Artificial Agents and Their Moral Nature

  • Luciano Floridi
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 17)


Artificial agents, particularly but not only those in the infosphere Floridi (Information – A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010a), extend the class of entities that can be involved in moral situations, for they can be correctly interpreted as entities that can perform actions with good or evil impact (moral agents). In this chapter, I clarify the concepts of agent and of artificial agent and then distinguish between issues concerning their moral behaviour vs. issues concerning their responsibility. The conclusion is that there is substantial and important scope, particularly in information ethics, for the concept of moral artificial agents not necessarily exhibiting free will, mental states or responsibility. This complements the more traditional approach, which considers whether artificial agents may have mental states, feelings, emotions and so forth. By focussing directly on “mind-less morality”, one is able to by-pass such question as well as other difficulties arising in Artificial Intelligence, in order to tackle some vital issues in contexts where artificial agents are increasingly part of the everyday environment (Floridi L, Metaphilos 39(4/5): 651–655, 2008a).


Moral Agent Artificial Agent Transition Rule Threshold Function Moral Action 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This contribution is based on Floridi and Sanders (2004), Floridi (2008a, 2010a). I am grateful to Jeff Sanders for his permission to use our work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Internet InstituteUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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