Ethics and Information Technology 14 (2):137-149 (2012)

Ryan Tonkens
Dalhousie University
The emerging discipline of Machine Ethics is concerned with creating autonomous artificial moral agents that perform ethically significant actions out in the world. Recently, Wallach and Allen (Moral machines: teaching robots right from wrong, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009) and others have argued that a virtue-based moral framework is a promising tool for meeting this end. However, even if we could program autonomous machines to follow a virtue-based moral framework, there are certain pressing ethical issues that need to be taken into account, prior to the implementation and development stages. Here I examine whether the creation of virtuous autonomous machines is morally permitted by the central tenets of virtue ethics. It is argued that the creation of such machines violates certain tenets of virtue ethics, and hence that the creation and use of those machines is impermissible. One upshot of this is that, although virtue ethics may have a role to play in certain near-term Machine Ethics projects (e.g. designing systems that are sensitive to ethical considerations), machine ethicists need to look elsewhere for a moral framework to implement into their autonomous artificial moral agents, Wallach and Allen’s claims notwithstanding.
Keywords Machine ethics  Autonomous artificial moral agents  Virtue ethics  Social justice  Wallach and Allen
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10676-012-9290-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 60,878
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford University Press.
Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse & Glen Pettigrove - 2009 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Bridging the Responsibility Gap in Automated Warfare.Marc Champagne & Ryan Tonkens - 2015 - Philosophy and Technology 28 (1):125-137.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Challenge for Machine Ethics.Ryan Tonkens - 2009 - Minds and Machines 19 (3):421-438.
Moral Machines?Michael S. Pritchard - 2012 - Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (2):411-417.
The Case Against Robotic Warfare: A Response to Arkin.Ryan Tonkens - 2012 - Journal of Military Ethics 11 (2):149-168.
Prolegomena to Any Future Artificial Moral Agent.Colin Allen & Gary Varner - 2000 - Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 12 (3):251--261.
Moral Machines.Jos De Mul - 2010 - Techne 14 (3):226-236.
Four Solutions to the Alleged Incompleteness of Virtue Ethics.Dean McAleer - 2010 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 4 (3):1-20.
Right Act, Virtuous Motive.Thomas Hurka - 2010 - In Heather D. Battaly (ed.), Virtue and Vice, Moral and Epistemic. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 58-72.


Added to PP index

Total views
195 ( #51,505 of 2,439,023 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #434,623 of 2,439,023 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes