Beyond the skin bag: On the moral responsibility of extended agencies

Ethics and Information Technology 11 (1):91-99 (2009)
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The growing prominence of computers in contemporary life, often seemingly with minds of their own, invites rethinking the question of moral responsibility. If the moral responsibility for an act lies with the subject that carried it out, it follows that different concepts of the subject generate different views of moral responsibility. Some recent theorists have argued that actions are produced by composite, fluid subjects understood as extended agencies (cyborgs, actor networks). This view of the subject contrasts with methodological individualism: the idea that actions are produced only by human individuals. This essay compares two views of responsibility: moral individualism (the ethical twin of methodological individualism), and joint responsibility (associated with extended agency theory). It develops a view of what joint responsibility might look like, and considers the advantages it might bring relative to moral individualism as well as the objections that are sure to be raised against it.



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