Practical Ethics and Responsibility Competition

Welcome to the Uehiro Centre’s Practical Ethics and Responsibility competition!

"How am I responsible for the environment? Should there be limits on how we can punish people who do wrong? If very ill patients want to die, should doctors be held responsible if they help them? Who is responsible for the global spread of infectious diseases?" 

If these and other questions about our responsibilities towards each other, our planet and our future make you think, then this competition is for you!

At the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics we think a lot about responsibility and how we can all do more to tackle some of the biggest ethical problems facing us today.

The 2021 competition has now closed, and we are delighted to have received so many thoughtful and well put together videos. We are in the process of judging this year's entries, and hope to have the finalists announced soon.  

If you are interested in taking part in the competition next year, watch this space! In the meantime feel free to use the resources to explore different aspects of practical ethics. 

The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics is grateful to Schools Outreach Co-ordinator Wedad Rattab, and to an advisory group of teachers for supporting this event. 

How to take part
https://spark.adobe.com/video/P09glZgbmjitj/embed

The video
In teams of between three and five people send us a video of up to four minutes in length to tell us about an ethical problem and how you think responsibility is involved. 

Don’t worry about using expensive equipment to make your video. We’ll be judging based on: 
•    Argument: Does the argument make sense? Is it convincing?
•    Clarity: Is it clear what conclusion is being argued for? Is it clear how the conclusion is supported by factual or ethical premises?
•    Originality: Does the argument offer something unusual or new to the debate?
•    Involvement: Are all team members well represented in the video? 

Your video should be original, and please remember that you will need to check copyright if you feature any pre-existing material. 

To submit your video please send an email to Ben Davies or Liz Sanders and we will send you a link to a file share folder. Videos should be uploaded by midnight on Wednesday 6th January 2021. Please email us the following details, and remember to include at least one of them in your file name so we can identify you!

1.    Your team members' names
2.    Your School name
3.    The video title 
4.    Contact details for the supporting teacher

You can see last year's winning videos here, including our debate finalists Cardiff High School and competition winners, the 'BrightMed' team. 

The debate
Winning teams will be invited to take part in the debate during the Ethics and Responsibility Day which will take place in Oxford on 23rd March 2021. Please be aware that only three team members can take part in each debate, although all team members will be encouraged to attend on the day and support their teammates, as well as contributing to preparation for the debates.

Ideas for topics

You can talk about any ethical problem you like, as long as responsibility is involved. But if you’re having trouble, here are some suggestions to get you started. 

-    How are we responsible as individuals for the environment? 
-    Is a bad upbringing an excuse for committing crimes?
-    Do workers have an obligation to be 'whistle-blowers', or is their main responsibility to their employer?
-    Are producers of video games responsible if they inspire violence?
-    Who is responsible for the global spread of infectious diseases?
-    If very ill patients want to die, should doctors be held responsible if they help them? 
-    Are people who eat meat responsible for the welfare of farmed animals? 
-    Should individual soldiers be held responsible for their behaviour during war? 
-    Should there be limits on how we can punish people who do wrong? 
-    Are we responsible for the lives of people who will not exist until after we have died?
-    Are scientists responsible for how other people use their discoveries?
-    Can we be responsible for our unconscious biases, such as unconscious racism? 

Resources

You don’t need to look at all of these! Once you have your topic, pick the resources that seem relevant for you.

Expand All

The Uehiro Centre podcast series on responsibility 
https://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/responsibility-and-health-care-podc...

Can people with personality disorders be responsible if they do wrong?
https://philosophybites.com/2012/07/hanna-pickard-on-responsibility-and-...

How can individuals be responsible for big social problems?
http://examiningethics.org/2018/11/34-roles-responsibilities-robin-zheng/

Should we bribe people to be healthier? 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01g5ztq

How does our personal use of antibiotics affect the spread of infectious diseases?
https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/blog/we-need-to-rethink-our-moral-obli...

Should we tax meat to reduce the use of antibiotics?
https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/blog/why-we-should-tax-meat-that-conta...

Should predicted smokers get transplants?
http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2018/04/should-predicted-smokers-ge...

Should we hold people responsible for being obese? 
http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2015/09/guest-post-the-food-environ...

Is it fair to refuse treatment if someone is overweight? 
http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/09/refusing-treatment-to-the-o...

