Public lecture 25th Anniversary TILT in September: "Welcoming Robots into the Moral Circle"

Date: Time: 19:15 Location: LocHal

The Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) conducts teaching and research into the regulation of technologies and technology-related societal innovation. TILT is a prominent player on the national as well as the international level when it comes to research and education in this particular area. TILT is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a year full of keynotes, workshops and events. Every month will be devoted to a different theme, such as cybercrime, e-health, privacy and climate change.

Click here if you would like to find out about the theme of each month and the programming committee.

Public lecture of the month

Each Month, the Public Library of Tilburg will host a Public Lecture. The topic of the public lecture in September 2019 will be "Welcoming Robots into the Moral Circle".


John Danaher and Sven Nyholm will give the Public Lecture on the 24th of September. Please find the bio of John Danaher and Sven Nyholm below:

John Danaher is a lecturer in the Law School at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His research deals with the legal, social and ethical implications of emerging technologies, with a particular focus on robotics and artificial intelligence. He has published many articles on human enhancement, brain-based lie detection, the philosophy of punishment, technological unemployment, artificial intelligence and social robots. He is the co-editor (with Neil McArthur) of Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications (MIT Press, 2017), and the author of Automation and Utopia (Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2019).

Sven Nyholm is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Nyholm’s research covers various different aspects of ethics: both general ethical theory and also more specific ethical issues, especially in relation to technology and modern life. His first book was about Kantian ethics. His second book, which will appear in early 2020, is about the ethics of human-robot interaction.


"Welcoming Robots into the Moral Circle"

Will robots always be tools or can they be something more? Can they have significant moral status? Can humans have valuable and meaningful relationships (love/friendship etc) with them? This is an emerging topic of debate among roboticists and ethicists. This talk contributes to this debate in three ways. First, it presents a theory-'ethical behaviourism'-which holds that robots can have significant moral status if they are roughly performatively equivalent to other entities that have significant moral status. This theory is then defended from the most common objections. Second, taking this theoretical position onboard, it is argued that the performative threshold that robots need to cross in order to be afforded significant moral status may not be that high and that they may soon cross it (if they haven't done so already). Finally, the implications of this for our relationships with robots are addressed.

After John Danaher’s defence of ‘ethical behaviourism’, Sven Nyholm will offer a critical response. The critical response will touch on various issues related to the importance that common sense places on the underlying attitudes of those around us. The response will also discuss an alternative reason why we might want to treat some robots – at least robots designed to look and behave like humans – with some degree of moral consideration.


19.15-19.30 - Welcome, coffee & tea

19.30-20.30 -  Public lecture John Danaher, followed by public reply by Sven Nyholm
20.30-21.00 - Public debate: questions, discussion!


Kennismakerij, LocHal, Tilburg
Bibliotheek Midden-Brabant
Our Public Lecture Program is organized in cooperation with Bibliotheek Midden-Brabant