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Moral uncertainty

Philosophy Compass 12 (3):e12408 (2017)

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  1. Moral Uncertainty in Technomoral Change: Bridging the Explanatory Gap.Philip J. Nickel, Olya Kudina & Ibo van de Poel - manuscript
    This paper explores the role of moral uncertainty in explaining the morally disruptive character of new technologies. We argue that existing accounts of technomoral change do not fully explain its disruptiveness. This explanatory gap can be bridged by examining the epistemic dimensions of technomoral change, focusing on moral uncertainty and inquiry. To develop this account, we examine three historical cases: the introduction of the early pregnancy test, the contraception pill, and brain death. The resulting account highlights what we call “differential (...)
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  • Iudicium ex Machinae – The Ethical Challenges of Automated Decision-Making in Criminal Sentencing.Frej Thomsen - 2022 - In Julian Roberts & Jesper Ryberg (eds.), Principled Sentencing and Artificial Intelligence. Oxford University Press.
    Automated decision making for sentencing is the use of a software algorithm to analyse a convicted offender’s case and deliver a sentence. This chapter reviews the moral arguments for and against employing automated decision making for sentencing and finds that its use is in principle morally permissible. Specifically, it argues that well-designed automated decision making for sentencing will better approximate the just sentence than human sentencers. Moreover, it dismisses common concerns about transparency, privacy and bias as unpersuasive or inapplicable. The (...)
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  • Exceeding Expectations: Stochastic Dominance as a General Decision Theory.Christian Tarsney - manuscript
    The principle that rational agents should maximize expected utility or choiceworthiness is intuitively plausible in many ordinary cases of decision-making under uncertainty. But it is less plausible in cases of extreme, low-probability risk (like Pascal's Mugging), and intolerably paradoxical in cases like the St. Petersburg and Pasadena games. In this paper I show that, under certain conditions, stochastic dominance reasoning can capture most of the plausible implications of expectational reasoning while avoiding most of its pitfalls. Specifically, given sufficient background uncertainty (...)
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  • Getting Personal: The Intuition of Neutrality Reinterpreted.Wlodek Rabinowicz - 2020 - In Paul Bowman & Katharina Berndt Rasmussen (eds.), Studies on Climate Ethics and Future Generations, Vol. 2. Institute for Futures Studies.
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  • Does Climate Change Policy Depend Importantly on Population Ethics? Deflationary Responses to the Challenges of Population Ethics for Public Policy.Mark Budolfson, Gustaf Arrhenius & Dean Spears - forthcoming - In Philosophy and Climate Change. Oxford University Press. pp. 111-136.
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  • Pascalian Expectations and Explorations.Alan Hajek & Elizabeth Jackson - forthcoming - In Roger Ariew & Yuval Avnur (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Pascal. Wiley-Blackwell.
    Pascal’s Wager involves expected utilities. In this chapter, we examine the Wager in light of two main features of expected utility theory: utilities and probabilities. We discuss infinite and finite utilities, and zero, infinitesimal, extremely low, imprecise, and undefined probabilities. These have all come up in recent literature regarding Pascal’s Wager. We consider the problems each creates and suggest prospects for the Wager in light of these problems.
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  • Moral Uncertainty and Our Relationships with Unknown Minds.John Danaher - 2023 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 32 (4):482-495.
    We are sometimes unsure of the moral status of our relationships with other entities. Recent case studies in this uncertainty include our relationships with artificial agents (robots, assistant AI, etc.), animals, and patients with “locked-in” syndrome. Do these entities have basic moral standing? Could they count as true friends or lovers? What should we do when we do not know the answer to these questions? An influential line of reasoning suggests that, in such cases of moral uncertainty, we need meta-moral (...)
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  • Normative Models and Their Success.Lukas Beck & Marcel Jahn - 2021 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 51 (2):123-150.
    In this paper, we explore an under-investigated question concerning the class of formal models that aim at providing normative guidance. We call such models normative models. In particular, we examine the question of how normative models can successfully exert normative guidance. First, we highlight the absence of a discussion of this question – which is surprising given the extensive debate about the success conditions of descriptive models – and motivate its importance. Second, we introduce and discuss two potential accounts of (...)