Are we really in control of our behaviour? 
https://aeon.co/ideas/we-arent-really-in-control-so-why-worry-about-neur...

Should criminals get the same health care as everyone else? 
https://aeon.co/ideas/should-a-rapist-get-viagra-or-a-robber-get-a-catar...

Are we responsible for the future? 
https://aeon.co/essays/should-we-take-ethical-account-of-people-who-do-n...

How should responsibility affect access to health care? 
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10728-019-00366-w

Do we have a responsibility to get vaccinated? 
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11019-018-9829-y

Will holding people responsible help them be healthier? 
https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/advance-article/doi/10.1093/pubmed/f...

Is it fair to punish people who do wrong? 
https://aeon.co/ideas/does-the-desire-to-punish-have-any-place-in-modern...

How do philosophers think about free will? 
https://1000wordphilosophy.com/2014/06/02/free-will-and-moral-responsibi...

Can we be responsible even if someone manipulates us? 
https://1000wordphilosophy.com/2019/02/05/manipulation-and-moral-respons...

Is it helpful to label people ‘criminals’? 
https://aeon.co/ideas/stop-labelling-people-who-commit-crime-criminals

Using predictive policing to prevent crime
https://aeon.co/essays/do-we-really-want-to-use-predictive-policing-to-s...

Should vaccination be compulsory?
https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/the-ethics-of-vaccination-indiv...

Should we prevent crime by changing people’s brains? 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5LsqOYf488

Do doctors always have a responsibility to treat their patients? 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz09lp-nebA

Is it right to pay people to be healthier? 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=Z6NyJ3KHGDA

What is ‘lookism’?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85roWM0JA5o

How can groups be responsible? 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBu0TfQ4Xyk

How does addiction affect responsibility?
http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2018/07/video-interview-richard-hol...

Is responsibility partly about luck?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpDSPVv8lUE

Is responsibility is a myth? 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-GkUHI2888

Does moral responsibility require ‘free will’?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-enqLRQU6s

Can groups be responsible in the same way as individuals?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ape1MHmp6_8

What is a ‘collective action problem’? 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3KlgxYhDbk

Does responsibility require ‘free will’? 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNqjR33gGNU&t=48s

Health

Author Terry Pratchett outlines the case for ‘euthanasia panels’
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/feb/02/terry-pratchett-assisted-suicide-tribunal

Paul Hollywood is criticised for ‘diabetes on a plate’ joke
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-50166028

Powerful new gene-editing tool could fix harmful DNA mutations
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/oct/21/new-gene-editing-tool-could-fix-most-harmful-dna-mutations

Pharmaceutical firms agree to payout after being accused of ‘profiting from addiction and death’
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/21/opioid-makers-drug-industry-trial-cleveland-ohio
 

Environment

Celebrities admit ‘hypocrisy’ while supporting Extinction Rebllion 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50067855

Police Commissioner calls Extinction Rebellion protests “utterly irresponsible”. 
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/extinction-rebellion-protests-bbc-news-climate-change-london-arrests-police-a9151891.html

Fossil fuel firms spent millions lobbying European Union 
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/24/fossil-fuel-big-five-spent-251m-lobbying-european-union-2010-climate-crisis

 

Politics and society

Payday lender closes amid accusations of ‘unaffordable loans’ 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50174367

American citizen involved in Harry Dunn crash sticks to claims of diplomatic immunity
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-50134394

British man who fought ISIS guilty of terrorism
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-50167158

Shamima Begum’s citizenship appeal 
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/oct/24/shamima-begum-faces-extreme-scenario-in-citizenship-appeal

MPs call to decriminalise drug possession 
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/23/decriminalise-drug-possession-to-stop-rising-deaths-say-mps

 

Sport

US boxer Patrick Day becomes fourth to die in recent months
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/boxing/50130006

Instagram bans ‘cosmetic surgery’ filters
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50152053

 

Education

Report says long-term prisoners should receive student loans
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-50158603

Universities failing to tackle racism 
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/23/universities-failing-to-address-thousands-of-racist-incidents

‘Lunch shaming’ for student in debt
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/23/new-jersey-lunch-debt-barred-dances-field-trips

 

Technology

Report into air crash finds failures by Boeing, airline and pilots
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50177788

Tech firms think ‘Terminator’ films misrepresent AI risks
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-50166357

Mark Zuckerberg challenged over Facebook’s policy on checking political adverts
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-50152062

Top tips

If you’re thinking about entering the Responsibility and Ethics competition, we’d like to offer some tips for making your video entry as good as it can be!

