A Lesson in Lying / A Deal Is A Deal

SUN, OCT 25, 2009 (55:05)

Lecture Thirteen: “A Lesson in Lying” Immanuel Kant’s stringent theory of morality allows for no exceptions; he believed that telling a lie, even a white lie, is a violation of one’s own dignity. His theory is put to the test with a hypothetical case. If your friend was hiding inside your home, and a killer knocked on your door asking where he was, what could you say to him – without lying – that would also save the life of your friend? This leads to a discussion of “misleading truths” – and the example of how President Clinton used precise language to deny having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, without outright lying to the public. Lecture Fourteen: “A Deal Is A Deal” Sandel introduces the modern philosopher John Rawls and his theory of a “hypothetical contract.” Rawls argues that the only way to achieve the most just and fair principles of governance is if all legislators came to the bargaining table in a position of equality. Imagine if they were all behind a “veil of ignorance” – if their individual identities were temporarily unknown to them (their race, class, personal interests) and they had to agree on a set of laws together. Then and only then, Rawls argues, could a governing body agree upon truly fair principles of justice.

+ BIO: Michael Sandel

Michael Sandel has been teaching philosophy at Harvard since 1980. He has published six books, on topics including democracy, liberalism, bioethics, and morality in politics. Professor Sandel received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar. His writings have been translated into ten foreign languages and have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, and The New York Times. From 2002 to 2005, he served on the President’s Council on Bioethics. He has received three honorary degrees, as well as four fellowships from the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Sandel has delivered lectures throughout North America, Europe, India, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and China.

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