Justice: What's The Right Thing to Do?
This series invites viewers to think critically about the fundamental questions of justice, equality, democracy and citizenship. Each week, more than 1000 students attend the lectures of Harvard University professor and author Michael Sandel, eager to expand their understanding of political and moral philosophy, as well as test long-held beliefs. Students learn about the great philosophers of the past - Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Locke - then apply the lessons to complex and sometimes volatile modern-day issues, including affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism, loyalty and human rights. Sandel's teaching approach involves presenting students with an ethical dilemma - some hypothetical, others actual cases - then asking them to decide "what's the right thing to do?"
Justice: What's The Right Thing to Do? Previous Broadcasts
KQED Plus: Sun, Jan 31, 2010 -- 12:00 PM
Lecture Twenty-Two: If principles of justice depend on the moral or intrinsic worth of the ends that rights serve, how does society deal with the fact that people hold different ideas and conceptions of what is good? Using the example of same-sex marriage, students debate whether it is possible to detach moral permissibility of sexuality from the end or purpose of marriage.
Lecture Twenty-Three: Professor Sandel raises two questions. Is it necessary to reason about the good life in order to decide what is just and what rights people have? And if that's the case, is it possible to argue or to reason about the nature of the good life? Students debate these questions with a further discussion about government's role in deciding the purpose of marriage. Michael Sandel concludes his lecture series by making the point that we, as individuals, may never agree on many moral philosophical issues. However, he argues, on the one hand the debate about these issues is unavoidable. And on the other hand, it is a worthwhile opportunity for all of us to better appreciate the values of others.
KQED Plus: Sun, Jan 24, 2010 -- 12:00 PM
Lecture Twenty-One: Professor Sandel presents Immanuel Kant's and John Rawl's objections to Aristotle who believe that individuals should be free and capable of choosing his or her ends. This leads to an introduction to the communitarian view. As individuals, how do we weigh our obligations to family against our obligations to community and to our country?
Lecture Twenty-Two Professor Sandel leads a discussion about the arguments for and against our obligations of solidarity and membership in the smaller community of family and the larger community of the society at large. Using various scenarios, students debate whether and when loyalty outweighs duty.
KQED Plus: Sun, Jan 17, 2010 -- 12:00 PM
Lecture Nineteen: Aristotle's theory of justice leads to a contemporary debate about golf, specifically "the purpose" of golf. Students debate whether the PGA was wrong in not allowing a disabled golfer, Casey Martin, to use a golf cart during professional tournaments.
Lecture Twenty: Sandel addresses one of the most glaring objections to Aristotle's views on freedom ' his defense of slavery. Students discuss other objections to Aristotle's theories and debate whether his philosophy limits the freedom of individuals.
KQED Plus: Sun, Jan 10, 2010 -- 12:00 PM
Lecture Seventeen: Students discuss the issue of affirmative action and college admissions. Is it "just" for schools to consider race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions? Does it violate individual rights? Or is it as equal, and as arbitrary, as favoring a star athlete? Is the argument in favor of promoting diversity a valid one? How does it size up against the argument that a student's efforts and achievements should carry more weight?
Lecture Eighteen: Sandel introduces Aristotle's theory of justice which, simply put, is giving people what they are due, what they deserve. Aristotle argues that when considering issues of distribution, one must consider the goal, the end, the purpose of what is being distributed. For him, it's a matter of fitting a person's virtues with their appropriate roles.
KQED Plus: Sun, Jan 3, 2010 -- 12:00 PM
Lecture Fifteen: John Rawls applied his 'veil of ignorance' theory to social and economic equality issues, as well as fair governance. He asks, if every citizen had to weigh in on the issue of redistributive taxation -- without knowing whether they would end up as one of the poor or one of the wealthy members of society ' wouldn't most of us prefer to eliminate our financial risks and agree to an equal distribution of wealth?
Lecture Sixteen: Professor Sandel recaps the three different theories raised so far, concerning how income, wealth, and opportunities in life should be distributed. He summarizes libertarianism, the meritocratic system, and the egalitarian theory. This leads to a discussion of the fairness of pay differentials in today's society. Sandel compares the salary of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ($200,00) with the salary of Judge Judy ($25 million). Sandel asks, is this fair? And if not, why not? Sandel explains how John Rawls believes that personal 'success' is more often a function of arbitrary issues for which we can claim no credit: luck, genetic good fortune, positive family circumstances. But what of effort ' the individual who strives harder and longer to succeed ' how should his/her 'effort' be valued?