Ethics Bowl team reaches the semi-finals at the Northwest Regionals

The Puget Sound Ethics Bowl team participated at the 2022 Northwest Regional Ethics Bowl that took place at PLU on November 19th. The team included Jules Obbard ’23, Mei Pacheco-Leong ’23, Ember Reed ’23, J.J. Alvarez ’23, Lauren Rice ’23, Elizabeth Matsumoto ’25, and Katerina Wearn ’25 and was coached by Prof. Tubert.

The group spent the fall semester hard at work preparing the 12 cases for the competition — the cases involved ethical issues related to non-human animals, the environment, technology and social media, litigation financing, mental health and health care more generally, and sports. Most students in the group had competed in the National Bioethics Bowl in the spring so they hit the ground running at the start of the fall, meeting additional time in small groups or taking advantage of Prof. Tubert’s office hours as the competition approached — they took their research and preparation seriously and kept digging on the relevant ethical issues. This showed in the quality of the team’s presentations and in the great conversations throughout the semester.

The competition started with a disappointing loss in the first round, one of those where the team won in the overall number of points but loss two out of three judges (winning a round depends first on number of judges, then on points.) The team continued on with their good work and ended up being one of four teams reaching the semi-final round. During the semi-finals, they lost against the team that went on to win the whole competition but they held their own and got the fourth place spot.

This team has several graduating seniors who, together with the rest of the group, made ethics bowl a great success. What a great group with lots of enthusiasm, talent, thoughtfulness, and commitment! We will miss those of you who are graduating!

Some of the students reflected on their work during the fall semester and being part of the competition:

Elizabeth Matsumoto ”25: This season, the cases were harder, the research was longer and there were more frameworks to learn. However, the team was incredible. As a non-philosophy major, I learned a lot and stretched my brain beyond just classroom applications of philosophy. Learning about Korsgaard to for argue animal rights, or Mill’s harm principle to argue the limits of free speech was complex and exciting. As I competed with the team last semester, we all worked really well together it was really fun continuing our discussions on ethics. Professor Tubert was such an amazing coach, and we couldn’t have made it to semi-finals without her!

Mei Pacheco-Leong ’22: Skills I have built in ethics bowl over the past couple of years: Confidence. Specifically confidence in speaking in front of others, confidence in sharing ideas, confidence in offering critiques of ideas, confidence in offering critiques of ideas in good faith. I’ve learned to distinguish the practical from the ethical, learned how to problem solve, ethically, learned how to resolve disputes within a team and present as though we are unified, learned how to resolve disputes within a team and present as though we are unified, despite having a resident utilitarian on the team who always disagreed with the rest of us.

Consequences of these skills:: I went from never speaking in class to participating more confidently in class discussions and debates. In a way, I argued my way into a job; I offered criticism of the current way things were running, and offered solutions to the problems I had identified. Lo and behold, I was offered a job! When my friends have moral dilemmas I am able to apply frameworks and weigh competing values and offer them advice. (Unfortunately most normal people do not apply moral frameworks to real life and rarely take my advice.)

Overall, ethics bowl has been such a special opportunity and I’m grateful to both my team and coach for pushing me and helping me build these skills!

Lauren Rice ’22: My experience with ethics bowl was full of learning and was extremely positive. I was new to ethics bowl this year, and was unsure exactly how it would go; I have struggled with public speaking in the past. However, I gained so much confidence throughout the semester in how to speak without relying on notes, a skill that I think is very valuable. I also learned a lot about researching the cases and making sure that the research is reliable and accurate. This was one of the parts of ethics bowl that I became very excited about as the semester went on. Our team became a lot closer as we neared the competition date, and we learned a lot about how to work together on differing opinions and ideas. Our coach, Professor Tubert, taught us so much about how to present our arguments, and the flaws that we may originally have with what position we want to take. I wish that I was here next year again solely to be able to participate in the ethics bowl competition again. I learned so much about structuring, researching, and presenting arguments, and it was one of my favorite parts of the semester this year. A large thank you to Professor Tubert for allowing me the opportunity to join the team and supporting me in learning how to be a part of ethics bowl, as well as supporting my overall learning about ethical arguments and presentations.

Jules Obbard ’22: This year’s ethics bowl team was a great group of people, and I had a great experience competing with them. We worked hard and had tough conversations about a variety of topics. We learned a lot about different issues that we wouldn’t have been taught in other classes and interrogated them from multiple perspectives. The dynamic of the team was really good because a lot of us were returning to the club. We had an amazing time at the tournament and even got to semi finals. I would recommend ethics bowl to anyone who wants to be a part of a fun learning experience and meet like minded individuals. Thank you Professor Tubert for organizing ethics bowl again and coaching us! I’ll miss ethics bowl after I graduate.

Katerina Wearn ’25: Ethics Bowl has been something that pushed me from the moment I joined. Last year was my first year on the team and I spent most of my time just trying to find my footing. This year, however, I felt more confident in my position within the team. I was more willing to push my ideas forward and really get into the details of the complicated cases we were given. The progress of that alone makes me recognize just how incredible Ethics Bowlas been in getting me outside of my comfort zone and showing me what I am capable of. On top of that, the team this year was fantastic and supportive all around. Spending time on our cases and doing practice rounds, was genuinely so much fun it felt just like hanging out with friends.

