Distributed cognition and distributed morality

agency, artifacts and systems

Richard Heersmink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There are various philosophical approaches and theories describing the intimate relation people have to artifacts. In this paper, I explore the relation between two such theories, namely distributed cognition and distributed morality theory. I point out a number of similarities and differences in these views regarding the ontological status they attribute to artifacts and the larger systems they are part of. Having evaluated and compared these views, I continue by focussing on the way cognitive artifacts are used in moral practice. I specifically conceptualise how such artifacts (a) scaffold and extend moral reasoning and decision-making processes, (b) have a certain moral status which is contingent on their cognitive status, and (c) whether responsibility can be attributed to distributed systems. This paper is primarily written for those interested in the intersection of cognitive and moral theory as it relates to artifacts, but also for those independently interested in philosophical debates in extended and distributed cognition and ethics of (cognitive) technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-448
Number of pages18
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Keywords

  • Distributed moral cognition
  • Material agency
  • Moral agency
  • Moral status of artifacts
  • Neuroethics
  • Responsibility
  • Systems agency

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