Should we give moral standing to machines? In this paper, I explore the implications of a relational approach to moral standing for thinking about machines, in particular autonomous, intelligent robots. I show how my version of this approach, which focuses on moral relations and on the conditions of possibility of moral status ascription, provides a way to take critical distance from what I call the “standard” approach to thinking about moral status and moral standing, which is based on properties. It does not only overcome epistemological problems with the standard approach, but can also explain how we think about, experience, and act towards machines—including the gap that sometimes occurs between reasoning and experience. I also articulate the non-Cartesian orientation of my “relational” research program and specify the way it contributes to a different paradigm in thinking about moral standing and moral knowledge.
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.
Anders. (1956). Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen (volume I): Über die Seele im Zeitalter der zweiten industriellen Revolution (p. 1987). München: C.H. Beck.
Bentham, J. 1879. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. J. H. Burns and H. L. Hart (eds). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Coeckelbergh, M. (2012a). Growing moral relations: critique of moral status ascription. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Coeckelbergh, M. (2012b). Review of David J. Gunkel: The machine question: critical perspectives on AI, robots, and ethics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Derrida, J. (2008). The animal that therefore I am. New York: Fordham University Press. Trans. D. Wills.
Descartes, R. (1637 (1998)). Discourse on method. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. Trans. D.A. Cress.
Floridi, L., & Sanders, J. W. (2004). On the morality of artificial agents. Minds and Machines, 14(3), 349–379.
Gunkel, D. (2012). The machine question: critical perspectives on AI, robots, and ethics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gunkel, D. 2013. Review of Mark Coeckelbergh’s growing moral relations: critique of moral status ascription. Ethics and Information Technology (published online 28 Feb 2013)
Haraway, D. J. (2008). When species meet. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Himma, K.E. 2007. Artificial agency, consciousness, and the criteria for moral agency: What properties must an artificial agent have to be a moral agent? In: L. Hinman, P. Brey, L. Floridi, F. Grodzinsky, L. Introna. Enschede: Center for Telematics and Information Technology. pp. 163–180
Levinas, E. (1969). Totality and infinity. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press. Trans. A. Lingis.
Regan, T. (1983). The case for animal rights. Berkeley: The University of California Press.
Singer, P. (1975). Animal liberation. New York: Random House.
Sullins, J. P. (2006). When is a robot a moral agent? International Review of Information Ethics, 6, 23–30. Retrieved from http://www.i-r-i-e.net.
Torrance, S. 2012. The centrality of machine consciousness to machine ethics. Paper presented at the symposium ‘The machine question: AI, ethics, and moral responsibility’, AISB/IACAP world congress 2012—Alan Turing 2012, 4 July 2012.
About this article
Cite this article
Coeckelbergh, M. The Moral Standing of Machines: Towards a Relational and Non-Cartesian Moral Hermeneutics. Philos. Technol. 27, 61–77 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-013-0133-8
- Moral standing
- Moral status
- Moral relations
- Moral knowledge
- Levinas: modernity
- Moral change