Does kindness towards robots lead to virtue? A reply to Sparrow’s asymmetry argument

Ethics and Information Technology 1 (Online first):649-656 (2021)
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Abstract

Does cruel behavior towards robots lead to vice, whereas kind behavior does not lead to virtue? This paper presents a critical response to Sparrow’s argument that there is an asymmetry in the way we (should) think about virtue and robots. It discusses how much we should praise virtue as opposed to vice, how virtue relates to practical knowledge and wisdom, how much illusion is needed for it to be a barrier to virtue, the relation between virtue and consequences, the moral relevance of the reality requirement and the different ways one can deal with it, the risk of anthropocentric bias in this discussion, and the underlying epistemological assumptions and political questions. This response is not only relevant to Sparrow’s argument or to robot ethics but also touches upon central issues in virtue ethics.

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Mark Coeckelbergh
University of Vienna

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