The Moral Side of Murder / The Case for Cannibalism

SUN, SEP 13, 2009 (54:57)

Lecture One: “The Moral Side of Murder” If you had to choose between killing one person or five, what would you do? What’s the right thing to do? Professor Michael Sandel launches into his lecture series by presenting students with a hypothetical scenario that has the majority of students voting for killing one person in order to save the lives of five others. But then Sandel presents three similar moral conundrums – each one artfully designed to make the decision increasingly complex. As students stand up to defend their conflicting choices, Sandel’s point is made. The assumptions behind our moral reasoning are often contradictory, and the question of what is right and what is wrong is not always black and white. Lecture Two: “The Case for Cannibalism” Sandel introduces the principles of Utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, with a famous 19th century law case involving a shipwrecked crew of four. After 19 days lost at sea, the captain decides to kill the cabin boy, the weakest amongst them, so they can feed on his blood and body to survive. The case leads to a debate among students about the moral validity of the Utilitarian theory of maximizing overall happiness – often summed up with the slogan “the greatest good for the greatest number”.

+ 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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