8th February 2016
Writing: Patrick Merchant (Year 12)
Editing: Niall Jones (Year 13)
Year 12 Philosophy students ventured into London for the Candle Ethics Conference - a prestigious event led by prominent author and ethicist Dr Peter Vardy. Comprising of a series of in-depth lectures designed to expand and deepen understanding of the A Level syllabus, the day revolved around the statement ‘All you need is Love’, which relates to a highly contentious issue in the world of philosophy.
Despite the conference taking place in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, this topic does not refer to the Hollywood definition of love but instead requires students to investigate the deeper definition provided by major philosophers and religious traditions; a practice which aims to reveal the relevance of love in all sorts of moral decision-making processes. Love is surprisingly central to many popular belief systems including situation ethics and Kantian ethics, so this conference was a great opportunity to explore familiar ideologies through the eyes of experts such as Dr David Webster.
The day kicked off with an enthralling lecture on the moral questions raised by groundbreaking progress in the fields of embryo research, fertility treatment and genetic engineering. Throughout the talk, Dr Vardy emphasised the need for this generation to have a greater understanding of these controversial issues than any before, due to the rapidly-advancing nature of technology and research. This is particularly evident in the UK, with germ-line engineering (a method involving the inheritable modification of early embryos) only being approved last year in the House of Commons.
Of course, some of the topics discussed were not quite so contemporary, as students discovered in Dr Webster’s explanation of Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy (first developed in the 18th century). This subject is notoriously opaque, so it was extremely useful to be able to scrutinise it with the help of such an experienced academic, irrespective of the philosophy-themed puns which occasionally littered his presentation.
The day concluded with an impassioned debate on the motion ‘This House would give everyone the right to a child’, which invited attendees from all around the country to have their say on the matter. One noteworthy contribution came from Challoner’s student Eddie Preston, who made an insightful point about the demands of the Hippocratic Oath that expanded the discussion greatly.
All in all, the visit was a resounding success and an enriching experience for all students studying Philosophy and Ethics at DCGS, raising pertinent questions that will doubtlessly be of great importance to society in the coming years.