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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 85

Technology and Personal Moral Responsibility

JESPER RYBERG

The development of new technology gives rise to several ethical questions concerning the moral responsibility of those who carry out the development, i.e. the scientists (obviously, such work may involve traditional scientists, engineers and several other groups; however, for reasons of ease in exposition I shall here use “the scientists”). One type of question concerns the moral legitimacy of the scientific work itself. For instance, to what extent is it acceptable to perform experiments on animals or humans? What is the proper behavior when scientists are competing with other scientists? How and to what extent ought new results to be presented? Such questions have over the last decades been treated within different fields of ethics such as the ethics of animals, medical ethics and, more recently, what has become known as research ethics (see Erwin, Gendin and Kleiman 1994). Another type of question, however, concerns not the scientific process itself, but the application of the results of the scientific research. The fact that the scientific work, especially the work that leads to new technology, may end up having a severe impact on many people’s lives raises the question concerning the extent to which scientists should be regarded as personally responsible for the consequences of their work. This is the question to be dealt with here.

Shortly after the end of the Second World War a correspondence took place ...

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