Michael Sandel

  • Aired:  07/20/11
  •  | Views: 29,868

Michael Sandel uses real-world examples to test big philosophical concepts and ethical questions about justice and cannibalism. (7:10)

EVERYBODY.

THANK YOU.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS A HARVARD

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY.

I'LL ASK HIM, WHAT IS THE SOUND

OF ONE AUDIENCE CLAPPING?

PLEASE WELCOME MICHAEL SANDELL.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU.

PROFESSOR, PLEASE, SIT DOWN.

ALL RIGHT.

SIR, LET'S GET THE CRM V. OUT

HERE.

IT'S KIND OF IMPRESSIVE FOR

THOSE WHO LIKE THINGS.

YOU'RE A PROFESSOR AT HARVARD,

SO YOU'RE SMARTY PANTS.

YOU HAVE THOUGHT POLITICAL

PHILOSOPHY SINCE 1980.

YOU TEACH A SPECIAL

UNDERGRADUATE COURT CALLED

"JUSTICE."

15,000 STUDENTS HAVE TAKEN IT SO

FAR.

YOU CAN WATCH THIS ON YOUTUBE.

YOU CAN BUY THE WHOLE THING ON

D.V.D.

"JUSTICE: WHAT IS THE RIGHT

THING TO DO."

I'LL BITE.

WHAT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO?

[LAUGHTER]

I GOT MY OWN ANSWER, BUT WHAT'S

YOUR ANSWER, SMARTY PANTS.

YEAH.

COME ON, YOU'RE THE TEACHER.

>> WELL, ESPECIALLY I TEACH BY

ASKING STUDENTS QUESTIONS.

>> Stephen: FIRE AWAY.

>> ALL RIGHT.

SHALL WE TRY ONE?

>> Stephen: YEAH.

>> OKAY.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ OF THE YANKEES...

>> Stephen: SUCKS.

DID I GET THAT RIGHT?

DID I GET THAT RIGHT?

OVERPAID.

IS THAT THE ANSWER?

>> YOU KNOW WHAT HE MAKES, $25

MILLION A YEAR.

AN AVERAGE SCHOOLTEACHER.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE

SCHOOLTEACHER MAKE?

>> Stephen: $1.45.

[LAUGHTER]

>> ABOUT 45,000 A YEAR.

IS THAT FAIR?

>> Stephen: YES.

WHAT IS THE TEACHER'S BATTING

AVERAGE?

[LAUGHTER]

>> PROBABLY HIGHER THAN A-ROD'S

RIGHT NOW, BUT WHY... [AUDIENCE

REACTS]

>> Stephen: YEP.

>> WHY DOES A-ROD DESERVE TO

MAKE THAT MUCH MORE THAN A

SCHOOLTEACHER?

>> IT IS WHAT THE MARKET WILL

BEAR.

THE MARKET ALWAYS MAKES THE

RIGHT DECISION.

>> YOU THINK?

>> Stephen: CHECKMATE I THINK.

I THINK THAT WAS JUST CHECKMATE.

>> WELL, IT'S A GOOD ANSWER.

>> Stephen: THANK YOU.

>> BUT WHY?

THE INVISIBLE HAND OF THE MARKET

MEASURES WHAT PEOPLE WANT.

>> Stephen: EXACTLY.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO PAY

FOR.

>> RIGHT.

>> Stephen: IF HE WASN'T WORTH

IT, HE WOULDN'T GET IT.

AND KEEP IN MIND, I DON'T KNOW

WHAT QED MEANS.

>> BUT YOU SAID BEFORE HE'S WAY

OVERPAID.

HOW CAN THAT BE?

>> Stephen: I'M GOING TO EDIT

THAT PART OUT.

>> OKAY.

[LAUGHTER]

SO THIS IS HOW IT WORKS, BUT

ULTIMATELY WE DON'T JUST STOP

WITH A-ROD'S SALARY AND THE

SCHOOLTEACHER'S, WE USE THOSE

EXAMPLES TO TEST BIG

PHILOSOPHICAL IDEAS, JUSTICE,

FAIRNESS, INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS,

PROPERTY RIGHTS, THE MEANING OF

THE COMMON GOOD, WHAT IS IT TO

BE A CITIZEN.

SO WHAT THE BOOK DOES AND WHAT

THE COURSE DOES IS TO TRY TO

CONNECT BIG IDEAS OF PHILOSOPHY

WITH THE ARGUMENTS WE HAVE ABOUT

POLITICS AND ABOUT ETHICS EVERY

DAY.

AND MY HUNCH IS THAT IF WE DID

THAT IN OUR PUBLIC LIFE MORE

GENERALLY, OUR POLITICAL DEBATES

WOULD GO A LOT BETTER THAN

THEY'RE GOING TODAY.

