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AI and Spinoza: a review of law's conceptual treatment of lethal autonomous weapons systems

Journal article
Authors Moa De Lucia Dahlbeck
Published in AI & Society: Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication
ISSN 0951-5666
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Law
Language en
Keywords Intelligence · AI · Spinoza’s philosophy of the mind and knowledge · Ethics · International humanitarian law · lethal autonomous weapons systems
Subject categories Law, Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Other Social Sciences


In this article I will argue that the philosophy of Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677) may assist us in coming to terms with some of the conceptual challenges that the phenomenon of Artificial Intelligence (AI) poses on law and legal thought. I will pursue this argument in three steps. First, I will suggest that Spinoza’s philosophy of the mind and knowledge may function as an analytical tool for making sense of the prevailing conception of AI within the legal discourse on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). Then, I will continue the argument with the aid of Spinoza’s political philosophy which partly complicates the picture as it seems to disqualify a normative process grounded directly upon the means stipulated for achieving a robust understanding of AI. Based on these two separate discussions I will conclude by outlining a composite critique – from the twofolded perspective of Spinoza’s ethical and political discussions – of the ongoing negotiations of a new Conventional Weapons Convention (CCW) protocol on LAWS.

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