Open Access

Computer Simulations of Ethics: The Applicability of Agent-Based Modeling for Ethical Theories


I consider the applicability of Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) and computer simulations for ethical theories. Though agent-based modeling is already well established in the social sciences, it has not yet found acceptance in the field of philosophical ethics. Currently, there are only a few works explicitly connecting ethics with agent-based modeling. In this paper, I show that it is possible to build computer simulations of ethical theories and that there are also potential benefits in doing so: (1) the opportunity for virtual ethical experiments that are impossible to do in real life, and (2) an increased understanding and appreciation of an ethical theory either through the programming implementation or through the visual simulation. In the first part of the paper, I mention some social science simulations with ethical import that could encourage ethicists to work with ABM. Second, I list the few pioneering works that attempt to combine computer simulation with philosophical ethics, the most prominent being Evolving Ethics: The New Science of Good and Evil (2010) by Mascaro et al. Third, I give pointers for the computer simulation of the most prominent ethical theories: deontological ethics, utilitarianism, feminist care ethics, and virtue ethics. In the final part, I consider the potential of using an existing reference model for the simulation of human behavior, the PECS model, as the foundation for a computer simulation of virtue ethics.

Publication timeframe:
2 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Architecture and Design, other, Engineering, Introductions and Overviews, Materials Sciences, Physics