In the midst of UC’s rapidly growing Philosophy department is a class unlike any other. PHIL 3015 is a philosophy class during which students learn how to apply ethical cases to real life situations. Apart from in-class lectures, students can hone their debating skills as they prepare to travel to the APPE Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (a debate-style competition where students defend positions on certain ethical dilemmas) representing the University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Ethics Center. The class has a great emphasis on community engagement as well.
This class is a superb option for students of any major. In the past, the class has drawn students ranging from political science majors to students studying medicine. It is a great way to learn how to, and practice, standing firm in your ethical and moral beliefs. According to the course instructor, coach, and Ph.D. Philosophy candidate Vincent del Prado, the class is “a unique way of engaging with philosophy, it conditions you for intellectual exercise. You’re sharpened…it’s different from other classes that center around writing”. Vincent recently co-coached the Ethics Bowl team at the 2022 APPE Intercollegiate Regional Ethics Bowl, where they placed 8th out of 22 teams. Vincent also shared that competing prepares you for dialogue and debate, extemporaneous presentations, learning to think about questions you may not have before, and trains students to engage in all of this with “intellectual virtue”.
Del Prado took over this class from Daniel Mattox, and said one of the reasons he began coaching PHIL 3015 was out of respect for Mattox; “I really do love the role of being a coach. It’s not just teaching and learning the intellectual and academic skills, but the team develops camaraderie” and he gets to learn about what the students want to do as individuals.
PHIL 3015 was created by Associate Professor, Vanessa Carbonell, and was something of a passion project for the Philosophy department as a whole. It was made possible and sponsored by the Cincinnati Ethics Center, which now partners with the Philosophy department. Carbonell remarked that the Ethics Bowl team fits in great with the curriculum because normally there aren’t a lot of opportunities for students to apply what they learn in real life, but “Ethics Bowl gives students the structure of the competition to raise the stakes and help them practice moral reasoning on their feet”, and because of that “students gain confidence to stand up and defend a position to strangers”. In the first year of the class, the team competed and won the IEB National Championship.
Now, the course is growing into new facets. As the Ethics center is coming of age, director, Andrew Cullison, has been able to present new opportunities outside of the Ethics Bowl to PHIL 3015, including aiding with the Greater Cincinnati High School Ethics Bowl and K-12 engagement, with even more under development. Carbonell stated that since she created the course, it “is evolving to not only being a team but fostering undergrads who want to engage with the public”.
What exactly is the allure of PHIL 3015? As already stated by Professor Carbonell and Vincent del Prado, the class provides opportunities for students from any academic background to learn how to defend an ethical or moral position in front of anyone, perfect their public speaking skills, think on their feet, and deepen moral reasoning skills through intellectual debates. Additionally, students have the opportunity for an all-expense paid trip to the competitions. Carbonell theorizes that “most students are intrinsically interested in Ethics”, though Philosophy courses are intimidating and tough on the schedule. So, PHIL 3015 has all the same pulls without the daunting fears that accompany philosophy.
If you are interested in PHIL 3015, be sure to check it out on UC’s Catalyst here: https://classes.catalyst-services.uc.edu/browse/. Students in their 2nd year or higher are eligible to take the course, while 1st-year students must contact the instructor to be considered. If you have strong perspectives and even if you aren’t competitive, in the words of Vincent del Prado, “the engagement in this competitive environment makes it fun”. If you are interested we urge you to act sooner than later, as a lack of signups will result in the cancellation of this course.