Harvard has rolled out Week 2 of Michael Sandel’s course on Justice. Courtesy of the course web site, here’s a synopsis of what you can expect from Episode 2. New lectures are getting rolled out weekly. Check the Harvard web site for new additions.
Part 1 – PUTTING A PRICE TAG ON LIFE: Sandel presents some contemporary cases in which cost-benefit analysis was used to put a dollar value on human life. The cases give rise to several objections to the utilitarian logic of seeking “the greatest good for the greatest number.” Is it possible to sum up and compare all values using a common measure like money?
Part 2 – HOW TO MEASURE PLEASURE: Sandel introduces J. S. Mill, a utilitarian philosopher who argues that seeking “the greatest good for the greatest number” is compatible with protecting individual rights, and that utilitarianism can make room for a distinction between higher and lower pleasures. Sandel tests this theory by playing video clips from three very different forms of entertainment: Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the reality show Fear Factor, and The Simpsons.