Algorithms, Agency, and Respect for Persons

Social Theory and Practice 46 (3):547-572 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Algorithmic systems and predictive analytics play an increasingly important role in various aspects of modern life. Scholarship on the moral ramifications of such systems is in its early stages, and much of it focuses on bias and harm. This paper argues that in understanding the moral salience of algorithmic systems it is essential to understand the relation between algorithms, autonomy, and agency. We draw on several recent cases in criminal sentencing and K–12 teacher evaluation to outline four key ways in which issues of agency, autonomy, and respect for persons can conflict with algorithmic decision-making. Three of these involve failures to treat individual agents with the respect they deserve. The fourth involves distancing oneself from a morally suspect action by attributing one’s decision to take that action to an algorithm, thereby laundering one’s agency.

Similar books and articles

Agency Laundering and Algorithmic Decision Systems.Alan Rubel, Adam Pham & Clinton Castro - 2019 - In N. Taylor, C. Christian-Lamb, M. Martin & B. Nardi (eds.), Information in Contemporary Society (Lecture Notes in Computer Science). Springer Nature. pp. 590-598.
Equal Respect for Rational Agency.Michael Cholbi - 2020 - In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Volume 10. Oxford University Press, Usa. pp. 182-203.
Wieso moralische Achtung wichtig ist.Peter Schaber - 2009 - Analyse & Kritik 31 (2):351-361.
Rethinking Respect for Persons.Harrison Keller - 2002 - Dissertation, Georgetown University
Kantian Respect and Particular Persons.Robert Noggle - 1999 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 29 (3):449-477.
Kantian Respect and Particular Persons.Robert Noggle - 1999 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 29 (3):449-477.
Concrete Kantian Respect.Nancy Sherman - 1998 - Social Philosophy and Policy 15 (1):119.


Added to PP

845 (#18,479)

6 months
186 (#16,521)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Alan Rubel
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Clinton Castro
University of Wisconsin, Madison