Why AI Ethics Is a Critical Theory

Rosalie Waelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
192 Downloads (Pure)


The ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) is an upcoming field of research that deals with the ethical assessment of emerging AI applications and addresses the new kinds of moral questions that the advent of AI raises. The argument presented in this article is that, even though there exist different approaches and subfields within the ethics of AI, the field resembles a critical theory. Just like a critical theory, the ethics of AI aims to diagnose as well as change society and is fundamentally concerned with human emancipation and empowerment. This is shown through a power analysis that defines the most commonly addressed ethical principles and topics within the field of AI ethics as either to do with relational power or with dispositional power. Moreover, it is concluded that recognizing AI ethics as a critical theory and borrowing insights from the tradition of critical theory can help the field forward.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophy & technology
Issue number1
Early online date11 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Power
  • AI ethics
  • Critical theory
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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