>> Stephen: NOW I HAPPEN TO

THINK THAT THE ANSWER TO "WHAT

IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO" IS IT

IS GENERALLY THAT THING THAT YOU

LEAST WANT TO DO.

[LAUGHTER]

IT'S THE THING THAT NEVER FALLS

OFF YOUR LIST BUT IS ALWAYS AT

THE BOTTOM OF YOUR LIST.

AND YOU'RE ALWAYS LOOKING THE

PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT.

IS THAT ANYWHERE IN YOUR

EQUATION?

>> NO.

NO.

[LAUGHTER]

NO.

BUT IT IS SOMETIMES HARD TO DO

THE RIGHT THING.

AND THE CHALLENGE FOR POLITICS

AND FOR MORAL REASONING IS TO

SEE IF WE CAN DO A BETTER

JONATHAN WE ARE DOING THESE DAYS

AT REASONING, EVEN DISAGREEING

TOGETHER PUBLICLY ABOUT BIG

MORAL QUESTIONS.

SO WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO IN THE

BOOK AND IN THIS COURSE AND IN

THE ONLINE SERIES IS TO PROVOKE

AND INVITE NOT ONLY STUDENTS BUT

ALSO THE PUBLIC TO ADDRESS OUR

DISAGREEMENTS IN A WAY THAT

TAKES ON THESE BIG QUESTIONS.

>> Stephen: YOU LET THE PUBLIC

SEE THIS, BECAUSE I CAN GO ON

THE YOUTUBE AND WATCH THIS

LECTURE SERIES FOR FREE, AND

IT'S A FREE COURSE ON JUSTICE.

WOULD A STUDENT WHOSE FAMILY

PAID $50,000 TO GO TO HARVARD

FEEL LIKE THAT IS JUST?

[LAUGHTER]

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

>> I HOPE SOME

>> Stephen: YOU'RE BIG IN

ASIA, RIGHT?

THE ASIAN, AND I BELIEVE THAT'S

THE CORRECT TERM, I DON'T KNOW

WHAT THE P.C. TERM IS NOW,

ASIANS, CHINESE ARE JUST

GOBBLING UP THIS BOOK.

IS THE BOOK THE SAME FOR ASIANS

OR ARE THERE DIFFERENT QUESTIONS

OF WHAT IS JUST OR UNJUST IN

THOSE SOCIETIES?

>> WELL, THE BOOK IS THE SAME

EXCEPT THAT IT'S IN CHINESE

THERE, BUT THE ISSUE...

>> Stephen: THAT'S GOOD

MARKETING.

[LAUGHTER]

>> BUT I'VE BEEN ASTONISHED BY

THE REACTION IN EAST ASIA

GENERALLY NEW YORK CHINA AND

JAPAN AND KOREA.

I THINK IT'S BECAUSE THERE IS A

GREAT HUNGER FOR ENGAGEMENT WITH

BIG ETHICAL QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.

>> Stephen: LET'S TALK ABOUT

THESE ETHICAL QUESTIONS.

YOU POSE VERY HARD ETHICAL

QUESTIONS TO YOUR STUDENTS,

QUESTIONS LIKE CANNIBALISM.

HOW DO YOU POSE THAT QUESTION?

>> WELL, IF YOU WERE STUCK IN A

LIFEBOAT, AND THIS IS A TRUE

STORY, STUCK IN A LIFEBOAT, FOUR

SAILORS, THEY'RE STARVING, DAYS

AND DAYS PASS AND THE CABIN BOY

IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LIFEBOAT

ILL.

THE ONLY WAY THEY FEEL THEY CAN

SURVIVE, THE THREE OTHERS, IS TO

KILL AND EAT THE CABIN BOY.

WOULD THAT BE THE RIGHT THING TO

DO?

>> Stephen: IS HE WELL

MARBLED?

>> THAT'S TERRIBLE.

>> Stephen: YOU NEED TO KNOW

IF HE'S DELICIOUS.

[LAUGHTER]

>> THAT'S AWFUL.

>> Stephen: YES, ABSOLUTELY.

[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]

IT'S YOUR QUESTION.

IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO EAT

THE CABIN BOY.

YOU'RE THE ONE WHO SAID, THAT

GUY OVER THERE IS EASY PREY.

WHO IS THE SICK ONE HERE.

SO I WOULD SAY NO, IT'S NOT

RIGHT.

>> WHY NOT?

>> Stephen: BECAUSE IF I DO IT

TO HIM, SOMEBODY MIGHT DO IT TO

ME NEXT.

>> THEY MIGHT.

BUT YOU'RE...

>> Stephen: YOU SAY THEY

MIGHT.

OBVIOUSLY I'M NEXT.

LOOK AT ME.

I'M DELICIOUS.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

>> WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

>> Stephen: THANK YOU,

PROFESSOR.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL SANDELL.

THE BOOK IS "JUSTICE: WHAT'S THE

RIGHT THING TO DO."

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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