Call: The Machine as Moral Agent and Patient – Special issue of Philosopohy and Technology

Call for Papers for a Philosophy and Technology special issue:
The Machine as Moral Agent and Patient



One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Although initially limited to “other men,” the practice of ethics has developed in such a way that it continually challenges its own restrictions and comes to encompass what had been previously excluded individuals and groups—foreigners, women, animals, corporations, and even the environment. Currently, we stand on the verge of another fundamental challenge to moral thinking. This challenge comes from the autonomous, intelligent machines of our own making, and it puts in question many deep-seated assumptions about who or what constitutes a moral subject. The way we address and respond to this challenge may have profound effects not only on our own self- understanding – our place in the world and our responsibilities – but also on our society and the larger ecosystems to which we belong. The question of what is an agent, a moral actor holding responsibility, and what is a patient, an entity deserving of respect and moral consideration, determines our priorities and directs our resources, from personal time to mineral wealth.


In this special issue of Philosophy and Technology we seek articles to address, evaluate, and respond to questions such as: Can machines be held responsible for actions that affect human beings? What limitations, if any, should guide autonomous decision making by artificial intelligence systems, computers, or robots? Is it possible to program such mechanisms with an appropriate sense of right and wrong? What moral responsibilities would these machines have to us, and what responsibilities might we have to such ethically minded machines? What kind of moral claim might such mechanisms have? What are the philosophical grounds for such a claim, and what would it mean to articulate and practice an ethics of this?

Although we initially addressed these questions in the symposium The Machine Question: AI,Ethics & Moral Responsibility, this call is open to new papers as well as symposium authors. We invite submissions from all cognate disciplines.


  • 20 October 2012, Call for papers issued
  • 10 January 2013, Deadline for paper submissions
  • 15 January 2013, Papers sent out for review
  • 15 March 2013, Review complete and authors contacted for revision 1 June 2013, Revised papers due and resubmitted in final version
  • 1 July 2013, Final submissions delivered to the journal’s editor in chief


  • To submit a paper for this special issue, authors should go to the journal’s Editorial Manager The author (or a corresponding author for each submission in case of co-authored papers) must register into EM.
  • The author must then select the special article type: The Machine as Moral Agent and Patient from the selection provided in the submission process. This is needed in order to assign the submissions to the Guest Editors.
  • Each submission will then be assessed according to the following procedure: New Submission ⇒ Journal Editorial Office ⇒ Guest Editor(s) ⇒ Reviewers ⇒ Reviewers’ Recommendations ⇒ Guest Editor(s)’ Recommendation ⇒ Editor-in-Chief’s Final Decision ⇒ Author Notification of the Decision.  This process will be iterated in case of requests for revisions. Late revisions that miss the special issue will still be considered for acceptance in the journal.
  • For any further information please contact:
    Joanna Bryson ( or David Gunkel (


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