Improving morality through robots

In “Can we trust robots to make moral decisions?” Olivia Goldhill describes research by philosophers and computer scientists to program robots to make ethical decisions. One big reason for asking how to build an ethical machine is that “work on robotic ethics is advancing our own understanding of morality.”

Are these lies justified?

In “Are These 10 Lies Justified” Gerald Dworkin listed ten lies he believe can be justified as morally permitted.  He asked his readers to add their comments to begin a dialogue. The article broke all records for “hits” on the New York Times’ philosophy blog “The Stone.” As he promised he would do, in “How You Justified 10 Lies (Or Didn’t)” Dworkin has now followed up with a report on readers’ comments about those ten lies.

Morality and the war on ISIS

In the age of ISIS, can we still have ‘just wars’?” In her interview with Gary Gutting, Cecile Fabre argues that the principles underlying the “just war” tradition apply not only to “traditional” wars between nation states but also to war against ISIS. “It’s illusory to think that we can ever once and for all defeat terror — as illusory as to think that we can eliminate murder, rape, drug trafficking, and so on. As I noted earlier, human beings have always done those things to one another. Most of us don’t think that the best way to stop suspected murders, rapists, and traffickers is to bomb into the ground the areas where we think they are hiding. The most we can do is to catch and punish them (or if necessary kill them with minimum collateral damage). We do so knowing that we will not be able to spare all likely victims. Outside of war, the price we pay for abiding by moral principles is a great deal of wrongful suffering. The same is true regarding war.”

Is there any way to settle moral disagreements?

When people disagree about moral issues, is there any rational way to resolve those disputes? Some think there are moral principles that any rational person must accept. But in “Can Moral Disputes Be Resolves?” Alex Rosenberg says there aren’t any such principles. The problem, according to Rosenberg, is that moral judgments are not true or false statements based on applying moral principles to particular circumstances. They are instead expressions of our responses to conduct. “Many people will not find this a satisfactory outcome. They will hope to show that even if moral judgments are expressions of our emotions, nevertheless at least some among these attitudes are objective, right, correct, well justified. But if we can’t find objective grounds for our emotional response to honor killing, our condemnation of it might turn out to just be cultural prejudice.”

A better ice-bucket challenge

No one can doubt the decency of people who have support the ice-bucket challenge. Michael Specter doesn’t. And yet he asks if there is a better way to combat disease. “Once again, let me stress that I don’t think it is possible to question the good intentions of those who have anted up for A.L.S. But outcomes are another matter.” Yes, again it’s intentions v. consequences.