Virtual child pornography and utilitarianism

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/14779960480000254
Publication Date30 Nov 2004
Pages217-223
AuthorPer Sandin
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Virtual Child Pornography and Utilitarianism
I NT R O D U C T I O N
Few issues have aroused such moral indig-
nation and revulsion in recent years as child
p o r n o g r a p h y. Arguably, these reac tions
have prompted the introduction of more
stringent legislation in order to protect
children from abuse. Sometimes, suc h
measures have been claimed to conflict
with other desirable goods, typically free-
dom of speech.
This essay will not be concerned with the
l a w. In s tead, it will be co n c e rned with
morals, or, more precisely, moral argu-
ments. The arguments used in the debate
about child pornography have been moral
arguments. It is my belief that moral indig-
nation not necessarily generates the best
arguments. By good arguments, I under-
stand arguments which are inductiv ely
f o r c eful and whose premise s are tru e .
Needless to say, good arguments are not
always the most effective ones. But they
should be.
What moral problems we discuss are,
needless to say, to some extent determined
by technology. Technological advances fre-
quently force us to ponder new moral prob-
lems. For instance, advances in weapons
technology made nuclear holocaust a real
p o s s i b i l i t y. Also, technological advance s
sometimes forces us to change our moral
argume nts, as new courses of action
become available to us. Examples abound in
medical ethics. Discussions of many funda-
mental morally relevant concepts, such as
Info, Comm & Ethics in Society (2004) 2: 1–217–223
© 2004 Troubador Publishing Ltd.
KEYWORDS
Child
pornography
Ethics
Information
Technology
Per Sandin
Philosophy Unit, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Email: sandin@infra.kth.se
COVERAGE
The most common argument against child pornography is that children are harmed in the process of pro -
ducing it.This is the argument from abusive production. However, it does not apply to virtual child
p o r n o g ra p h y, i. e . child porn o g raphy produced using computer technology without involving real
children. Autilitarian who wishes to condemn virtual child pornography cannot appeal to the argument
from abusive production. I discuss three possible ways out of this: #1$ abandoning the intuition that
virtual child pornography is wrong, #2$ abandoning utilitarianism, or #3$ circumventing the problem.
I propose a version of the third way out.
A B ST R AC T

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