Does Information Have a Moral Worth in Itself?

In CEPE 1998, Computer Ethics: Philosophical Enquiry. London: (1998)
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Abstract

The paper provides an axiological analysis of the concepts of respect for information and of information dignity from the vantage point provided by Information Ethics and the conceptual paradigm of object-oriented analysis (OOA). The general perspective adopted is that of an ontocentric approach to the philosophy of information ethics, according to which the latter is an expansion of environmental ethics towards a less biologically biased concept of a ‘centre of ethical worth’. The paper attempts to answer the following question: what is the lowest possible common set of attributes which characterises something as intrinsically valuable and an object of respect, and without which something would rightly be considered intrinsically worthless or even positively unworthy and therefore rightly disrespectable in itself? The thesis developed and defended in the paper is that the minimal condition of possibility of an object’s least intrinsic worthiness can be identified with its abstract nature as an information entity. Thus, all entities, interpreted as clusters of information, have a minimal moral worth qua information objects (i.e. qua information), that deserves to be respected. The principles elaborated in the course of the analysis are those of ‘reflective respect’ (A’s respect towards all members of A’s class motivated by A’s respect towards A not qua individual, but qua instantiation of a class of entities), ‘ontic uniformity’ (A’s recognition of A’s membership to the class of information entities) and ‘ontic solidarity’ (A’s recognition of any information entity’s dignity).

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Luciano Floridi
Yale University

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