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  • Introduction: Severe Uncertainty in Science, Medicine, and Technology.Mattia Andreoletti, Daniele Chiffi & Behnam Taebi - 2022 - Perspectives on Science 30 (2):201-209.
    This Special Issue titled "Severe Uncertainty in Science, Medicine and Technology" aims to shed new light on the understanding of severe uncertainty and its multifaceted implications. The main idea of the papers of this collection is that, despite possible sophisticated statistical judgments towards future risks in science, medicine, and technology, severe forms of uncertainty still exist.While ignorance is usually assumed to be a total absence of knowledge, uncertainty often refers to the incompleteness of knowledge or information. In its extreme form, (...)
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  • A Bargaining-Theoretic Approach to Moral Uncertainty.Hilary Greaves & Owen Cotton-Barratt - 2023 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 21 (1-2):127-169.
    Nick Bostrom and others have suggested treating decision-making under moral uncertainty as analogous to parliamentary decision-making. The core suggestion of this “parliamentary approach” is that the competing moral theories function like delegates to the parliament, and that these delegates then make decisions by some combination of bargaining and voting. There seems some reason to hope that such an approach might avoid standard objections to existing approaches (for example, the “maximise expected choiceworthiness” (MEC) and “my favourite theory” approaches). However, the parliamentary (...)
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  • Uncertain Values: An Axiomatic Approach to Axiological Uncertainty.Stefan Riedener - 2021 - Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter.
    How ought you to evaluate your options if you're uncertain about what's fundamentally valuable? A prominent response is Expected Value Maximisation (EVM)—the view that under axiological uncertainty, an option is better than another if and only if it has the greater expected value across axiologies. But the expected value of an option depends on quantitative probability and value facts, and in particular on value comparisons across axiologies. We need to explain what it is for such facts to hold. Also, EVM (...)
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  • Higher-Order Evidence.Daniel Whiting - 2021 - Analysis 80 (4):789-807.
    A critical survey of recent work in epistemology on higher-order evidence. It discusses the nature of higher-order evidence, some puzzles it raises, responses to those puzzles, and problems facing them. It concludes by indicating connections between debates concerning higher-order evidence in epistemology and parallel debates in ethics and aesthetics.
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  • Metaethical intuitions in lay concepts of normative uncertainty.Maximilian Theisen - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology.
    Even if we know all relevant descriptive facts about an act, we can still be uncertain about its moral acceptability. Most literature on how to act under such normative uncertainty operates on moral realism, the metaethical view that there are objective moral facts. Lay people largely report anti-realist intuitions, which poses the question of how these intuitions affect their interpretation and handling of normative uncertainty. Results from two quasi-experimental studies (total N = 365) revealed that most people did not interpret (...)
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  • The Relativistic Car: Applying Metaethics to the Debate about Self-Driving Vehicles.Thomas Pölzler - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (3):833-850.
    Almost all participants in the debate about the ethics of accidents with self-driving cars have so far assumed moral universalism. However, universalism may be philosophically more controversial than is commonly thought, and may lead to undesirable results in terms of non-moral consequences and feasibility. There thus seems to be a need to also start considering what I refer to as the “relativistic car” — a car that is programmed under the assumption that what is morally right, wrong, good, bad, etc. (...)
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  • The Anti‐Nihilist Wager.Martin Peterson - 2018 - Dialectica 72 (4):597-602.
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  • Moral Uncertainty in Technomoral Change: Bridging the Explanatory Gap.Philip J. Nickel, Olya Kudina & Ibo van de Poel - 2022 - Perspectives on Science 30 (2):260-283.
    This paper explores the role of moral uncertainty in explaining the morally disruptive character of new technologies. We argue that existing accounts of technomoral change do not fully explain its disruptiveness. This explanatory gap can be bridged by examining the epistemic dimensions of technomoral change, focusing on moral uncertainty and inquiry. To develop this account, we examine three historical cases: the introduction of the early pregnancy test, the contraception pill, and brain death. The resulting account highlights what we call “differential (...)
