Thursday, 1 December 2016

New article on the possibility of machines as moral agents online

One of the real perks of supervising PhD students is that they tend to force you outside your established academic comfort zone, and explore new territories of philosophical inquiry. This is what has happened when I have followed the footsteps and eventually joined the work of Dorna Behdadi, who is pursuing a PhD project in our practical philosophy group on the theme of Moral Agency in Animals and Machines. She has led the work on a new paper, where I am co-authour, that is now available online as a so-called preprint, while it is being considered for publication by a scientific journal. The title of the paper is "Artificial Moral Agency: Reviewing Philosophical Assumptions and Methodological Challenges", and deals with the notion of machines or any artificial entity (possibly a very advanced not yet existing one) could ever be ascribed agency of a moral sort, that might imply moral wrongdoing, responsibility for such wrongdoing (by the machine), or similar things.

Tts abstract runs thus:

The emerging field of "machine ethics" has raised the issue of the moral agency and responsibility of artificial entities, like computers and robots, under the heading of "artificial moral agents" (AMA). We analyze the philosophical assumptions at play in this debate and conclude that it is characterized by a rather pronounced conceptual and/or terminological confusion. Mostly, this confusion regards how central concepts and expressions (like agency, autonomy, responsibility, free will, rationality, consciousness) are (assumed to be) related to each other. This, in turn, creates a lack of basis for assessing either to what extent proposed positions and arguments are compatible or not, or whether or not they at all address the same issue. Furthermore, we argue that the AMA debate would benefit from assessing some underlying methodological issues, for instance, regarding the relationship between conceptual, epistemic, pragmatic and ethical reasons and positions. Lastly, because this debate has some family resemblance to debates on the moral status of various kinds of beings, the AMA discussion needs to acknowledge that there exists a challenge of demarcation regarding what kind of entities that can and should be ascribed moral agency.
 The paper can be viewed and downloaded for free here and here.


Friday, 25 November 2016

Come and Join our team in Practical Philosophy: One or more senior lecturers sought!

Our practical philosophy group at the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science at the University of Gothenburg is hiring. We are presently seeking one or several senior lecturers in practical philosophy. This subjects includes all aspects of philosophy relating to human action and social practices, such as applied and general normative ethics, ditto political philosophy and philosophy of law, metaethics, philosophical esthetics, and the philosophy of religion and the social sciences.

Read more and submit your application here.


Saturday, 29 October 2016

New article on the ethics of risk online

Just a little heads-up that a few days ago I submitted a new article for a coming special issue on the ethics of risk, and has made the "preprint" (my msubmitted manuscript before peer review and editing) available for free reading and download. The article critically assesses the notion of basing an ethics of risk on the core assumption of "defeasible" basic individual moral rights against being exposed to risk by others, and the abstract runs like this:

This article critically assesses recent proposals that an ethics of risk developed independently of standard "factualistic" ethical theory should be based on the assumption of a basic moral right of individuals against being exposed to risks. I argue that core elements that have to be present if the notion of a moral right is to uphold the classic Rawlsian requirement of "taking seriously the distinction between persons" and of preserving the notion of waiving rights means that an ethics of risk based on this axiom will fail to address its most paramount issues. This, in turn, is due to the nature of the most ethically important risks to be collectively produced, and the subsequent consequence that an ethics of risk needs to be able to acknowledge the moral importance of security against risks as a public good. The article ends by charting three broad theoretical strategies that an ethics of risk may take to face up to this challenge, and discuss the place for rights within these respective theoretical landscapes with mostly skeptical results.
 The article itself can be accessed here and here.