Lauren Rice ’23, J.J. Alvarez ’23, Elizabeth Matsumoto ’23, Katerina Wearn ’25, Mei Pacheco-Leong ’23, Ember Reed ’23, Jules Obbard ’23
Prof. Ariela Tubert, Lauren Rice ’23, J.J. Alvarez ’23, Elizabeth Matsumoto ’23, Katerina Wearn ’25, Mei Pacheco-Leong ’23, Ember Reed ’23, Jules Obbard ’23

Talk on campus: “Materialized Oppression in Medical Tools and Technologies”

Philosophy professor Sam Liao will be giving a talk organized by the Bioethics Club. The talk will be on Wednesday October 26th at 6pm in Wyatt Hall 201. The title of the talk is “Materialized Oppression in Medical Tools and Technologies.” Here is the abstract for the talk:

It is well-known that racism is encoded into the social practices and institutions of medicine. Less well-known is that racism is encoded into the material artifacts of medicine. We argue that many medical devices are not merely biased, but materialize oppression. An oppressive device exhibits a harmful bias that reflects and perpetuates unjust power relations. Using pulse oximeters and spirometers as case studies, we show how medical devices can materialize oppression along various axes of social difference, including race, gender, class, and ability. Our account uses political philosophy and cognitive science to give a theoretical basis for understanding materialized oppression, explaining how artifacts encode and carry oppressive ideas from the past to the present and future. Oppressive medical devices present a moral aggregation problem. To remedy this problem, we suggest redundantly layered solutions that are coordinated to disrupt reciprocal causal connections between the attitudes, practices, and artifacts of oppressive systems.​

Talk on campus: “Artificial Intelligence: Value Alignment and Misalignment”

Puget Sound Philosophy professors Ariela Tubert and Justin Tiehen will be giving a talk on ethics and artificial intelligence as part of the Math and Computer Science seminar series. The talk will be on Monday, October 24, 2022 @ 4pm in Thompson Hall 391. The title of the talk is “Artificial Intelligence: Value Alignment and Misalignment.” Here is the abstract for the talk:

In discussions of artificial intelligence, the problem of value alignment has to do with how to make sure that the intelligent machines we build are aligned with our human values, where in the short run this includes creating AI that does not perpetuate injustice, while in the long run it means building safe AI that does not pose an existential threat to human life. But, as we will argue, part of our own human intelligence involves our ability to transform our own values, and so to misalign the values we hold at one point in time with the values we hold at another. If this is right, it means that AI that is fully able to match human intelligence would need to be a kind of value misalignment machine, in which case it figures to threaten the project of value alignment.

Ember Reed ’22: Summer Research Project

Profile of Ember Reed ’22

Ember Reed ’22 worked alongside philosophy professor Justin Tiehen on a summer research project that focused on applying the arguments surrounding universal fine-tuning to the history of nuclear close calls. (For more information on Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, look here!) 

Here is Ember’s own description of the project:

illustration by Ember Reed ’22

Recent existential-risk thinkers have noted that the analysis of the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence and the analysis of certain forms of existential risk employ similar types of reasoning. This paper argues that insofar as the “many worlds objection” undermines the inference to God’s existence from universal fine-tuning, then a similar many worlds objection undermines the inference that historic risk of global nuclear catastrophe has been low from the lack of such a catastrophe having occurred in our world. A version of the fine-tuning argument applied to nuclear risk, The Nuclear Fine-Tuning Argument, utilizes the set of nuclear close calls to show that:
1) Conventional explanations fail to adequately explain how we have survived thus far, and,
2) The existence of many worlds provides an adequate explanation.
This is because, if there are many worlds, observers are disproportionately more likely to reflect upon a world that hasn’t had a global nuclear catastrophe than upon one that has had a global nuclear catastrophe. This selection bias results from the catastrophic nature of such an event. This argument extends generally to all global catastrophic risks that both A) have been historic threats and B) would result in a significantly lower global population.

Ember Reed ’22 presenting at Summer Quest poster session on campus

We are so proud of Ember for what they’ve accomplished this summer! For more information on Summer Quest and other summer research projects, Click Here

Congratulations Class of 2022 Philosophy Graduates!

It was a great commencement weekend in which we celebrated with Philosophy Majors, Minors, and their family and friends. This was our first in-person departmental reception since 2019 and it was a fun one! Graduation day brought us some rain which made the campus so much more picturesque.

We so much appreciate these graduates who, after completing most or all of their junior-year courses online, were back in the classroom this past fall with lots of enthusiasm and ready to talk about philosophy. Best wishes to each of you as you move on to the next stage of your lives and congratulations on your accomplishments!