What is an ‘argument’?
People use the word ‘argument’ in different ways. Sometimes it just means people disagreeing with each other. 
In philosophy, we use it in a slightly different way: when you offer an argument, you are attempting to persuade others. You can do this by offering reasons, and showing how those reasons support what you are arguing. 

What you are trying to argue for is called a conclusion. For instance, your conclusion might be: People shouldn’t eat meat
By itself, that’s not an argument; it’s just someone expressing their view. To turn it into an argument you need to support it with some reasons (also called ‘premises’). For example: 
(1)    Animals can feel pain 
(2)    Farming animals for meat causes them pain. 
(3)    There’s no morally relevant difference between animals and humans, so it’s just as wrong to cause animals pain as it is to cause humans pain. 

You probably noticed that these are all statements too, and some of them might need supporting with further arguments. You could keep going like this forever, but you’ll run out of time, and your audience will run out of patience! So, you probably want to start with claims that are uncontroversial or well-established (Premises 1 and 2) and give arguments for the claims that are more likely to be rejected by your audience (Premise 3). 

A good argument makes it clear how the premises support the conclusion. It’s great to have facts and figures to back up your case – but you need to show us how those facts and figures support your argument. 

And remember, this is an ethics competition. While facts are important, we also want to hear some ethical arguments. 

Ethical arguments
Ethical arguments aren’t just about what’s actually going on in the world; they also tell us how things should be: they are about what’s right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. 

There are several ways to make an ethical argument, including: 
•    Drawing an analogy. Explain how the ethical claim you are making (like ‘killing animals is wrong’) is relevantly similar to an ethical claim that lots of people accept. Perhaps you think killing animals is ethically similar to killing humans. If so, that would be a good ethical argument against it. 
•    Showing that the arguments which could be used against you lead to unacceptable conclusions: 
    “If we say it’s OK to kill animals just because they aren’t as clever as we are, that implies that it’s OK to kill infants too, because they aren’t as clever as we are either”. 
Make sure that this unacceptable implication really is unacceptable! 
•    Showing how your conclusion is supported by widely accepted principles. Maybe you think that most people accept the principle “Don’t kill innocents for fun”. Do animals count as ‘innocents’? Does the pleasure people get from eating them count as ‘fun’? Other ethical principles might include: appealing to human (or animal) rights; explaining why what you are supporting is more fair or more just than alternatives. 
•    Show that the idea you support would have good consequences. For example you could show that it will make people happier or healthier, or that it will lead to benefits for society.
•    Considering possible objections. Think: what might a reasonable person who disagrees with you say in response? One way to strengthen your argument is to show how the best responses someone might make don’t succeed. 
Even if you don’t consider every possible objection in your video, it’s a helpful way to make your argument better. 

Responsibility 
Remember, we want to hear about the idea of responsibility in your videos, and how it applies to a practical ethics issue. 
Just like ‘argument’, ‘responsibility’ can be used in several different ways: 
•    Causal responsibility: this just means that one thing caused another. 
Think of a line of dominoes. One domino falling will hit another and cause the next one in the line to fall. 
    “The candle tipped over, so it was responsible for the fire”.  
•    Role responsibility: Your job or social role means that a particular outcome is something you need to take care of, whether you caused it or not. 
    “A doctor is responsible for the health of their patients”. 
    “All of us are responsible for combatting climate change”. 
•    Liability responsibility: This is usually applied only to people. It means that the relevant person can be held accountable, and maybe blamed or praised, for an outcome. 
    “You knew what you were doing when you pushed him: you are responsible for his injuries!”
Usually we would think that if someone is liable, they either have to have caused an outcome, or have role responsibility for it. However, that might not be enough. 
I might cause your injury because I knocked you over. But if I was pushed, then there was nothing I could do about it. So maybe I need to have some kind of control over my behaviour to be liable. 

A teacher might have ‘role responsibility’ to stop their students cheating in tests. But if a student can find a really clever way to cheat, which the teacher has no chance of detecting, it might be unfair to hold the teacher liable. So maybe liability requires that I knew, or could have known, what was happening and that it was wrong. 

