Computer Ethics PHI3626 Chapter 1 and 2

Computer Ethics 3rd Edition by Deborah G. Johnson

These are the questions from the book with my answers, which are what I understood from studying the information in this book.

Chapter 1 Questions

  1. Explain what is means to say that computer and information technology creates new possibilities for human behavior. Give examples:

    My Answer: Went to moon, advanced in medical knowledge, Global connections for business and communication.

  2. How does computer and information technology create policy vacuums? Give examples:

    My Answer: Examples is free speech – is it different for internet and how about protection of children while allowing adult expression.

  3. What is the central task of computer ethics according to J. Moor?

    My Answer: It is to determine what we should do and what our policies should be. This includes consideration of both personal and social policies.

  4. Why are the policy vacuums arising from computer and information technology sometimes difficult to fill?

    My Answer: We find ourselves confronted with complex issues. We find conceptual muddles that make it difficult to figure out which way to go. And, as we begin to sort out the conceptual muddles, often we find a moral landscape that is fluid and sometimes politically controversial. So, figuring out what norms or laws apply or should apply is not a simple matter.

  5. What is the traditionalist account? Explain it as a descriptive account of how computer ethics is done and as a normative account of how computer ethic should be done.

    My Answer: On one account –call this the traditionalist account – all that is necessary is to take traditional moral norms and the principles on which they are based, and apply them to the new situations created by computer and information technology.

    The traditionalist account is important both as a descriptive and as a normative account. That is, it describes both how policy vacuums are often filled and recommends how policy vacuums ought to be filled.

    Descriptively the account captures what people often do when they are 1st introduced to computer and information technology.

    The traditionalist account is also normative in that it recommends how we should proceed in filling in policy vacuums. It recommends that we make use of past experiences.

  6. What are the limitations of the traditionalist account as a descriptive account and as a normative account?

    My Answer: The traditionalist account has 2 serious problems. It oversimplifies the task of computer ethics insofar as it suggests that extending old norms to new situations is a somewhat mechanical or routine process. This hides the fact that the process is fluid and synthetic. When it comes to resolving the ethical issues surrounding computer and information technology, often the technology is not a fixed and determinate entity.

    The traditionalist account is a good starting place for understanding how the ethical issues surrounding computer and information technology are and should be resolved and how policy vacuums are and should be filled, but it has serious limitations.

    As a descriptive account, it does not capture all that is involved. Filling policy vacuums is not only a matter of mechanically applying traditional norms and principles. Conceptual muddles have to be cleared up, often a synthetic process in which normative decisions are invisibly made.

    As a normative account, the traditionalist position runs the risk of not taking advantage of the new features of, and new opportunities created by, computer and information technology. Hence, we need to move beyond the traditionalist account.

  7. Why is the social context in which computer and information technology is used so important to computer ethics?

    My Answer: All of the places (business, home, commercial justice system, education institutes, medicine, science, government, so on) have an influence on how a new technology is understood and how policy vacuums are filled. Social context shapes the very character and direction of technological development.

    One of the reasons the study of ethical issues surrounding computer and information technology is so fascination is that in order to understand these issues, one has to understand the environments in which it is being used. In this respect, the study of computer ethics turns out be the study of human beings and society – our goals and values, our norms of behavior, the way we organize ourselves and assign rights and responsibilities.

  8. Why isn’t law sufficient to fill all the policy vacuums?

    My Answer: It is quite possible that some vacuums are better left to personal choices, institutional policies, or social conventions rather than to the imposition of law.

  9. What aspects of computing and computer support the claim that computer ethical issues are unique?

    My Answer: Most of the arguments in favor of uniqueness seem to be focused on the uniqueness of computer and information technology. They suggest that since the technology is unique, the ethical issues must be unique.

    (1) New Entities (programs, software, microchips, Web sites, video games, and so on)

    (2)Changed in Scale of many activities, arrangements, and operations(scale of data collection, scale of calculations, scale of communications, new kinds of knowledge)

    (3)Inherent unreliability of computer and information technology.

    (4) Power and pervasiveness of the technology.

  10. Why isn’t Maner’s example of a unique ethical issue successful at illustrating uniqueness?

    My Answer: -Was really the same argument of helping those in need of help.

