A Friendly Critique of Levinasian Machine Ethics


In this article, I provide a sympathetic critique of a particular orientation or approach in machine ethics, namely, "Levinasian" machine ethics. I am sympathetic insofar as Levinasian machine ethics articulates what I call a "normativity-first" approach to ethics and uses the particularly striking case of robots, or artificial agents, to illustrate it. However, the particular way in which Levinasians like David Gunkel articulate a normativity-first ethics is, I think, misguided. In order to be successful, such an ethics would need to be made more Levinasian, but doing so would lead to an ethical theory with undesirable consequences in the context of digital and surveillance capitalism. I will conclude by suggesting that the aims of Levinasian machine ethics might be better served by an ethics of design oriented toward transforming our shared forms of moral life.


Arts, Languages, and Philosophy

Publication Status

Early View: Online Version of Record before inclusion in an issue

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

2041-6962; 0038-4283

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2022 Wiley, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2022