When is any agent a moral agent?: reflections on machine consciousness and moral agency

Joel Parthemore, Blay Whitby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we take moral agency to be that context in which a particular agent can, appropriately, be held responsible for her actions and their consequences. In order to understand moral agency, we will discuss what it would take for an artifact to be a moral agent. For reasons that will become clear over the course of the paper, we take the artifactual question to be a useful way into discussion but ultimately misleading. We set out a number of conceptual preconditions for being a moral agent and then outline how one should – and should not – go about attributing moral agency. In place of a litmus test for such agency – such as Colin Allen et al ’s Moral Turing Test – we suggest some tools from conceptual spaces theory and the unified conceptual space theory for mapping out the nature and extent of that agency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-129
JournalInternational Journal of Machine Consciousness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • moral agency
  • Moral Turing Test
  • self
  • akrasia
  • concepts
  • conceptual spaces

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