Center for Applied Ethics

Increasing and enhancing ethical conversations across the UW-Stout campus community.
In this Section

Our primary mission is to increase and enhance ethics across the campus community. Some of the programs we offer are the following: 

  • Applied ethics certificate
  • Discussion societies
  • Book clubs
  • Workshops
  • Consultations
  • Grants & research participation
  • Research opportunities


Upcoming Speakers

The Ethics of Personalized Digital Duplicates: A Principled Framework

Date: Thursday, April 11, 2024 | 3:00-4:15 p.m.
Location: (Recording)
Speaker: Dr. John Danaher

With new developments in generative AI, people are now creating digital duplicates of themselves and others to engage in a variety of tasks. In this paper, I develop a general framework for thinking about the ethics of digital duplicates. I start by clarifying the object of inquiry – digital duplicates themselves – defining them, giving examples, and justifying the focus on them rather than other kinds of artificial being. I then identify a set of generic harms and benefits associated with digital duplicates and use this as the basis for formulating a principle that stipulates the conditions that should be met in order for the creation and use of digital duplicates to be ethically permissible. 

Dr. Danaher is Lecturer in Law at the University of Galway. His research focuses on the ethical, legal and social implications of new technologies. He maintains a blog called Philosophical Disquisitions, and produces a podcast with the same title. He also writes for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

This event is co-sponsored with the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovations.

Past Speakers (2023-2024)
Social Media & the News: Is Traditional Journalism Dead?

Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2024 | 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Location: Brewery Nønic
Moderators: Dr. Kate Edenborg and Eli Darnell

As older print media is being replaced with news on the internet and social media, journalists have been forced to change alongside new innovations in communication technology. As the internet becomes more inseparable from everyday life, we become accustomed to living with it. The internet helps us save time and expand our reach, but it has also led to increased isolation, divisiveness, and the spread of misinformation. Have these changes been more helpful or harmful? Are Americans becoming more divided? What role has social media play in this? Are personalized news feeds spurring more radicalization and echo chambers? We have access to more information than ever before, why then doesn't this create a more informed citizenry? Is social media making it harder to avoid misinformation? What role should regulators play in regulating social media companies? These are some of the questions we will consider in this discussion. 

Privacy in a Public Ledger: Technology and Ethics

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2024 | 8:00-9:30 a.m.
Location: Virtual (Recording)
Speaker: Dr. Andrew Bailey

Cryptocurrencies raise vexing normative questions across a number of topics including money creation, censorship, financial inclusion, governance, and privacy. These topics are not purely technical, and require an integrated approach that draws on computer science, philosophy, economics, and more. This talk is an extended examination of the last of these topics — privacy — through a case study of bitcoin, the oldest and most important cryptocurrency. Financial privacy is under threat from a range of private and public actors. Popular digital payment networks exacerbate the problem. This talk will show how bitcoin can be used to enhance privacy along four dimensions, despite its transparent and publicly accessible ledger. These results raise questions about the value of privacy and how to best pursue it. A novel taxonomy of "cypherpunk" theories will illuminate these questions and show how bitcoin's curious approach relates to some familiar political categories. We'll conclude with an ethical framework for weighing financial privacy against other values – especially the public’s interest in curbing criminal activity. Bitcoin’s similarities with physical cash guide the way forward and suggest this irenic parity thesis: if cash makes the world better off, then so does bitcoin.

Dr. Bailey is Associate Professor of Humanities (Philosophy) at Yale-NUS College. He has a new book (w/ Bradley Rettler and Craig Warmke), Resistance Money: A Philosophical Case for Bitcoin, recently published by Routledge. 

This event is co-sponsored with the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovations.

Ethics and Perspectives of Scientists Involved in World War II

Date: Thursday, March 7, 2024 | 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Location: Jarvis Science Wing (Room 114)
Speaker: Dr. Alan Scott

World War II was fought on sea, land, and air but also in laboratories. This presentation will highlight the circumstances, ethics, and motivations of those involved in this war effort; with a focus on physicists other than the iconic J. Robert Oppenheimer. It includes both Allied and Axis scientists. The dramatic and landmark movie Oppenheimer is predicted to garner awards at the 2024 Oscars on March 10, 2024. This presentation is coupled to many of the themes in the movie. Dr. Scott is Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin, Stout. He received his Ph.D. from Kent State University in Experimental Nuclear Physics.

