Of Animals, Robots and Men

Historical Social Research 40:70-91 (2015)
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Domesticated animals need to be treated as fellow citizens: only if we conceive of domesticated animals as full members of our political communities can we do justice to their moral standing—or so Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka argue in their widely discussed book Zoopolis. In this contribution, we pursue two objectives. Firstly, we reject Donaldson and Kymlicka’s appeal for animal citizenship. We do so by submitting that instead of paying due heed to their moral status, regarding animals as citizens misinterprets their moral qualities and thus risks treating them unjustly. Secondly, we suggest that Donaldson and Kymlicka’s reinforced focus on membership should draw our attention to the moral standing of a further ‘species’, namely robots. Developments within artificial intelligence have advanced rapidly in recent years. With robots’ gaining ever greater capacities and abilities, we need to ask urgent questions about the moral ramifications of these technical advances.
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