci Eng Ethics 24, 1645–1652 (2018).

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  • The ethics of technology
  • Multidimensional scaling
  • Casuistry
  • Moral similarity
  • Conceptual spaces
  • Kristin Shrader-Frechette
  • Gert-Jan Lokhorst