We propose that virtue ethics can be used to address ethical issues central to discussions about sex robots. In particular, we argue virtue ethics is well equipped to focus on the implications of sex robots for human moral character. Our evaluation develops in four steps. First, we present virtue ethics as a suitable framework for the evaluation of human-robot relationships. Second, we show the advantages of our virtue ethical account of sex robots by comparing it to current instrumentalist approaches, showing how the former better captures the reciprocal interaction between robots and their users. Third, we examine how a virtue ethical analysis of intimate human-robot relationships could inspire the design of robots that support the cultivation of virtues. We suggest that a sex robot which is equipped with a consent-module could support the cultivation of compassion when used in supervised, therapeutic scenarios. Fourth, we discuss the ethical implications of our analysis for user autonomy and responsibility.
Available for download on Wednesday, September 23, 2020