.Back to listing

Tue, Mar 05

More than Debate: Talking Ethics in Both Conference and Competition

Ethics Bowl is a Socratic discussion-based competition in which competitors discuss the problems and solutions to current moral dilemmas. These dilemmas include a variety of topics, from the seemingly innocuous issues like owning a lawn (they’re not great for the environment) to the biggest challenges like addressing systemic racism. Teams collaborate, rather than debate, on how to navigate these issues using moral theory and practical policies. Ethics Bowl captures the heart of ethical problem-solving: to listen with care and curiosity for what others have to say, to critically and respectfully consider opposing viewpoints, and to treat all stakeholders and members of the conversation with empathy.

The Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) is a national organization dedicated to advancing scholarship, education, and research in practical and professional ethics. They are responsible for creating and managing the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB) competition.

APPE also hosts the annual Practical and Professional Ethics Conference along with the National IEB competition. I was able to both attend the conference as an observing graduate student and the competition as a judge.

2024 APPE Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl® National Championship

The conference brought scholars from all over the country to discuss their publications and working ideas on a variety of applied ethics topics. I attended panels on the moral impermissibility of factory farming, how to use bureaucratic power to curb police violence, and qualitative studies on the efficacy of audits for technology companies. I found this last panel to be especially interesting. With the skills and knowledge I acquired from my Tech Ethics and Policy concentration, I offered points on how to consider other variables like the quality of audits, the organizations responsible for conducting these audits, and the types of technology companies that need to be audited. Because of the MA program, I helped advise the presenter on how to improve her study (solicited advice, of course!).

The competition brought undergraduate students from all over the country to discuss as variety of moral dilemmas. Topics included the ethics of lithium mining in Maine, the moral permissibility of allowing doctors to practice as ringside physicians in boxing competitions, and when, if ever, should generative AI be used. It was amazing to see how thoughtful and well-informed the next generation of ethicists were.

Attending the conference and judging the competition allowed me to give back to the community that has given me so much. I’m grateful to still be involved with APPE because they equipped me with the skills of thoughtful and respectful dialogue that guides me in my everyday thinking and career path. I hope to use these skills to help myself and others navigate the biggest moral challenges in the MA program and beyond.

Jenna Wong, Duke MA in Tech Ethics & Policy

Jenna WongJenna explores the nexus of technology and ethics by concentrating in Technology Ethics in Duke’s Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy, by pursuing research opportunities with Science & Society faculty, and engaging with technology companies in Durham.

DISCLAIMER: These reflections represent the views of the student and not necessarily the views of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society or the Bioethics & Science Policy Masters Program. Our program represents myriad views and ideologies and we welcome open discussion on potentially controversial subject matter as it relates to society.