Why Preventing Predation Can Be a Morally Right Cause for Effective Altruism?

This article received an honourable mention in the graduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Oxford student Pablo Neira

If the interests of sentient animals matter, then there are (at least pro tanto) reasons to prevent the harms they suffer. There are many different natural harms that wild animals suffer, including hunger, disease, parasitism and extreme weather conditions (Singer 1975; Clark 1979; Sapontzis 1984; Cowen 2003; Fink 2005; Simmons 2009; Horta 2010; McMahan 2010; Ebert and Mavhan 2012; Keulartz 2016; Palmer 2013; Sözmen 2013; Bruers 2015; Tomasik 2015; McMahan 2016; Bramble 2021; Johannsen 2021). One of these (on which I will focus in this paper) is the suffering caused by predation. Predation is an antagonistic relationship in which a predator obtains energy by consuming a prey animal—either wholly or partially—which is alive when it is attacked (Begon et al. 2006, 266). The harms predation cause to prey animals can vary greatly, depending on the kind of injuries they suffer in the process and how painful they are, the amount of time it takes them to die, the release of endorphins that reduce pain or the extent to which psychological suffering—mostly distress—affects them during the process. In addition, beyond the pain of predation itself, there are other substantial harms related to predation. Continue reading

Eth­i­cal Bi­o­log­i­cal Nat­u­ral­ism and the Case Against Moral Sta­tus for AIs

This article received an honourable mention in the graduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Oxford student Samuel Iglesias



6.522. “There are, in­deed, things that can­not be put into words. They make them­selves man­i­fest. They are what is mys­ti­cal”. —Lud­wig Wittgen­stein, Trac­ta­tus Logi­co Philo­soph­icus.

What de­ter­mines whether an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence has moral sta­tus? Do men­tal states, such as the vivid and con­scious feel­ings of plea­sure or pain, mat­ter? Some ethicists ar­gue that “what goes on in the in­side mat­ters great­ly” (Ny­holm and Frank 2017). Oth­ers, like John Dana­her, ar­gue that “per­for­ma­tive ar­ti­fice, by it­self, can be suf­ficient to ground a claim of moral sta­tus” (2018). This view, called eth­i­cal be­hav­ior­ism, “re­spects our epis­temic lim­its” and states that if an en­ti­ty “con­sis­tent­ly be­haves like anoth­er en­ti­ty to whom we af­ford moral sta­tus, then it should be grant­ed the same moral sta­tus.” Continue reading

National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: The Ambiguous Ethicality of Applause: Ethnography’s Uncomfortable Challenge to the Ethical Subject

This article received an honourable mention in the graduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Manchester student Thomas Long


This essay presents, first and foremost, the recollections of a doctoral anthropologist as they attempt to make sense of a moment of embodied, ethical dissonance: a moment where the “familiar” of their own ethical positionality was suddenly and violently made very “strange” to them through participation in applause. Applause is one of the most practical ways we can perform our support for a cause, idea or individual within corporeal social space. Through a vignette, I examine the ethical challenge presented by my own, unexpected applause – applause for the Pro-Life movement – that occurred during fieldwork with Evangelical Christians in the U.S.A. I use this vignette to question the impact of the field on an anthropologist’s capacity to practice what they see as good ethics, and in doing so, consider the practical ethical limits of conducting ethnographic research with so called “repugnant cultural others” (Harding 1991). I argue that moments of uncomfortable alienation from one’s own perceived ethical positionality present not a moral, but a conceptual challenge, in that through this alienation the elasticity of our ethical selves is laid bare. I conclude by suggesting that the challenge presented by doing ethnography with ethically divergent interlocutors constitutes an “object dissolving critique” (Robbins, 2003, p.193) of our implicit conception of what it means to be a coherent ethical subject at all. Continue reading

National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Why the Responsibility Gap is Not a Compelling Objection to Lethal Autonomous Weapons

This article received an honourable mention in the undergraduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by Tanae Rao, University of Oxford student

There are some crimes, such as killing non-combatants and mutilating corpses, so vile that they are clearly impermissible even in the brutal chaos of war. Upholding human dignity, or whatever is left of it, in these situations may require us to hold someone morally responsible for violation of the rules of combat. Common sense morality dictates that we owe it to those unlawfully killed or injured to punish the people who carried out the atrocity. But what if the perpetrators weren’t people at all? Robert Sparrow argues that, when lethal autonomous weapons cause war crimes, it is often impossible to identify someone–man or machine–who can appropriately be held morally responsible (Sparrow 2007; Sparrow 2016). This might explain some of our ambivalence about the deployment of autonomous weapons, even if their use would replace human combatants who commit war crimes more frequently than their robotic counterparts. Continue reading

National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: What is Wrong With Stating Slurs?

This article received an honourable mention in the undergraduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by Leah O’Grady, University of Oxford


This essay will argue that it is wrong to use slurs in a non-derogatory context due to the phenomena of constitutive prohibition, put forward by Alexandre and Lepore (2013). That is, I will argue that slurs are wrong because they are considered wrong. Throughout, I will use ‘offensive’ interchangeably with ‘considered wrong (by the marginalised community to which it applies)’. I wish to distinguish ‘offensive’ with ‘wrong’. A slur is wrong if and only if it does harm to the marginalised community to which it applies. I will begin the essay from the assumption that an offensive slur is not necessarily wrong and vice versa. However, through argument I will conclude that slurs are wrong because they are offensive, that is, it is wrong to say slurs because it implies either an ignorance of or a disregard to the wishes of marginalised communities. Continue reading

Guest Cross Post: Extremism And The Sensible Centre

Written by Tony Coady , Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne and Honorary Professor at the Australian Catholic University, Honorary Fellow in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in Oxford.