L – R: Professor Ariela Tubert, Amelia Burkhart, Logan Canada-Johnson, Andrew Blanchette, Hannah Stockton, and Professor Justin Tiehen
L – R: Professor Ariela Tubert, Jack Lang, Andrew Blanchette, Sam Deng, Amelia Burkhart, Logan Canada-Johnson, Hannah Stockton, Willow Perlick, and Professor Justin Tiehen

L-R: Amelia, Logan, Andrew, Jack, Hannah
L-R: Logan, Amelia, Jack, Hannah, Sam

Interview with Sam Lilly ’19

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews here.) In this interview, Samantha Lilly ’19 speaks about how they decided to become a philosophy major, their favorite classes, how philosophy affected their day to day life, and more. Sam is currently pursuing research in Argentina with the support of a Fulbright Research Fellowship they received for the project “Rights Based Approaches to Mental Health and Wellness” (you can read more about the project here.) Before going to Argentina, upon graduating from Puget Sound in 2019 with a major in Philosophy and a minor in Bioethics, Sam received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for the project “Understanding Suicidality Across Cultures,” which took them to the Netherlands, Argentina, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Nepal (you can read about that project and how it connected to Sam’s studies here.)

What are you doing now? How did you get there?

Currently I am living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I am here with the financial support of a Fulbright Research grant.

I arrived on March 10, 2022.

The story of how I “got” to Argentina is long and complicated, mostly fueled by the volatility of the pandemic.

I had the opportunity to apply for a Fulbright during the summer of 2020—if not for the pandemic, I would have never considered applying as I was in the middle of a different fellowship, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Indeed, in early-March of 2020, I was living in Denpasar, Indonesia seeking understanding of grassroots organizing and support for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia/psychosis. Only three months prior was I first living in Buenos Aires, doing more or less exactly what I am doing now, albeit on a much smaller scale.

However, I can say this with relative confidence. I wouldn’t have been awarded these ‘prestigious’ fellowships if it were not for my pursuance of a degree in philosophy.

Growing up in a low-SES, I felt initially that studying philosophy was a death sentence. And, I don’t think that that’s all that cynical, academia is challenging and our world doesn’t value the skills that studying philosophy teaches… however, if I hadn’t trusted my gut and changed majors mid-way through my Junior year, I wouldn’t be living the life I am—studying and doing philosophy was ultimately what felt most authentic to me.

And, I refuse to believe that, that sense of authenticity I felt when I would go to philosophy classes wasn’t an indication of what I ought to have been doing and studying.

In other words, in hindsight, I got here because younger Sam did what they felt was best for themselves and studying philosophy was what was best for me.

Sam Lilly ’19

How did you get interested in Philosophy in the first place?

I initially became interested in philosophy in high school. The high school I attended in Utah had the best debate program in the State. And, when I joined, I knew that I didn’t want to rely on a partner, so I chose to do Lincoln-Douglas debate—which is really just applied moral philosophy.

When I got to UPS, I was part of the Honors Program and for whatever reason, my freshman year the Honors cohort were the very last to register for our classes and other classes for my then major, psychology, were full. So, I took Moral Philosophy with Professor Tubert…I felt it wouldn’t be too challenging and one thing led to another, and I started taking more and more classes as electives and was lucky enough to have taken enough random classes here and there to, when the time came, switch my major fairly easily.

Was there any area of Philosophy that interested you the most?

Moral philosophy, without a doubt. But, also, I really, really loved epistemology.

Do you remember your favorite philosophy class as a student?

This question sucks a little bit. For whatever reason, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of my favorite class is the class that challenged me the most: Metaethics. What a rewarding but complicated class.

As for my favorites, I don’t know if I can discern a favorite.

Of course, I really loved the classes I took with Ariela. In particular, I am grateful for Latin American philosophy—it was a small window into the world I have grown to really admire and love. And, also the questions we asked in that class are questions I return to almost every day here in Argentina.

However, epistemology with Justin was really wonderful. I enjoyed deeply thinking how he inspired and encouraged us to think… I carry with me every day the demeanor of epistemic humility we talked about so frequently in that class. I think of all the classes, this class really changed me the most as a thinker. I really value the ideal or “virtue” of “owning one’s limitations.”

But, then I cannot speak enough to how deeply meaningful my time was in Philosophy of Emotions with Sara. Nor can I really comprehend how my capstone with Sam really allowed me to delve into what I do currently.

And, honestly, I really really loved 19th Century philosophy. Something about Hegel. I don’t know what it was. But, I loved it.

Why did you ultimately decide to become a Philosophy major?

When the psychology department told me that the questions I was asking re: suicide and suicidality were perhaps better fit in philosophy than psychology.

I also really leaned into philosophy when I began to realize the limitations of the “psi” disciplines. Why was I suffering through applied statistics when I didn’t believe that those tools of measurement were meaningful or valid?

I wanted to understand the human condition. I wanted to understand what drives us to suicide. What brings us to tears and to our knees. And I was told my entire life that to understand sadness and pain and joy and love one should study psychology. But I realized that these questions, at least to me, are better asked and ‘answered’ in philosophy.

It feels more human and less pathologizing. I digress. I decided to become a philosophy major when my moral compass told me it was more ethical to do philosophy than do the other things, I had initially intended on doing when I arrived at UPS.

Along with Philosophy, did you major or minor in any other subject? Has it worked well with Philosophy?

I also studied bioethics and I think I was like one or two classes away from a psychology major. I was also in the Honors Program.

