Browsing Masters Degrees (Philosophy) by browse.metadata.advisor "De Villiers-Botha, Tanya"
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- ItemAttenuating the problem of moral luck : how moral luck either does not exist or does not create a paradox for our moral systems(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University., 2020-03) Bock, Ivan; De Villiers-Botha, Tanya; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In the 1970’s Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel formally introduced the problem of moral luck. Moral luck can be understood as the seeming paradox between the control principle and the moral judgements we confer on others. The control principle states that an agent can only be held morally responsible for an action if, and only if, said agent had control over it. Contrary to this, we often do judge people for many things out of their control. The consequences of our actions, the circumstances we find ourselves in, and our own characters are all things we either wholly or partially lack control over, yet, we hold people responsible for these things. This lack of control and accompanying moral judgements are what is referred to as “moral luck”, and we must therefore either conclude that agents cannot be held responsible for their actions, or that we can hold people responsible for things out of their control, both being framed as problems. Here, I will attempt to give a solution to the problem of moral luck. I will do this by discussing some of the most influential writings on the problem, each section of the thesis focusing on a separate type of luck, addressing the mistakes philosophers have made while inferring that moral luck is real. I will argue that each type of moral luck only exists because we have misunderstood important concepts, and once we revise our conception of control, agency, and responsibility the problem of moral luck disappears. In particular, I will argue that 1) Resultant luck is only a problem because we are focusing on the consequences of actions rather than the intentions of the agent, 2) Circumstantial luck is only a problem because we fallaciously transfer the luck of the world onto moral considerations, and 3) Constitutive luck is only a problem because we are misapplying the concept of control onto character. The thesis will also include a section on relevant implication if I am successful in solving the paradox, including theoretical and practical implications. My conclusion will thus be, contrary to the thesis of moral luck, that we can still hold agents morally responsible without having to reject the control principle, however, this is only possible if we accept revisions to important moral concepts.
- ItemAutonomous weapons systems: the permissible use of lethal force, international humanitarian law and arms control(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2017-12) Herbert, Carmen Kendell; De Villiers-Botha, Tanya; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy.ENGLISH SUMMARY: This thesis examines both the ethical and legal issues associated with the use of fully autonomous weapons systems. Firstly, it addresses the question of whether or not an autonomous weapon may lawfully use lethal force against a target in armed conflict, given the constraints of International Humanitarian Law, and secondly, the question of the appropriate loci of responsibility for the actions of such machines. This dissertation first clarifies the terminology associated with autonomous weapons systems, which includes a discussion on artificial intelligence, the difference between automation and autonomy, and the difference between partially and fully autonomous systems. The structure is such that the legal question of the permissible use of lethal force is addressed first, which includes discussion on the current International Humanitarian Law requirements of proportionality and distinction. Thereafter a discussion on potential candidates for responsibility (and consequentially liability) for the actions of autonomous weapons that violate the principles of International Humanitarian Law follows. Addressing the aforementioned questions is critical if we are to decide whether to use these weapons and how we could use them in a manner that is both legal and ethical. The position here is that the use of autonomous weapons systems is inevitable, thus the best strategy to ensure compliance with International Humanitarian Law is to forge arms control measures that address the associated issues explored in this dissertation. The ultimate aim in asking the associated legal and ethical questions is to bring attention to areas where the law is currently underequipped to deal with this new technology, and thus to make recommendations for future legal reform to control the use of autonomous weapons systems and ensure compliance with the existing principles of International Humanitarian Law.
- ItemThe moral community and moral consideration : a pragmatic approach(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2015-04) Stephens, Christopher; De Villiers-Botha, Tanya; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this thesis is to argue for a new metric for determining the moral status of another being. Determining this status is of foundational importance in a number of legal, political, and ethical concerns, including but not limited to animal rights, the treatment of criminals, and the treatment of the psychologically afflicted. This metric will be based upon one’s capacity to morally consider others. In other words, in order to have full moral status, one must be able to have moral concern for others and act upon this concern to even a minimal degree. In doing so, one will be considered to belong to a “moral community”, which affords the member a certain set of rights, privileges, and duties towards other community members. Arguing for the existence of such a community achieves the pragmatic aspect of this thesis. I argue that morality is geared towards group-survival strategies which have been evolutionarily selected for, and thus by organizing societal structures towards the tools which nature has armed us with, we may maximize the powers and capacities of the community members. In order to achieve these aims, I defend a concept of morality as based in emotion, requiring certain neurological structures, which gives the first set of criteria for identifying potential members of the moral community. I then discuss the issue of identifying the capacity for morality in non-human minds, arguing that we may infer moral capacities from behaviourism. In summary, the findings of this paper are that first, morality is essentially emotional in nature and is a product of the nature of our neurological system, although rational processes and enculturation shape particular moral sensitivities and priorities. Second, one can infer the existence of moral capacities in animals from their behaviour, and, at risk of engaging in anthropomorphism, to deny these capacities completely entails solipsism. Thirdly, and most importantly, those who are capable of morally considering others ought to be afforded full moral status themselves and be brought into a “moral community” wherein special rights, freedoms, and privileges allow the members to most efficiently contribute to the community, maximizing the powers and benefits of the community.
