The Philosophy Student Society organized a debate in West Hall on Tuesday to explore the concept of Ethics. The two debaters, respective philosophy professors Christopher Johns and Bashar Haydar, discussed several ethical questions at length under the starting question, “What is the Right Thing to do?”
The Philosophy Student Society is a new club that was originally founded last year but became officially active this year. Zainab Sabra, the president of the club and moderator of the debate, said the main aim of the club is to show people that “philosophy is more than an academic subject taught in universities.”
“We’ve been mostly screening movies with philosophical themes since the beginning of this semester,” she continued, “but we wanted to find a more engaging way to reach out to the public.”
Much of the debate was concerned with ethical dilemmas and the application of different moral philosophies in real world examples. The first half of the discussion mostly centered on the grounding of the metaphysics behind moral actions and whether there is an abstract, universal law from which individuals can derive their morality (e.g.,: Kant’s Categorical Imperative).
Dr. Haydar and Dr. Johns exchanged views over the course of the debate. The second half of the lecture revolved around the question of whether or not it is justified to kill others in an act of self-defense. As with the previous question, both professors agreed on some key points until particular examples shifted the direction of the arguments.
The debate, while being conducted with the utmost civility and respect, did get heated to the point that members of the audience would interrupt the discussion to take part and exchange views and evaluate the content of the discussion. This was not discouraged, since one of the main intentions behind the event was to actively engage public interest in philosophy and emphasize its relevance in day-to-day life.
In some respects, the debate was something of a success because of the high turnout of the audience in the relatively small auditorium C. In fact, the only criticism from some audience members was the stuffiness of the room because of the large turnout.
“We did not expect so many people to show up,” admitted Sabra. “Few people showed up to our movie screenings, so we reserved the most accessible room with the turnout number of our previous events in mind.”
For a newly founded club with a fairly small number of devoted members, a higher turnout rate can only be a sign of increasing activity club and commitment to integrating one of the most misrepresented disciplines in one of the region’s most academically demanding institutions.