Bitesize ethics 2022

Bitesize ethics summer programme

This online summer programme provides a short introduction to practical ethics, looking at some of the issues that concern philosophers and the public alike today, and offering an insight in to the current research of academics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre.
Beginning with a general introduction to practical ethics, also known as applied philosophy, the series continues each Wednesday looking at the themes of ethics in public health policy, extinction, digital persuasion, emerging technologies, consciousness, direct climate action, procreation and neurocorrection, finishing with a wrap-up discussion asking what is next for practical ethics.

Registration is free and no prior experience or study is necessary. Each 45-minute class will take place online via Zoom on Wednesday lunchtimes, and participation in the informal Q&As and discussion sessions following each week’s presentations is warmly encouraged.

The 2022 programme has now finished. Videos of the teaching for this year are available below. If you are interested in joining the mailing list for information about future courses please email with your preferred email address or use the registration widget below. 


2022 Programme (with video)

29th June: Introduction to Practical Ethics

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Emma Dore-Horgan 

What do we mean by ‘practical ethics’? What sorts of real-world ethical problems are practical ethicists concerned with?
In this introductory session, we will discuss the nature of practical ethics and its major subfields. We will then raise and discuss some key issues and major debates in practical ethics that concern philosophers and the public alike today.

6th July: Intergenerational Justice

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Ben Davies

Intergenerational conflict is rife across the world, giving rise to various questions: 
•    Are there distinctive ways that members of different generations should treat each other? 
•    Do older people have an obligation to step aside for the next generation, or to ensure their children have better lives than they did? 
•    Must younger people ‘respect their elders’? 
•    And what about generations in the distant future? Do we have obligations to them, or are they beyond the scope of justice?
This session looks at some key theories of intergenerational justice between both overlapping and non-overlapping generations. We will consider whether there are specifically intergenerational obligations and what they might look like, or whether we should ignore the generation someone is part of when considering what they are entitled to.

13th July: Wild Animal Ethics

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Gary O'Brien

Like humans, animals are sentient beings capable of feeling pleasure and pain, along with a range of positive and negative emotional states. Recognition of this fact has led ethicists to question the morality of our use of non-human animals for food, research, clothing, and entertainment. If animal wellbeing matters though, it matters for wild animals as well as domesticated ones. In this talk I will introduce the developing field of Wild Animal Ethics. I will present evidence suggesting that, contrary to our idyllic picture of nature, life in the wild is often extremely difficult, and that suffering and premature death from starvation, disease, and predation are the norm rather than the exception. If this is right then the question of intervening in nature to improve the wellbeing of wild animals arises. I will argue that the scale and severity of the suffering endured by wild animals generates a duty for human beings to help them.

20th July: Practical Ethics and Law

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Binesh Hass

The law has much to say about how we ought to live our lives, how we ought to treat each other, and sometimes even what we are permitted to say to one another. What does the law get right in these and other matters of practical ethical significance, and
what does it get wrong? This short discussion will offer a whistle-stop tour of some of the law's connections with personal autonomy.

27th July: The Concept and Ethics of Laziness

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Katrien Devolder

Laziness bothers us: we frequently accuse others, and ourselves, of being lazy. Moreover, we typically regard laziness not only as a personal failing, but also a moral one. Importantly, the laziness label is more swiftly ascribed to specific groups (e.g., people with obesity), who can suffer from discrimination as a result. In this talk, we will explore the concept of laziness, and whether there is a need to rethink our beliefs and attitudes regarding laziness.

3rd August: The Ethics of Love Drugs: Psychedelic-assisted Couples Therapy

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Brian Earp

There has been a "Renaissance" in psychedelic medicine over the last decade or so, with drugs ranging from MDMA (Ecstasy) to psilocybin (magic mushrooms) being tested as treatments for major depressive disorder, PTSD, and other ailments. But most of this
research has focused on individuals and their symptoms of disease. Could psychedelic-assisted therapies ethically be used in couples counselling to enhance the connection between romantic partners?

10th August: Collective minds

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Hazem Zohny

The technology to merge minds is incoming. Already, brain-to-brain interfaces can allow us to transfer information directly to the minds of others, and even control their bodies. This technology has huge implications for how we act, learn and communicate, and poses big questions for some of the concepts underpinning ethics, like autonomy, responsibility and personal identity. In the future, humanity may have the option to morph into a hivemind society – should you join it?

17th August: Wrapping up - what next for practical ethics?

Time: 12:30-13:15

Tutor: Emma Dore-Horgan

What’s next for practical ethics? Given that the world is changing so fast, new ethical problems are constantly arising. This session recaps the issues we have discussed thus far before moving on to raise some further ethical dilemmas for us all going forward. Should we strive to become post-human? What are our individual duties in a warming world? Can robots be held responsible for their actions? How has our world and bioethics changed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?

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