University of Texas at El Paso
Justice with Michel Sandel
Harvard university professor Dr. Michel Sandel introduces two lecture episodes that discuss a number of philosophy related issues. In the first episode “The Moral Principles” Dr. Sandel begins the lecture with a story of a trolley cart in a path that may lead kill one, or five people. The decision to kill the one person in oppose to five, is left to a show of hands by participating students. The hypothetical scenario he paints in the story is to introduce moral reasoning. The students then participate in a critical thinking discussion to conclude what would be morality correct, whether to kill the one person so that five should live or vise versa. His story quickly unfolds to introduce two moral principles, one being consequentialist moral reasoning and the second is categorical moral reasoning. In the second part of his first lecture, Dr. Sandel discusses a very popular nineteenth century law case involving an ocean stranded crew of four. Sandel proceeds to initiate the discussion of the principles of utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham. The inauguration of arguments of utilitarianism follows what is discussed in the second episode “Putting a Price Tag on Life/How to Measure Pleasure”. The lecture in episode two also includes discussions of critical thinking and arguments by the students to support their contrasting views. Part one of the second episode discusses the cost benefit analysis that companies follow to put a price on human life. The second part in episode two introduces British philosopher John Stuart Mill who argues that utilitarian, those who have experienced high pleasure and lower pleasures will desire the higher pleasure. Utilitarianism is further debated in the lectures of Dr. Sandel as he goes in to details showing how utilitarianism plays a large role in everyday life circumstances as well as in economic situations. The Moral Principal Episode part one opens up with Michel Sandel sharing a story about a trolley cart. The story is as follows, a trolley cart is on a deadly path headed to the fatal crash that will kill five people. The wheel on the trolley cart works and can be steered to kill only one person. The students are asked their educated opinions on what is the right thing to do given the circumstances of the story. Most students answered saving five human lives with the expense of one human life would be the right thing to do. When the story is changed by Dr. Sandel and the human that is to save the lives of the five others is murdered the students opinions change. Sandel then proceeds to introduce the two moral principles that take place which are cosequentialist and categorical. Consequential moral reasoning is one that locates morality in the consequences of an act. Categorical locates morality in certain duties and rights. Both these moral principals where greatly debated by the students. On the second part Dr. Sandel gives a brief introduction to utilitarianism and the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. It describes Bentham’s view on the balance of pleasure over pain and the belief of the happiness or well being of the greatest number. The real life case presented, describes four sailors that survive after a massive shipwreck and are now fighting for survival at sea. One of the four sailors gets sick and the others decide to kill him to feed of his body. One of the students finds the idea of cannibalism in the case of necessity morally wrong and that it should not justify murder even though it would keep the rest of the three crew men alive. Another student defended the opposing view, by saying that as humans in a situation like such “we got to do what we have to do to survive”. Other circumstances are debated and the positions of the students change to be morally ok to have eaten the fourth member of the crew to keep the greater good for the greater number. In the...