Justice - What Is the Right Thing to Do?

Episode 10. Aristotle's teleological understanding of the universe made him think of social and political institutions in terms of goals and purposes. If you understand the telos of a particular institution or practice, then you would also understand the appropriate means to ensure the excellence of said practice. Politics, for Aristotle, was the art concerned with the promotion of virtue and citizenship, and so a just society is one in which those who contribute most to the goals of the community are to be rewarded best.

Now, you might be asking yourself a very sensible question: how do we know the telos of some particular practice? Professor Sandel tries to make sense of this approach to considerations of justice by entertaining the case of Casey Martin, a disabled golfer who sued the PGA after it declined his request to use a golf cart on their tour. His case raises the question of the essential nature of golf and its purpose. Here's my take on it, and Professor Sandel seems to agree. Sorry golfers :)

Now, we all tend to think that freedom, justice and equality are worthwhile goals. The problem, however, is that to a large extent these concepts are inversely proportional to each other: that is to say, the more you have of one, the less you'll probably get of the others. Aristotle's approach to justice is no exception. If a just and prosperous society requires that individuals be assigned goals appropriate to their natural abilities, what room is there for personal choice and freedom? Worse still, if some people are naturally predisposed to slavery, as Aristotle thought, is there some way of rescuing the Aristotelian framework without having to accept slavery as a just practice?


Episode list: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
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