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Announcement: Philosophy and Psychiatry Summer School, 15 – 15 July 2022

The Philosophy and Psychiatry Summer School returns this year, 14-15 July, at St Hilda’s College Oxford.

 Registrations now open and the deadline for the early bird rate is 14th April.

Keynote speaker: Essi Viding (Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London)

Summer School Sessions run by:

  • Khaldoon Ahmed (East London NHS Foundation Trust) with Susan Young (Royal College of Art) and Laurie Dahl (South West London St George’s NHS Trust)
  • Kamaldeep Bhui (Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford) and Neil Armstrong (Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford)
  • Caroline Green (NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London) and Palvi Dodhia (Serene Care)
  • Jonathan Pugh (Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford) and Camillia Kong (Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford)
  • Mohammed Rashed (Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London) and Kai Syng Tan (Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Frank Rohricht (Wolfson Institute of Population Health, Queen Mary University of London and East London NHS Foundation Trust) and Lambros Malafouris (School of Archaeology, University of Oxford)

More info and registration

Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Why We Should Negatively Discount the Well-Being of Future Generations

This essay was the winner in the undergraduate category of the 8th Annual Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by Matthew Price, University of Oxford Student

Practical ethicists and policymakers alike must grapple with the problem of how to weigh the interests of future people against those of contemporary people. This question is most often raised in discussions about our responsibility to abate climate change,1 but it is also pertinent to the mitigation of other existential risks, disposal of nuclear waste, and investment in long-term scientific enterprise. To date, most of the debate has been between those who defend the practice of discounting future generations’ well-being at some positive rate and those who argue that the only morally defensible discount rate is zero.2 This essay presents an argument for a negative discount rate:

  • There is reason to believe that the well-being of those who are more morally deserving counts for more.
  • There is reason to expect that future people will be more morally deserving than we are now.

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Announcing the Winners and Runners Up in the 8th Annual Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Please join us in congratulating all four of the finalists in the National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics 2022, and in particular our winners, Matthew Price and Lily Moore-Eissenberg.

This, the 8th Annual Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics was, for the first time, held as a National competition. From 5:30pm on the 15th March, in the lecture theatre of the Faculty of Philosophy, as well as online, the four finalists presented their papers and ideas to an audience and responded to a short Q&A as the final round in the competition. Over the coming weeks a selection of the winning essays and honourable mentions will be published on this blog.

Undergraduate Category

Winner: Matthew Price – Why We Should Negatively Discount the Well-Being of Future Generations

Runner Up: Leo Rogers – Terra nullius, populus sine terra: who may settle Antarctica?

Honourable Mentions: Lukas Joosten – When Money Can’t Buy Happiness: Does Our Duty to Assist the Needy Require Us to Befriend the Lonely?

Alexander Scoby – Why don’t we just let the wise rule?!

 

Graduate Category

Winner: Lily Moore-Eissenberg – Legal Proof and Structural Injustice: Should jurors be given information about structural racism?

Runner Up: Avital Fried – Statistical Evidence and the Criminal Verdict Asymmetry

Honourable Mentions: Lise du Buisson – How should career choice ethics address ignorance-related harms?

Kabir Singh Bakshi – Against Broome’s ‘Against Denialism’

Cross Post: Is This the End of the Road for Vaccine Mandates in Healthcare?

Written by Dominic Wilkinson, Alberto Giubilini, and Julian Savulescu

The UK government recently announced a dramatic U-turn on the COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, originally scheduled to take effect on April 1 2022. Health or social care staff will no longer need to provide proof of vaccination to stay employed. The reason, as health secretary Sajid Javid made clear, is that “it is no longer proportionate”.

There are several reasons why it was the right decision at this point to scrap the mandate. Most notably, omicron causes less severe disease than other coronavirus variants; many healthcare workers have already had the virus (potentially giving them immunity equivalent to the vaccine); vaccines are not as effective at preventing re-infection and transmission of omicron; and less restrictive alternatives are available (such as personal protective equipment and lateral flow testing of staff). Continue reading

Cross Post: Vaccine Mandates For Healthcare Workers Should Be Scrapped – Omicron Has Changed The Game

Written by Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu

Time is running out for National Health Service staff in England who have not had a COVID vaccine. Doctors and nurses have until Thursday, February 3, to have their first jab. If they don’t, they will not be fully immunised by the beginning of April and could be dismissed.

