Can we forgive a robot?

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Does it make sense to praise or blame robots for their behaviour? If we hold a robot fully responsible for its actions, how should we deal with that robot if it did something wrong? For example, if a robot murders a human being, should it be punished just like a human being who commits the very same crime? Can we actually punish a robot? While it is true that we need to think through how we can react to the wrongdoings of a robot if we are willing to hold the machine responsible for its actions, a different perspective is explored in the present contribution. Instead of asking, if we can punish a robot, the question should be if we can forgive a robot. The background of this inquiry is that forgiveness plays a crucial, yet often neglected role in human-human interactions. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that forgiveness will play a similar role in a society where humans and robots coexist and, at least, some of these robots are held responsible for their actions. The present paper is a speculative exercise to grasp what it could mean for human beings to live together with such machines and to demonstrate that “forgiving” provides us with an excellent lens to think through human-technology relations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTechnology, Anthropology, Dimensions of Responsibility
EditorsBirgit Beck, Michael Kühler
PublisherJ.B. Metzler Verlag
ISBN (Print)978-3-476-04895-0
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

Publication series

NameTechno:Phil – Aktuelle Herausforderungen der Technikphilosophie
PublisherJ.B. Metzler
ISSN (Print)2524-5902
ISSN (Electronic)2524-5910


  • Forgiveness
  • Moral agency
  • Responsibility
  • Robots
  • 22/2 OA procedure


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