Virtue or Utility? Being an Ethical Online Citizen

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A month or so ago I wrote a post called ‘Why #notaspottynerd isn’t okay‘, which was basically a case study on something I’ve discussed previously in “You Can’t Build Inclusion on Exclusionary Language“. Both of these look at a particular issue – the tendency in ‘social justice’ circles to use insults and terms that are often just as harmful as the things they’re aiming to combat. In this post, I intend to show how this particular issue is just one symptom of a much larger ethical issue common to cyberspace – the primacy of Utilitarian thought. From there, I shall move to suggest an alternate ethical framework – that of virtue ethics.

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Games, Philosophy

Broken Binaries: Morality in Video Games

Another talk at VideoBrains – this time on how the tendency towards using binary morality systems in video games is broken. Once you’ve watched it, go check out the other talks.


GamerGate, Patriotism and C.S. Lewis

I’ve been reading back through The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, and early on in it he has a brief section about patriotism and it set me to thinking. I think it fundamentally discusses one of the issues I have with GamerGate that I’ve been struggling to put to words to.

To begin with he describes where patriotism comes from. I’m aware patriotism is usually referring specifically to a country (and I said myself here that I think comparing GamerGate to a country is a false equivalence) but he also states that he feels his points can apply to “something other than a country: for a school, a regiment, a great family or a class.” I’d say GamerGate (referred to as GG from here on in) fits well into that.

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Games, Philosophy

Morality, Games and Papers, Please

[Major spoilers for Papers, Please, Mass Effect 2 and minor spoiler for Infamous]

In my last post I talked about how Bioshock can give us a handle on moral responsibility and free will. In this post I’ll be sticking with the theme of morality, but looking at a different aspect of it – how do we decide what is moral, and how do we act on it? To do this I’ll be looking at Papers, Please (if you’ve not played it, stop reading right now, go and do so and then come back). I’ll start by talking about how Papers, Please is a much better simulator of moral decisions than many games that actively try to be are, before looking at how it also shows that philosophical moral theorising can be incredibly removed from actually attempting to be moral in every day life. To do this, I’ll focus on three key kinds of ethical theory – consequentalism, deontology and virtue based ethics. Finally, we’ll look briefly at whether Papers, Please has worth in studying philosophy.

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Games, Philosophy

Bioshock, Determinism and Moral Responsibility

[Major spoilers for Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite]

In this essay we’re going to take a whirlwind tour through the concepts of moral responsibility and determinism, using Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite as our starting point. Whilst it won’t cover everything, it will hopefully give an overview of what sort of questions come up when we talk about these things, give you some situations pulled from the games to work through, and then show how moral responsibility can exist regardless of whether we are free or not.

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