We're here to help everyone understand ethics better. So many seemingly simple topics fall into maddening complexity when we take a second to look closer. When that happens, we want to ensure that everyone involved has the resources to have thoughtful, civil discussions about the issues we all face.
The Center for Practical Ethics was created in January of 2022. Its mission is to help fill a space in public discourse for civility and to provide pragmatic solutions to real-world policy problems.
Civility is a fundamental part of living together. More than mere politeness, it allows us to resolve complicated problems amicably and to live together peacefully when those problems prove intractable. Most of us can feel a notable lack of civility in our public discourse, and we want to change that.
The concepts and tools produced by the discipline of ethics are indispensable to this goal. By demonstrating the complexity of the moral landscape and revealing places where we can all agree, we hope to make clear that hard problems can indeed have good solutions and that reaching those solutions requires working together in order to live together.
What is practical ethics?
Practical ethics is, in short, ethics in action. It focuses on the moral aspects of real-world issues and decisions by applying ethical theories and principles to situations in order to determine the right course of action.
Dealing with a wide range of topics, it includes such questions as the moral implications of certain technologies, the ethics of healthcare and medicine, the morality of war and violence, and the ethics of business and economics. Practical ethics is concerned with the everyday moral problems that people face and the ways in which we can make moral decisions that are just and fair.
Our events lead to outcomes
Gain ethical knowledge
In almost all of our events, moderators provide a brief overview of normative theory and basic argumentation and then call attention to how these elements are implicit parts of every conversation about ethics. Alongside exposure to others' ethical commitments, participants walk away knowing more about which type of ethics they employ in their own lives (virtue, deontology, consequentialism, etc.) and better understand how their ethical commitments are justified.
Comfort with hard discussions
Like anything else, practice makes perfect for having hard conversations. During our events, participants will have to crystalize their stances on topics. They will be given a vocabulary to express their beliefs and will listen to others' beliefs. This process helps remove the pressures that often short-circuits productive conversation: in-group identity, uncharitable assumptions, expressive dissent, etc. Ultimately, participants will become much more sure-footed in navigating difficult conversations.
Civil discourse requires certain things of us. We must, for example, extend charity to those with whom we disagree. By providing participants with a spate of concepts and tools to analyze and discuss difficult topics and then helping them use those resources effectively, a key civic virtue (i.e., civil discourse) is made stronger. This happens both by increasing understanding and tolerance of others' ideas and participants becoming more familiar with their own ideas.