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Embodying Morality Through Play: Using Games to Challenge Cultural Relativism by Sherry Jones (Aug. 9, 2019)

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Aug. 9, 2019 - This set of slides was presented at the Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology Conference (COLTT) held at the University of Colorado. The presentation details my pedagogical method of using digital games to teach students how to identify problems in cultural relativism, a normative ethical theory that suggests cultures are the main source of morality, that morality is relative to culture.

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Embodying Morality Through Play: Using Games to Challenge Cultural Relativism by Sherry Jones (Aug. 9, 2019)

  1. 1. Embodying Morality Through Play: Using Games to Challenge Cultural Relativism
  2. 2. HELLO!I am Sherry Jones ★ Philosophy + Games Studies SME Instructor, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. ★ Steering Committee Board Member, International Game Developers Association (IGDA) - Learning, Games + Education. ★ Judge, Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) CODiE Awards - Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Games + Gamification in Education. ★ Officer, IEEE Computer, Information Theory + Robotics Society. ★ Twitter @ autnes ★ Bio @ http://bit.ly/sherryjonesbio ★ Slides @ http://bit.ly/playconditions 2
  3. 3. Cultural Relativism A challenging problem studied in moral philosophy and ethics. 3
  4. 4. What is Cultural Relativism? ★ Cultural relativism poses a problem for traditional ethics which aims to identify universal moral standards for social good. ★ Cultural relativism is the philosophical theory that a culture/society is the principle source of valid moral rules. ★ If moral standards are culturally relative, then a culture’s moral beliefs are no better or worse than another culture’s. ★ Moral standards of all cultures and societies are equally good. Therefore, no debate/disagreement on cultural, moral standards is possible. 4
  5. 5. P ★ Genocide is morally permissible. ★ Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is morally permissible. ★ Female Infanticide is morally permissible. ★ Carrying AK-47 in public is morally permissible. ★ Factory farming is morally permissible. Rebuttal: Cultural Relativism Presents a Logical Contradiction Not-P ★ Genocide is not morally permissible. ★ Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not morally permissible. ★ Female Infanticide is not morally permissible. ★ Carrying AK-47 in public is not morally permissible. ★ Factory farming is not morally permissible. 5 ∴ P ≠ Not-P (contradiction exists in false equivocation)
  6. 6. Descriptive Claim ★ Tells the fact of how one acts in society. ★ “One’s act is considered moral by a culture if the act follows the culture’s moral standards.” Rebuttal: Cultural Relativism Makes A Normative Claim, Not Descriptive Claim Normative Claim ★ Tells how one ought to act in society. ★ “One should act according to the moral standards of one’s culture.” 6 ∴ Since Cultural Relativism makes a normative claim (ought statement) about morality, identifying objective morality is possible. Normative claims are not statements of facts.
  7. 7. Problematic Responses to Cultural Relativism In Intro to Ethics courses, cultural relativism is covered during the first week of class to help students address the theory’s challenges. ★ Problem #1: Fear of being accused as colonialists/racists, many students insist that cultural relativism is true and reject evaluating moral standards. Only tolerance is possible. ★ Problem #2: Students have difficulty envisioning or relating to the historical and environmental conditions/limitations that lead to the development of moral beliefs. 7
  8. 8. Morality Is Influenced by Historical and Cultural Conditions/Limitations ★ Inuit Eskimos, until 1980s, practiced female infanticide and the killing of elders. ★ Due to harsh weather and environmental conditions that rendered resources limited, the Inuit Eskimos committed acts of killing as population control; the purpose is ensure group survival. ★ If we told the Inuit Eskimos of the past that their practices are immoral, we are failing to consider the conditions that drove them to adopt such practices. ★ As conditions improve, today’s Inuit Eskimos no longer kill the weak for survival purposes. 8
  9. 9. A Teaching Solution Use Digital Games as Simulations of a Culture and Its Conditions to Challenge Moral Codes and Cultural Relativism. 9
  10. 10. Why Games? ★ Reading and evaluating the logic of philosophical thought experiments can be difficult. Games can serve as interactive thought experiments that allow students to embody and perform a series of actions while analyzing the in-game conditions that led to actions performed within a cultural/social setting. ★ Having personal stake in surviving the game, students pay close attention to the environmental and social conditions that constrain or afford their play actions. This differs from reading a philosophical thought experiment without having to embody the actions presented. ★ Gameplay represents performative response to simulated culture. ★ After play, students can reflect on the moral permissibility of their play actions based on the cultural conditions present in the game. 10
  11. 11. Since Most Games Are Fictional, How Do Games Challenge Cultural Relativism? ★ As thought experiments, games can demonstrate that moral standards, in any culture/society, fictional or not, are influenced by various conditions. Addition or elimination of conditions throughout time can encourage a culture to revise its moral standards. ★ Challenge to Cultural Relativism: It is not that moral standards of all cultures are equally good, but that moral standards are relative to conditions, not culture. Therefore, disagreements about moral standards (as conditions change) are possible. ★ e.g. [Condition] Due to 19th century industrialization and inventions of factories, U.S. and European governments made public schools available to convert the poor masses into efficient factory workers. Making education compulsory was considered an ethical act. 11
  12. 12. Time for a Play Exercise 1 To participate in this play exercise, please access the following Google Docs. http://bit.ly/gamesconditions 12
  13. 13. Let’s Play “We Become What We Behold” http://bit.ly/wbwwb3 13
  14. 14. Time for a Play Exercise 2 To participate in this play exercise, please access the following Google Docs. http://bit.ly/gamesconditions2 14
  15. 15. Let’s Play “Rations Please” http://bit.ly/rationsplease 15
  16. 16. Recommended Games Long form and story-rich indie games recommended for study of cultural conditions and the morality of actions. 16
  17. 17. 17 “Distraint” (Free + Ads) (Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PS 4, MS Windows, PS Vita, Steam)
  18. 18. 18 “My Child Lebensborn (Fount of Life)” ($2.99) (Android, iOS)
  19. 19. 19 “Beholder” ($9.99) (iOS, Android, MS Windows, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Linux, macOS, Steam)
  20. 20. 20 “Beholder 2” ($14.99) (MS Windows, Linux, macOS)
  21. 21. 21 “Pathologic 2” ($34.99) (PS 4, MS Windows, Xbox One, Steam)
  22. 22. 22 “Inside” ($19.99) (MS Windows, PS 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, iOS, Steam)
  23. 23. More Game Recommendations See my 2018 “Ethics and Games” series to discover more games that can be used to teach moral philosophies and theories of ethics. “Ethics and Games” http://bit.ly/ethicsandgames 23
  24. 24. 24 THANKS!Sherry Jones ★ Philosophy + Games Studies SME Instructor, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. ★ Steering Committee Board Member, International Game Developers Association (IGDA) - Learning, Games + Education. ★ Judge, Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) CODiE Awards - Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Games + Gamification in Education. ★ Officer, IEEE Computer, Information Theory + Robotics Society. ★ Twitter @ autnes ★ Bio @ http://bit.ly/sherryjonesbio ★ Slides @ http://bit.ly/playconditions
  25. 25. CREDITS Special thanks to all the people who made and released these awesome resources for free: ❑ Presentation template by SlidesCarnival ❑ Photographs by Unsplash 25

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