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. We invite school students in Year 11, 12 or 13 (S4-S6 in Scotland, Years 12-14 in Northern Ireland, or the international equivalent) to take part in our Practical Ethics and Responsibility Competition by making a video to tell us about an ethical problem and how you think responsibility is involved.
The top four finalists will be invited to take part in our Schools' Day as part of our Festival of Arguments and you can see this year's four winning videos plus the Highly Commended videos on the 2023 Schools' Day web page. To take part in future rounds, teams of between three and five people should send us a video of up to four minutes in length.
The 2023 competition deadline was 9th January 2023, and the four finalists competed for the top prizes in the School's Day on 21st March 2023. Our first placed team in 2023 was Altrincham Girls Grammar School, followed by Oxford International College, St Ambrose College and The Tiffin Girls' School. Congratulations to all who took part.
Full details of the competition plus the terms and conditions can be found here. We hope to see you for the 2024 competition (opening September 2023)!
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 Liz Sanders and we will send you a link to a file share folder. Videos should be uploaded by 4pm on Monday 9th January 2023. 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. Teacher support form from the supporting teacher
5. Signed video consent form for each participant
The Schools day
Four winning teams will be invited to take part in further competition through presentations and debates during the Ethics and Responsibility Day which will take place in Oxford on 21st March 2023. In this video
A debate will form the final challenge on the day. This exhibition debate will give you an idea of what your debate might look like.
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?
You don’t need to look at all of these! Once you have your topic, pick the resources that seem relevant for you.
The Uehiro Centre podcast series on responsibility
Can people with personality disorders be responsible if they do wrong?
Roles and Responsibility
Should we bribe people to be healthier?
Blame and historic injustice
Responsibility and consciousness
Should vaccination status affect what health care you get?
The ABC of responsible AI
When should teenagers be able to make their own healthcare decisions?
Are Russian athletes responsible for the actions of the Russian state?
Responsibility over time and across agents
A proposal for a ‘responsibility-sensitive’ approach in healthcare
Is it too ‘harsh’ to hold people responsible for their own health?
Manipulating people into getting vaccinated
Holding the police accountable
Civil disobedience against institutional racism
Can doctors apply their personal conscience in their jobs?
Can it be wrong for victims to report crimes?
How does our personal use of antibiotics affect the spread of infectious diseases?
Should we tax meat to reduce the use of antibiotics?
Should predicted smokers get transplants?
Should we hold people responsible for being obese?
Is it fair to refuse treatment if someone is overweight?
Taking responsibility for the past
How does neuroscience change our understanding of criminal responsibility?
Do we greater moral obligations to robots than to humans?
Two philosophers disagree about free will
Should we have a ‘no blame’ culture in medicine?
Institutional and personal responsibility in pandemics
Allocating ventilators across hospitals
Can we use technology to enforce responsibility in healthcare?
Shared responsibility in healthcare
Are we really in control of our behaviour?
Should criminals get the same health care as everyone else?
Are we responsible for the future?
How should responsibility affect access to health care?
Do we have a responsibility to get vaccinated?
Will holding people responsible help them be healthier?
Is it fair to punish people who do wrong?
How do philosophers think about free will?
Can we be responsible even if someone manipulates us?
Is it helpful to label people ‘criminals’?
Using predictive policing to prevent crime
Is vaccine nationalism justified?
Professor Peter Railton on AI and moral obligations
Do medical professionals have a responsibility to keep working if they lack protective equipment?
Covid triage in an Italian ICU
The ethics of vaccination
Should vaccination be compulsory?
Do doctors always have a responsibility to treat their patients?
Is it right to pay people to be healthier?
How can groups be responsible?
How does addiction affect responsibility?
Is responsibility partly about luck?
Is responsibility is a myth?
Does moral responsibility require ‘free will’?
Can groups be responsible in the same way as individuals?
What is a ‘collective action problem’?
Does responsibility require ‘free will’?
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 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.
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.
• Pick a topic that you are interested in, and passionate about!
Competition launch date: 1st September 2022
Closing date for video entries: 4pm on 9th January 2023
Video winners are announced: February 2023 (date tbc)
Ethics and Responsibility Schools' Day: 21st March 2023
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 4pm on the 9th January 2023 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 (S4, S5 and S6 in Scotland, and Year 12, 13 and 14 in Northern Ireland) or the international equivalent.
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 and special guests.
3. The judges’ decision is final.
4. Selected teams (henceforth known as ‘debate participants’) will be contacted during February 2023.
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 Schools day
1. The event will take place in Oxford, UK, on the 21st March 2023 as part of the Oxford Uehiro Centre’s Festival of Arguments, unless ongoing COVID-related restrictions require the event to move online.
2. There is no alternative prize available if debate participants are unable to attend the debate.
3. Reasonable travel costs may be reimbursed for UK-based debate participants if necessary.
4. 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.
5. Debate winners will receive a cash prize of £250 as a team. The second placed team will receive £150 as a team, and the third placed team will receive £50 as a team. Prizes will be paid directly to the winning schools.
6. The judging panel will be comprised of researchers from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and special guests.
7. The judges’ decision is final.
8. Videos and photographs may be taken during the event, for marketing and communications purposes. Images may be used in the Centre’s annual report.