Cheating, Gaming and Rule Fixing: Challenges for Ethics across the Adversarial Professions (2018-2019)

Ethics scholars have studied the ethical conundrums faced by a number of “adversarial” domains, or professions and institutions designed to harness competition for social benefits, such as business, law, politics, sports and scientific research. This research has identified a range of overlapping ethical problems, but each domain uses distinct models, concepts, approaches and principles for promoting compliance with rules and norms of fair play.

Because there is almost no scholarship that compares these models across the adversarial professions, there is little cross-pollination of conceptual innovations and best practices. This project team sought to bridge the gap between different domains by exploring the foundational principles at the core of these vital systems and institutions.

Breaking into sub-teams, each of which was focused on one adversarial domain, the team developed in-depth case studies to outline and understand each domain’s approach to ethics. Research questions for each case study included:

  • How the domain’s scholars of professional ethics justify the role of competition in that domain, to characterize the normative problems generated by competition and justify norms and principles for taming competitive excesses
  • How universities and professional schools (including athletic departments) try to educate current and future practitioners and professionals to behave more ethically or better manage the ethics within their organizations
  • How government regulators, professional associations and other sources of nongovernmental regulation set standards and codes of ethics to ensure and enforce compliance

The resulting case studies (including one on securities law and Tesla and one in development on sports betting) were designed to be included in a future multidisciplinary undergraduate course at Duke.


Summer 2018 – Spring 2019  

Team Outputs 

Tesla’s Elon Musk: A Tweet to Burn the Shorts? Part A (case study by Tanya Smith)

From Cornering to Cornered: The Hunt Brothers’ Adventures in the Silver Market (case study by Tanya Smith)

This Team in the News

Senior Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2021

Sports Gambling: The Costs, Benefits and Ethical Implications of Legalization

From Cornering to Cornered: The Hunt Brothers’ Adventures in the Silver Market

Meet the 2019 Recipients of Bass Connections Student Research Awards

A Tweet to Burn the Shorts? 

Support for this project was provided by the Silver Family Kenan Institute for Ethics Fund in Support of Bass Connections.


Team Leaders

  • Doriane Coleman, Duke Law
  • Wayne Norman, Arts & Sciences-Philosophy

/graduate Team Members

  • Towqir Aziz, Bioethics and Sci Policy - AM
  • Ewan Kingston, Philosophy-PHD
  • Anyi Ma, Business Administration-PHD
  • Tanya Smith, Juris Doctor
  • Valerie-Jean Soon, Philosophy-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Jason Kwak, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Mikayla Lerman, Psychology (BS)
  • Neelesh Pandey, Economics (BS)
  • Emile Therrien, Biology (BS)
  • Yiran Wang, Statistical Science (BS)