Why Care About Robots? Empathy, Moral Standing, and the Language of Suffering

Kairos 20 (1):141-158 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This paper tries to understand the phenomenon that humans are able to empathize with robots and the intuition that there might be something wrong with “abusing” robots by discussing the question regarding the moral standing of robots. After a review of some relevant work in empirical psychology and a discussion of the ethics of empathizing with robots, a philosophical argument concerning the moral standing of robots is made that questions distant and uncritical moral reasoning about entities’ properties and that recommends first trying to understand the issue by means of philosophical and artistic work that shows how ethics is always relational and historical, and that highlights the importance of language and appearance in moral reasoning and moral psychology. It is concluded that attention to relationality and to verbal and non-verbal languages of suffering is key to understand the phenomenon under investigation, and that in robot ethics we need less certainty and more caution and patience when it comes to thinking about moral standing.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,100

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Moral appearances: emotions, robots, and human morality. [REVIEW]Mark Coeckelbergh - 2010 - Ethics and Information Technology 12 (3):235-241.
On the moral responsibility of military robots.Thomas Hellström - 2013 - Ethics and Information Technology 15 (2):99-107.
What do we owe to intelligent robots?John-Stewart Gordon - 2020 - AI and Society 35 (1):209-223.
What should we want from a robot ethic.Peter M. Asaro - 2006 - International Review of Information Ethics 6 (12):9-16.
When is a robot a moral agent.John P. Sullins - 2006 - International Review of Information Ethics 6 (12):23-30.
A Dilemma for Moral Deliberation in AI.Ryan Jenkins & Duncan Purves - 2016 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (2):313-335.
Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong.Wendell Wallach & Colin Allen - 2008 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Can we trust robots?Mark Coeckelbergh - 2012 - Ethics and Information Technology 14 (1):53-60.
Just war and robots’ killings.Thomas W. Simpson & Vincent C. Müller - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (263):302-22.
A Dilemma for Moral Deliberation in AI.Ryan Jenkins & Duncan Purves - 2016 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (2):313-335.
Facing Animals: A Relational, Other-Oriented Approach to Moral Standing.Mark Coeckelbergh & David J. Gunkel - 2014 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 27 (5):715-733.


Added to PP

64 (#253,610)

6 months
14 (#181,672)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Mark Coeckelbergh
University of Vienna