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Environmental Ethics

Volume 16, Issue 1, Spring 1994

Frederik Kaufman
Pages 57-70

Machines, Sentience, and the Scope of Morality

Environmental philosophers are often concerned to show that non-sentient things, such as plants or ecosystems, have interests and therefore are appropriate objects of moral concern. They deny that mentality is a necessary condition for having interests. Yet they also deny that they are committed to recognizing interests in things like machines. I argue that either machines have interests (and hence moral standing) too or mentality is a necessary condition for inclusion within the purview of morality. I go on to argue that the aspect of mentality necessary for having interests is more complicated than mere sentience.