The University of St Andrews will host the first John Stuart Mill Cup, a debating tournament which will tackle ethical issues of public concern, and will welcome participating students from across the country on Wednesday 6 June.

The Cup is the first of its kind in Britain as, unlike traditional debates, students have a collaborative discussion instead of proving the other wrong. The winning team is the one who displays virtues of insightfulness, thoughtfulness, and civility.

The tournament will be hosted by the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs (CEPPA), and the issues debated will include fake news, charitable giving, the sugar tax, and the #MeToo campaign. The Cup is modelled on the National High School Ethics Bowl in the United States.

Dr Ben Sachs, a lecturer in Philosophy at St Andrews and the founder of the John Stuart Mill Cup, said, “The John Stuart Mill Cup is a unique opportunity for students and rewards not the ability to win an argument but rather the ability to thoughtfully advance debates on ethical issues of public concern.”

The Cup promotes an interest in philosophy among secondary school students and civil discourse on issues of public concern.

Dr Sachs continued, “The Cup is founded on three fundamental tenets – in a multicultural democracy disagreement about important moral issues is inevitable; members of the public should not shy away from expressing, in the public forum, their convictions on these issues; as a society we could make quicker progress toward reaching mutually acceptable resolutions of these disagreements, without creating resentment and hostility as a side effect, if more entrants in the public debate made use of the philosophers’ toolkit and the attention to logic and fallacy avoidance, the back-and-forth cycle of argument-counter argument-revision, the principle of interpreting one’s speaker’s position as charitably as possible.”

The event is open to high school students across the country, S4-6 in Scotland or years 10-13 in England and Wales, and around 60 students will be competing in the Cup on Wednesday 6 June.

The Cup is named after John Stuart Mill, former Rector of the University, and recognises his role in promoting open and vibrant public discourse.

He was a 19th-century British philosopher, parliamentarian, economist, and public intellectual, with anti-slavery reviews and radical views for his time on women’s rights and democracy. His work, “On Liberty,” published in 1859, is known as one of the most rousing calls for greater protection of civil liberties, including the freedom of speech.

Stewart Clelland, RPMS teacher from Braeview Academy, one of the schools competing in the Cup, said, “In our ever increasingly globalised and multicultural world, it is imperative that young people today acquire a fluency in the modern dialogue of identity in order to succeed as responsible citizens. Simply bringing young people from different backgrounds together is not sufficient to reduce prejudice or develop positive relations; teachers need to create the conditions whereby all children are able to develop what has been termed ‘intercultural competence’. Such conditions are found when philosophical debate is an integral part of the classroom; the John Stuart Mill Cup is an excellent opportunity to help engage young people in this process of understanding the various dialectics surrounding identity.”

The event will take place at United College in St Salvator’s Quad on Wednesday 6 June at 12 pm, and members of the public are welcome to attend.


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