Animal Rights and Robot Ethics

Animal Rights and Robot Ethics

Thilo Hagendorff (University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IJT.2017070105
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Abstract

This paper investigates challenges which anthropocentric and pathocentric ethics have to face when confronted with moral considerations about non-human animals, especially so-called disenhanced animals, and a new class of technological artifacts, namely social robots. Referring to the case of animal welfare, robot ethics emerges as a new discipline that has not yet reflected on the ideological biases that commonly underlie moral judgments toward animals and find expression in robot ethics, too. As a consequence, robot ethics perpetuates the “work of purification,” that is, the isolation and definition of a particular entity possessing a moral status. Whenever such an entity is defined, the definition excludes all those entities which could likewise possess a moral status but do not fit exactly to the pre-specified definition. The crucial question, then, is whether to seek an ethic of unconditional compassion that doesn't allow itself to be restricted by ideology and is therefore convenient for animal rights and robot ethics as well.
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Robot Ethics

Robot ethics, in the sense of extending legal and moral rights to social robots, as prominently presented by Kate Darling (Darling, 2016), has its origins in the philosophy of Kant, who asserted that only humans are able to incur liabilities; hence, humans have moral duties only to other humans.1 Although Kant stresses that only human beings possess moral status, he also maintains that the cruel treatment of animals should be prevented because it would diminish the human ability to feel compassion, which in itself is a precious predisposition essential to a peaceful human community (Kant, 1977, p. 579). Kant believes it’s wrong to abuse animals not because any harm is done to the animals themselves, but because doing so would derogate the moral character of the abuser. Subsequently, one might be tempted to treat humans in a harmful way (Ascione, 2001). According to this moral perspective, harming animals is wrong not because of a duty to the animals themselves but as an indirect protection of humans (Boat, 1995; Kellert & Felthous, 1985).

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