Peter_Hurford comments on Hi, I'm Luke Muehlhauser. AMA about Open Philanthropy's new report on consciousness and moral patienthood - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 28 June 2017 04:56:54PM 0 points [-]

You mentioned in the report that moral patienthood could correspond with things other than consciousness. Could you briefly summarize (no need for citations) some philosophical views on what else may be necessary or sufficient for moral patienthood?

Comment author: lukeprog 28 June 2017 05:43:24PM 0 points [-]

Section 2.2.2 and its many footnotes survey the suggested options briefly but fairly thoroughly, I think. My sense is that even theories of moral patienthood (or "moral status", or "full moral status", or other related but not always identical concepts) which don't emphasize phenomenal consciousness as a necessary condition do, upon closer inspection, include phenomenal consciousness as a necessary condition. For example, in one case a theory (I can't remember which one, now) emphasized "self-awareness" but didn't mention consciousness, but upon reading further, it turned out that their notion of "self-awareness" required phenomenal consciousness, and that they would not think that a system that was "self-aware" without being phenomenally conscious was a moral patient.

That said, it is common for theorists to add additional requirements beyond phenomenal consciousness, especially "valenced experience" / "sentience", but also many other properties such as self-awareness, desires, and the other things listed in the bullet list of section 2.2.2. For elaborations, see the sources cited in the footnotes in that bullet list.

Of course, one might also have a meta-ethical approach that doesn't make use of ideas of "moral patienthood" at all. For example, see the sources cited in the footnote after the phrase "As with many framing choices in this report, this is far from the only way to approach the question…"