- ItemMoral encounters of the artificial kind : towards a non-anthropocentric account of machine moral agency(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2019-12) Tollon, Fabio; De Villiers-Botha, Tanya; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this thesis is to advance a philosophically justifiable account of Artificial Moral Agency (AMA). Concerns about the moral status of Artificial Intelligence (AI) traditionally turn on questions of whether these systems are deserving of moral concern (i.e. if they are moral patients) or whether they can be sources of moral action (i.e. if they are moral agents). On the Organic View of Ethical Status, being a moral patient is a necessary condition for an entity to qualify as a moral agent. This view claims that because artificial agents (AAs) lack sentience, they cannot be proper subjects of moral concern and hence cannot be considered to be moral agents. I raise conceptual and epistemic issues with regards to the sense of sentience employed on this view, and I argue that the Organic View does not succeed in showing that machines cannot be moral patients. Nevertheless, irrespective of this failure, I also argue that the entire project is misdirected in that moral patiency need not be a necessary condition for moral agency. Moreover, I claim that whereas machines may conceivably be moral patients in the future, there is a strong case to be made that they are (or will very soon be) moral agents. Whereas it is often argued that machines cannot be agents simpliciter, let alone moral agents, I claim that this argument is predicated on a conception of agency that makes unwarranted metaphysical assumptions even in the case of human agents. Once I have established the shortcomings of this “standard account”, I move to elaborate on other, more plausible, conceptions of agency, on which some machines clearly qualify as agents. Nevertheless, the argument is still often made that while some machines may be agents, they cannot be moral agents, given their ostensible lack of the requisite phenomenal states. Against this thesis, I argue that the requirement of internal states for moral agency is philosophically unsound, as it runs up against the problem of other minds. In place of such intentional accounts of moral agency, I provide a functionalist alternative, which makes conceptual room for the existence of AMAs. The implications of this thesis are that at some point in the future we may be faced with situations for which no human being is morally responsible, but a machine may be. Moreover, this responsibility holds, I claim, independently of whether the agent in question is “punishable” or not.
- ItemPrivacy as a common good in the age of big data(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2022-04) Roux, Josephine Anne; De Villiers-Botha, Tanya; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy.ENGLISH SUMMARY: In this thesis, I support the claim that Big Data poses a significant threat to liberal democracy through its violation of citizens’ privacy and consequently argue that in order to address this threat, it is necessary to re-assess the way that we value privacy in a liberal society. Big Data's role in the erosion of liberal democracy has been increasingly raised in the media and the philosophical literature, but the precise role that violations of privacy play in undermining democracy is not always clearly spelt out. I unpack the claims made in this regard and show that the central issue here is that Big Data threatens democracy because of its unique ability to undermine citizens’ autonomy. I go on to show that it is able to do so thanks to its unprecedented large-scale and consistent invasions of privacy. That is to say, I show how, by invading privacy, Big Data can and does undermine autonomy. And as I will argue, without an autonomous citizenry, liberal democracy cannot thrive. Having made the argument that democracy is under threat because of Big Data’s erosion of autonomy through privacy-invasions, I go on to assess arguments for valuing privacy as a public good. I show the limitations that stem from viewing privacy as a public good, and I conclude that in the Age of Big Data, it is crucial that we view privacy as a common good instead. I argue that the traditional evaluation of privacy as an individual good is a central obstacle in the struggle to address privacyinvasions in the Age of Big Data. Hence, in order to protect our privacy and, ultimately, liberal democracy, we need to reconceive of the value of privacy.
- ItemToward a naturalistically explicable folk psychology(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2019-12) Hougaard, Deryck Simon; De Villiers-Botha, Tanya; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis investigates the gap between what our science says and how many theorists and everyday people have characterised how we conceive of mental states. I argue that looking at our folk psychology (FP) in light of an understanding of real-world, current science yields beneficial philosophical results. FP, in the iteration that I shall be concerned with here, refers to every person’s ability to apply reason explanations to conspecifics’ behaviour. I focus predominantly on the underlying processes that we allegedly pick out in our folk psychologising, those of beliefs and desires (the propositional attitudes). The reason for this focus lies in the gap between our intuitive beliefs and understanding of our mental processes and the picture painted by the empirical sciences. I first explore some issues concerning traditional theorising on the topic, before discussing current scientific research into pur cognitive processes in the form of predictive processing (PP) as advocated by Friston (2003, 2008, 2010), Hohwy (2013), and Clark (2016). PP depicts our brains not as passive, stimulus-driven organs, but as active constructors of our environment. An implication of this approach is that the way in which we represent the environment within our mind is different to how it is typically conceived within traditional FP. I also explore Hutto’s (2008a; Hutto & Myin 2013a, 2017) claim that our minds are wired to be attuned to the environment in terms of minimal content, which allows me to develop a minimal conception of representation in terms of content, one in which direct correspondence between mental states and the supposed representation of the environment need not obtain for the mental to do causally efficacious work. I conclude that the beliefs and desires utilised in FP are socio-cultural impositions upon the neural substrate with no counterpart in reality. This has clear implications for our understanding of how we think about mental states within the cognitive sciences and philosophy of mind, if what we are aiming toward is a clarification of just what the mental is. Additionally, these new insights may ensure that the cognitive sciences are better informed about what it is that is being explained and where to focus further research concerning the mental.