  11. Explain the author’s claim that computer ethical issues are new species of generic moral issues.

    My Answer: -Some are the same issues but with a new twist, a new feature, a new possibility. The presence of this new feature or new possibility makes it difficult to draw on traditional moral concepts without some interpretation, modification, or qualification.

  12. When human action is instrumented with computer and information technology how is human action changed?

    My Answer: -Can converse via IM so visible human interaction and words remain until effort is made to remove them.

  13. What is analogical reasoning? What are the benefits and the dangers of using analogical reasoning in computer ethics?

    My Answer: Reasoning by analogy involves looking for familiar situations comparable to the one involving computer and information technology, and then either accepting the equivalent of certain actions, or identifying the significant differences between the cases.

    Some good things about Analogies: They help us to understand the human relationships and action types that are at issue. They help us to classify and connect behavior in computerized environments to familiar ethical notions and principles.

    Some dangers of Analogies: That we may be so taken with the similarities of the cases that we fail to recognize important differences.

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Chapter 2 Questions

  1. What are the activities involved in doing philosophical ethics?

    My Answer: Ethical analysis the reasons for moral beliefs are articulated, then critically evaluated. The reasons you give for holding an ethical belief or taking a position on an ethical issue can be thought of as and argument for a claim. The argument has to be “put on the table,” and once there, it can be evaluated in terms of its plausibility, coherence, and consistency. Once stated, we can ascertain whether the argument does, indeed, support the claim being made or the position being taken.

  2. How do descriptive (empirical) claims and prescriptive (normative) claims differ?

    My Answer: Descriptive statements are statements that describe a state of affairs in the world.

    These statements describe what human beings think and do. They are empirical claims in the sense that they are statements that can be verified or proven false by examining the state of affairs described.

    All of these social scientific studies are descriptive studies of morality; they examine morality as an empirical phenomenon.

    In contrast, philosophical ethics is normative. The task of philosophical ethics is to explore what human beings ought to do, or more accurately, to evaluate the arguments, reasons, and theories that are proffered to justify accounts of morality. Ethical theories are prescriptive. They try to provide an account of why certain types of behavior are good or bad, right or wrong. Descriptive statements may come into play in the dialectic about philosophical ethics, but normative issues cannot be resolved just by pointing to the facts about what people do or say or believe.

  3. What is ethical relativism? What is its positive claim? What is its negative claim?

    My Answer: Sometimes ethical relativists seem to be asserting that right and wrong are relative to the individual, and sometimes they seem to assert that right and wrong are relative to the society in which one lives.

    The positive claim of relativism is that right and wrong are relative to our society.

    The negative claim of relativism appears to be: " There are no universal moral norms."

  4. What are three types of evidence often used to support ethical relativism?

    My Answer: First: they point to the fact that cultures vary a good deal in what they consider to be right and wrong. Second: Moral norms of a given society change over time so that what was considered wrong at one time, in a given society, may be considered right at another time. Third: What we consider to be right or wrong is determined by our upbringing.

  5. Does this evidence support ethical relativism?

    My Answer: IF we understand "ethics is relative" to be a normative claim, a claim asserting the negative and/or positive parts of ethical relativism, then it is not redundant, and the facts do not support the claims. For one, the arguments go form a set of 'is' claims to and "ought" claim and the ought-claim just doesn't fallow form the is-claims.

  6. What are the 3 problems with ethical relativism?

    My Answer: (1) The evidence that is used to support it, does not support it.

    (2) Proponents cannot assert both the negative and the positive claims of relativism without inconsistency. By claiming that everyone is bound by the rules of his or her society, the ethical relativist makes a universal claim and yet the relativist claims there are no universal rights and wrongs.

    (3) The theory does not seem to help in making moral decisions. Relativism does not help us figure out what to do in tough situations. It recommends that we adhere to the standards in our society and yet it doesn’t help us figure out what these standards are.

  7. What is utilitarianism?

    My Answer: -Ethical theory claiming that what makes behavior right or wrong depends wholly on the consequences. Actions, rules, or policies are good because of the usefulness in bringing about happiness.

    Basic principle: Everyone ought to act so as to bring about the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people.

