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Wisdom Level:  Beginner

Overview:

‘Justice’ is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history. Professor Michael Sandel hosts a series of talks that discuss various ethical and moral challenges where our views about right and wrong will often blur depending on the circumstances.

Commentary:

PART ONE: THE GOOD CITIZEN

Aristotle believes the purpose of politics is to promote and cultivate the virtue of its citizens. The telos or goal of the state and political community is the good life. And those citizens who contribute most to the purpose of the community are the ones who should be most rewarded. But how do we know the purpose of a community or a practice? Aristotles theory of justice leads to a contemporary debate about golf. Sandel describes the case of Casey Martin, a disabled golfer, who sued the PGA after it declined his request to use a golf cart on the PGA Tour. The case leads to a debate about the purpose of golf and whether a players ability to walk the course is essential to the game.

PART TWO: FREEDOM VS. FIT

How does Aristotle address the issue of individual rights and the freedom to choose? If our place in society is determined by where we best fit, doesn’t that eliminate personal choice? What if I am best suited to do one kind of work, but I want to do another? In this lecture, Sandel addresses one of the most glaring objections to Aristotles views on freedom—his defense of slavery as a fitting social role for certain human beings. Students discuss other objections to Aristotles theories and debate whether his philosophy overly restricts the freedom of individuals.

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