Recent publications: Robot rights and the philosophy of evil

New papers from the IDEA Centre explore the complexities of Artificial Intelligence rights and the perceived betrayal of core moral values.

Dr Christina Nick and Dr Vincent C Müller have recently published papers that can be freely consulted online:

Ethics of artificial intelligence and robotics by Vincent C Müller

Abstract: “Some authors have recently suggested that it is time to consider rights for robots. These suggestions are based on the claim that the question of robot rights should not depend on a standard set of conditions for ‘moral status’; but instead, the question is to be framed in a new way, by rejecting the is/ought distinction, making a relational turn, or assuming a methodological behaviourism. We try to clarify these suggestions and to show their highly problematic consequences. While we find the suggestions ultimately unmotivated, the discussion shows that our epistemic condition with respect to the moral status of others does raise problems, and that the human tendency to empathise with things that do not have moral status should be taken seriously—we suggest that it produces a “derived moral status”. Finally, it turns out that there is typically no individual in real AI that could even be said to be the bearer of moral status. Overall, there is no reason to think that robot rights are an issue now.”

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Are citizen casually responsible for voting outcomes? by Christina Nick

Abstract: “Can we hold citizens causally responsible for the outcomes of their voting decisions? They could stand in the causal relationship required for such responsibility either collectively or individually. Recent accounts ascribing responsibility to citizens have primarily taken the collective route because of a major obstacle to using an individualistic approach, namely, the problem of overdetermination: the actions of each citizen do not make an individual difference to, and therefore cannot be a cause of, the overall political outcome. I suggest, drawing on Parfit (1984) and Wright (1985), that we should allow for the idea that individuals can be causally responsible in virtue of making a difference to an outcome not only as an individual, but also as part of a set of agents. I conclude that we can therefore overcome the problem of overdetermination for the individualistic approach and that it merits further investigation.”

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Dirty Hands and Moral Conflict – Lessons from the Philosophy of Evil by Christina Nick

Abstract: “According to one understanding of the problem of dirty hands, every case of dirty hands is an instance of moral conflict, but not every instance of moral conflict is a case of dirty hands. So, what sets the two apart? The dirty hands literature has offered widely different answers to this question but there has been relatively little discussion about their relative merits as well as challenges. In this paper I evaluate these different accounts by making clear which understanding of concept distinctness underlies them and which of them is, ultimately, the most plausible one in the case of dirty hands and ordinary moral conflict. In order to do so, I will borrow from the terminology employed in recent debates in the philosophy of evil which have tackled a similar problem to the one at hand, i.e. defining what sets evil apart from ordinary wrongdoing. Here it has been argued that concepts could be distinct in three ways: they can have a quantitative difference, a strong qualitative or a moderate qualitative difference. I conclude that the most convincing definition of dirty hands draws a moderate qualitative distinction between ordinary moral conflict according to which dirty hands are those moral conflicts that involve a serious violation or betrayal of a core moral value.”

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