There are a plethora of terms in widespread political and social use that often obfuscate more than they elucidate. One of those is “terrorism” and its derivatives such as “terrorist”, but I have had my say about this elsewhere, most recently in my 2021 book The Meaning of Terrorism and will simply commend it to readers. Here I want to address instead the cluster of expressions  around “extremist/extremism”, “radical/radicalism” and best of all “the sensible centre”.

Typical quotes about extremism show the standardly condemnatory nature of its widespread current usage. Examples are almost endless, but here are two examples from very different well-known people: “A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.” – Benazir Bhutto;[1] “Extremism means borders beyond which life ends, and a passion for extremism, in art and in politics, is a veiled longing for death.” – Milan Kundera [2]  Continue reading

Guest Post: Body Shaming is Unacceptable, Even if Directed at Vile People. An Intersex Critique of “Small Dick Energy” 

Guest post by Morgan Carpenter, bioethicist; co-founder and executive director, Intersex Human Rights Australia; Magda Rakita co-founder and executive director, Fundacja Interakcja (Poland), and co-chair, OII Europe; and Bo Laurent, founder, Intersex Society of North America

We love Greta Thunberg. But we were hurt and disappointed that she chose “small dick energy” as a pejorative in her recent Twitter exchange with the self-proclaimed “misogynist influencer” Andrew Tate. This particular choice of words was not, in our view, the self-evidently praiseworthy retort that many progressive commentators took it to be.

Don’t get us wrong. Rhetorically taking someone down a notch is undoubtedly sometimes appropriate. Especially if they have an inflated ego, an objectionable moral character, and regularly disrespect others, as appears to be the case with Tate.

We aren’t against mocking misogynists.

But we are against doing so by alluding to, or making disparaging comments about, body parts or mental attributes possessed by marginalized people — people who suffer unjust stigma due to those very traits. Continue reading

Guest Post: It has become possible to use cutting-edge AI language models to generate convincing high school and undergraduate essays. Here’s why that matters

Written by: Julian Koplin & Joshua Hatherley, Monash University

ChatGPT is a variant of the GPT-3 language model developed by OpenAI. It is designed to generate human-like text in response to prompts given by users. As with any language model, ChatGPT is a tool that can be used for a variety of purposes, including academic research and writing. However, it is important to consider the ethical implications of using such a tool in academic contexts. The use of ChatGPT, or other large language models, to generate undergraduate essays raises a number of ethical considerations. One of the most significant concerns is the issue of academic integrity and plagiarism.

One concern is the potential for ChatGPT or similar language models to be used to produce work that is not entirely the product of the person submitting it. If a student were to use ChatGPT to generate significant portions of an academic paper or other written work, it would be considered plagiarism, as they would not be properly crediting the source of the material. Plagiarism is a serious offence in academia, as it undermines the integrity of the research process and can lead to the dissemination of false or misleading information.This is not only dishonest, but it also undermines the fundamental principles of academic scholarship, which is based on original research and ideas.

Another ethical concern is the potential for ChatGPT or other language models to be used to generate work that is not fully understood by the person submitting it. While ChatGPT and other language models can produce high-quality text, they do not have the same level of understanding or critical thinking skills as a human. As such, using ChatGPT or similar tools to generate work without fully understanding and critically evaluating the content could lead to the dissemination of incomplete or incorrect information.

In addition to the issue of academic integrity, the use of ChatGPT to generate essays also raises concerns about the quality of the work that is being submitted. Because ChatGPT is a machine learning model, it is not capable of original thought or critical analysis. It simply generates text based on the input data that it is given. This means that the essays generated by ChatGPT would likely be shallow and lacking in substance, and they would not accurately reflect the knowledge and understanding of the student who submitted them.

Furthermore, the use of ChatGPT to generate essays could also have broader implications for education and the development of critical thinking skills. If students were able to simply generate essays using AI, they would have little incentive to engage with the material and develop their own understanding and ideas. This could lead to a decrease in the overall quality of education, and it could also hinder the development of important critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Overall, the use of ChatGPT to generate undergraduate essays raises serious ethical concerns. While these tools can be useful for generating ideas or rough drafts, it is important to properly credit the source of any material generated by the model and to fully understand and critically evaluate the content before incorporating it into one’s own work. It undermines academic integrity, it is likely to result in low-quality work, and it could have negative implications for education and the development of critical thinking skills. Therefore, it is important that students, educators, and institutions take steps to ensure that this practice is not used or tolerated.

Everything that you just read was generated by an AI

Continue reading

Cross Post: Halving Subsidised Psychology Appoints is a Grave Mistake—Young Australians Will Bear a Significant Burden 

Written by Dr Daniel D’Hotman, DPhil student studying mental health and ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre

The original version of this article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald

Unprecedented times called for unprecedented measures. COVID-19 was the most significant health crisis many of us had ever faced. While the physical effects were much discussed, the mental health burden was arguably just as devastating. In response, the previous Government doubled subsidised mental health appointments under the Better Access Program, allowing Australians suffering from mental illnesses like anxiety, PTSD and depression to claim an extra 10 appointments per year.

Now we are trying to convince ourselves COVID-19 and its impacts are over. In addition to requiring referrals for some PCR tests, the Australian Government is cutting the number of mental health visits available under Medicare to pre-pandemic levels, arguing this is a necessary step to improve equity. According to a review of the program, extra appointments clogged up waitlists and reduced access for those not engaging with services. Continue reading