Should We Remove Racist Monuments?

Date: Thursday, November 30, 2023 | 4:00-5:30 p.m.
Location: Virtual (Recording)
Debaters: Dr. Travis Timmerman & Dr. Daniel Demetriou

There have been increasing calls in recent years to remove monuments. Is this something we should be doing as a society? Join us for a civil and informative philosophical debate on this important and timely question. Dr. Travis Timmerman (Seton Hall University) will defend the view that we should remove monuments, whereas Dr. Daniel Demetriou (University of Minnesota, Morris) will defend the view that we shouldn't. The debate will be held virtually. 


American Inheritance: Liberty and Slavery in the Birth of a Nation

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | 3:00-4:30 p.m. (Recording)
Location: Memorial Student Center (Ballroom A)
Speaker: Dr. Edward J. Larson

What is the relationship between liberty and slavery in the birth of the nation? Leaders of the founding have come under intense scrutiny for their simultaneously championing liberty while also enslaving Black people. What did the leaders of this new nation think about slavery? How did they reconcile this with their convictions in American liberty?

Join us for a discussion with Dr. Edward J. Larson, Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law and University Professor at Pepperdine University. Larson is the author of seven books and is the recipient of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History.  

Philosophers' Café

What are Philosophers’ Cafés?

Philosophers’ Cafés are public forums held at local pubs and coffee shops in which community members engage in open, friendly, and respectful dialogue in a relaxed and informal setting. Meetings are led by faculty from UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire, with topics ranging from traditional philosophical problems to pressing contemporary ethical issues.

Who should attend?

Everyone is welcome to attend. A diversity of views and approaches is encouraged, and no formal training in philosophy (or anything else) is required – just an interest in good questions and good conversation.


Current Schedule

Russia’s War in Ukraine

Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2024 | 7:00 p.m. 
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Heather Fielding (English, UW-Eau Claire)

This session considers ethical questions related to Russia’s current war in Ukraine. While the fact that the war was an unprovoked gesture of imperial aggression is not in question, the broader situation poses many ethical challenges for Ukraine, for Russians, and more broadly for the international community. What is the ethical responsibility of other nations--how far should other democracies go toward defending Ukraine, which is a democracy defending itself from a strong authoritarian neighbor? Other nations could save Ukrainian lives by stepping in, at the risk of provoking a wider conflict—how are allies negotiating this situation, and are they making the right decision? Other ethical questions are posed for Russians—what is the responsibility of Russian citizens to stand up for peace when they live in an authoritarian state and risk their lives in doing so? What responsibility do international businesses bear that continue to function in Russia, or that enable the Russian state or individual wealthy Russians? Within Ukraine, what are the ethics of preventing men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, and what rights should be afforded to conscientious objectors. Should Ukraine agree to give up territory in order to stop the war?

Café Schedule (2023-2024)
Should We Still Listen to Thriller?

Date: Wednesday, September 20, 2023 | 7:00 p.m.
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Alexander Bozzo (Philosophy, UW-Stout)

What is the relationship between an artwork’s ethical value and its artistic value? Can works of art be worse because of their ethical flaws, or better because of their ethical merits? Can artworks even be the object of ethical evaluation in the first place—aren’t such judgments reserved for persons, actions, intentions? Such questions in the philosophy of art have reemerged in recent years: What are we to do with the comedy of Bill Cosby or Louis C.K.? Should we still listen to Michael Jackson? I don’t have the answers, but I’m hoping you might. 

Dungeons & Dragons & Discourse

Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | 7:30 p.m. 
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Cody Reimer (English, UW-Stout)

The resurgence of D&D, thanks in part to popular media like Stranger Things and the rise of actual plays like Critical Role, means that more people than ever are participating in the hobby, and that new generational and cultural sensibilities are being brought to bear on the writing, design, and community of “The World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game.” We’ll talk about the discourses that shape and move how people think about, write through, design for, and play in Dungeons & Dragons.

Drawing the Line: Does Tolerance Have Limits?

