Ethics and International Affairs 30 (3):391-400 (2016)

Ryan Jenkins
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Duncan Purves
University of Florida
Robert Sparrow argues that several initially plausible arguments in favor of the deployment of autonomous weapons systems (AWS) in warfare fail, and that their deployment faces a serious moral objection: deploying AWS fails to express the respect for the casualties of war that morality requires. We critically discuss Sparrow’s argument from respect and respond on behalf of some objections he considers. Sparrow’s argument against AWS relies on the claim that they are distinct from accepted weapons of war in that they either fail to transmit an attitude of respect or they transmit an attitude of disrespect. We argue that this distinction between AWS and widely accepted weapons is illusory, and so cannot ground a moral difference between AWS and existing methods of waging war. We also suggest that, if deploying conventional soldiers in some situation would be permissible, and if we could expect deploying AWS to cause fewer civilian casualties, then it would be consistent with an intuitive understanding of respect to deploy AWS in this situation.
Keywords Autonomous Weapons Systems  Military Ethics  Just War Theory
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DOI 10.1017/s0892679416000277
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Killer Robots.Robert Sparrow - 2007 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 24 (1):62–77.
War and Massacre.Thomas Nagel - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (2):123-144.

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