Autonomous Reboot: Aristotle, autonomy and the ends of Machine ethics

Jeff White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Tonkens (Mind Mach, 19, 3, 421–438, 2009) has issued a seemingly impossible challenge, to articulate a comprehensive ethical framework within which artificial moral agents (AMAs) satisfy a Kantian inspired recipe—"rational" and "free"—while also satisfying perceived prerogatives of machine ethicists to facilitate the creation of AMAs that are perfectly and not merely reliably ethical. Challenges for machine ethicists have also been presented by Anthony Beavers and Wendell Wallach. Beavers pushes for the reinvention of traditional ethics to avoid "ethical nihilism" due to the reduction of morality to mechanical causation. Wallach pushes for redoubled efforts toward a comprehensive account of ethics to guide machine ethicists on the issue of artificial moral agency. Options, thus, present themselves: reinterpret traditional ethics in a way that affords a comprehensive account of moral agency inclusive of both artificial and natural agents, or give up on the possibility and “muddle through” regardless. This series of papers pursues the first option, meets Tonkens' "challenge" and pursues Wallach's ends through Beavers’ proposed means, by "landscaping" traditional moral theory in resolution of a comprehensive account of moral agency. This first paper sets out the challenge and establishes the tradition that Kant had inherited from Aristotle, briefly entertains an Aristotelian AMA, fields objections, and ends with unanswered questions. The next paper in this series responds to the challenge in Kantian terms, and argues that a Kantian AMA is not only a possibility for Machine ethics research, but a necessary one.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647–659
Number of pages13
JournalAI & society
Issue number2
Early online date24 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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