Category Archives: 1999 Conference

The Indefensibility of Callicott's Subjectivist Environmental Ethic

Darren Domsky, York University

J. Baird Callicott has, over the past two decades, developed a bio-empathic environmental ethics grounded in the works of David Hume, Charles Darwin, and Aldo Leopold. Callicott’s moral metaphysic, inspired by Leopold’s Land Ethic, has its original basis in the Humean concept of moral sentiment, in which moral judgment is founded on internal sense or feeling, rather than reason. It is scientifically reinforced by Darwin, who claimed that altruistic moral sentiments were naturally selected for and made universal in human evolution, and subsequently expanded by Leopold to include as objects of those sentiments not just fellow humans but the entire biotic community.

Over the years, many interesting and perplexing problems have been raised with respect to this communitarian ethics. I show that although many of these criticisms can be shown to be harmless, some of them are much more serious. I argue that Callicott’s theory has three unavoidable flaws: that it is unacceptably immune to cognitive criticism because it is biologically determined; that it cannot successfully apply moral sentiments to the entire biotic community; and that it counterintuitively makes the existence of our ecosystem’s inherent value logically dependent on the contingent facts of our evolutionary history. Because of these flaws, I conclude that Callicott’s metaethical position is ultimately untenable.


'Where's Safe?': The Interaction and Experience of an Interactive Theater Event

Donna Tromski, Ohio University

This qualitative research study explored the performance process, the various interactions, and the experience of the “Where’s Safe?” interactive drama event from the perspective of the actors, director-facilitator, and audience. Three performances were studied using participant observation. The three actors with leading roles and the director-facilitator participated in a tape-recorded interview in which they described the development of this production, their experiences with the production, and its impact on their lives. An assistant professor at Ohio University was also interviewed for her perspective as an audience member. A general meaning structure for the performance process, interactions, and experience of the performance events was defined. Identification of salient themes reflective of good and bad performances, safety issues, the learning that takes place for the audience, the impact the experience has on actors, characters, and the facilitator director, and the use of interactive drama as an educational tool to promote social change resulted. The interaction that occurred during and immediately following the performances were cited as a critical and pivotal component by all participants in the study.


Power Plays: Interactive Theater Demonstration

Kathy Devecka, University of Michigan

Interactive theater combines theatrical techniques with skills-based/problem-based learning. It is an intersection of phenomenology, sociology, social work, psychology and business/professional areas. The performance serves as a catalyst to spark discussion and explore difficult and complex issues. Theater provides a safe forum for discussion of ethical problems and a rehearsal for real-life ethical choices.

Performances consist of improvisations on carefully constructed scenarios, with the audience and the characters acting together to create 75 percent of the performance. Working through a facilitator, the audience chooses how the story will evolve and which issues will be pursued. No two performances are the same. The dilemmas we explore today focus on diversity, ethics and the workplace. “Power Plays” is about a group of students working on a group project, part of which involves preparing resumes and interviewing for a job. The audience interaction looks at: 1) how real/perceived diversity issues play a role in the job interviewing process and the workplace, and 2) how to deal with the ethical dilemmas this potential/real discrimination creates.

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Student Relations: Perspective Gained Through Interactive Theater

Mason Martin, Ohio University

This research was conducted to explore and discover the possibilities of interactive theater in the classroom environment. Findings show that this form of theater may be more effective than conventional instructional methods to transfer the beliefs and goals of society to the youth in our classrooms. Such findings imply that this form of instruction may be dichotomous to the many influences of the media that this society deems undesirable. Facilitators with responsibility and a knowledgeable background may be able to steer our youth from such undesirable influences. Further research is needed to see the extent of that counter.

Student Conference on Applied Ethics

Title: Student Conference on Applied Ethics
Description: various
Date: 1999-11-06