Volume 5: Spring 2020

Table of Contents



Editing Team back to top

Editor in Chief

Parker Robertson ’20 is a senior from Bend, OR. At Washington and Lee, he devotes the majority of his time to involvement in the Williams Investment Society and the Real Estate Society. Additionally, Robertson is a member of the Peer Counseling Steering Committee, President of the German Club, and a member of Kathekon. Beyond academic and extracurricular interests, Robertson enjoys hiking, playing tennis, and volunteering in the community. He is pursuing a double major in Business Administration and German with a minor in Philosophy. Robertson loves to travel and has studied abroad in Munich, Berlin, Paris, and Vienna. After graduation, Robertson will start working as an Investment Management Analyst with a bulge bracket bank in Manhattan.

Assistant Editor

Clare Perry ’21 is a junior from Richmond, Virginia. She is pursuing a double major in History and Philosophy with a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. At Washington and Lee, Clare dedicates her time to her role as CEO of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta and Washington and Lee’s Ethics Bowl team. She also works in Special Collections, the university’s archive, assisting students and community members with research. Clare loves to travel and spent her fall semester this year abroad in Barcelona, Spain. After graduation, she plans on attending law school.


Stanton Geyer ’20 is a senior from Dallas, TX. Broadly interested in geopolitics and humanitarian issues, he focused his extracurricular time in student organizations like Amnesty International, where he served in various officer positions throughout his four years. Stanton served similarly in the Middle East Club and W&L College Democrats, and was a member of the Student Association for Black Unity. He is completing a Global Politics Major and two minors, in Arabic language and Philosophy. Geyer seeks a professional career in political research relevant to the Eastern Mediterranean region. He spent his first three undergraduate summers studying first in Oxford, UK, and then in Lebanon and Egypt.

Sierra Terrana ’20 is a senior from Tampa, FL majoring in English Literature with a minor in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies. She loves books, traveling, and language study and is excited to begin law school following graduation.

Chad Thomas ’21 is a junior from Wiesbaden, Germany majoring in Philosophy and Mathematics. He is serving his second term as the Class of 2021 Representative to the Executive Committee and serves as Vice Chair of the Traveller safe-ride program. Growing up in Germany and in various states across the U.S., Thomas has an affinity for everything from skiing and hiking to sailing and surfing. He studied abroad in Ghana two years ago, producing a short documentary for a non-profit organization. Thomas has interned with the Department of State and hopes to continue working for the federal government in the future.

Kushali Kumar ’22 is a junior from Lucknow, India. At Washington and Lee, she is involved in Amnesty Group, is a member of Ethics Bowl Philosophy debate team and Student Association for International Learning, and worked at the Office of Inclusion and Engagement. Beyond academic and extracurricular interests, Kushali enjoys kayaking, playing badminton, Bollywood dancing and volunteering in the community. She has a passion for music and can play eight instruments and sing in fourteen languages. She is pursuing a major in Economics with a double minor in Philosophy and Poverty and Human Capability Studies. She is studying abroad her junior year at London School of Economics. Kushali loves to travel and has studied and lived in thirteen different cities in her life, including Pune, Copenhagen, Freiburg im Breisgau, and Amesterdam.

Max Gebauer ’22 is a sophomore Philosophy major and Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor from Farmville, Virginia. At Washington and Lee, he devotes his time to the Ethics Bowl team, Amnesty International club, and his fraternity. Gebauer is planning to spend his junior year at Oxford University and plans on attending graduate school in philosophy after graduation.

Ben Hess ’23 is a first-year from Pittsburgh, PA. At Washington and Lee, he spends the majority of his time fulfilling his roles as a Fellow to the Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation and Jumper on the Men’s Track & Field Team. Around the community, he serves as a coach for RARO’s River Runners, instructor for Waddell’s Latin Enrichment Club, and volunteer for Rockbridge’s Habitat for Humanity. Hess is pursuing a major in the Classics with minors in Archaeology and Film & Visual Culture Studies. Currently, he is serving as the Director of Ministry for Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, AK. He hopes to pursue graduate coursework in Classical Philology and will be studying abroad in both Rome and Athens his sophomore year.

Anna Hurst ’22 is a sophomore from Louisville, Kentucky. She is majoring in English and minoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is also a member of the women’s track and field team. This summer, she will work as a file clerk in a law firm.

Tyler Bernard ’23 is a first-year from Short Hills, New Jersey. He plays varsity soccer and is a member of the campus environmental organization, SEAL, and enjoyed researching voting patterns in Ohio for 2020’s Mock Convention. He plans on double majoring in Environmental Studies and Philosophy, with a minor in Creative Writing. Besides soccer and academics, he likes to hike, read, and hopes to travel during his time at Washington and Lee.

