Workshop ‘Moral Agency & Technical Artefacts’

Topic of the workshop

The central topic of this workshop is whether moral issues about technology can be dealt with adequately by assuming that technical artefacts are just ‘morally passive’ instruments for human action or whether it is more fruitful to attribute to technical artefacts a richer moral role by assuming that they have some form of (moral) agency. In recent times various proposals in the latter direction have been made. Such proposals raise all kinds of questions about how agency of technical artefacts has to be conceptualized and how it relates to human agency. The debate about moral agency of technical artefacts is intimately connected to the debate about whether technical artefacts are value free or not. The relation between moral values and technical artefacts is also controversial. Apart from the need of a further clarification of the notion of value itself, the issue centres round the question whether values are to be located only in the user context of technical artefacts, or also in technical artefacts themselves. This question is analogous to whether agency is to be located only in the user context or also in technical artefacts.

Among the questions to be addressed during the workshop are:

  • Does the attribution of agency, in particular moral agency to technical artefacts make sense? If so, what are the implications for basic concepts of moral philosophy and for the concept of a technical artefact?
  • How do technical artefacts influence human (moral) agency? What are the implications of such influences for issues about for instance moral responsibility?
  • How to take account of the moral significance of technical artefacts in design processes?


  • Philip Brey, Twente Univ., Nl
  • Randall Dipert, Univ. at Buffalo, USA
  • Luciano Floridi, Univ. of Oxford, UK
  • Maarten Franssen, Delft Univ. of Technology, Nl
  • Sven Ove Hansson, Royal Institute of Technology, Se
  • Jeroen van den Hoven, Delft Univ. of Technology, Nl
  • Christiaan Illies, Univ. of Technology Eindhoven, Nl
  • Lucas Introna, Lancaster Univ., UK
  • Deborah Johnson, Univ. of Virginia, USA
  • Peter Kroes, Delft Univ. of Technology, Nl
  • Anthonie Meijers, Univ. of Technology Eindhoven, Nl
  • Carl Mitcham, Colorado School of Mines, USA
  • Hans Radder, Free University of Amsterdam, Nl
  • Ibo van de Poel, Delft Univ. of Technology, Nl
  • Peter-Paul Verbeek, Twente Univ., Nl
  • Vincent Wiegel, Delft Univ. of Technology, Nl
  • Langdon Winner, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA

Participation is on invitation only. However, fellows of the NIAS are of course welcome to the workshop.

Organisation / location

The workshop is organised by Peter Kroesand sponsored by the 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology. The workshop will be held at the NIAS (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences) in Wassenaar. For more information, please {encode=”” title=”contact Peter Kroes”}.