Ethical Discussions

woman thinking about an ethical decision
Type: Vocabulary
Originally published on March 30, 2023 and last updated on May 14, 2023

In today’s interconnected world, the importance of understanding and engaging in ethical discussions cannot be overstated. For advanced English learners, participating in conversations about ethical dilemmas and questions provides an invaluable opportunity to not only expand their vocabulary but also to refine their language skills in a broader context.

Engaging in ethical conversations allows learners to explore complex ideas, express their opinions, and develop critical thinking skills, all while practicing English in a meaningful and thought-provoking way. Through grappling with ethical questions, advanced learners will become more confident and articulate speakers in any situation.

What is Ethics?

Ethics is the study of what is right and wrong, guiding our choices and behaviour in various aspects of life. It helps us determine the moral principles that govern how we interact with others and make decisions. In essence, ethics is the foundation of our values and the principles that shape our understanding of good and bad actions.

There are different ethical theories, such as utilitarianism, which focuses on the greatest good for the most significant number of people and deontology, which emphasises following rules and duties. Additionally, virtue ethics emphasises the development of good character traits.

By understanding and discussing ethics, we can better navigate complex situations and make informed choices. Engaging in ethical conversations allows people to improve their critical thinking skills and appreciate diverse perspectives.

Go through the vocabulary below with your students and ask them to try and use this vocabaulry where possible when discussing the different conversation questions.

Useful Vocabulary

Try and use the following vocabulary when answering the question. Click to look up the definition in the dictionary

  • be in two minds (idiom)
  • tough (adjective)
  • one the one hand (phrase)
  • difficulty (noun)
  • ethically (adverb)
  • unfair (adjective)
  • personally (adverb)

40 Ethical Questions

My Image
  • Is it ever okay to lie? If so, when and why?
  • Do you believe that everyone should have equal rights? Why or why not?
  • If you discovered that a popular product you use daily was produced unethically (e.g., using child labor or harming the environment), would you continue to use it? Why or why not?
  • Is it ethical to use animals for testing products or scientific research?
  • Should companies be allowed to patent life-saving medications, potentially limiting access to those who cannot afford them? Why or why not?
  • Should we always help someone in need, even if it puts ourselves at risk?
  • Is it ethical to prioritise the education of gifted students over those with learning difficulties or disabilities? Why or why not?
  • Do you think it's important to protect the environment? Why or why not?
  • Is it ethical to download or share copyrighted content (music, movies, etc.) without permission?
  • Do you believe that individuals have a moral obligation to vote in political elections? Why or why not?
  • Should people have the right to choose their own medical treatments, even if it could be dangerous to their health?
  • Is it ethical for companies to collect personal data about their customers for marketing purposes?
  • Should governments have the right to monitor and regulate the internet?
  • Is it acceptable to use social media to publicly shame someone for their behavior?
  • If you had the opportunity to take a high-paying job that went against your ethical beliefs, would you accept it? What factors would influence your decision?
  • Is it ethical to use performance-enhancing drugs in sports, even if they are legal?
  • If a close friend or family member asked you to lie for them to avoid getting into trouble, would you do it? Under what circumstances would you refuse?
  • Should wealthy individuals and corporations be required to donate a portion of their wealth to help those in need?
  • If you were given the ability to read people's minds, would you use it? How would you decide when and where to use this power ethically?
  • Is it ethical to eat meat, considering the impact on animal welfare and the environment?
  • Is capital punishment (the death penalty) morally justifiable in some cases? Why or why not?
  • If you could prevent a serious crime from happening by breaking the law yourself, would you do it? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe in the concept of "an eye for an eye" when it comes to justice? Why or why not?
  • Is it ethical for parents to use technology to track their children's location and online activity?
  • If you could travel back in time and change a historical event to prevent suffering, would you do it? Why or why not?
  • Should individuals have a right to physician-assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness?
  • If you had the power to eradicate one world problem (e.g., poverty, climate change, war) but had to sacrifice something significant in your life, would you do it? What would you be willing to give up?
  • Do you believe that companies have an ethical responsibility to address social issues, or should their primary focus be on making a profit?
  • Is it ethical to use genetic engineering to modify unborn babies for reasons other than preventing serious health problems?
  • If you found a lost wallet with a large amount of money, would you return it to its owner or keep the money? Why?
  • If you could create a perfect society, what ethical principles would you prioritize? How would you ensure these principles are upheld?
  • If you could save the life of a stranger by sacrificing something valuable (e.g., an expensive possession, your job, or a significant relationship), would you do it? What would be the tipping point for you?
  • Is it morally acceptable to prioritise the needs of your own country over the needs of other countries? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that it is ethical to impose economic sanctions on a country, even if it may lead to suffering for innocent civilians? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that certain types of speech should be censored or restricted to protect the well-being of individuals or society as a whole? Why or why not?
  • Is it ethical to use technology, such as AI or algorithms, to make important decisions that affect people's lives (e.g., hiring, medical diagnoses, criminal sentencing)? Why or why not?
  • Is it ethical for news organisations to report on individuals' private lives, even if it is of public interest? Where should the line be drawn?
  • Is it ethical to create and share deepfake videos or images, even if it's for entertainment purposes? What potential consequences should be considered?
  • Should parents be allowed to use genetic screening to select certain traits for their future children (e.g., intelligence, appearance, or talents)? Why or why not?
  • If you could create a perfect society, what ethical principles would you prioritize? How would you ensure these principles are upheld?
This conversation topic was prepared by Gregory

Gregory is a qualified TEFL teacher who has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (ESL) for over a decade. He has taught in-person classes in Spain and to English learners around the world online.