How Do Technological Artefacts Embody Moral Values?

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According to some philosophers of technology, technology embodies moral values in virtue of its functional properties and the intentions of its designers. But this paper shows that such an account makes the values supposedly embedded in technology epistemically opaque and that it does not allow for values to change. Therefore, to overcome these shortcomings, the paper introduces the novel Affordance Account of Value Embedding as a superior alternative. Accordingly, artefacts bear affordances, that is, artefacts make certain actions likelier given the circumstances. Based on an interdisciplinary perspective that invokes recent moral anthropology, I conceptualize affordances as response-dependent properties. That is, they depend on intrinsic as well as extrinsic properties of the artefact. We have reason to value these properties. Therefore, artefacts embody values and are not value-neutral, which has practical implications for the design of new technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-544
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophy and Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Artefacts
  • Ethics of technology
  • Moral value
  • Response-dependence
  • Value embedding


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