St. Olaf College | News

Student-faculty duo develops website examining ethical issues

Professor of Philosophy Charles Taliaferro (left) and Thomas Churchill ’14 teamed up to create an expansive website that encourages discussion on a wide range of ethical questions.

Looking for a forum to discuss the nature of good and evil, the meaning of life, or the ethical traditions of religion?

Then visit St. Olaf College’s new Ethical Issues and Normative Perspectives website, created by Professor of Philosophy Charles Taliaferro and Thomas Churchill ’14.

The expansive site contains articles written by Churchill, Taliaferro, and other St. Olaf faculty members, and was designed as a place where students, faculty, and the public alike can engage in “disciplined reflection” on persistent and challenging ethical questions.

These articles — which range from a few paragraphs to almost 10,000 words long — provide everything from an introduction to St. Olaf’s Ethical Issues and Normative Perspectives (EIN) general-education requirement to in-depth discussions of particular ethical issues like moral relativism and environmental ethics.

The website arose out of the need for an accessible, online resource for St. Olaf professors teaching EIN courses and the students taking them.

“I wanted there to be a resource that could be accessed at any time,”  Taliaferro says, “one that would be dynamic and could be updated.”

“One of Professor Taliaferro’s top priorities for the summer was to create a website that encourages students to think critically about ethical issues outside of the classroom,” says Churchill, who has never taken a class with Taliaferro but co-wrote an article with him for Valparaiso University’s journal The Cresset.

But Taliaferro says he envisions the website playing a greater role than just introducing students and faculty to the EIN requirement. Though in many ways the site is directed toward the St. Olaf community, he hopes its detailed treatment of numerous ethical questions will generate inquiry and discussion among the public as well.

“Ideally the site will function as a forum for public discussion of ethical issues,” Churchill says. “We added an opinion-editorial section for the public to submit their own articles on ethical issues and current events.”

“This displays St. Olaf’s vibrant community for collaborative reflection on values,” says Taliaferro.