The moral status of conscious subjects

In Stephen Clarke, Hazem Zohny & Julian Savulescu (eds.), Rethinking Moral Status (forthcoming)
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The chief themes of this discussion are as follows. First, we need a theory of the grounds of moral status that could guide practical considerations regarding how to treat the wide range of potentially conscious entities with which we are acquainted – injured humans, cerebral organoids, chimeras, artificially intelligent machines, and non-human animals. I offer an account of phenomenal value that focuses on the structure and sophistication of phenomenally conscious states at a time and over time in the mental lives of conscious subjects. Second, we need to map a theory of moral status onto practical considerations. I prefer the precautionary framework proposed by many, and fruitfully precisified recently by Birch. I have suggested that in addition to further discussion surrounding the evidential bar for attributing consciousness to different types of entities, more discussion is needed regarding how value and moral status may vary across different entity-types, and regarding the sources of value in an entity’s mental life.



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Joshua Shepherd
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

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