Press Release: 2018 Big Ethical Question Slam


Once again, teams of “everyday philosophers” will tackle some of the most compelling issues of our time while contending for a $600 grand prize at Ann Arbor’s iconic thinking-and-drinking event

Ann Arbor, MI – On Thursday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m., Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub on Main Street will be transformed into a philosophers’ den as public health professionals, social workers, university librarians, archivists, an attorney, a web developer, a high school teacher and an actor take center stage to tackle some of the toughest and most complex ethical questions of our time. As usual, the teams—four in all—will be cheered on by a friendly if noisy crowd of locals who have made their way to the 2018 Big Ethical Question Slam in quest of pub grub, cold brews, and civil, thought-provoking discussions on big, controversial questions that matter to us all.

In this year’s competition, those questions span a wider-than-usual range of issues. Among them: On what moral grounds can universities defend accepting high numbers of graduate students in fields with low hiring rates? Does Apple have a moral obligation to make the iPhone less harmful and addictive? Is it possible to be a decent or good gentrifier? Are superheroes morally responsible for the harm they do to innocent bystanders and to property in their fights with evil? What should I rely on from ethical theories and practice to determine if a policy at my high school is fair? What attributes or virtues should an ethical stand-up comedian have? What are my moral responsibilities if I decide to join a movement that has begun online and participate in hashtag activism? Where and what should be the ethical boundary between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? The winning team will claim a $600 grand prize and ownership rights to the coveted Philosopher's Hat for a period of one year. As usual, audience members will participate by voting for one team to become the winner of The People's Choice Award.

Launched in 2011 by local nonprofit A2Ethics, the Big Ethical Question Slam was the first event of its kind in the nation. Since then, Slams have popped up across North America—in locations that include Seattle, Baton Rouge, and Winnipeg, Manitoba. So what exactly is a Big Ethical Question Slam?

A2Ethics founder and president Jeanine DeLay explains: “It’s a think-off with oversized aspirations. That’s the BIG part. It’s also a congenial community get-together over drinks and eats to discuss the what’s, how’s and why’s of doing the right thing. That’s the ETHICAL QUESTION component. And it’s an evening that makes an impact. Which is where the SLAM comes in. Most important, it’s a forum where philosophically-minded friends and colleagues can respond to questions impacting the broader community as well as some of the ethical muddles we all face in our everyday lives. The discussions are earnest, but judged generously and with a forgiving sense of humor." DeLay goes on to add that, for community organizations, the Slam is an excellent way to publicize their missions and participate in a fun, high-profile team building exercise.

Judges for 2018 Slam include: Brian Bruya, Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Michigan University; Brian Coffey, Lecturer in Moral Theory and Applied Ethics at Eastern Michigan University; Caroline Perry, University of Michigan Department of Philosophy PhD candidate and Outreach Program Coordinator, Michigan High School Ethics Bowl

"Everyone in the community is welcome and encouraged to attend," DeLay notes. "This event is not trying to impose ethics or to favor one particular way of thinking. We’re just trying to draw out the best ideas of every team member to highlight the importance of an ethics lens in our everyday thinking and daily life. And we want to do Page 4 that in a celebratory way and in a companionable setting. As we say in our mission statement: our goal is to give ethics-related ideas and work a permanent voice and an essential place in the communities we serve.”


Founded in 2008, is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting ethics and philosophy initiatives through events, education and civic partnerships in local communities. As a philosophy connector and social weaver, A2Ethics is developing an ethics network of organizations and individuals of all ages to support and expand knowledge about philosophy and ethics in public life, and to strengthen public engagement around real-world ethics issues across Michigan. More information about the Slam is available here.

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