  8. What is the difference between an instrumental good and an intrinsic good?

    My Answer: -Among all the things in the world that are valued, we can distinguish things that are valued because they lead to something else. The else is the intrinsic, the something that leads is the instrumental good. Intrinsic is the final goal... like happiness. Instrumental is what you need to get happiness.

  9. Why do utilitarians believe that happiness is the ultimate basis for morality?

    My Answer: -They claim that happiness is the ultimate intrinsic good, because it is valuable for its own sake. Happiness cannot be understood as simply a means to something else.

  10. What is the difference between act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism?

    My Answer: Rule-utilitarians argue that we ought to adopt rules that , if fallowed by everyone, would, in the long run, maximize happiness. According to rule utilitarianism. If the rule can be justified in terms of the consequences that are brought about from people fallowing it, then individuals ought to fallow the rule. They take rules to be strict.

    Act-utilitarians put the emphasis on individual actions rather than rules. They believe that even thought it may be difficult for us to anticipate the consequences of our actions, that is what we should be trying to do. Act-utilitarians treat rules simply as "rules of thumb," to be thrown aside if for greater good.

  11. What is the traditional criticism of utilitarianism?

    My Answer: When it is applied to certain cases, it seems to go against some of our most strongly held moral intuitions. In particular, it seems to justify imposing enormous burdens on some individuals for the sake of others. According to utilitarianism, each person is to be counted equally. No one person’s unhappiness or happiness is more important than another’s. However, since utilitarians are concerned with the total amount of happiness, we can imagine situations where great overall happiness might result from sacrificing the happiness of a few.

  12. Why can't happiness be the highest good for humans according to deontologists?

    My Answer: Deontologist point out that happiness cannot be the highest good for humans. The fact that we are rational beings, capable of reasoning about what we want to do and then deciding and acting, suggests that our end (our highest good) is something other than happiness. Humans differ from all other things in the world insofar as we have the capacity for rationality.

  13. What is the categorical imperative?

    My Answer: Kant put forth what he called the categorical imperative, which goes like this: Never treat another human being merely as a means but always as and end.

  14. How can rights be based on deontological theory? How can rights be based on utility theory?

    My Answer: Deontologist: The idea that each individual must be respected as valuable in himself/herself implies that we each have rights not to be interfered with in certain ways, for example, not to be killed or enslaved, to be given freedom to make decisions about our own lives, and so on. Utility: Causes greater happiness for the greatest amount of people.

  15. What are the 2 principles of justice according to John Rawls?

    My Answer: (1)Each person should have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.

    (2)Social and economic inequalities should be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all.

  16. How does virtue ethics differ in focus from other theories discussed in this chapter?

    My Answer: -It addresses the question of moral character, while the other theories focused primarily on action and decision-making.

  17. What is the difference between macro and micro level issues?

    My Answer: Micro level questions focus on individuals (in the presence or absence of law or policy).

    Macro level problems/issues arise when groups of people, a community, a state, a country. At this level of analysis, what is sought is a solution in the form of a law or policy that specifies how people in that group or society ought to behave, what the rules of that group ought to be.

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James Moor: (1985) has suggested that we think of the ethical questions surrounding computer and information technology as policy vacuums. Computer and information technology creates innumerable opportunities. This means that we are confronted with choices about whether and how to pursue these opportunities, and we find a vacuum of policies on how to make these choices. The central task of computer ethics, Moor argues, is to determine what we should do and how our policies should be. This includes consideration of both personal and social policies.

Maner: (1998) for example, provides a set of examples of ethical issues surrounding computer and information technology that he considers weakly or strongly unique. However, his examples emphasize the uniqueness of the technology or technical arrangement, not the uniqueness of the human situation.

Hobbes: argues that there is no justice or injustice in a state of nature; humans are at war with one another and each individual must de what they must to preserve themselves.

Locke: Specifies a natural form of justice in the state of nature. Human beings have rights in the state of nature and others can treat individuals unjustly. Government is necessary to insure that natural justice in implemented properly because without government, there is no certainty that punishments will be distributed justly.


These questions and the chapter conclusion come from the book "Computer Ethics" 3rd edition by Deborah G. Johnson. The conclusion and questions come from this book, but the answers are what m3cats found in the text of that book. The purpose of this duplication is for a study guide for PHI3626a at UCF during the spring of 2003.

Computer Ethics PHI3626 Chapter 4

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