Of course, philosophy and bioethics coalesced incredibly well together. I got to take all that I was learning in my philosophy classes and then apply them to tricky cases we would consider in bioethics. However, I will say that I am far less of a bioethicist than I am a philosopher (if I can call myself that).

In other words, I feel I use far less what I learned in bioethics courses now than I what I learned in my “general” philosophy courses. I don’t care about case-by-case bedside decision making very much anymore, I, instead, care about the systems, cultures, beliefs, and zeitgeists that contextualize and house those very same hospital beds.

How did your parents or strangers react when you first told them you were a Philosophy major?

Oh. The strangers? They laughed. They still do. I crack jokes about it because of the student debt I have for a philosophy degree. But, it seems to have worked out pretty well, no?

My mom was a bit concerned. She asked me what I would do with a philosophy degree. And, now, sometimes, randomly, I’ll text her and let her know this is what I can do with a philosophy degree—just the other day, when I was meeting with the Ambassador to Argentina, I texted her and said “Look what I am doing now with my philosophy degree.”

That is, traveling the world and exploring different cultural perspectives on mental health care and human rights.

Any particular memory you have as a Philosophy major at UPS that stands out?

The memories they come and go.

But, I remember how good it felt to walk in to Ariela’s office and tell her that I was awarded the Watson. I think Ariela really believed in me and her mentorship was invaluable to my growth as a thinker and writer and person and so to share that with her, it was really special to me.

I also remember a mannerism of Justin’s that I do now when I am sharing or speaking about something—whenever I do it, I am taken immediately back to the philosophy classroom.

Justin, when he asked us questions, would put his pointer finger to his temple and inquire and wonder, with an influx in his voice, about something.

“Ah.” He would say. “And was it then a justified true belief?”

Or “Ah.” As he raises his hand up to his head: “Does the man in the box actually know Chinese?”

I don’t know I remember this vividly and it makes me smile when I find myself doing it.

How would you say the Philosophy major helped you with your career, relationships with people, and generally your outlook on life?

Being a philosophy major was arguably the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I think I said this when I was interviewed about the Watson awhile back majoring in philosophy is, in effect, a major in oneself.

You learn your own outlooks and beliefs and you get to better your thoughts and how you think. I mean, I feel if you do a philosophy major the right away you become a more compassionate, humane, and critical person.

And I think that, that’s dissimilar from most other majors because in other majors you’ll learn these facts that aren’t facts and you’ll practice these imperfect methodologies and ideas and then you’ll have to regurgitate them on an exam or in a lab. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll use these facts and methodologies to create new knowledge and new imperfect facts and methodologies.

But, in philosophy, especially at UPS, you read dead and not-dead people and then you think about it and then you write about it and before you know it you incorporate it, or you don’t incorporate it, into your own ideals and beliefs—but it is never considered perfect nor complete, it is always re-considered. And, I think it is this underlying value of philosophy that keeps me entertained and engaged in my day-to-day life—it’s always about continuous improvement, it’s always re-imagining and understanding from different perspectives and viewpoints.

Also, for the record Philosophy of Emotions has helped me immensely in understanding and extending compassion to others when they’re angry, upset, envious, or jealous. 

And, I mean, lastly, I think that a lot of folks struggle to understand how to make an argument for something. And, like I definitely can do that now.

Any advice for current Philosophy students?

If you can, find a question you’re really curious about, and just continue asking that question in every class you take. For me it was: why do we keep people from killing themselves? And, it’s this question that has propelled me into the life I have today. The question can be anything, but, let it be uniquely yours and don’t let others tell you that it’s been answered already.

Sam Lilly ’19 with other philosophy majors at graduation

Puget Sound competes in the 2022 National Bioethics Bowl

The Puget Sound Ethics Bowl team together with Prof. Tubert, the coach for the team, travelled to Salt Lake City to compete in the 2022 National Bioethics Bowl taking place on April 9th, at the Westminster College campus.

The team for this year consisted of J.J. Alvarez ’23, Logan Canada-Johnson ’22, Ismael Gutierrez ’23, Mae Lovett ’23, Jules Obbard ’23, Elizabeth Matsumoto ’25, Nathan Sansone ’24, Ember Reed ’23, and Katerina Wearn ’25. For the first time in a while, the team only had one returning ethics bowl member, with everyone competing in person for the first time, and students ranging from first year to graduating.

The ethics bowl team — which included several philosophy majors and all had taken or were taking relevant philosophy courses such as moral philosophy or bioethics — met every week and even on weekends to discuss the difficult ethical dilemmas in preparation for the competition. The twelve cases dealt with timely and controversial issues in bioethics, asking students to weigh different sorts of considerations and ethical theories to provide unified recommendations in response to a series of questions. The cases dealt with issues involving non-human animals (such as the possibility of genetically engineering animals to suffer less pain, vegetarianism and veganism, xenotransplantation), pandemics (such as state obligations to incarcerated people during pandemics or the use of tracking technology for public health reasons), medical ethics (such as differing views on death is or uncertainty on patients’ wishes regarding life-saving treatment), and emerging technologies (such as the use of “carebots” or the production of mini-brains). The plane rides, meals, and free time in Salt Lake City provided additional occasions for philosophical discussion and preparation.

