Virtues, robots, and the enactive self

Anco Peeters
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Virtue ethics enjoys new-found attention in philosophy of technology and philosophical psychology. This attention informs the growing realization that virtue has an important role to play in the ethical evaluation of human–technology relations. But it remains unclear which cognitive processes ground such interactions in both their regular and virtuous forms. This paper proposes that an embodied, enactive cognition approach aptly captures the various ways persons and artefacts interact, while at the same time avoiding the explanatory problems its functionalist alternative faces. Inspired by recent discussions in roboethics, the paper departs from the consideration of practical wisdom as a key idea to evaluating human–technology interaction. It then examines a prominent argument against the viability of practical wisdom that proposes a situationist alternative. The examination of this alternative reveals two tensions to be addressed. The first tension is resolved through developing an account of how persons can self-program their practical reasoning through the idea of distal intentions. The second tension is resolved by comparing extended functionalist and enactive accounts of the self, and arguing for the latter when framing our relations with technologies. In developing its proposal, this paper contributes to an enactive account of virtue and practical wisdom that should prove a fertile soil for future ethical debates on human–technology interaction.
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