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Keywords:

  • casuistry;
  • computer ethics;
  • information ethics;
  • methodology;
  • moral reasoning;
  • uniqueness debate

Abstract: At the heart of the uniqueness debate is the possibility that the computer revolution may demand more in the way of ethical analysis than our traditional (that is, modern) ethical edification has prepared us for. In short, it may present new and unique problems and therefore demand new and unique solutions. In this article I argue that the solution is in fact an old and not-so-unique one: casuistry. Appealing to Jonsen and Toulmin's analysis of casuistry (1988), I argue that a casuistic methodology is a more accurate description of the moral reasoning used by contemporary computer ethicists than are other accounts. In addition, I argue that the strengths that enabled casuistry to deal successfully with radical social, economic, and religious changes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries render casuistry well suited to the task of dealing with radically new situations like those found in twentieth- and twenty-first-century computer technology. Before concluding, I briefly explore Pascal's fatal critique of casuistry and its relevance for contemporary computer ethics.