The Ethics of Artifacts

What is the role of technological artifacts in ethics? Are they morally neutral and inert objects that play no significant role in moral reasoning whatsoever, or do technological artifacts have moral properties of their own? According to the common sense view, technological artefacts are neutral means to an end. Defenders of the strong view dismiss the idea that technological artifacts are morally neutral or inert objects. They believe that technological artifacts play a much more prominent role in ethics.

According to Winner, the fact that technological artifacts are intentionally designed objects support the conclusion that the artifacts themselves literally embody the designer’s moral and political values.

French sociologist Latour believes that artifacts, together with human beings, form a special kind of hybridagents, which he calls “actants.”

According to one of several possible interpretation of Heidegger, technological artifacts are morally relevant in the sense that they give us access to new options for action that were unavailable to us before the technology became available. For instance, the development of modern airliners made it possible to travel long distances quickly at a low cost, which was not possible at the beginning of the 20th century. Similarly, the development of nuclear weapons made it possible to kill more people than ever before.

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