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In 2002 the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education, chaired by Mr Eiji Uehiro, established the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. The following year, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics was created within the Philosophy Faculty. Generous support by the Uehiro Foundation enabled the establishment of an annual series of three lectures, The Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics.
The goal of the Centre is to encourage and support debate and deeper rational reflection on practical ethics. The Centre as a whole will not promote a particular philosophy, approach, solution or point of view, though its individual members may give an argument to a substantive conclusion as a basis for dialogue, engagement and reflection. It is the method of rational analytic practical ethics that we aim to advance. The vision is Socratic, not missionary. We seek to be inclusive, encouraging debate between different approaches to ethics, aiming to resolve disagreements and identifying key areas of consensus.
Practical ethics should not only advance knowledge by deeper, rational ethical reflection and dialogue, it should change people’s hearts and so better their own lives and the lives of others.
Humanity has flourished and transformed its planet, creating ever more powerful technology with unprecedented potential for great immediate benefit but also for ultimate harm. Its success creates novel problems and challenges, for which its traditional institutions and norms were not developed: climate change, environmental destruction, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, global inequality and poverty, inter-continental migration and multiculturalism, overuse of antibiotics and the world-wide spread of infectious disease, genetic engineering, and biomedical means of life extension and cognitive and moral enhancement, and artificial intelligence. The fate of humanity in the 21st Century and following centuries will to a greater extent than ever before be determined by the choices made by human beings, the leaders and citizens of nations. It is the values, principles and wider ethics of these people that will determine their choices. We aim to enable practical ethics to develop and more effectively guide human choice.
We research a broad range of topics in practical ethics and moral philosophy. Core areas of expertise include:
- Bioethics especially cloning, stem cell research and genetics
- Medical ethics
- Just War Theory and terrorism
- Business ethics
- International justice
Our research program is highly interdisciplinary. We work closely with medical, law, politics, international relations and religious studies departments both within Oxford and internationally.
We seek to raise public awareness and understanding of ethical issues throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. We do this through an active program of public lecturing, media comment and consultation with practitioners and public figures. Centre staff are active throughout the world lecturing, conducting workshops and engaging in public and media debate. Specialist ethical assessment and advisory services may be available on a consultative basis.
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Established in January 2009, The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics (hosted by the Uehiro Centre) aims to address concerns about the effects neuroscience and neurotechnologies will have on various aspects of human life. Its research focuses on five key areas: cognitive enhancement; borderline consciousness and severe neurological impairment; free will, responsibility and addiction; the neuroscience of morality and decision making; applied neuroethics. See project website.
Science and Religious Conflict: The past decade has seen an explosion in empirical work on moral reasoning. We are coming to understand how people's moral judgments are shaped by interactions with others in their society. There are good reasons for thinking that people's moral judgements are mostly intuitive (recent empirical work by Jonathan Haidt and his collaborators supports this view) and that people's intuitions are powerfully shaped by the institutions around them, including religious institutions. Free resources on project webpages.
The Institute for Science and Ethics was established in June 2005 with funding from the Oxford Martin School. It is a research project based within the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Philosophy and is directed by Professor Julian Savulescu. The project has a multidisciplinary team, which includes expertise in medicine, philosophy, practical ethics, sociology and psychology. See project website.
The interdisciplinary research project Intuition and Emotion in Moral Decision Making: Empirical Research and Normative Implications is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. The project aims to elucidate the role of emotion and intuition in moral decision-making from an empirical, historical, and philosophical perspective. See project website.
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