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Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Turning up the Hedonic Treadmill: Is It Morally Impermissible for Parents to Give Their Children a Luxurious Standard of Living?

This essay was the overall winner in the Undergraduate Category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Oxford student, Lukas Joosten

Most parents think they are helping their children when they give them a very high standard of life. This essay argues that giving luxuries to your children can, in fact, be morally impermissible. The core of my argument is that when parents give their children a luxurious standard of life, they foist an expectation for a higher standard of living upon their children, reducing their lifetime wellbeing if they cannot afford this standard in adulthood.

I argue for this conclusion in four steps. Firstly, I discuss how one can harm someone by changing their preferences. Secondly, I develop a model for the general permissibility of gift giving in the context of adaptive preferences. Thirdly, I apply this to the case of parental giving, arguing it is uniquely problematic. Lastly, I respond to a series of objections to the main argument.  Read More »Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Turning up the Hedonic Treadmill: Is It Morally Impermissible for Parents to Give Their Children a Luxurious Standard of Living?

Why Actions Matter: The Case for Fluid Moral Status

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

Written by Lucy Simpson, Nottingham Trent University student

 

Throughout the catalogue of work produced by Jeff McMahan, he has discussed what constitutes a being’s moral status, and has advocated the theories of moral individualism and reflective equilibrium intuitionism.[1] It is not my intention in this paper to dispute  these positions. Instead, I argue that if we accept McMahan’s position, then logically, we must accept that a being’s moral character is a morally relevant property which we ought to consider when determining their moral status. As I will explain, this therefore means that moral status is not static; it is fluid. Further to this, in the latter stages of this paper, I consider that if we do accept that moral status is action dependant, then there might be negative moral status. On the topic of negative moral status, I do not aim to give any in-depth arguments either for or against its existence, but rather just flag this as a potential avenue for further exploration if we do indeed follow McMahan’s theories of intuitionism and moral individualism.Read More »Why Actions Matter: The Case for Fluid Moral Status

Do we have an Obligation to Diversify our Media Consumption ?

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

Written by James Shearer, University of St Andrews student

  1. Introduction 

In an increasingly politicised society, previously mundane decisions about our daily lives can take on normative qualities. One such question is “what news media should we consume?”. Alex Worsnip suggests that we have an obligation to consume media from across the political landscape. This essay argues against this claim by showing that any obligation to diversify our media consumption in this way would face severe limitations. §2 will consider Worsnip’s argument. §3 will show why we are under no general obligation to diversify our media consumption. Finally, in §4 I consider and respond to potential responses to my position.

Read More »Do we have an Obligation to Diversify our Media Consumption ?

Announcing the Winners and Runners Up in the 9th Annual National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

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Please join us in congratulating all four of the finalists in the National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics 2023, and in particular our winners, Lukas Joosten and Avital Fried. We would also like to thank our judges, Prof Roger Crisp, Prof Edward Harcourt and Dr Sarah Raskoff.

This, the final of the 9th Annual National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics, was held on the 14th March in the lecture theatre of the Faculty of Philosophy, as well as online. During the final the four finalists presented their papers and ideas to an audience and responded to a short Q&A as the deciding round in the competition. A selection of the winning essays and honourable mentions will be published on this blog.Read More »Announcing the Winners and Runners Up in the 9th Annual National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Should Social Media Companies Use Artificial Intelligence to Automate Content Moderation on their Platforms and, if so, Under What Conditions?

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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 Trenton Andrew Sewell 

Social Media Companies (SMCs) should use artificial intelligence (‘AI’) to automate content moderation (‘CM’) presuming they meet two kinds of conditions. Firstly, ‘End Conditions’ (‘ECs’) which restrict what content is moderated. Secondly, ‘Means Conditions’ (‘MCs’) which restrict how moderation occurs.

This essay focuses on MCs. Assuming some form of moderation is permissible, I will discuss how/whether SMCs should use AI to moderate. To this end, I outline CM AI should respect users ‘moral agency’ (‘MA’) through transparency, clarity, and providing an option to appeal the AI’s judgment. I then address whether AI failing to respect MA proscribes its use. It does not. SMCs are permitted[1] to use AI, despite procedural failures, to discharge substantive obligations to users and owners.Read More »Should Social Media Companies Use Artificial Intelligence to Automate Content Moderation on their Platforms and, if so, Under What Conditions?

Cross Post: Why Government Budgets are Exercises in Distributing Life and Death as Much as Fiscal Calculations

Written by Hazem Zohny, University of Oxford

Sacrificial dilemmas are popular among philosophers. Should you divert a train from five people strapped to the tracks to a side-track with only one person strapped to it? What if that one person were a renowned cancer researcher? What if there were only a 70% chance the five people would die?

These questions sound like they have nothing to do with a government budget. These annual events are, after all, conveyed as an endeavour in accounting. They are a chance to show anticipated tax revenues and propose public spending. We are told the name of the game is “fiscal responsibility” and the goal is stimulating “economic growth”. Never do we talk of budgets in terms of sacrificing some lives to save others.

In reality, though, government budgets are a lot like those trains, in philosophical terms. Whether explicitly intended or not, some of us take those trains to better or similar destinations, and some of us will be left strapped to the tracks. That is because the real business of budgets is in distributing death and life. They are exercises in allocating misery and happiness.Read More »Cross Post: Why Government Budgets are Exercises in Distributing Life and Death as Much as Fiscal Calculations

How Confucian Harmony Can Help Us Deal with Echo Chambers

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

Written by Kyle van Oosterum, University of Oxford student

Section 1 – Introduction

Many of us are part of or aware of the existence of widespread echo chambers on social media. Echo chambers seem concerning because their members are led to believe bizarre things and disagree viciously with others. For example, some people genuinely believe the Earth is flat. Others disagree about basic political reality as we saw with those who stormed the U.S. Capital on January 6th 2021 and, more recently, the Brazilian congress. A great deal of this may be attributable to the way social media algorithmically sorts us into echo chambers. However, this sorting is partly so effective because we have not become disposed to exit echo chambers or deal well with the individuals who inhabit them. Even if we change these algorithms, we may also need to change our dispositions to better deal with these individuals.Read More »How Confucian Harmony Can Help Us Deal with Echo Chambers