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  • The Evidentialist's Wager.William MacAskill, Aron Vallinder, Caspar Oesterheld, Carl Shulman & Johannes Treutlein - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (6):320-342.
    Suppose that an altruistic agent who is uncertain between evidential and causal decision theory finds herself in a situation where these theories give conflicting verdicts. We argue that even if she has significantly higher credence in CDT, she should nevertheless act in accordance with EDT. First, we claim that the appropriate response to normative uncertainty is to hedge one's bets. That is, if the stakes are much higher on one theory than another, and the credences you assign to each of (...)
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  • Ethical machine decisions and the input-selection problem.Björn Lundgren - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):11423-11443.
    This article is about the role of factual uncertainty for moral decision-making as it concerns the ethics of machine decision-making. The view that is defended here is that factual uncertainties require a normative evaluation and that ethics of machine decision faces a triple-edged problem, which concerns what a machine ought to do, given its technical constraints, what decisional uncertainty is acceptable, and what trade-offs are acceptable to decrease the decisional uncertainty.
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  • There is no right to a competent electorate.Brian Kogelmann & Jeffrey Carroll - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper addresses the debate surrounding epistocracy. While many discussions of epistocracy focus on its instrumental defenses, this paper aims to critically examine the non-instrumental jury argument offered by Jason Brennan. Brennan’s argument equates the rights of individuals in political decisions to their rights in jury decisions, asserting that just as individuals have a right to a competent jury, they likewise have a right to a competent electorate. We disagree. By juxtaposing the costs of enforcing such rights and the severity (...)
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  • Descriptive Uncertainty and Maximizing Expected Choice-Worthiness.Andrew Kernohan - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (1):197-211.
    A popular model of normative decision-making under uncertainty suggests choosing the option with the maximum expected moral choice-worthiness, where the choice-worthiness values from each moral theory, which are assumed commensurable, are weighted by credence and combined. This study adds descriptive uncertainty about the non-moral facts of a situation into the model by treating choice-worthiness as a random variable. When agents face greater descriptive uncertainty, the choice-worthiness random variable will have a greater spread and a larger standard deviation. MEC, as a (...)
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  • A Developmental Review of the Philosophical and Conceptual Foundations of Grey Systems Theory.Ehsan Javanmardi, Sifeng Liu & Naiming Xie - forthcoming - Foundations of Science:1-47.
    Every scientific or intellectual movement rests on central premises and assumptions that shape its philosophy. The purpose of this study is to review a brief account of the main philosophical bases of grey systems theory (GST) and the paradigm governing its principles. So, the recent studies on the philosophical foundations of GST have been reviewed and tried to pay attention to some key ambiguities in the previous studies and give more and clearer explanations in this paper. Also, this paper tries (...)
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  • Suppositional Desires and Rational Choice Under Moral Uncertainty.Nicholas Makins - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper presents a unifying diagnosis of a number of important problems facing existing models of rational choice under moral uncertainty and proposes a remedy. I argue that the problems of (i) severely limited scope, (ii) intertheoretic comparisons, and (iii) 'swamping’ all stem from the way in which values are assigned to options in decision rules such as Maximisation of Expected Choiceworthiness. By assigning values to options under a given moral theory by asking something like ‘how much do I desire (...)
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  • Is a vegetarian diet morally safe?Christopher A. Bobier - forthcoming - Zeitschrift Für Ethik Und Moralphilosophie.
    If non-human animals have high moral status, then we commit a grave moral error by eating them. Eating animals is thus morally risky, while many agree that it is morally permissible to not eat animals. According to some philosophers, then, non-animal ethicists should err on the side of caution and refrain from eating animals. I argue that this precautionary argument assumes a false dichotomy of dietary options: a diet that includes farm-raised animals or a diet that does not include animals (...)
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  • Designing AI with Rights, Consciousness, Self-Respect, and Freedom.Eric Schwitzgebel & Mara Garza - 2020 - In Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. New York, NY, USA: pp. 459-479.