Some final tips…
•    Remember not to overstate your case. We’re not expecting you to prove beyond all doubt that your conclusion is right. It’s enough that, on balance, your conclusion looks more plausible than others. A good argument for a ‘modest’ conclusion (e.g. ‘We should probably stop eating meat’) is better than a bad argument for a ‘strong’ conclusion (e.g. ‘It’s just obvious that animals don’t matter at all’). 
•    Be clear about what you are doing. Your audience can’t read your mind, so it’s important to tell us what you think is going on at any point in your argument. For instance, the following kind of sentences might be helpful: 
    “So, we’ve just shown you that we have ethical reasons not to cause animals pain for no good reason. Now we’re going to explain why eating meat doesn’t count as a good reason”. 
    “We’ve accepted that animals can feel pain. However, we’re now going to argue that it’s much more important to benefit humans than animals, and that this means it’s ethically acceptable to eat meat”. 
•    Be generous to those who disagree with you. As we said above, part of your argument might involve thinking about possible objections or responses, and in turn responding to them. But be careful: it doesn’t look good if you raise obviously bad arguments, and then easily defeat them. It is much better to think of the very best arguments someone on the other side might make, and to give plausible responses even if that means you can’t prove that your view is the only possible way to go. 

And finally: 
•    Pick a topic that you are interested in, and passionate about! 
 

Timetable

Competition launch date: 23rd October 2020
Closing date for video entries: 6th January 2021 
Video winners are announced: February 2021 (date tbc) 
Ethics and Responsibility day: More information coming soon! 23rd March 2021

Got a question?

If you have a question please email Dr Ben Davies at benjamin.davies@philosophy.ox.ac.uk.

 

Terms and Conditions

Practical Ethics and Responsibility Competition: Terms & Conditions

By entering the Oxford Uehiro Centre’s Practical Ethics and Responsibility Competition, you agree to accept the following T&Cs. 

Terms of Entry
1.    Entry to the Oxford Uehiro Centre’s Practical Ethics and Responsibility Competition is free of charge. The Competition is funded by the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
2.    All video entries must be original and produced by the teams. Any videos that feature plagiarised material will be disqualified. Copyright must be obtained if videos feature pre-existing material.
3.    Videos must address the question of what role responsibility plays in practical ethics today.
4.    Videos should be between two and four minutes long. 
5.    The Competition closing date is midnight on the 6th January 2021 and late entries will not be considered. 
6.    The Competition is open to entrants from anywhere in the world, but please be aware that we cannot fund travel to Oxford for international participants if you are successful in the video competition.
7.    Entrants must be pursuing secondary education and be in Year 11, 12 or 13 or the international equivalent. 

Video Selection
1.    Winning videos will be selected by the judging panel based on the following criteria:

a.    Argument: Does the argument make sense? Is it well supported?
b.    Clarity: Is it clear what conclusion is being argued for? Is it clear how the conclusion is supported by factual or ethical premises?
c.    Originality: Does the argument offer something unusual or new to the debate?
d.    Involvement: Are all team members well represented in the video?

2.    The judging panel will be comprised of researchers from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
3.    The judges’ decision is final. 
4.    Selected teams (henceforth known as ‘debate participants’) will be contacted during February 2021.
5.    Selected videos will be featured on the Uehiro Centre’s web page, and images may be used in the Centre’s annual report. 

The Debate
1.    The event will take place in Oxford, UK, on the 23rd March 2021 as part of the Oxford Uehiro Centre’s Ethics and Responsibility Day, unless ongoing COVID-related restrictions require the event to move online. 
2.    There will be an opportunity for teams which have not been selected to take part in the debate to attend the event.
3.    There is no alternative prize available if debate participants are unable to attend the debate. 
4.    Reasonable travel costs may be reimbursed for UK-based debate participants if necessary.
5.    Accommodation costs may be reimbursed for UK-based debate participants if accommodation is required on the preceding Monday night due to length of journey, at the discretion of the Oxford Uehiro Centre. Please discuss with the Centre in advance of any booking. 
6.    Debate winners will receive a cash prize of £300 as a team. The runners up will receive £150 as a team. Prizes will be paid directly to the winning schools.
7.    The judging panel will be comprised of researchers from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
8.    The judges’ decision is final. 
9.    Videos and photographs may be taken during the event, for marketing and communications purposes. Images may be used in the Centre’s annual report.