Students reflected on the value of participating in ethics bowl this semester and competing in the National Bioethics Bowl:

Logan Canada-Johnson ’22: It seems trivial to say now but at the beginning of this semester, I was concerned about being the only seasoned member of the Ethics Bowl team. Ethics Bowl has always been something I enjoyed but did not view myself as especially good at, so I wondered how our team would do if I was the ‘senior’ member. Well, it’s trivial in my mind because this has been the most fun and intellectually challenging semester of Ethics Bowl that I have ever done. It is not hyperbole to say that every member of our team was remarkably passionate and thoughtful, bringing ideas to each case that enhanced our arguments for the tournament. That this was a rebuilding year for our team is already a testament to how far we’ll see this team go next year, and my only regret is that I won’t be able to join them for it. Thank you to all the team members I’ve worked with in the past three years and a special thank you to Ariela Tubert, whose enthusiasm brought this program to our school and keep it thriving throughout the years!

Elizabeth Matsumoto ’25: Ethics bowl, as a freshman, stretched me beyond the regular classroom experience. Once a week, I had the privilege to meet with eight brilliant students to debate a variety of bioethical dilemmas like, “Is it ethical to produce brains from donated brain materials,” and “What are the ethical implications of genetically modifying animals to not feel pain” using frameworks from care ethics and philosophers like Korsgaard and Rawls. This application of philosophy was both relevant and interesting in ways that nurtured a genuine care and interest in bioethics and philosophical arguments. Although I am not a philosophy major, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and look forward to participating again next semester.

J.J. Alvarez ’23: When I first decided to be on the ethics bowl team, I was unsure of what the experience would be like. I knew that there would be a competition that the team would be going to, but I didn’t know what our team dynamics would be like. I am so happy to say that by the end of our preparation for the national bioethics bowl competition, we were not just teammates, but really good friends. One of things that I remember most about ethics bowl is anytime all of us went out for dinner or lunch, we debated things such as the metaphysics of sandwiches. Or the ethics of Twilight. In addition to this, the experience that I have gotten from analyzing arguments, formulating counter arguments, and exploring different ethical frameworks has been invaluable. I have taken much of what I learned from this experience and began applying it to not only my other classes, but discussions I have outside of classes as well. I am so glad that I decided to join the ethics bowl team this semester. Not only have I learned a lot from the experience, but I have also found a strong community of people that I am excited to continue doing ethics bowl with in the fall.​

Jules Obbard ’23: My experience with ethics bowl was a very positive one. We learned a lot of specifics about topics that we otherwise wouldn’t have, and got to discuss multiple perspectives on complex issues. Not only that, but getting to attend the tournament made our group a lot closer and we started to work really well together. It was all of our first years and we all want to do it again next year because it was such a worthwhile investment. Our coach also managed the team really well and optimized our time so we could do better during the competition. Thank you Professor Tubert for taking care of our trip planning and providing our team with great objections! I look forward to participating in ethics bowl with the rest of the team next year.

Ismael Gutierrez ’23: During my time in ethics bowl I was really able to develop my understanding about various topics and reflect on very hard topics that I felt passionate about. I truly enjoyed my time in ethics bowl. All the people on the team are amazing. It is my favorite class this semester. The application of concepts which we established in the beginning of the semester and from other classes made these concepts more relevant. Unfortunately I was unable to go to compete on the bowl but I was there every step of the way to help prepare our team to do the best we can.

Nathan Sansone ’24: Not only was this my first semester in Ethics Bowl—it was my first semester even in a philosophy class. I left the first several meetings of the term confused, tired, and feeling outright in over my head. But week by week, bit by bit, I began to develop a genuine appreciation for the program and the ethical theories so central to it. I learned the basics of utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, Rawl’s theory of justice, and the bioethical principles; but more importantly, I began to develop an understanding of when these theories were relevant, of their benefits and drawbacks, and how to (at least start to) find consensus when confronted with two seemingly irreconcilable stances. Not to mention, the whole thing is just really, really fun. I’m very grateful to everyone on the team this semester and to Professor Tubert for her work in making this whole thing possible.

Ember Reed ’23: I was excited to have the opportunity to compete with other teams at the bioethics bowl. Seeing how philosophical argument occurs in time restricted environments increased my breath of understanding the discipline. It was also a good opportunity to practice public speaking.

Katerina Wearn ’25: I think ethics bowl was the thing that pushed me the most academically this year (in a good way). Having only taken one philosophy class, my main goal going in was just… keep up. And not only do I think I was able to do that, I feel like I learned a lot in the process. Just being able to participate and contribute to the conversations gave me a huge confidence boost, and hopefully in the future I will be brave enough to compete.

