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The Moral Standing of Machines: Towards a Relational and Non-Cartesian Moral Hermeneutics


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.

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Correspondence to Mark Coeckelbergh.

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Coeckelbergh, M. The Moral Standing of Machines: Towards a Relational and Non-Cartesian Moral Hermeneutics. Philos. Technol. 27, 61–77 (2014).

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  • Moral standing
  • Moral status
  • Moral relations
  • Moral knowledge
  • Robots
  • Machines
  • Descartes
  • Levinas: modernity
  • Moral change
  • Phenomenology