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Ethics conference

Annual conference at the school

World-renowned speaker Dr Vardy speaking to Year 12 students.

On Thursday 6th July, Year 12 students participated in an ethics conference with world-renowned speaker Dr Peter Vardy, who discussed a wide range of ethical dilemmas and ideas for students to engage with.

Scarlett and Harry, both Year 12 students, tell us about the event:

"To start the day, he briefly covered the basis for much modern understanding of philosophy and ethics through an explanation of the ideas of Aristotle and Plato - then students learned about some of the more popular ethical viewpoints in the modern day, such as Utilitarianism and Natural Law. Many of the RE students were already very familiar with these concepts but Dr Vardy’s ’s style of speaking kept everyone engrossed with what he had to say. 

It was then onto medical ethics - this was a very wide a very wide topic, but it brought some unique questions to the forefront, and also allowed students to learn about incredibly recent developments in medical technology, such as the possible ability for future parents to select certain genetic traits in children before they are born. The topics discussed (some of them controversial) offered differing insights for students to consider.

After a break the business ethics lecture discussed recent issues such as sports washing, where responsibilities lie in business, and key figures (such as Adam Smith). One of the most striking cases was the involvement of Qatar in the World Cup (and thus the football organisation FIFA) as well as the golfing golfing industry, depicting how public image is changed by businesses or countries being involved with funding well-loved sporting areas. Dr Vardy successfully linked the lecture to various fields such as sports, economics, and politics, giving an interesting overview of business relationships.

Following on was sexual ethics, starting with the opinions rooted in religion where the Christian view shows the ‘Fall’ as the consequence of Original Sin (and uncontrolled desire) and its continuation through humanity. We looked at a range of views from sexual (and uncontrolled desire) and its continuation through humanity. We looked at a range of views from sexual relationships as being transactional, supported by figures like Richard Dawkins; to the importance of trust and love in them. 

The conference closed with a debate, ‘This House believes that absolute truth no longer matters’, due to the recent opinions that we have entered a post-truth or nihilistic era. After taking a poll, students responded to the motion arguing their differing points of view, and Dr Vardy helped by focusing on the importance of constructing the argument rather than belief. The majority disagreed with the statement, giving points about the stability and meaning absolute truth gives, the relevance of maths as a truth, and the importance of the content that is sought: philosophy, love and death. The equally interesting contrasting points outlined relativism, changes in what were previously known as truths, and the difficulty in discovering different truths.

Year 12 students were given a great opportunity to explore the application of ethical theories, useful for many vocations, and thoroughly enjoyed Dr Vardy's enthusiasm and his engaging, but sometimes blunt, lectures whilst getting to share their views with each other throughout the conference."