About the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics back to top

The Roger Mudd Center for Ethics was established in 2010 through a gift to the Uni versity from award-winning journalist Roger Mudd. When he made his gift, Mudd said that "given the state of ethics in our current culture, this seems a fitting time to endow a center for the study of ethics, and my university is its fitting home."

Today, the Mudd Center furthers that study of ethics by organizing rigorous, interdis­ciplinary programming. In addition to welcoming distinguished lecturers throughout the year to speak on ethical issues, the Mudd Center also sponsors and organizes ethics-based conferences, professional ethics institutes, and other public events that further discussion and thought about ethics among students, faculty, and staff at Washington and Lee and beyond.

About Roger Mudd back to top

Roger Mudd graduated from Washington and Lee University with a degree in History in 1950. Mudd’s distinguished career in television journalism includes positions at CBS, NBC, PBS, and the History Channel. He has won five Emmy Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awards, and the Joan S. Barone Award for Distinguished Washington Reporting. Mudd serves on the board of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) and helped establish the VFIC Ethics Bowl, an annual competition in which teams from Virginia’s private colleges and universities debate ethical issues. He is also a member of the advisory committee for Washington and Lee’s department of Journalism and Mass Communications, and is an honored benefactor of Washington and Lee.

Letter from the Editor back to top

On March 6, 2020, five undergraduate students convened in Lexington, VA to discuss the contents of their contributions to this Journal. Traveling from Boston, MA, London, England and, in one case, speaking to us via video from a study abroad program, these scholars presented on topics rooted in ethics. Over the weekend, a wide variety of topics were explored, ranging from the individual moral obligation to act on climate change to a discussion regarding the ethics of seeking revenge in certain circumstances.

The fifth annual Mudd Conference was engaging and thought-provoking. The papers presented and the ethical ideas contained within these papers were of excellent academic quality. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the discussion generated from each paper was fascinating– resonating with both the speakers and the audience members in attendance. The publication of this edition of the Mudd Journal is our attempt to convey the contents of these important discussions to our readers.

Although the papers delve into a range of topics, they all ultimately share the same goal: to make the reader pause, think, and reflect. Essays on meritocracy and its effect on distributive justice ask us to consider the impact of the arrangement of society on individual outcomes. Essays on mental health and stoicism call us to re-examine how we assign value to personhood. Essays on seeking revenge challenge the notion that retaliation is always immoral. Finally, essays on the individual moral imperative to address climate change serve as calls to action and prompt the reader to critically contemplate the future of our climate and planet. We are extremely pleased to publish each of these excellent works in our journal.

The fifth annual Mudd Undergraduate Conference in Ethics was the last University event to host out-of-state guests before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the University to transition to a virtual learning environment. In the ensuing weeks and months after this conference, the world endured the most devastating pandemic since the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918. While grappling with the paradigm-altering reality of the pandemic, the United States confronted issues of racial inequality following the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, among many other Black Americans killed by the police in 2020. Large-scale protests ensued, demanding racial justice and decrying police violence.

It is precisely in moments like these that we must critically examine ethical dilemmas. One of the lesser-known mottos of Washington and Lee University is “Omnia Pro Autem Bate,” which loosely translates to “Question Everything.” Students of ethics must continue to strive to do exactly that. Society may be divided on many issues, and it might appear that this divisiveness is growing even more pronounced, but scholars must continue to critically explore and discuss ethics if progress is to be made.

The Mudd Journal of Ethics is the product of extraordinary effort on behalf of numerous individuals whom I would be remiss not to thank. Amy Jarrett of the Mudd Center was instrumental in organizing and executing the Mudd Conference and the publication of this journal. Her organizational prowess, attention to detail, and kind demeanor are incredibly appreciated. Mary Woodson and Denise Watts of the Publications Department at Washington and Lee have both been essential in our effort to create an attractive journal that we are proud to publish. I am proud to thank the editorial staff for their thoughtful insights as we read each of the paper submissions, provided feedback, and ultimately made the difficult decision of selecting the papers to be included in this edition of the Mudd Journal: Clare Perry, Stanton Geyer, Sierra Terrana, Chad Thomas, Kushali Kumar, Max Gebauer, Ben Hess, Anna Hurst, and Tyler Bernard. The creation of this journal would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our editorial staff.

Finally, I would like to thank Professor Brian Murchison, Director of the Mudd Center for Ethics. Professor Murchison is a guiding force for the Mudd Center– his infectious enthusiasm, never-ending dedication, and tireless support made the Conference and publication of this journal possible. It was an honor to work with a scholar and philosopher of his caliber.

I hope that the reader will enjoy this excellent collection of ethics-based scholarship from undergraduate philosophers across the country. Take your time as you read; pause, think, and reflect. Each paper’s ideas are important, and we are honored to present them here, in this fifth volume of The Mudd Journal. I hope the reader is inspired by this journal to engage in their own pursuit of ethical Truth. Now, more than ever, the world needs scholars to question everything.

Parker Robertson '20