But there are reports this week that the UK government is debating whether to postpone the COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare staff. Would that be the right thing to do?

Vaccine requirements are controversial and have led to worldwide protests. Those in favour have argued that it is necessary and proportionate to protect vulnerable patients by making vaccination a condition of employment for healthcare staff. But critics have argued that vaccine mandates amount to a violation of human rights. Continue reading

Guest Post: No, We Don’t Owe It To The Animals to Eat Them

Written by Adrian Kreutz, New College, University of Oxford

That eating animals constitutes a harm has by now largely leaked into public opinion. Only rarely do meat eaters deny that. Those who deny it usually do so on the grounds of an assumed variance in consciousness or ability to suffer between human and non-human animals. Hardly anyone, however, has the audacity to argue that killing animals actually does them good, and that therefore we must continue eating meat and consuming animal products. Hardly anyone apart from UCL philosopher Nick Zangwill, that is, who in a recent article published in Aeon argues that “eating animals’ benefits animals for they exist only because human beings eat them”. One’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens, right? Let me unpack and debunk his argument. Continue reading

Cross Post: Pig’s Heart Transplant: Was David Bennett the Right Person to Receive Groundbreaking Surgery?

Dominic Wilkinson, University of Oxford

The recent world-first heart transplant from a genetically modified pig to a human generated both headlines and ethical questions.

Many of those questions related to the ethics of xenotransplantation. This is the technical term for organ transplants between species. There has been research into this for more than a century, but recent scientific developments involving genetic modifications of animals to stop the organ being rejected appear to make this much more feasible.

Typical questions about xenotransplantation relate to the risks (for example, of transmitting infection), treatment of the animals, and the ethics of genetic modification of animals for this purpose. Continue reading

Cross Post: Why the UK Shouldn’t Introduce Mandatory COVID Vaccination

Written by Julian Savulescu, Dominic Wilkinson, and Jonathan Pugh

As coronavirus infections surge across Europe, and with the threat of the omicron variant looming, countries are imposing increasingly stringent pandemic controls.

In Austria, citizens will be subject to a vaccine mandate in February. In Greece, meanwhile, a vaccine mandate will apply to those 60 and over, starting in mid-January.

Both mandates allow medical exemptions, and the Greek mandate allows exemptions for those who have recently recovered from COVID.

Other countries, including Germany, may soon follow suit, and the European Commission has raised the need to discuss an EU vaccine mandate. In contrast, the UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, has been clear that the UK will not consider a general mandatory vaccination policy. Continue reading

Cross Post: Omicron: Better To Be Safe (And Quick) Than Sorry

Written by: Dominic Wilkinson, and Jonathan Pugh

On discovering the omicron variant, many countries moved quickly to impose travel restrictions and other public health measures, such as compulsory mask wearing. But, given the lack of data, is this the best course of action?

These measures have tangible costs, and some have argued that they are an over-reaction. Critics of the travel ban claim that new measures will not significantly prevent the spread of the variant. Indeed, World Health Organization (WHO) officials have urged countries not to hastily impose travel curbs, instead advocating a risk analysis and science-based approach. Continue reading

Event Summary: Vaccine Policies and Challenge Trials: The Ethics of Relative Risk in Public Health

St Cross Special Ethics Seminar, Presented by Dr Sarah Chan, 18 November 2021

In this St Cross Special Ethics Seminar, Dr Sarah Chan explores three key areas of risk in ‘challenge trials’ – the deliberate infection of human participants to infectious agents as a tool for vaccine development and improving our knowledge of disease biology.  Dr Chan explores a) whether some forms of challenge trials cannot be ethically justified; b) why stratifying populations for vaccine allocation by risk profile can result in unjust risk distribution; and c) how comparing these cases and the evaluation of relative risk reveals flaws in approach to pandemic public health.


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