Argumentative Paper


Human actions are governed by set codes of ethics which determine whether their actions are morally right or wrong. Other than ethics, government rules and regulations, cultural beliefs as well as religious standards govern the human behavior. This study will answer the following questions with the guidance of a thesis statement “human actions are not characterized with free will”: whether robots are morally responsible for their actions and whether the memory is the most important feature in determining a person’s identity. Freewill refers to the ability of a person to act without the constraint of necessity.

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Could a Robot Be Morally Responsible for its Actions?

This study supports scholars who claim that robots should not be held morally responsible for their actions, but rather, the human beings who control them should be. They only act according to how they are controlled and the moral obligation is therefore supposed to be on the human beings. This shows that human beings cannot just take actions when using robots without being constrained by ethics.

Arguments For

One of the theories about the ethical responsibility that is widely discussed by most scholars is the libertarianism theory. According to Dodig (165), it impossible to do justice to moral responsibility without involving the discussion on the libertarian view of freedom. This theory claims that human actions, especially religious and moral actions are strictly uncaused. This shows that most of the actions that are taken by human beings are not as a result of their desires or traits. Philosophers who argue in favor of libertarianism claim that true free actions were taken by human beings are not actions which display their desires but they are rather taken against their strongest desires. Human beings, therefore, act according to certain constraints that dictate their behavior. The human desires are mainly determined by their past decisions, their hereditary traits, the environment, among others, (Hellström 101).

According to the libertarian, the small types of human actions that are as a result of desires are not fully free and cannot be described as being fully uncaused. This is the view that is described as one that has moral responsibility for the theory. According to this argument, if a human being is strapped into a robotic machine and is controlled to rob a bank, then the person should not be blamed for the act. The blame should be placed on the person who was controlling the robot.

It is therefore unethical for human beings to create completely autonomous robots which are capable of making independent decisions. The actions of the robots should be fully controlled by human beings, who screen their actions through moral standards. Both the creator and the controller are responsible for the activities that the robots engage into, (Trevena & Jeff 433)

Arguments Against

The critics of libertarianism claim that the theory is unintelligible since it describes the moral choices of human beings’ accidental. If a person cannot control their decisions, then their actions can be described as accidental. Asaro (23) claimed in his work that supporting libertarianism is like claiming that one’s legs can come out of the bed without his will. Human beings are therefore responsible for their actions since they result from the desires of the hearts.

An attempt to separate decisions from desires is psychologically perverse, (Wallach et al. 122). Instead of guaranteeing moral responsibility, the theory of libertarianism normally destroys it. People should not be morally held responsible for actions that they did not do. In case a robot performs a task, then it should be held responsible for its actions.

Is Memory the Most Important Feature in Determining a Person’s Identity?

Memory is the most important feature which is responsible for a person’s identity. Human actions are therefore determined by what their memories are fed with and are not as a result of free will. Other factors such are beliefs; projects or values work in determining the human actions only if they are in their memory. For instance, a forgotten belief cannot affect the decision of a human beings, (Zeidan et al., 547). This study, therefore, supports the claim the memory is more important in the determination of a person’s identity.

Arguments For

Memory prevents the compromise of past experiences. Experiences play a major role in shaping the personal identity; People capable of identifying with their past experiences because they can remember them, (Turing, 431). Philosophical arguments on personal identity are mainly founded on memory. It is through memories that people behave as they were in the past, making them the same person. Past actions constitute personal identity, (Thau, 8).

Memory also is at the heart of philosophical discussions of personal identity. Even philosophers who disagree with the fact that there is an enduring self in every human being such as Hume still agree to the fact that memorial experience leads to the impression of personal identity over an extended period. Hume considers memory as the chief source personal identity, (Stryker et al., 24).The functionality of factors such as values and beliefs is highly dependent on memory. It is through the memory that human beings hold them for long, acting by them, hence translating into their behavior. This makes their personality to be attributed to those factors.

Arguments Against

According to Stets et al. (73), the human memory is not sufficient for the full description of a person’s identity. After a patient who encountered a cardiac arrest which led to brain damage, the patient stills had a clear knowledge of his traits. The patient did not seem to remember much about his past, but he was aware of his identity. This shows that a person can have a personal identity even after encountering a memory loss.


The study has succeeded in displaying how human actions are dependent and controlled by other constraints rather than the person himself. The ethical issue dictates what is right or wrong, and since people would take their actions to be described as right, they tend to behave according to the set code of ethics. Also, the theory of libertarianism describes well that human actions are not as a result of free will or their desires. They are directed by other external and internal factors such as past experiences and hereditary traits. It is therefore essential to note that the action of creating and operating robots is dependent on such factors which dictate the behavior of the robots. The creator and the operator should, therefore, be held responsible for robots’ actions. On the other hand, the memory has proved to be the main source of personal identity. It is through remembering past experiences, past actions, beliefs and values that people behave in a way that is translated to be their identity.


Works Cited

Asaro, Peter M. “Robots and responsibility from a legal perspective.” Proceedings of the IEEE (2007): 20-24.

Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana, and Daniel Persson. “Sharing moral responsibility with robots: A pragmatic approach.” FRONTIERS IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND APPLICATIONS 173 (2008): 165.

Hellström, Thomas. “On the moral responsibility of military robots.” Ethics and information technology 15.2 (2013): 99-107.

Thau, Michael. Consciousness and cognition. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Wallach, Wendell, and Colin Allen. Moral machines: Teaching robots right from wrong. Oxford University Press, 2008.

Zeidan, Fadel, et al. “Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training.” Consciousness and cognition 19.2 (2010): 597-605.

Stryker, Sheldon, Timothy Joseph Owens, and Robert W. White, eds. Self, identity, and social movements. Vol. 13. U of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Stets, Jan E., and Peter J. Burke. “Identity theory and social identity theory.” Social psychology quarterly (2000): 224-237.

Trevena Judy, and Jeff Miller. “Brain Preparation Before A Voluntary Action: Evidence Against

Unconscious Movement Initiation.” Consciousness and Cognition 19.1 (2010): 447-456. Web.