Aesthetics? Meet Ethics!

The history of western philosophy is a complex subject which takes 2-3 semesters of study at the undergrad level to cover in-depth. However, the pace of human knowledge is growing so rapidly in the 20th & 21st centuries that the academic environment is unable to keep pace with the blazing fast speed of software development.

That's cause for concern, because (almost) every field of study has branched off of philosophical musings and investigations in some way / shape / form. As they grow too large for the umbrella of philosophy to contain, they spin-off into their own field... it's happened with everything from science, to mathmatics, and even theology. At this point, the philosophers of [that field name] pick up the slack and continue to ask the important, difficult, prodding questions that underlie the work being done.

For the scientific world, the Philosophy of Science is there to make sure that white labcoats and goggles don't replace the church's robes and stoles. The type of questions which may be asked in this field might be something like: have we actually discovered the sub-atomic particles we set out to find (eg: the higgs bosen), or have we built tools that falsely reported things they were purpose-built to find? When it comes to aspects of subatomic and quantum particles, this is especially important because we can't see or experience what's being reported outside of a lab. So we're being asked to take a bigger "leap of faith" as science continues to advance.

In the realm of design and product development, the hard questions are a bit different. We don't face the same existential threat that searching for dark-matter and other unseen forces might invoke... but we need to ask real questions about what a responsible product development team, timeline, and iterative cycle looks like!

  • Does the team makeup represent the audience? If not, what are the risks (eg: perpetuating harmful stereotypes)?
  • How are minority experiences being considered? And not just racial or ethnographic experiences, but those relating to disability, neurodivergence, and even lack of access.
  • Is the team working under healthy conditions? If not, what are the risk for things like turnover and exhaustion on bugs, testing, and the stability?
  • Are you creating a healthy community around your product / ecosystem? And if not, how do you fix a toxic one?
  • Is the product you're designing solving a problem or improving some aspect of your users life? If not, what is it contributing?
  • And so on, forever and ever and ever!


Your Hosts & Author:

Mark Davis (host)

UX Design Lead @ Blizzard (, A11y advocate, NN/g Certified, & Philosophy B.A. (c/o 2008)

Along with their Philosophy degree, Mark minored in creative writing and theology. He then went on to get a B.F.A in Communication Design and has worked at several big companies like Kohl's, American Family Insurance, Northwestern Mutual, and Blizzard Entertainment.