In Harry’s thread on teaching applied ethics, one commenter expressed the view that teachers should not say which side they support in a debate and should think of themselves as acting as lawyers for both sides. I think Harry sort of agreed with the first point. However, this isn’t always possible and sometimes isn’t even desirable. It won’t be possible when you have expressed yourself publicly and in-print on the issue at hand. When you have, then students will know what you think. Sure, you can present the best counter-arguments to your view in their best light, and you should, and you should encourage disagreement (and discourage unwarranted praise). But they’ll still know.

Some cases, though, are more resistant to impartiality. Take the ethics of migration, for example. I don’t find it hard to present arguments for restriction as put by people like David Miller or Christopher Heath Wellmann. So to that extent, even where the students know where I stand, they also know that I think there are philosophically respectable people whose arguments need addressing and that if they agree with, say, Miller, rather than me, that’s OK. Much more difficult, I find, is when we get onto state enforcement of immigration policy. The problem here is that even the restrictionists hedge their support for restriction with an acknowledgement that states must respect human rights and the values embodied in the rule of law.
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