For 15 years, the University of Toronto’s Ethics Center has served as a focal point for research and discourse on ethical aspects of virtually every topic imaginable – from artificial intelligence to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet today’s ethics scholars do more than just look at new issues. They also question the very foundations of what many see as received wisdom.
“Working here has allowed me to appreciate how certain ethical issues have always been present, but are now receiving renewed attention,” says Amelia Eaton, a recent graduate of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences who spent last summer as a research assistant at the center. “People are exploring them in new ways. “
This is especially true for today’s undergraduates, who challenge long-held assumptions in areas such as race, gender, and environment. Eaton says that’s where she came up with the idea to host the Center for Ethics’ first-ever undergraduate research conference in July, titled “Ethics, Intersections, Reflections. ”
Now entering his first year of law school at Dalhousie University, Eaton recently graduated from Woodsworth College with a major in Ethics, Society and Law and a minor in Philosophy and Political Science. With a particular interest in prison research, a fascination with ethical issues prompted her to apply for a position at the Ethics Center as a work-study student during the last two years of her license.
There she promoted and organized events and worked on a number of important initiatives, including the Annotated Bibliography on AI Ethics – part of the center online companion to the Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI – the centre’s range of podcasts and online newspapers, and its extensive collection of event videos available on its Youtube channel. She even started the Ethics Center TikTok Account.
“During her time at the center, Amelia made enormous contributions to all aspects of the centre’s intellectual life,” explains Markus Dubber, director of the Ethics Center. “She has taken full advantage of the opportunities and resources the center has to offer, and has even created new ones along the way.
“By working with other students and researchers at the center, she has become an integral part of the centre’s efforts to create an interdisciplinary research hub across the university and to engage the public on a wide range of issues of ethical importance. .
Eaton’s work-study program completed her studies in Ethics, Society, and Law, where she was encouraged to form a fresh ethical perspective on old and new ideas. She adds that Trinity College’s program has also equipped her with argumentation and deductive reasoning skills that will come in handy in law school.
Digging deep into ethical questions, however, requires discussion. During her early years at the University of Toronto, Eaton said she could easily meet this requirement with friends in cafes or pubs.
But the move to a virtual format during the pandemic made things more difficult. While “everyone was still so passionate about what they were looking for,” says Eaton, “the few people who were sticking around after the tutorial couldn’t continue chatting because everyone logged out of Zoom and had ended.”
The Ethics, Intersections and Reflections undergraduate conference helped fill the void. Through targeted advertising and word of mouth, Eaton narrowed down its conference nominees to six presenters with diverse backgrounds and expertise in everything from computer science and anthropology to religion and science. town planning.
“I didn’t want it to be 10 articles on Simone de Beauvoir or Plato,” she says. “I wanted presentations on topics that students discuss all the time – things are happening right now. We were also very clear in our call for applications that they did not need to be philosophy students. We have had an excellent response. There were so many submissions, it was difficult to pass them all. “
Presentations included a recent graduate Jeffrey Maexploring Indian twinning, and former student Bailey Irene Midori HoyThe presentation of on the relationship between intergenerational trauma and so-called “cursed” family inheritances. Tsitsi Macherera and Maliha Sarwar discussed surveillance and vaccine reluctance, respectively, while Alex Heyman and Ariel La Fayette take an innovative look at utilitarianism and religious experience.
What gratified Eaton most about the conference was the level of engagement it generated.
“The presenters weren’t just interested in showing their own work, but also making connections between what they were doing and what others were doing,” she says. “I know the students were able to develop connections that I didn’t necessarily expect.
Eaton says she looks forward to hosting more conferences as a law student and hopes her research initiative continues at the Center for Ethics – a place that has been central to her development as a thinker.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of having this center at the University of Toronto,” she said. “It shows that we can all talk about ethics – that we all have not only the capacity, but the obligation to ask normative questions about the various institutions in our society. I thought artificial intelligence was a technological problem, that prisons were a sociological problem, and surveillance was a political science problem. But ethics is what brings these topics together.
“It allows all disciplines to be in conversation with each other. “