Additional Thoughts Concerning the Legal Status of a Nonbiological Machine

David J. Calverley

Law, as a pragmatic tool, provides us with a way to test, at a conceptual level, whether a humanly created non-biological machine could be considered a legal person. This paper looks first at the history of law in order to set the foundation for the suggestion that as a normative system it is based on a folk psychology model. Accepting this as a starting point allows us to look to empirical studies in this area to gather support for the idea that intentionality, in the folk psychology sense, can give us a principled way to argue that non-biological machines can become legal persons. In support of this argument I also look at corporate law theory. However, as is often the case, because law has historically been viewed as a human endeavor, complications arise when we attempt to apply its concepts to non-human persons. The distinction between human, person and property is discussed in this regard, with particular note being taken of the concept of slavery. The conclusion drawn is that intentionality in the folk sense is a reasonable basis upon which to rest at least one leg of an argument that a nonbiological machine can be viewed as a legal person.


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