Prof. Tubert also reflected on the ethics bowl experience this semester:

I was excited to see this mostly new ethics bowl team come together as the semester went on and at the competition. It was really fun to see students get comfortable and excited to keep talking to each other about controversial and timely ethical issues. There is an intensity to the experience of preparing the cases over several months and then travelling together that is hard to replicate in other contexts, the students this semester really stepped up to the challenge and I am excited to work with many of them again in the fall.

the team with Prof. Tubert at Westminster College
J.J., Nate, Ember, Elizabeth, Logan, and Jules during one of the rounds
the team at Westminster College, ready to start the day
Jules, Nate, Mae, J.J., Ember, and Logan, about to start the first round of the day
in Salt Lake City, the team was having a hard time agreeing on a couple of cases but were having fun nonetheless
the full Spring 2022 Ethics Bowl team, on campus

2022 Philosophy Poster Presentations

Students in the senior seminar PHIL 450 Topics in Value Theory: The Constitution of the Self with Professor Ariela Tubert presented their work in the 2022 Philosophy Poster Presentations earlier this week. The students presenting got lots of interest in their work and some tough questions that they are working to address in their final projects. Students and faculty attending the event appreciated the interesting topics and arguments, the clear explanations, and the enthusiasm of the presenters. Here are some pictures from the event, which was philosophically enriching for everyone and also lots of fun!

The poster presentations were as follows:

  • “The Case for Ethical and Normative Narrativity”
    Andrew Blanchette
  • “How to Achieve the Best Life: Using Introspection to Create a Unified Identity”
    Amelia Burkhart
  • “Mementos: On the Role of Representations in Quasi-Memory”
    Logan Canada-Johnson
  • “The Bond Between Self-Constitution and Morality: Why Morals are Essential for Establishing Personhood”
    Jack Lang
  • “Where Am I, Already Dead?”
    Ember Reed
Jack Lang ’22
Andrew Blanchette ’22
Amelia Burkhart ’22
Ember Reed ’23
Logan Canada-Johnson ’22
student presenters with Prof. Tubert

Philosophy Majors in Consulting

As some data on our graduates shows, Puget Sound philosophy majors go on to succeed in a variety of fields, with alumni pursuing careers in philosophy, education, law, or technology. Regardless of career choice, they find value in the skills and perspective they developed during their time studying philosophy at Puget Sound. Another career path that philosophy majors succeed in is consulting. We have had a number of majors pursue careers in consulting over the years and the value of philosophical training for business has been discussed in some prominent venues (see, for example here and here.) More recently and closer to home, rGen, a business consulting firm based in the Seattle area, has been hiring some of our very talented recent philosophy graduates, including Liam Grantham ’20, Brian Kim ’21, and August Malueg ‘20.

Ray Rasmussen, Founder and Managing Principal at rGen, told us about the work they do and why they are interested in hiring philosophy graduates from Puget Sound:

We work with some of the largest and most leading-edge technology companies to help them drive and achieve business results. These companies are fast-paced and demand world-class quality. All the time. So, the work we do is hard.

Puget Sound takes a rigorous approach to a college education emphasizing the importance of ethics and personal responsibility, students are challenged to be their best in intellectual and personal pursuits. This is especially true for philosophy students at Puget Sound. Students are immersed in intellectual, philosophical, and ethical ideas from great thinkers from around the globe and across time. The pursuit of diverse ideas, diverse ways of seeing issues, and diverse ways looking for truth requires a nimble mind, an openness to understanding, and a disciplined approach to analysis. Successful Puget Sound philosophy grads have had to stretch their minds and imaginations to understand the world’s most powerful philosophical ideas.

Our Consulting Master Class spans eight weeks and provides new college graduates with the context, industry understanding, and practical skills needed to be a world-class consultant. The rGen Consulting Master Class is hard, but we find Puget Sound philosophy grads are up to the challenge.

The results are impressive, philosophy grads are not afraid of hard topics, of complexity, nor of nuance. They are ideally suited to understand the most important business issues our clients face and ready to work as a team to find great ideas. And then, bring those ideas to life.

Liam Grantham ’20

Speaking about the ability to face challenges, Liam Grantham ’20 highlighted how his experiences studying philosophy helped to develop a positive attitude vis-à-vis challenge which he brings to his work:

What has helped me immensely in my new role, is the ability to take on any problem. I took Metaethics (with Ariela Tubert) freshman year without really knowing what meta meant, let alone what the study of ethics entailed. I knew how out of my depths I was and it was difficult being so far behind everyone else. But you learn as you go and eventually things start to snap into place. My first project felt a lot like that. I had little to no background in tech or business, but I knew that I had the ability to learn. And now I can confidently lead meetings with my clients, knowing that I am adding value to the conversation. I guess if I were to sum it up: Not knowing doesn’t scare me anymore.

August Malueg ’20

Focusing on the work he does and the skills he developed through the study of philosophy, August Malueg ’20 said,

In consulting, my day-to-day activities are defined by the project in which I’ve been placed and the client with whom I am working. Typical projects span a couple of months, and as such, consultants frequently encounter new subjects and areas of expertise outside of their current knowledge. The ability to quickly analyze new concepts to attain a basic understanding is essential to constantly changing clients, projects, and modes of work. 

The fundamentals of philosophical thought – analytical paradigms, knowledge-making, logical consistency – are ubiquitous in the worlds of business and technology, and those able to apply these notions are a step ahead when faced with wide-ranging and challenging new concepts. Understanding and communication between individuals drives results and builds cooperation and fellowship. Those who can communicate their ideas with precision and work through disagreement are better off because of it. More broadly speaking, the world is made up of ideas – Philosophy helps students peek behind the blinds.

