Some misunderstandings about the moral significance of technology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


The discussion about moral agency and technology is troubled by some severe misunderstandings. Too often, the claim that technologies are involved in moral agency is misread for the claim that technologies are moral agents themselves. Much of the discussion then focuses on the question whether not only humans but also technologies can have intentionality, freedom, responsibility, and, ultimately, moral agency. From the perspective of mediation theory, this discussion remains caught in a dualist paradigm that locates human beings and technological artifacts in two separate realms, humans being intentional and free, technologies being instrumental and mute. Against the question to what extent technologies can be moral agents, mediation theory makes it possible to investigate how intentionality, freedom, and agency are in fact the result of intricate connections and interactions between human beings and technological artifacts. Rather than checking if technologies can meet a pre-given criterion of moral agency, we need to re-conceptualize the phenomenon of moral agency itself in order to understand the roles of technologies in our daily lives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe moral status of technical artefacts
EditorsPeter Kroes, Peter-Paul Verbeek
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-007-7914-3
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-7913-6
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Print)1879-7202
ISSN (Electronic)1879-7210


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Moral agency
  • Moral action
  • Moral decision
  • Unborn child


Dive into the research topics of 'Some misunderstandings about the moral significance of technology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this