Michael Sandel - Philosophy and the Lost Art of Democratic Debate

In our modern world of social liberalism and libertarianism, we tend to think that questions of policy should be procedural rather than substantive: government should restrict itself to the protection of individual rights and the arbitration of conflict, and it should remain neutral with respect to moral issues. I think this approach is right for the most part, although it is usually driven by that relativistic wimpiness of which we should always be suspicious.

Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel, however, argues that we are deluding ourselves if we think we can extricate ourselves from substantive moral considerations when engaging in questions of public policy. Drawing on the work of Aristotle, Sandel argues, and rather persuasively at that, that moral considerations of justice are inevitably tied to other philosophical questions that get to the heart of our assumptions about social institutions. Starting with a debate about flutes, moving to a recent golf controversy that made it all the way to the Supreme Court, and ending with a discussion on gay marriage and the purpose of marriage, Sandel is able to show Aristotle's importance more than two millenia after his death.

Despite our positions on these particular positions, Professor Sandel rightly argues that it is high time the level of discourse in political debate resemble that of educated human beings and not the shouting matches so prevalent among pundits on TV.

If you're interested in these and other ethical questions, watch Professor Sandel's entire course on Justice.

Here is the list and links to all episodes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12..
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