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Morality as taught in the IVY LEAGUE - FOR REAL

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Posted 03 August 2011 - 11:21 PM

While the last couple of lectures may leave on wondering how far professor Sandel will go in pitching fair distribution, this lecture goes all the way by discussing the thorny issue of whether reparations are due racial and ethnic groups for travesties such as slavery or genocide. But before you get to comfortable, the tone changes with Aristotle's vision of justice ... that being the best flute player deserves the best flute - in other words the people should get what they deserve and the most deserving should get the best; the least deserving should get nothing.

Oh well, that may not make some folks feel as comfortable as I originally thought.

Part 1
Sandel describes the 1996 court case of a white woman named Cheryl Hopwood who was denied admission to a Texas law school, even though she had higher grades and test scores than some of the minority applicants who were admitted. Hopwood took her case to court, arguing the schools affirmative action program violated her rights. Students discuss the pros and cons of affirmative action. Should we try to correct for inequality in educational backgrounds by taking race into consideration? Should we compensate for historical injustices such as slavery and segregation? Is the argument in favor of promoting diversity a valid one? How does it size up against the argument that a students efforts and achievements should carry more weight than factors that are out of his or her control and therefore arbitrary? When a universitys stated mission is to increase diversity, is it a violation of rights to deny a white person admission?


Sandel introduces Aristotle and his theory of justice. Aristotle disagrees with Rawls and Kant. He believes that justice is about giving people their due, what they deserve. When considering matters of distribution, Aristotle argues one must consider the goal, the end, the purpose of what is being distributed. The best flutes, for example, should go to the best flute players. And the highest political offices should go to those with the best judgment and the greatest civic virtue. For Aristotle, justice is a matter of fitting a persons virtues with an appropriate role.

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