A cybernetic theory of morality and moral autonomy

Science and Engineering Ethics 7 (2):177-192 (2001)
Abstract
Human morality may be thought of as a negative feedback cotrol system in which moral rules are reference values, and moral disapproval, blame, and punishment are forms of negative feedback given for violations of the moral rules. In such a system, if moral agents held each other accountable, moral norms would be enforced effectively. However, even a properly functioning social negative feedback system could not explain acts in which individual agents uphold moral rules in the face of contrary social pressure. Dr. Frances Kelsey, who withheld FDA approval for thalidomide against intense social pressure, is an example of the degree of individual moral autonomy possible in a hostile environment. Such extreme moral autonomy is possible only if there is internal, psychological negative feedback, in addition to external, social feedback. Such a cybernetic model of morality and moral autonomy is consistent with certain aspects of classical ethical theories.
Keywords cybernetics  feedback  morality  nor  autonomy  control
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