A more civil debate... The Ethics Cup

Dated: 1 March 2024

On the 23rd of February, ten lower sixth philosophy students took part in the London regionals of the Ethics Cup, a competition run by the university of St Andrews to promote civil discourse on issues of public concern through the consideration of ethical dilemma.
Contrary to debating competitions, teams don’t argue opposing views but work collaboratively to find a solution. Each team must establish a position and respond to questions and feedback from the opposing teams. A panel of three judges scores each team on their ability to identify the central moral dimension of the case, their responses to questions and feedback, and be thoughtful and considerate about other viewpoints.
The Woodhouse team discussed the value of replacing teachers with AI bots, assisted dying, Covid challenge trials, whether FTX’s charitable donations should be returned. Whether people over 60 have exceeded the limits of reproductive autonomy. They won four matches and came second place in the regional finals, with judges commenting on how impressive their argumentation was, and how coherent and well-articulated were their viewpoints.
We are now waiting to hear if they have a place in the nationals at St Andrews!
Student Oliver Bird told us"I loved the ethics cup. I found it great experience as it lets you be competitive in a positive way. We competed against big name schools so the thrill when we got to the final was great. As we progressed, I found the cases got more difficult and I started having to use big words like "axiom" or "maxim". Not only was it great for the debate side but also for the social side, as I met people there who I am now still in contact with. Great time."
 Daniel Cordoba Ruiz added “Participating in the Ethics Cup was an enriching experience that brought to light the significance of collaboration and ethical discussion. Engaging with complex ethical cases, we didn't just debate; we embarked on a philosophical journey, seeking not to persuade but to understand and find common ground. This experience underscored the importance of working alongside peers, each contribution weaving into a collective tapestry of thought and insight. Together, we navigated through the nuances of ethical dilemmas, learning the value of diverse perspectives in reaching a shared conclusion.
The Ethics Cup was more than a competition; it was a collective philosophical inquiry that honed our abilities to reason, reflect, and unite over shared ethical principles. I highly recommend this experience to those who cherish deep, meaningful discussions and the power of teamwork in uncovering the layers of complex ethical issues."
 Henna Newton took part in all the matches and shared “I found the experience of the ethics cup incredibly enriching and enjoyable. It offered opportunity for a combination of social and political issues but with close ties to philosophical discussion. The format of this was taking a case study and viewing the issue as contained within it but moreover, extrapolating a wider issue and a wider point of ethical discussion from it. For example, in our discussion of the case of FTX stolen money, we took a stance of moral integrity underpinned by aspects of Deontology in part by moving from the practicalities of discussion to the greater issue to take from it. What it clearly emphasised was the distinction between a sense of legal discussion and moral discussion; for whilst discussion of practicality was relevant to striking a balance it emphasised that the focus was the more theoretical discussion of the best pursuit of morality.
This is to highlight just one case, but each offered equal opportunity to apply theoretical discussion of ethics in real life in an interesting discussion of civil discussion - as opposed to debate that prompted an interesting structure of competition and an engaging discussion of various approaches to morality, in the format of facing and offering (respective to different rounds) criticism, and considering these varied approaches that these issues could be viewed in.”
The philosophy department is incredibly proud of the achievement of its students!

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