Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 287–304 | Cite as

On the intrinsic value of information objects and the infosphere

  • Luciano Floridi


What is the most general common set ofattributes that characterises something asintrinsically valuableand hence as subject to some moral respect, andwithout which something would rightly beconsidered intrinsically worthless or even positivelyunworthy and therefore rightly to bedisrespected in itself? Thispaper develops and supports the thesis that theminimal condition of possibility of an entity'sleast intrinsic value is to be identified with itsontological status as an information object.All entities, even when interpreted as only clusters ofinformation, still have a minimal moral worthqua information objects and so may deserve to be respected. Thepaper is organised into four main sections.Section 1 models moral action as an information systemusing the object-oriented programmingmethodology (OOP). Section 2 addresses the question of whatrole the several components constituting themoral system can have in an ethical analysis. If theycan play only an instrumental role, thenComputer Ethics (CE) is probably bound to remain at most apractical, field-dependent, applied orprofessional ethics. However, Computer Ethics can give rise to amacroethical approach, namely InformationEthics (IE), if one can show that ethical concern should beextended to include not only human, animal orbiological entities, but also information objects. Thefollowing two sections show how this minimalistlevel of analysis can be achieved. Section 3 provides anaxiological analysis of information objects. Itcriticises the Kantian approach to the concept ofintrinsic value and shows that it can beimproved by using the methodology introduced in the first section.The solution of the Kantian problem prompts thereformulation of the key question concerningthe moral worth of an entity: what is theintrinsic value of x qua an object constituted by itsinherited attributes? In answering thisquestion, it is argued that entitiescan share different observable propertiesdepending on the level of abstraction adopted,and that it is still possible to speak of moral value even at thehighest level of ontological abstractionrepresented by the informational analysis. Section 4 develops aminimalist axiology based on the concept ofinformation object. It further supports IE's position byaddressing five objections that may undermineits acceptability.

axiology computer ethics dignity entropy information ethics information object infosphere intrinsic value Kant Kingdom of Ends Kingdom of Nature ontology object-oriented programming respect 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Filosofiche, Università degli Studi di Bari and Faculty of Philosophy, Sub-Faculty of Computation, Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, Information Ethics GroupOxford UniversityUSA

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