Date: Wednesday, November 8, 2023 | 7:00 p.m. 
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Adam Kunz (Political Science, UW-Eau Claire)

A core liberal value of a just society is the notion that it should be tolerant of a multitude of lifestyles, beliefs, and cultures. At the same time, justice is generally believed to demand adherence to mutually agreed upon rules that all must obey, e.g., laws and societal norms. To what extent are the concepts of tolerance and universal justice consistent with one another? How should a just society define tolerance? How far does it extend and does it have limits? To root the discussion, consider the case of Employment Division v. Smith, in which an insular minority religion ran afoul of generally applicable criminal laws. How should such cases be resolved?

Back from the Dustbin?  The Marxist Critique in the Twenty-First Century 

Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2023 | 7:00 p.m. 
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Christopher Marshall (History, UW-Stout)

With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Marxist critique seemed consigned to history’s dustbin.  Indeed, in 1992 Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed liberal capitalism’s apparent victory as signifying “the end of history,” with humankind’s political and economic evolution reaching its zenith.  The 1990s saw “Third Way” ideology, embodied in leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, attempt to address inequality via mechanisms of the market.  However, despite these bold claims, the last thirty years have witnessed deepening inequality, expanded corporate power, economic crises (particularly in 2008), and democratic retreat.  Given these realities, is it time to revisit the Marxist critique?  Can it provide useful perspectives and strategies for dealing with the challenges of our historical moment?   

What’s the Role of Fathers in Pregnancy?

Date: Wednesday, February 7, 2024 | 7:00 p.m. 
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Lauren Johnsen (Communication, UW-Stout)

What is or is not appropriate for the outsider/insider within the context of maternal health? That is, what is appropriate or not for those supporting a pregnant person throughout that process? How do we know what is or is not appropriate for those involved but not pregnant, those I am calling the insider/outsider. I specifically look at fathers who are often expected to be present but silent throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery, but this discussion could broaden to include others who are engaged in supporting a pregnant person but not actively pregnant themselves. Essentially, what is the role of this outsider/insider, someone involved and expected to be present who may not know their role or boundaries?

The Trolley Problem: Beyond the Memes to Understanding Ethical Decision Making

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2024 | 7:00 p.m. 
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Monica Berrier (Philosophy, UW-Stout)

Perhaps you’ve seen the trolley problem memes. A cartoon stick figure is standing at a railroad junction, and he has a choice: allow a trolley to continue its path where it will surely strike 5 people on the tracks or divert the trolley onto another track where only one person is in mortal peril. Trolley problem memes have been making light of the follies of human existence for about a decade, but did you know that it originated in 1967 in a philosophical paper about abortion? In this interactive discussion, we’ll learn about the origins of the trolley problem and its significance to ethical theorizing by considering our moral intuitions on several different variations of the trolley problem that have been the subject of academic philosophical inquiry for over 50 years.

Appropriation Art: The Case Against Andy Warhol

Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2024 | 7:00 p.m. 
Location: Brewery Nonic  
Moderator: Dr. Cynthia Bland (Art History, UW-Stout) & Hon. Paul H. Anderson (retired, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice)

In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in May of 2023 against the Andy Warhol Foundation and the artist’s use of Lynn Goldsmith’s photograph of Prince. The ruling delivered a blow to appropriation artists, determining that Warhol’s work was not transformative and of the same essential nature as the original. Retired Justice Paul H. Anderson of the Minnesota Supreme Court will provide context for the ruling, while art historian Dr. Cynthia Bland will focus on the dissent, written by Justice Kagan, which argues that Warhol’s work is “fair use” and not copyright infringement. Should the court determine the merit of artistic contributions, or should artists be set free to borrow, transform, and be inspired by original works?

Philosophy Club

The Philosophy Club is a student-run organization which meets every other Wednesday @ 5pm. The club discusses fun and interesting topics related to philosophy and contemporary events, such as:

  • Do we have free will?
  • Is it wrong to eat meat?
  • Does God exist?
  • What is it to be racist?
  • Can computers think?

Please visit their Connect page for more information. 

Center for Applied Ethics

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Physics professor's presentation going beyond 'Oppenheimer' to address WWII nuclear weapons research Featured Image

Physics professor's presentation going beyond 'Oppenheimer' to address WWII nuclear weapons research

World War II was fought in laboratories as well as land, sea and air, according to Alan Scott, a physics professor at UW-Stout.