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A Normative Approach to Artificial Moral Agency

Journal article
Authors Dorna Behdadi
Christian Munthe
Published in Minds and Machines
Volume 30
Issue 2
Pages 195–218
ISSN 0924-6495
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 195–218
Language en
Keywords Moral agency, Moral responsibility, Artificial intelligence, Artificial agency, Artificial moral agent, Machine ethics, Moral machine, Machine consciousness, Consciousness, Demarcation problem, Moral status
Subject categories Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Ethics, Practical philosophy, Theoretical philosophy, Robotics, Communication Systems, Computer Systems, Embedded Systems, Law and Society, Technology and social change


This paper proposes a methodological redirection of the philosophical debate on artificial moral agency (AMA) in view of increasingly pressing practical needs due to technological development. This “normative approach” suggests abandoning theoretical discussions about what conditions may hold for moral agency and to what extent these may be met by artificial entities such as AI systems and robots. Instead, the debate should focus on how and to what extent such entities should be included in human practices normally assuming moral agency and responsibility of participants. The proposal is backed up by an analysis of the AMA debate, which is found to be overly caught in the opposition between so-called standard and functionalist conceptions of moral agency, conceptually confused and practically inert. Additionally, we outline some main themes of research in need of attention in light of the suggested normative approach to AMA.

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