Michael Sandel: Our Bodies in the Marketplace

Last year, Michael Sandel made a splash when he put online his popular Harvard philosophy course, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? Over the past 30 years, more than 14,000 Harvard students have taken his course. And now you can access the course online at no cost. (Details here.) In recent days, Sandel has surfaced one again, this time on Philosophy Bites (iTunesFeed – Web Site), a British podcast that features top philosophers being interviewed on bite-sized topics. In this conversation (listen here or below), Sandel and Nigel Warburton tackle some big questions: What are the limits of free market thinking, especially when it comes to what we can do with our bodies in the marketplace? Can we sell blood consensually? Perhaps. But what about selling our kidneys on the open market? Or “renting wombs”? (There are whole villages in India where women act as “paid surrogates” for Western couples.) Or what about consensual prostitution? Or engaging, however willingly, in degrading forms of wage labor? Are these inherent freedoms, as some free market/libertarian thinkers might hold? Or do these acts violate our collective sense of the “good life”? And do they diminish our freedoms in some kind of larger sense? The conversation gets more heated (in a good way) as it goes along. Give it some time, hang with it, and see what you think. For more philosophy, see our collection of Free Philosophy Courses.

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Comments (3)
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  • Pete says:

    Hey! I took his course, let’s see, 21 years ago.

  • Don says:

    Why would we want to go backward and give mythology another opportunity to fix or corrupt morality and impose it on humanity again? By allowing religion to remain in the debate makes the problem worse, and we see the skyline of New York each day as evidence of it.

  • Dane says:

    Has anyone seen Sandel’s course on Justice at Harvard. The guy is such a great speaker and the topic is fascinating. He talks about murder and cannibalism in the first episode. They are kind of long, but definitely worth watching if you like his work.

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