    We propose four policies of ethical design of human-grade Artificial Intelligence. Two of our policies are precautionary. Given substantial uncertainty both about ethical theory and about the conditions under which AI would have conscious experiences, we should be cautious in our handling of cases where different moral theories or different theories of consciousness would produce very different ethical recommendations. Two of our policies concern respect and freedom. If we design AI that deserves moral consideration equivalent to that of human beings, (...)
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  • Normative uncertainty and information value.Riley Harris - 2021 - Dissertation, University of Adelaide
    This thesis is about making decisions when we are uncertain about what will happen, how valuable it will be, and even how to make decisions. Even the most sure-footed amongst us are sometimes uncertain about all three, but surprisingly little attention has been given to the latter two. The three essays that constitute my thesis hope to do a small part in rectifying this problem. The first essay is about the value of finding out how to make decisions. Society spends (...)
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  • The Value of Normative Information.Jeffrey Sanford Russell - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper explores the idea that it is instrumentally valuable to learn normative truths. We consider an argument for "normative hedging" based on this principle, and examine the structure of decision-making under moral uncertainty that arises from it. But it also turns out that the value of normative information is inconsistent with the principle that learning *empirical* truths is instrumentally valuable. We conclude with a brief comment on "metanormative regress.".
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  • The aggregation problem for Scanlonian Contractualism: an exploration of the relevance view, mixed solutions, and why Scanlonian Contractualists could be, and perhaps should be, Restricted Prioritarians.Aart Van Gils - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Reading
    In this thesis, I discuss the aggregation problem for T. M. Scanlon’s “contractualism”. I argue that Scanlonian contractualists have the following two options when it comes to the aggregation problem. First, they can choose to limit aggregation directly via a specific version of the Relevance View, “Sequential Claims-Matching”. Second, Scanlonian contractualists can adopt a so-called “mixed solution” of which I propose a specific version. My mixed solution does not limit aggregation. Rather, it either avoids some of the counterintuitive results in (...)
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  • Doing Good Badly? Philosophical Issues Related to Effective Altruism.Michael Plant - 2019 - Dissertation, Oxford University
    Suppose you want to do as much good as possible. What should you do? According to members of the effective altruism movement—which has produced much of the thinking on this issue and counts several moral philosophers as its key protagonists—we should prioritise among the world’s problems by assessing their scale, solvability, and neglectedness. Once we’ve done this, the three top priorities, not necessarily in this order, are (1) aiding the world’s poorest people by providing life-saving medical treatments or alleviating poverty (...)
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  • Bayesian Variations: Essays on the Structure, Object, and Dynamics of Credence.Aron Vallinder - 2018 - Dissertation, London School of Economics
    According to the traditional Bayesian view of credence, its structure is that of precise probability, its objects are descriptive propositions about the empirical world, and its dynamics are given by conditionalization. Each of the three essays that make up this thesis deals with a different variation on this traditional picture. The first variation replaces precise probability with sets of probabilities. The resulting imprecise Bayesianism is sometimes motivated on the grounds that our beliefs should not be more precise than the evidence (...)
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  • Osaammeko rakentaa moraalisia toimijoita?Antti Kauppinen - 2021 - In Panu Raatikainen (ed.), Tekoäly, ihminen ja yhteiskunta.
    Jotta olisimme moraalisesti vastuussa teoistamme, meidän on kyettävä muodostamaan käsityksiä oikeasta ja väärästä ja toimimaan ainakin jossain määrin niiden mukaisesti. Jos olemme täysivaltaisia moraalitoimijoita, myös ymmärrämme miksi jotkin teot ovat väärin, ja kykenemme siten joustavasti mukauttamaan toimintaamme eri tilanteisiin. Esitän, ettei näköpiirissä ole tekoälyjärjestelmiä, jotka kykenisivät aidosti välittämään oikein tekemisestä tai ymmärtämään moraalin vaatimuksia, koska nämä kyvyt vaativat kokemustietoisuutta ja kokonaisvaltaista arvostelukykyä. Emme siten voi sysätä koneille vastuuta teoistaan. Meidän on sen sijaan pyrittävä rakentamaan keinotekoisia oikeintekijöitä - järjestelmiä, jotka eivät (...)
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