This week in my Business Ethics class the students will learn about Utilitarianism and Deontology. In addition to the lectures I’ve prepared, I’ve designed at least two activities for each class. While the activities at the end have them dealing with ethical dilemmas faced by actual businesses (e.g. do emotionally-based ad appeals respect humans as rational beings?), at the beginning of the class students will be doing some well-known ethical roleplay scenarios (Sophie’s Choice for Utilitarianism, the Nazi at your Door scenario for Deontology). For those of you who don’t know, the Sophie’s Choice scenario asks you to put yourself in the position of the main character from the movie Sophie’s Choice, and decide whether you would make the same decision she did. The Nazi at your Door scenario asks you to think about whether it is ethical to lie if, during the Holocaust, you were hiding Jews in your house and Nazi officers came to your door to ask about them.
Preparing these activities got me thinking about how helpful roleplaying can be for many purposes. Whether it is relaxing/enjoyable (Dungeons & Dragons), educational (practicing CPR on dummies), or for safety (fire drills), roleplaying is a big part of our society. Part of its appeal is its connection to imagination, as very little change would happen if we could not see ourselves different than we are now. Acting out our visions of the future undoubtedly helps us to ‘try on’ our ideals, seeing if they will actually fit with the rest of our life. Perhaps some of the failed utopias of the past would have had more success had they had access to roleplaying. Similarly, all of us would do well to roleplay our dreams for ourselves, our friends, and society. Here are some papers that will help us understand how we can employ roleplaying more efficiently.
- Lisa Kretz, “Debiasing the Philosophy Classroom,” Teaching Philosophy, March 2017.
- Ana Lazar, “Setting the Stage: Role-Playing in the Group Work Classroom,” Social Work with Groups, July-September 2014.
- David Machek, “Beyond sincerity and pretense: role-playing and unstructured self in the Zhuangzi,” Asian Philosophy, February 2016.
- Justin Fisher, “Pragmatic experimental philosophy,” Philosophical Psychology, April 2015.
- Michael Brent, “Agent causation as a solution to the problem of action,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, September 2017.
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