Bitesize ethics summer programme

Bitesize ethics summer programme 2024

This free 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 of deep fakes, mental health, griefbots, decision making, ethics of war, economics, the ethics of birth, and personhood, 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.

Registration is now open on BookWhen: 

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Dr Emma Dore-Horgan

Date: 26/06/2024 Introduction to Practical Ethics

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Dr 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 discuss the nature of practical ethics and its major subfields. We then raise and discuss some key issues and major debates in practical ethics that concern philosophers and the public alike today, before gesturing toward the practical ethics topics that we will explore over the next ten weeks.                 



Professor Anders Sandberg

Date: 03/07/2024 The Ethics of Deepfakes

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Prof Anders Sandberg

Thanks to advances in computer graphics and generative AI it has become easier to make ever more realistic images, recordings and videos of events that have never happened. These "deepfakes" worry many - they could be tools for political and criminal deception, they could undermine our sense of truth, and they challenge who owns our voices and appearances. How big problems do they pose, and how do we analyse the ethics of deepfakery? Can it ever be used for good?


Anna Golova

Date: 10/07/2024 The Ethics of Mental Health and Illness

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Anna Golova

Mental health and illness give rise to many complex philosophical questions, such as: How should we define mental illness and distinguish it from mental health? Can we do so without appealing to social norms? Are mental illnesses being over-diagnosed? How can a mental illness diagnosis affect the way people view themselves and their experiences? This session will introduce some ways in which philosophers have been trying to tackle such important conceptual and ethical issues surrounding mental health and illness.


Date: 17/07/2024 The Ethics of Griefbots

Dr Cristina Voinea

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor:  Dr Cristina Voinea

Large Language Models brought about a new possibility: the creation of digital personas mimicking deceased individuals, known as ‘griefbots’. These AI-driven chatbots captured the public’s attention, with companies like “You, Only Virtual” and “HereAfter AI” spearheading the growing digital afterlife industry. In this talk I explore the ethical implications of the use of griefbots, with a specific emphasis on their potential impact on the bereaved. I start by showing that although grief is often painted in a negative light, as it can negatively affect well-being and daily functioning, it fundamentally represents a healthy response to the loss of our loved ones. Against this backdrop, I will then analyze the ethical issues raised by griefbots for the bereaved, by distinguishing them from other methods of memorializing, imagining, or communicating with the deceased. Concluding on a constructive note, I will sketch a set of design criteria aimed at mitigating the risks associated with the use of griefbots while augmenting their potential benefits.


Prof Neil Levy

Date: 24/07/2024 Deciding for Ourselves or by Ourselves?

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Prof Neil Levy

We value autonomy in decision-making. We want our decisions to express our values and our beliefs. We also recognize that others can exert undue pressure on us. For that reason, a common model of good decision-making has others giving us the information we need and helping us to understand it, but otherwise fading into the background. But new models of the kind of animal we are suggest that our values are not just in our heads, but also dependent on our social relationships. We explore how illegitimate influences can be reduced while yet enabling people to make good decisions in dialogue with one another.


Prof Jeff McMahon

Date: 31/07/2024: The Ethics of War: Ukraine and Gaza

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Prof Jeff McMahan

Just war theory poses and seeks to answer such questions as these: (1) What is a just cause for war? (2) When is a war wrong because it is unnecessary? (3) What makes a war disproportionate? (4) Which people are legitimate targets in war? Are civilians ever legitimate targets? (5) Is it morally permissible to fight in an unjust war provided one obeys the rules governing the conduct of war? (6) When is it permissible for third parties to intervene militarily in support of one belligerent against another? This talk will discuss these and other questions with specific reference to the current wars in Ukraine and Gaza.


Dr Rebecca Brown

Date: 07/08/2024 The Ethics of ‘Medically Unnecessary’ Caesarean Sections

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Dr Rebecca Brown

This session will discuss whether or not people expecting to give birth should be able to deliver by caesarean section, even if doctors do not think it is medically necessary. We will consider the ethical basis for thinking that women’s birth preferences should be respected, even when doctors disagree, and some of the objections raised against ‘medically unnecessary’ caesarean sections.



Dr Hazem Zohny

Date: 14/08/2024 The Ethics of Government Economic Policy: Life, Death and the Moral Economy 

Time: 12:35 - 13:20           

Tutor: Dr Hazem Zohny

This class explores the ethical dimensions inherent in government economic policies, highlighting how these strategies impact the distribution of life, death, and well-being within society beyond mere economic figures. By examining the effects of austerity, healthcare funding, and broader economic policies, we will investigate how real-world policy decisions involve complex sacrificial dilemmas. The class aims to uncover how value judgments and substantial ethical considerations may sometimes be obscured by the language of growth, economic efficiency, and fiscal responsibility. Integrating insights from welfare economics and practical ethics, we will discuss potential paths towards making economic policy-making processes more transparent about the values they embody.      


Dr Gary O'Brien

Date: 21/08/2024 The Most Natural Thing in the World - The Ethics of Creating People 

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Dr Gary O'Brien

Procreation seems to most people to be morally neutral – one is neither required to have, or to refrain from having, children. Whether someone decides to have children is entirely up to them. On reflection however this laissez faire attitude is odd. In our daily lives we often make choices that affect other people, and our behaviour towards others is rightly constrained by moral norms. But what could affect a person more than causing them to exist? By doing so we make them vulnerable to harms, and expose them to risks which it would not be permissible to inflict on existing people. Some philosophers have argued that procreation is always wrong, others have claimed it is permissible despite the moral hazards involved, and still others suggest that causing someone to exist confers a great benefit to them. What then should we think about ‘the most natural thing in the world’?  


Dr Emma Dore-Horgan

Date: 28/08/2024 Homo (et Homina) Socialis: on the Right to be Respected as a Social Being

Time: 12:35 - 13:20

Tutor: Dr Emma Dore-Horgan  

We tend to think that, as rational beings, we have a right to be respected as rational beings. We consider it presumptively wrong for others to treat as though we cannot reason and choose for ourselves – for example, if they make our decisions for us, manipulate us or treat us as mere things or tools. And we (typically) think that we have a defeasible right against such disrespectful treatment – i.e., that we are justified in complaining and requesting apology if we are not respected as rational beings by other persons and institutions.
Comparatively little attention has been paid to the idea that we have a parallel right to be respected as social beings – i.e., beings that desire and need social connection and integration. In this talk, I argue that we have this latter right, while also highlighting one potential implication of this putative right for criminal justice contexts. I argue, firstly, that the strength of our interest in being respected as social beings grounds a (defeasible) right to such respect. I next defend the idea that respecting persons as social beings at least sometimes requires that other persons and institutions help us protect and preserve our social resources when these resources are at risk. I then conclude by highlighting how this putative requirement to offer help plausibly implies that criminal justice institutions have a duty – grounded in offenders’ right to respect as social beings – to offer offenders rehabilitative assistance. 

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