Brain Kim ’21

Brian Kim ’21, discussed how the practice in critical and analytic thinking that he got as part of his studies in philosophy are helpful in his consulting work at rGen,

An important part of my work deals with identifying the different components to a problem, visualize which components are limiting factors, and then to clearly communicate my analysis to someone. Taking a problem with many components and rephrasing it in more accessible terms without losing any valuable information is a skill I wouldn’t have enriched without philosophy.

I’m currently building an interactive report that requires some coding and data modeling. Though I was never the best at formal logic, I always think about how helpful that experience was for this assignment. Knowing some logic has made learning this coding language considerably easier. Coming into this assignment with my formal logic background has allowed me to make much more progress than I ever would have without it.

Liam, Brian, and August conferring with the team before an ethics bowl presentation in 2018

Brian also spoke about how his studies in philosophy led him to appreciate the importance of empathy in relating to others and the breath of outlook that comes from studying philosophy:

I often think about the topics I learned in Sara Protasi’s Philosophy of Emotions course and my summer research project that was inspired from it. My main takeaway from those experiences is that the emotions people feel reflects their beliefs about a given circumstance. While their beliefs may not be necessarily correct, or even rational, their emotions are a manifested form of their beliefs. This insight is actualized in practice through empathy. I believe that the quality of my relationships has improved considerably when I stopped emphasizing only what someone was saying and started caring more about how they are saying it. I used to aspire to be someone who spoke from their mind, but philosophy reoriented my goals to want to be someone who speaks and listens from the heart.

My time as a philosophy major taught me not to take my beliefs so seriously. The constant engagement in hypotheticals helped me realize that many things I believe in are probably wrong! Letting go of the seriousness of my beliefs and instead being more agnostic has helped me be more open-minded and become a better conversationalist.

On a related note, Liam spoke about the importance of trying to engage with and understand the perspective of others:

My favorite part about philosophy was always the dialectic, and what I took away from my conversations was the importance of listening first, and responding charitably. My first real pitch meeting was somewhat of a surprise for me. We had prepared some talking points for me to go through, but I was playing more of a supporting role until our client pivoted the meeting to talk predominately to me. My ability to listen and respond allowed me to make clear statements and ask good questions. We ended up getting the contract. While I know the expertise of my colleagues was the driving force in winning that contract, my background in Philosophy enabled me to connect with our client and instill confidence that their point of view would be heard and taken seriously.

Reflecting on a specific situation when he put the skills he gained through his philosophical studies to use, August said:

When my boss asked me, “Who wrote The Metaphysics of Morals?” Just kidding. I think that one area that illustrates the skills I gained through my studies in philosophy is building business presentations. Just as in a philosophical essay, it is essential for presentations to uphold logical consistency, especially when concerned with execution and the delivery of real-world results. Philosophy has taught me not only how to parse out an argument (or presentation) into main ideas and supporting elements, but also how to take a step back and see how everything fits together.

While August compared preparing presentations to writing a philosophical essay, Brian compared writing philosophy to other aspects of his work:

My philosophy studies have shaped my thinking to be highly critical of assumptions, able to identify potential objections, and to be flexible (or rigid!) with language. These skills help me see both the micro and macro-level details in a project and allow me to smoothly navigate my role. I’m currently helping build a year-long plan comprised of multiple initiatives and even more workstreams within those initiatives. I have to be able to see the big picture to line up the different initiatives to their respective outcomes and identify potential risks to the plan, which often reminds me of structuring a philosophy paper! It’s not too different from putting together multiple lines of an argument to drive my thesis and to identify potential objections. The topics I work on now obviously differ from the writing I did in college, but the skills I learned from structuring philosophical arguments are ones I utilize often.

Liam and August with other members of the ethics bowl team in 2019

August, Brian, and Liam were all part of the ethics bowl team at Puget Sound. As part of the team, they got practice in researching, discussing, and working together to build unified team recommendations on various complex ethical dilemmas. Ethics bowl is one of the experiential learning opportunities offered to students in the department and the work the students did on the team fits with the team-oriented nature of their work at rGen. Ray explained their approach to supporting their employees and encouraging collaboration:

We match each new consultant with a mentor that provides advice and guidance on how to manage consulting challenges, succeed with new tools, and work in a dynamic teaming environment.

For all team members at all levels, each day begins with a team scrum with team members discussing the objectives of the day, areas on which they may need help, and areas on which they may be helpful to others.

Professor Ariela Tubert, chair of the philosophy department, said she was excited about this new opportunity for Puget Sound philosophy students

We appreciate rGen’s values-based approach, focus on developing long term relationships, and their strategy of investing in training recent philosophy graduates. Our philosophy majors are awesome and it’s great to see the skills they developed throughout their studies valued in a field as competitive as consulting.

Speaking about the work they do in philosophy courses, Prof. Tubert said:

Throughout their time at Puget Sound, our students develop as thinkers and communicators, they become comfortable with intellectual challenge, and with working in groups where they have to engage with alternative points of view. In addition, they have practice with the nuance and complexity that comes with trying to balance different sorts of values or considerations and envisioning alternative possibilities. Our philosophy graduates tend to be the sort of creative thinkers that can think outside the box and are used to being part of a collaborative environment – whether it is in group projects or activities such as organizing a philosophy conference or being part of the ethics bowl team, they are used to collaborating and supporting each other.

