Digital Ethics Spr23

This is the resource page for DTEM4430 Digital Media Ethics for Spring 2023. You can find the syllabus here.

There is an overwhelming amount of material on ethics available online, and this course focuses on the applied ethics of digital technology. To get to the applied part, we need a brisk overview of ethics and value theories. The goal of this page is to support this process and to show where my thinking was/is in the creation and execution of the course.

This course is, therefore, to be understood as an additional resource to the overall course. I recommend you look at it and pick the parts you feel you need to supplement and aid your thinking.

A lot of these recommendations are from podcasts. Partly because I listen to a LOT of podcasts and find them really useful and partly because of the inspiring course by Rani Lill Anjum, I have freely borrowed links from her site.

A nice short overview of ethics can be found on the BBC website and obviously, Wikipedia has a page.

Moral Relativism

Moral relativismPhilosophy Bites. Is moral relativism a tenable position? Does it matter? Paul Boghossian argues that it isn’t and that it does matter. 17 minutes

When Doing the Right Thing Is ImpossibleRadical PhilosophyProfessor Lisa Tessman discusses how and why do human beings construct morality, and how is it that sometimes moral wrongdoing is just unavoidable also the situation that occurred with Cyclone Katrina and the moral decisions that had to be made. 28 minutes

The Socratic methodPhilosophy Bites. What is Socratic Method and does it have any present day applications? MM McCabe explains the significance of Socrates’ impertinent questioning and contrasts his approach with present day university teaching. 13 minutes

Free Will

The podcast Philosophical Problems by Jack Reynolds and Andrew Brennan has two episodes on free will here is part one with a handout and part two with a handout.

The Philosophers Arms is a radio show where philosophers meet in a pub. Here is their episode on Free Will.


Oliver Burkeman – The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion? A growing chorus of scientists and philosophers argue that free will does not exist. Could they be right?

Franklin Foer – Facebook’s war on free will: How technology is making our minds redundant.

Virtue Ethics

This is a podcast episode from Marianne Talbot’s bioethics podcast. Here is the episode on Virtue Ethics & the handout

Aristotle’s basic philosophyThe Panpsycast. The voices in this episode are owned by Jack Symes, Andrew Horton and Ollie Marley. This episode fulfils the function of tackling Aristotle’s basic philosophies. Special thanks to the prime mover for your help in the production of this recording. 1 hour 6 minutes

Aristotle on substanceHistory of Philosophy Without Any Gaps. Aristotle rejects Plato’s Forms, holding that ordinary things are primary substances. But what happens when we divide such substances into matter and form? With Peter Adamson. 20 minutes

Virtue ethicsPhilosophy Bites. Julia Annas outlines the key features of Virtue Ethics, the approach to living well derived from Aristotle’s writings, and explains what she thinks the purpose of this ethical approach is. 15 minutes

Julia Annas discusses virtue ethicsElucidations. Julia Annas argues that thinking of ethics this way revitalizes the entire enterprise, giving philosophers a new set of problems to consider and rendering many old ones irrelevant.  For example, it gives us the occasion to rethink what happiness is–is it a feeling?  A matter of having all of your desires satisfied?  An entire way of life? Podcast webpage. 39 minutes

Virtue, BBC In Our Time. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of virtue. When Socrates asked the question ‘How should man live?’ Plato and Aristotle answered that man should live a life of virtue. Plato claimed there were four great virtues – Temperance, Justice, Prudence and Courage and the Christian Church added three more – Faith, Hope and Love. But where does the motivation for virtue come from? Do we need rules to tell us how to behave or can we rely on our feelings of compassion and empathy towards other human beings? So is virtue a character trait possessed by some but not others? Is it derived from reason? Or does it flow from the innate sympathies of the human heart? For the last two thousand years philosophers have grappled with these ideas, but now in the twenty first century a modern reappraisal of virtue is taking the argument back to basics with Aristotle. With Galen Strawson, Miranda Fricker and Roger Crisp. 45 minutes

Virtue ethicsRadical PhilosophyProfessor Jennifer Baker speaks about virtue ethics and the reform of US policing – the connection between norms and virtual ethics and how virtual ethics are applied to law enforcement. 29 minutes


This is a podcast episode from Marianne Talbot’s bioethics podcast. Here is the episode on Utilitarianism and the handout.

The Forum radio show has an excellent episode on Bentham’s utilitarianism, check out Pleasure and pain: The philosophy of Jeremy Bentham

Utilitarianism, BBC In Our Time. A moral theory that emphasises ends over means, Utilitarianism holds that a good act is one that increases pleasure in the world and decreases pain. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and has antecedents in ancient philosophy. According to Bentham, happiness is the means for assessing the utility of an act, declaring “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” Mill and others went on to refine and challenge Bentham’s views and to defend them from critics such as Thomas Carlyle, who termed Utilitarianism a “doctrine worthy only of swine.” With Melissa Lane, Janet Radcliffe Richards and Brad Hooker. 43 minutes

John Stuart Mill and UtilitarianismThe Panpsycast. Welcome to Episode 5 (Part II) of The Panpsycast, Utilitarianism. The voices in this episode are owned by Jack Symes, Andrew Horton and Ollie Marley. 1 hour and 12 minutes

Peter Singer on using animalsPhilosophy Bites. How should we treat animals? Peter Singer, perhaps the best know living moral philosopher addresses this question in conversation with Nigel Warburton in this bonus episode. This  was produced in association with The Open University as part of podcast Ethics Bites. 16 minutes

Philippa Foot and trolley problemsWomen in Parenthesis. Although the trolley problem is a well-known meme, not many people know of its origins in philosophy. In this episode, I introduce the doctrine of double effect and discuss why Philippa Foot created the trolley thought experiment in the first place. This is part 1 of 5 episodes on Foot’s moral philosophy. 7 minutes


This is a podcast episode from Marianne Talbot’s bioethics podcast. Here is the episode on Deontology & the handout

Kant’s metaphysicsPhilosophy Bites. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a great but difficult work. In this interview for Philosophy Bites A.W. Moore gives an accessible account of the main themes of the book and explains what might have been motivating Kant’s approach to metaphysics (no mean feat in under 20 minutes!).

