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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: DEBATING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

If principles of justice depend on the moral or intrinsic worth of the ends that rights serve, how should we deal with the fact that people hold different ideas and conceptions of what is good? Students address this question in a heated debate about same-sex marriage. Should same-sex marriage be legal? Can we settle the matter without discussing the moral permissibility of homosexuality or the purpose of marriage?

PART TWO: THE GOOD LIFE

Professor Sandel raises two questions. Is it necessary to reason about the good life in order to decide what rights people have and what is just? If so, how is it possible to argue about the nature of the good life? Students explore these questions with a discussion about the relation of law and morality, as played out in public controversies over same-sex marriage and abortion. Michael Sandel concludes his lecture series by making the point that, in many cases, the law cant be neutral on hard moral questions. Engaging rather than avoiding the moral convictions of our fellow citizens may be the best way of seeking a just society.

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