Meta-Ethics for the Metaverse: The Ethics of Virtual Worlds

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter

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After a brief introduction that sets out the overall argument of the paper in summary, the second part of the paper will offer a meta-ethical framework based on the moral theory of Alan Gewirth, necessary for determining what, if any,ought to be the ethics that guide the conduct of people participating in virtualworlds in their roles as designers, administrators and players or avatars. As virtual worlds and the World Wide Web generally, is global in its scope, reach and use, Gewirth's theory which offers a supreme principle of morality, the Principle of Generic Consistency (PGC) that establishes universal rights for all persons always and everywhere, is particularly suitable for this task. The paper will show that persons both in the real world and in virtual worlds have rights to freedom and wellbeing. Strictly with regard to agency those rights are merely prima facie but with regard to personhood framed around the notion of selfrespect those rights are absolute.The third and final part of the paper will examine in more practical detail why and how designers, administrators and avatars of virtual worlds are rationally committed on the basis of their own intrinsic purposive agency to ethical norms of conduct that require the universal respect of the rights of freedom and wellbeing of all agents, including their own. Using Alan Gewirth's argument for the Principle of Generic Consistency (Reason and Morality, 1978) and my expanded argument for the PGC in my Ethics Within Reason: A Neo-Gewirthian Approach (2006), the paper will specifically seek to demonstrate that in so far as avatars can be viewed as virtual representations of real people ( at least with regard to some virtual worlds in which the virtual agency of the avatar can beconsidered as an extension of the agency of the person instantiating the avatar in the real world) and thus can and must be perceived as virtual purposive agents,then they have moral rights and obligations similar to those of their real counterparts. Finally, the paper will show how the rules of virtual worlds as instantiated by the designers' code and the administrators' end-user license agreement (EULA), must always be consistent with and comply with the requirements of universal morality as established on the basis of the PGC. When the two come into conflict, the PGC, as the supreme principle of morality, is always overriding.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Issues in Computing and Philosophy (Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Application).
EditorsKatinka Waelbers Adam Briggle, Philip A E Brey Philip A E Philip A E Brey
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherIOS Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781586038762
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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