Just Consequentialism

Just consequentialism is a system of applied ethics developed by James H. Moor in 1999 by combining core values and consequentialism, and Bernard Gert's deontological concepts. It was developed as a means to potentially remedy ethical problems that significantly involve computers and computer networks.


Norbert Wiener

Norbert Wiener was a mathematics and engineering professor at MIT in the 1940s. During this time he (along with others) developed a new applied science which they called "cybernetics". Wiener saw the social and ethical implications of "cybernetics", as well as computing and technology in general, and explored these implications in several books.
He predicted that the world would undergo a second industrial revolution, transitioning us into an "automatic age".
Wiener was far ahead of his time, and even he did not realize the profound importance of his developments. It would be almost two decades before the implications of technology would become obvious to others. Similarly, Wiener did not recognize his creation of a new branch of ethics, and as such, the terms "computer ethics" and "information ethics" were not coined until decades later.

Walter Maner

Around 1976, Walter Maner, a professor at Old Dominion University, noticed that the ethical questions and problems in his medical ethics class became more complicated and significantly altered when computers were involved.
After having this revelation, he started a course in Computer Ethics, which was wildly successful. Based on its success, in 1980 he created a "starter kit" for professors at other universities wishing to teach computer ethics.

Deborah Johnson

Maner's colleague at Old Dominion, Deborah Johnson, disagreed with his assessment that computers have created new ethical problems. Rather, she suggested that old problems have been transformed in interesting and important new ways.
In 1985, Johnson published a textbook, "Computer Ethics" which was the first significant textbook in the field.

James Moor

Also in 1985, James Moor, a professor of philosophy at Dartmouth College, wrote a paper entitled "What is Computer Ethics?". Unlike previous papers on the subject, this paper went beyond just examples and descriptions, and actually explained why computers and technology raise ethical questions.
His reasoning, was that computers can be shaped to do any activity, even those that we had never previously thought possible. And as they had never before been possible, no thought had yet gone into the ethics behind that act.
This is to say, that computers (and technology as a whole) give us new abilities, and thus new choices for action. As such, there are no existing ethical policies, or those that do exist are inadequate.
In the 1990, Moor expanded this idea to say that all communities value core human values. Any community that does not will soon cease to exist.
With that in mind, in 1997 Moor published another paper, "Toward the Theory of Privacy in the Information Age" which explored ethical topics such as privacy and security, using core values.
Finally, in 1999 Moor published yet another paper, "Just Consequentialism and Computing". In this paper he expands on his previous ideas with an account of justice, which he calls "Just Consequentialism".

Ethical Systems

Core Values

Core values are the things which humans, and communities, value the most. Examples of this include: life, health, happiness, security, resources, opportunities, and knowledge.


Consequentialism is an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of ethical systems, all sharing one important commonality. Their common link is that they are all based on the idea that acts that are morally right depends upon the consequences that result from that act, or something related to that act (e.g. the motive behind it).
Key examples of consequentialism are: utilitarianism, where the morality of an act is based upon whether the result (consequence) of the act maximizes the overall good, and hedonism, where morality is based upon the pleasures and pains of the consequences.

Deontological Ethics

The Blindfold of Justice

The Blindfold of Justice notion was developed by Bernard Gert in 1998. It provides moral impartiality, allows for just constraints on consequentialism.


Computers and Technology


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