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Towards Computer Simulations of Virtue Ethics

Jeremiah A. Lasquety-Reyes
Published Online: 2019-09-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opphil-2019-0029


This article presents two approaches for computer simulations of virtue ethics in the context of agent-based modeling, a simple way and a complex way. The simple way represents virtues as numeric variables that are invoked in specific events or situations. This way can easily be implemented and included in social simulations. On the other hand, the complex way requires a PECS framework: physical, cognitive, emotional, and social components need to be implemented in agents. Virtue is the result of the interaction of these internal components rather than a single variable. I argue that the complex way using the PECS framework is more suitable for simulating virtue ethics theory because it can capture the internal struggle and conflict sometimes involved in the practice of virtue. To show how the complex way could function, I present a sample computer simulation for the cardinal virtue of temperance, the virtue that moderates physical desires such as food, drink, and sex. This computer simulation is programmed in Python and builds upon the well-known Sugarscape simulation.1

Keywords: virtue ethics; ethics; philosophy; computer simulation; social simulation; agent-based modeling; Python


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About the article

Received: 2019-04-30

Accepted: 2019-09-09

Published Online: 2019-09-26

Published in Print: 2019-01-01

1The Python source code for the complex way is available at https://github.com/JeremiahLR/Temperance. All the code snippets in this article are also written in Python. I have chosen Python because it is one of the easiest programming languages to learn and to run, especially for philosophers with no programming experience. However, all the code can be rewritten in other programming languages.

Citation Information: Open Philosophy, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 399–413, ISSN (Online) 2543-8875, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opphil-2019-0029.

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© 2019 Jeremiah A. Lasquety-Reyes, published by De Gruyter Open. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License. BY 4.0

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