Frequently Asked Questions

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Ethics bowl gives students the opportunity to learn about applied ethics through the analysis, research, and critical discussion of case studies that incorporate real world ethical conflicts from politics, business, international affairs, popular culture, and their personal lives. For the 2020 case set, please visit the resources page.


Ethics bowl is not a speech + debate, and this is an important distinction. In ethics bowl, teams are not required to pick opposing sides, nor is the goal to “win” the argument by knocking down the other team or its position. Ethics bowl is, at heart, a collaborative discussion during which the first team presents its analysis of a question about the ethical dilemma at the core of the case being discussed, offering support for its position but also considering the merits of other positions. The central goal in SIEB competition is to demonstrate breadth and depth of thinking about difficult and important ethical situations. In fact, teams are rewarded for the degree to which they eschew adversarial positioning and instead adopt a more collegial, collaborative stance. In other words, teams are strongly encouraged to think of themselves as being on the same side rather than as opponents. That is, both teams are working together trying to solve a difficult problem—while impressing the judges with thoughtful, considered analysis. Moreover, teams are not penalized or rewarded depending on whether one person speaks or everyone contributes. We understand that each team has its own process.
During the Commentary Period, a team’s role is to help the other team perfect its presentation, not to present its own position on the case. A “question shower” or “rapid-fire questioning,” during which a team asks many questions in an attempt to overwhelm or dominate the other team, is inconsistent with the aims of the SIEB, and will not merit a high score.
On occasion, team members may discover that they want to modify or perhaps change an aspect of their initial position as a result of the second team’s commentary. However, because the ethics bowl is about ethical inquiry, and changing one’s mind can be considered a sign of fluid rather than crystallized intelligence—a hallmark of higher- order thinking—changing or modifying a position is not necessarily negative.



Teams do not need to reference specific ethicists or ethical theories: doing so is not a requirement of a good answer, nor is it indicative of a poor answer. The argument is what matters; it is not necessary to name a philosopher associated with the argument. Keep in mind that a team is speaking to a broad audience: some judges might have no formal background in philosophy or ethics, and may not understand a student’s reference to, say, “Kantianism.” A good strategy is to explain ethical reasoning in terms everyone can understand. Philosophical name-dropping is not a substitute for presenting a sound argument.


The top four ranking teams (2 finalists and 2 semifinalists) will receive trophies. One team will also receive the Jürgen Habermas Spirit of the Ethics Bowl Award, which is given to the team that best embodies the spirt and ideals of the ethics bowl program as voted on by their peers and competitors.


The SIEB is an all-day event, held on February 10th, 2020, at No.2 High School of East China Normal University. It is divided into rounds: preliminary rounds, semifinals, and finals. Each round is typically scheduled for 1 hour and 5 minutes. Multiple matches take place within a round.


Typically, an SIEB team should consist of 5 students from the same school. If there are more than 5 students from the same school enrolled in the SIEB, they can form into different teams.

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