Ethics Olympiad

The Ethics Olympiad and Critical and Creative Thinking Senior Student Seminar --  July 25, 2018
A collaborative reflection by students Myles Kelemen, Jack Mills and Leeor Rose
We, the McKinnon “Senior Philosoraptors”,   the three of us plus Nadia, Lisa, Lindy, Liam, Tom,  Sammy and Jedd, excitedly accepted the opportunity to attend the first annual Ethics Olympiad. We prepared for the event with lunch time inquiry on ethical dilemma topics such as ‘Copying Homework’. Is it ever okay to cheat? We anticipated the impending day of ethical philosophizing with other schools at Scotch College eagerly!
On the day of the event, we were greeted by Matthew Wills, the creator and host of the Ethics Olympiad. The morning session began with a talk on Argument and Reason. We looked at bad arguments and tried to find the errors in expression.
We watched a Monty Python video clip to show us what a bad argument sounds like:
So, what do you think? Is weighing as much as a floating duck a reasonable premise for concluding she is a witch? Of course not!
Ms. Rocca reminded us that just because a majority of people believe something, or express something repeatedly, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Certain rules of logic must be applied. Discovering truth is both a challenging and a rigorous process!
In another session, one of our favourite dilemmas explored was based around Utilitarianism, a theory which basically says that one must always act in a way which reduces harm for the majority.  Sounds simple, right? But there’s a problem! What do you think it is? To help us conceptualize other points of view, we engaged in a thought experiment called the Trolley Problem which was first introduced by British moral philosopher, Philippa Foot, in the 1950s:
You have a train that can go between two train tracks. On one train track, there is one builder, and on the other train track, there are five builders. Next to you there is a lever that can help you direct the train to either direction. Would you kill the one builder to save the five? Do you choose to leave the lever, letting the train run its course? But hey! Inaction is action too!  You are still accountable, because you witnessed the situation and made a decision.
Throughout the day, our critical and creative thinking skills were challenged and stretched as we participated in Communities of Inquiry with students from other schools on topics such as: Could a computer run a country? (Artificial intelligence)  And what defines a zombie? (Mind/ Body problem)
We had lunch outside by the river and mingled with students from other schools.
Finally, the day concluded with Ethical Olympiad practice ‘heats’ where we got in teams of five to debate exposure of the Alt-Right movement, discuss the right to privacy for public protesters and decide the rightness or the wrongness of consenting to the wishes of people suffering from Body Integrity Identity Disorder, which is a psychological condition in which the individual actively seeks an elective amputation.
The day was interesting and incredibly rewarding as we learned how to set up logical arguments, respectfully challenge the ideas of others during inquiries and how to communicate our ideas clearly while thinking critical about every day, real world dilemmas.
A special thank you to Ms Rocca for organizing our attendance at the Ethics Olympiad and Critical and Creative Thinking Seminar.   

Teacher Note: Thank you to the Principal class, Mr. Jason Jewell, Andrew Krause and other colleagues for supporting our students’ participation in this event. Further information about Philosothons and Ethics Olympiads may be accessed here:
Ethics Olympiad (hosted in Victoria by the Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented)
Socratic Solutions

Michelle Rocca, Philosophy and English teacher

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