No Right To Mercy - Making Sense of Arguments From Dignity in the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Debate

Etyka 59 (1):134-55 (2020)
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Arguments from human dignity feature prominently in the Lethal Autonomous Weapons moral feasibility debate, even though their exists considerable controversy over their role and soundness and the notion of dignity remains under-defined. Drawing on the work of Dieter Birnbacher, I fix the sub-discourse as referring to the essential value of human persons in general, and to postulated moral rights of combatants not covered within the existing paradigm of the International Humanitarian Law in particular. I then review and critique dignity-based arguments against LAWS: argument from faulty targeting process, argument from objectification, argument from underappreciation of the value of human life and the argument from the absence of mercy. I conclude that the argument from the absence of mercy is the only dignity-based argument that is both valid and irreducible to another class of arguments within the debate, and that it offers insufficient justification for a global ban on LAWS.

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Maciej (Maciek) Zając
Polish Academy of Sciences


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