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Ann Arbor, MI – Earlier this month, six teams of  “everyday philosophers” converged at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub to bring their unique perspectives to bear on some common and not so common ethical questions – cheered by a crowd of fellow philosophy fans and reviewed by a panel of three judges whose day jobs ARE in philosophy.

The everyday philosophers – among them social workers, archivists, attorneys, actors, high school teachers, librarians and public health educators– came to Conor O’Neill’s for the 2018 Ethics Slam. The Slam, now in its ninth year, is a forum where metaphysically-minded individuals can respond to questions that impact how we move in the world as well as the ethical muddles we face day to day. It is also a congenial civic get-together that aims to make ethics discussion approachable for everyone.

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—from East El Paso, Texas to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“The Slam began as a pub conversation about how to bring strangers together for an evening of thinking about morally sticky questions and big quandaries--without the yelling and rancor,” said A2Ethics President Jeanine DeLay. “It is now an annual community gathering that brings out the philosopher in all of us. The Slam also shows the public what philosophers do and how valuable their work is to the community.”

Judges for the 2018 Slam included:

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

Among the compelling questions at this year’s Slam: 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?

After a series of excellent, thought-provoking presentations on those topics, veteran Slammers, a group of friends known as This Week’s Sign That The Apocalypse Is Not Upon Us, took the grand prize as determined by the judges - $600 and ownership rights to the coveted Philosopher’s Hat for the year.

After the win, team captain, Jamie Jee, said he plans to wear the hat — and be a good steward — until next year’s event, which will be held in Ypsilanti.

The second place winners were a new team, calling itself The Humean Condition. Traditionally, the runners-up are awarded finger puppets of rock star philosophers. This year was no exception. Given that there were an excess number of Immanuel Kants in the philosopher finger puppet inventory, the runners-up embraced their good fortune.

As team organizer Alexandra Sarkozy put it: “I enjoyed this year’s event so much, and am looking forward to next year's event…And you really 'Kant' beat those finger puppet prizes.”

Of course, it would only be fair to let the audience have their say on the proceedings as well. A team calling itself the Ann Arbor Greenhills School Alums was voted the audience favorite, taking home the People’s Choice Award — gift cards from a local restaurant.

The Slam audience not only voted, they enjoyed prizes and took home some swag too. At the beginning of the Slam, audience members were invited to choose a philosopher face fan depicting one of seven honored philosophers of the past: Confucius, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, W.E.B. Du Bois, John Dewey and Philippa Foot. So, if you see more than one Aristotle or W.E.B. Du Bois walking on Main Street or at the mall over the next month, you will know that these philosopher fans were at A2Ethics’ ninth annual Big Ethical Question Slam!  

For a photo montage of this year’s Slam, visit:

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 at: