Mapping the foundationalist debate in computer ethics

Ethics and Information Technology 4 (1):1–9 (2002)
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Abstract

The paper provides a critical review of thedebate on the foundations of Computer Ethics(CE). Starting from a discussion of Moor'sclassic interpretation of the need for CEcaused by a policy and conceptual vacuum, fivepositions in the literature are identified anddiscussed: the ``no resolution approach'',according to which CE can have no foundation;the professional approach, according to whichCE is solely a professional ethics; the radicalapproach, according to which CE deals withabsolutely unique issues, in need of a uniqueapproach; the conservative approach, accordingto which CE is only a particular appliedethics, discussing new species of traditionalmoral issues; and the innovative approach,according to which theoretical CE can expandthe metaethical discourse with a substantiallynew perspective. In the course of the analysis,it is argued that, although CE issues are notuncontroversially unique, they are sufficientlynovel to render inadequate the adoption ofstandard macroethics, such as Utilitarianismand Deontologism, as the foundation of CE andhence to prompt the search for a robust ethicaltheory. Information Ethics (IE) is proposed forthat theory, as the satisfactory foundation forCE. IE is characterised as a biologicallyunbiased extension of environmental ethics,based on the concepts of information object/infosphere/entropy rather thanlife/ecosystem/pain. In light of the discussionprovided in this paper, it is suggested that CEis worthy of independent study because itrequires its own application-specific knowledgeand is capable of supporting a methodologicalfoundation, IE.

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