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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