KantPhilosophize This. On this episode of the podcast we continue our discussion of Kant, this time focusing on his contributions to the debate between rationalism and empiricism . We begin by reviewing the major points of contention between the rationalists and empiricists regarding how we arrive at knowledge. Next, we learn about Kant’s “eureka!” moment, which arose from his discovery of a major assumption made by empiricist David Hume. Finally, we find out why Kant believed that we can never truly know the external world as it actually is, an idea which calls into questions basic concepts like space, time, and causality and goes well beyond the “veil of perception”. 25 minutes

Émilie du Châtelet – a free-spirited physicistBBC The Forum. Emilie du Chatelet was esteemed in 18th-century France as a brilliant physicist, mathematician, thinker and linguist whose pioneering ideas and formidable translations were known all across Europe. Du Chatelet’s insights into kinetic energy foreshadowed Einstein’s famous equation and her suggestions for experiments with the different colours of light would only be carried out half-a-century after she’d written about them. Bridget Kendall discusses du Chatelet’s life and work with history professor Judith Zinsser, Chatelet’s biographer David Bodanis and philosophy professor Ruth Hagengruber. 40 minutes

Kant on the categorical imperative, BBC In Our Time. Melvyn Bragg and guests (Alison Hills, David Oderberg and John Callanan) discuss how Kant sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn. 49 minutes

Kantian Ethics: The categorical imperative and its three formulations, The Panpsycast. Welcome to Episode 6 (Part II), Kantian Ethics. The voices in this episode are owned by Jack Symes, Andrew Horton and Ollie Marley. 48 minutes

Artificial intelligence

The podcast Philosophical Problems by Jack Reynolds and Andrew Brennan has two episodes on artificial intelligence here is part one with a handout and part two with a handout.

The Philosophers Arms is a radio show where philosophers meet in a pub. This episode is on the morality of “turning off” your robot daughter.

The BBC radio show The Inquiry has an episode called Has AI developed consciousness?

Oh and we are going to have to listen to The Sunday Show’s Contemplating the “Uselessness” of AI Ethics and also the recent Ezra Klein episode A Skeptical Take on the A.I. Revolution


Frank Pasquale – ‘Machines set loose to slaughter’: the dangerous rise of military AI. Autonomous machines capable of deadly force are increasingly prevalent in modern warfare, despite numerous ethical concerns. Is there anything we can do to halt the advance of the killer robots?


Should We Trust Robots, and Should They Trust Us? | Dr. Ayanna Howard | TEDxBermuda

Superhero ethics

Is Spider-Man or Batman the more ethical actor? The Pretty Much Pop has an episode (#63) on Superhero Ethics that is well worth a listen.


Here is an episode of the Philosophers Arms on enhancement.

TrueSciPhi has collected an impressive list of philosophy podcasts.

LSE Forum for Philosophy podcastScience, politics and culture from a philosophical perspective, a podcast by London School of Economics and Political Science.

Radical Philosophy, by Beth MatthewsRadical Philosophy will push the boundaries of conventional philosophy by exploring alternative viewpoints. The topics will include happiness, evil, the meaning of life, logic and ethics. Philosophers will be interviewed about their various areas of expertise. Preference will be given to female philosophers, because within the discipline of philosophy there is a bias towards male philosophers.

In Our Time Philosophy podcast, by Melvyn Bragg for BBCFrom Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.

Philosophy Bites, by Nigel Warburton and David EdmondsA podcasts of top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics…

New Narratives in the History of PhilosophyA series of short interviews with people interested in women philosophers. Learn something, get excited, find out how to learn more. Developed by the New Narratives in the History of Philosophy Project.

The Philosopher’s Arms, by Matthew Sweet for BBC. Matthew Sweet examines philosophical problems with a live audience in a pub…

History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, by Peter AdamsonPeter Adamson takes listeners through the history of philosophy, “without any gaps.” The series looks at the ideas, lives and historical context of the major philosophers as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.

How to Think About Science, by David Cayley for CBC RadioIf science is neither cookery, nor angelic virtuosity, then what is it? Modern societies have tended to take science for granted as a way of knowing, ordering and controlling the world. Everything was subject to science, but science itself largely escaped scrutiny. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Historians, sociologists, philosophers and sometimes scientists themselves have begun to ask fundamental questions about how the institution of science is structured and how it knows what it knows. David Cayley talks to some of the leading lights of this new field of study.

The UnMute Podcast, by Myisha CherryWhere Philosophy & Real World Issues Collide… The UnMute podcast is a monthly podcast hosted and produced by Myisha Cherry. It is called UnMute because we want to provide a platform to people and topics that have not been given much attention in mainstream philosophy. UnMute is focused on providing informal and accessible conversations about social, political, and ethical issues from a fresh, fun, and philosophical perspective. We talk with a diverse group of philosophers as they give their take on controversial issues, pop culture, and the political and ethical dramas of our day. The UnMute experience is philosophical hip-hop and unapologetic intellectual jazz. It’s a home-cooked meal made for the everyday citizen. Don’t know what philosophy is? This podcast is for you.

Philosophize This, by Stephen WestBeginner friendly if listened to in order! For anyone interested in an educational podcast about philosophy where you don’t need to be a graduate-level philosopher to understand it. In chronological order, the thinkers and ideas that forged the world we live in are broken down and explained.