Whether nanotechnology is ethically unique and “nanoethics” should be treated as a field in its own right remain important, contested issues. This essay seeks to contribute to the debates on these issues by exploring several foundational questions about the relationship of ethics and nanotechnology. Ethical issues related to nanotechnology exist and adoption of a defeasible presumption that such issues amount to old ethical wine in new technological bottles appears justified. Such issues are not engendered solely by intrinsic features of the nanotechnology field, but also by contingent features of the social contexts in which work in the field unfolds. The sets of factors that engender ethical issues related to nanotechnology are combinations of social-contextual and technical elements. While there do not appear to be any qualitatively new nanotechnology-related ethical issues, nanotechnology is different, ethically, from other fields of technical inquiry in at least two ways. To avoid diluting ethical concern about nanotechnology and revival of the noxious notions of autonomous technology and technological determinism, thinking, writing, and speaking about ‘nanoethics’ should yield to thinking, writing, and speaking about ‘ethical issues related to nanotechnology in society.’ Finally, nanotechnology practitioners should become familiar with the ethical dimension of their work.
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