Brian at graduation with other philosophy graduates in May 2021

Margaret Snape, Management and Operations Practice Leader at rGen, spoke about the value she sees in the skills and experience that our students bring with them:

It has been a pleasure working with the team from Puget Sound’s philosophy department. Their background in philosophy helps them to think through complex business problems, quickly identify where our clients need help, and offer tailored solutions to our clients. Additionally, their training creates a perspective and drives rigor that is difficult to find in other candidates. As a leader of the business, I am grateful for their eagerness to learn and their teamwork. I look forward to adding Puget Sound philosophers to our team.

Speaking about Puget Sound’s program in philosophy from his experience hiring recent graduates, Ray Rasmussen said,

It is a great place to learn all about big ideas, ethical behavior, breakthrough problem-solving, and teamwork. For us that makes Puget Sound philosophy grads an ideal place to find strong candidates that are great fit for our business consulting firm.

Discussing how the study of the humanities, and philosophy in particular, can be practical in connection to his work in consulting, Liam said:

There is a sentiment, though it is certainly dying, that degrees like Philosophy or History or English close off or limit career paths. I’ve found exactly the opposite. I can do anything because I have a background in thinking about everything, not just doing one thing.

Puget Sound Philosophy at the Pacific APA

Puget Sound Philosophy was well represented at the 2022 meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association in Vancouver, BC.

  • Logan Canada-Johnson ’22 presented the poster “Public Access Screenings: An Ontological Inquiry into Cinematic Street Art” during the Teaching Hub session on undergraduate research.
  • Kyle Stroh ’09, currently a graduate student at Indiana University, presented the paper “Moody-Adams Critical Pluralism and an Alternative Form of Moral Convergence.”
  • Adjunct Professor Ross Colebrook presented the paper “Do the Folk Know What a Moral Judgment Is?”
  • Colleen Hanson ’19, currently a graduate student at UCLA, and professors Ariela Tubert and Justin Tiehen served as chairs for sessions on ethics and AI, group epistemology, metaethics, and Nietzsche. Professor Tubert also served on the program committee for the conference.
  • Jack Lang ’22, Hannah Stockton ’22, Mae Lovett ’23, and Ember Reed ’23 attended many talks and events throughout the conference.
  • It was nice to see Prof. Sara Protasi’s book The Philosophy of Envy featured prominently in the Cambridge University Press table of the book exhibit.
Logan presenting his poster

Logan Canada-Johnson ’22 reflected on the experience of attending the conference and presenting his work during the Teaching Hub poster session:

The APA Pacific Division Meeting was my last stop on a series of conferences that I was fortunate enough to present at this semester. Thanks to a special sponsorship from the American Association for Philosophy Teachers and a University Enrichment Grant, I was able to drive to Vancouver BC and present a poster version of my summer research on cinematic street art. The conference was full of enlightening talks, spirited debates, and pleasant people who I was fortunate enough to engage with, including some who were featured in my work! Nicholas Riggle, who was one of the first aestheticians to discuss street art in philosophy, kindly stopped by my presentation and asked me questions about my arguments — for philosophers, that’s kind of like one of your favorite actors reading a script you wrote for them. Being immersed in a philosophical environment for 4 days was inspirational, both in the sense that I am inspired by the intellectual rigor of the philosophers there and in the sense that I am inspired by their ideas. There really isn’t anything I could’ve wished for to have been better in the short time that I was there, except perhaps that it was a bit longer. Thank the philosophy department for helping our renegade group of philosophers attend the APA and to all of the other philosophy majors who came along for this wonderful conference. 

Prof. Protasi’s The Philosophy of Envy in the Cambridge University Press display

Jack Lang ’22, also reflected on his experience at the conference:

My attendance at the American Philosophical Association conference in Vancouver, British Columbia was a highlight of my college experience. The variety of philosophers who were there really made it clear how many different directions you can go with philosophy, this scope allowed me to explore topics I had not heard of before as well as those that have been discussed in length during classes I have taken. It was this breadth of the conference that was truly useful for me, prior to going, I was unsure what areas of philosophy I enjoy working in, but after the second day, I realized that my big interests revolve around morals and ethics. In addition to this, it was truly impressive to hear people that I have read, for class and leisure, speak about the new ideas they have or ideas that they recently fleshed out. Another feature of this conference that made it a prodigious experience was the ability to approach anyone there and discuss philosophical ideas, I spoke to one philosopher about my desire to learn more about Chinese philosophy and she was able to get me materials to read on the subject, this interaction is one I will remember for a long time. The congeniality and professionalism of everyone there made me feel welcome even as one of the few undergraduate students in attendance. When professor Manuel Rodeiro, author of Mining Thacker Pass: Environmental Justice and the Demands of Green Energy, became aware of our undergraduate status he seemed truly impressed and happy to see people our age taking a serious interest in academic philosophy. Even though I felt the weight of all the school work bearing down on me, I am happy I was able to attend because it was one of the rare trips that resulted in the acquisition of knowledge. It was an experience that I would not trade for anything else the world has to offer.