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Morality as taught in the IVY LEAGUE - FOR REAL

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Posted 04 August 2011 - 11:23 PM

This lecture seeks to explore the claims a community can make on the individual.

For instance, as a journalist, I'm often accused of being disloyal to others including individuals and even groups probably in large part because journalists are about telling stories that often, those in these groups, wish would not be told.

This is because of the differing value systems that exist between differing groups.

Issues explored in this lecture include examples like the brother who sees his brother shoplift at a store or cheat on a test. While shoplifting and cheating are both undesirable acts and you'd surely report those you don't like, love or respect, why, other than loyalty, would you not rat out your 'blood.' Or maybe you shouldn't. To me it is the juxtaposition of these values in conflict that is both troubling and productive.

Professor Sandel presents Kants objections to Aristotles theory. Kant believes politics must respect individual freedom. People must always respect other peoples freedom to make their own choices—a universal duty to humanity—but for Kant, there is no other source of moral obligation. The discussion of Kants view leads to an introduction to the communitarian philosophy. Communitarians argue that, in addition to voluntary and universal duties, we also have obligations of membership, solidarity, and loyalty. These obligations are not necessarily based on consent. We inherit our past, and our identities, from our family, city, or country. But what happens if our obligations to our family or community come into conflict with our universal obligations to humanity?


Professor Sandel leads a discussion about the arguments for and against obligations of solidarity and membership. Do we owe more to our fellow citizens that to citizens of other countries? Is patriotism a virtue, or a prejudice for ones own kind? If our identities are defined by the particular communities we inhabit, what becomes of universal human rights? Using various scenarios, students debate whether or not obligations of loyalty can ever outweigh universal duties of justice.

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