317 courses ePortfolio Forums Blog FAQ

Moral and Political Philosophy

Purpose of Course  showclose

This course will introduce you to the basic concepts and methods of moral and political philosophy.  Its primary focus is on the development of moral reasoning skills and the application of those skills to contemporary social and political issues.  Although the course is organized around the central concept of justice, it uses this notion as a point of departure for discussing a wide range of philosophical topics and perspectives. Topics range from the value of human life, the moral standing of the free market, and the notion of fundamental human rights, to equality of opportunity, the legality of same-sex marriage, and the conditions for a moral community.  In order to investigate these topics, this course makes extensive use of Professor Michael Sandel’s video lecture course on justice, delivered at Harvard University in 2009.  In addition to these lectures, you will study a number of important moral and political philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, and John Rawls.  Supplementary readings will include texts from contemporary philosophers, such as Robert Nozick, John Finnis, Alasdair MacIntyre, and others, as well as news articles and primary source texts regarding important legal decisions.  By the end of the course, you will have gained a detailed understanding of the philosophical issues involved in many contemporary debates in the public sphere, as well as a refined sense of your own moral and political positions and intuitions.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to PHIL103. Below, please find general information on the course and its requirements.
 
Primary Resources: This course comprises a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:
 Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all its assigned materials. This includes participating in the discussion board activities at the end of each unit. You will also need to complete the Final Exam.
 
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all the course readings, lectures, web media, and activities in each unit.
 
In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
 
Time Commitment: This course should take you approximately 105.25 hours to complete. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 18.5 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1–1.4 (a total of 2.75 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.5 (a total of 4.5 hours) on Tuesday night; and so forth.
 
Tips/Suggestions: Try to take comprehensive notes as you work through the resources in this course. These notes will serve as a useful review as you study and prepare for your Final Exam.  Finally, you will find it useful to use the following “Philosophy: Glossary of Technical Terms” throughout this course.

Link: University of Aberdeen’s “Philosophy: Glossary of Technical Terms” (HTML)
 
Instructions: You may choose to peruse this glossary, but you do not need to read this entire glossary straight through.  Instead, save it as a bookmark in your web browser for consultation throughout this course.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Identify and describe the major areas of moral and political theory, explain how those areas differ from and relate to one another, and place the views and arguments of major philosophical figures within those areas.
  • Use ethical, moral, and political terminology correctly and consistently.
  • Apply critical thinking and reasoning skills to ethical issues in a variety of professional contexts.
  • Identify and describe several major theories of justice and morality, including utilitarianism, libertarianism, social contract theory, deontology, and the ethics/politics of virtue.
  • Analyze how moral and political dilemmas are handled differently by each set of theoretical principles.
  • Analyze the consequences of various moral principles, and interpret how these principles relate to concepts of justice.
  • Discuss the relationship between morality and politics.
  • Identify and describe the origins of western democratic politics and constitutional government.
  • Analyze a range of difficult and controversial moral and political issues, including murder, the income tax, corporate cost-benefit analysis, lying, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course you must:
 
√    Have access to a computer.
 
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
 
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).
 
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
 
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
 
√    Be competent in the English language.
 
√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: Murder, Morality, and the Value of Human Life  

    Everyone – whether they realize it or not – has some beliefs about the differences between right and wrong, or good and bad.  We use these beliefs to guide our behavior, judge the behavior of others, and decide on laws and punishments in our society.  Sometimes, however, situations arise that force us to call our moral beliefs into question and to debate the truth about moral behavior with our peers.  It is usually the really difficult cases, in which the right thing to do is difficult to decide, and cases which divide people against one another in their opinions, that bring the differences in our moral intuitions into focus and force us to clarify our moral principles. ­­

    In this unit, we will investigate some notoriously difficult and divisive moral dilemmas involving justice, rights, and the value of human life.  We will also introduce the moral theory of utilitarianism, see if it can help us decide about the right thing to do, and inform us of how to produce a just society.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 What Is Ethics/Moral Philosophy?  

    Note: Because we will be dealing extensively with moral and political dilemmas in this course, it will help to know what ethics is all about.  Ethics, also called moral philosophy, is the area of philosophy that deals with questions about values and norms (i.e. questions of right and wrong, good and bad, rights and obligations).

  • 1.2 The Differences between Metaethics, Normative Ethics, and Applied Ethics  
    • Reading: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: James Fieser’s “Ethics”

      Link: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: James Fieser’s “Ethics” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire webpage, which outlines the major approaches to ethics.  These include three major subfields: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.  Note that on the webpage these are labeled as sections one through three.
       
      Studying this reading should take approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3 Investigating Our Moral Intuitions  
  • 1.4 From Moral Intuitions to Moral Principles and Back Again  
  • 1.5 Consequentialist Ethics and Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism  
  • 1.5.1 The Lifeboat Case: A Moral Dilemma Drawn from Life  
    • Reading: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University’s “The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens”

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University’s “The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this summary of the famous Queen v. Dudley and Stephens case.  As you read, consider if you agree with the ruling in this case, and if you would rule differently, as well as why you would do so.  This text discusses the famous lifeboat case, which established the legality of choosing to murder out of necessity.  Although the details of the case are quite graphic, this fact itself may serve as a prompt for many of us to revise our initial intuitions about the moral status of killing one to save many others.

      Studying this reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.5.2 Overview of Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism  
    • Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor William Sweet’s “Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)”

      Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor William Sweet’s “Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this encyclopedia article about Jeremy Bentham in its entirety for an understanding of his historical and intellectual context as well as for an outline of his moral and political philosophy.

      Studying this reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Jeremy Bentham’s Principles of Morals and Legislation

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Jeremy Bentham’s Principles of Morals and Legislation (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this 1780 text, in which Bentham justifies the principle that the morality of our actions depends on the consequences produced.  The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, was the first to formalize the moral principle that whether our actions are right or wrong is a matter of the consequences they produce (i.e. how much happiness and how much unhappiness results from them).  It is important to note that, although Bentham places a lot of emphasis on the pleasure and pain experienced by the individual person, he is not recommending that our laws should be guided purely by individual hedonism, but by a collective responsibility to improve the happiness of everyone in society.

      Studying this reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.5.3 Criticisms of the Utilitarian Approach  
  • 1.6 Utilitarian Calculus Run Amok? The Case of the Ford Pinto  
    • Reading: Mother Jones: Mark Dowie’s “Pinto Madness”

      Link: Mother Jones: Mark Dowie’s “Pinto Madness” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this 1977 article from Mother Jones magazine.  While you read, consider the following question: do detached calculations, such as the cost-benefit analysis that Ford performed to determine whether it should fix a dangerous problem with one of its cars, miss the point of moral reasoning and become immoral practices in and of itself? 
       
      This article provides details of the case of the Ford Pinto, which sold cars despite a known safety hazard.  This case is usually presented in order to illustrate a criticism of the utilitarian concept of utility calculus.  Some utilitarians like Jeremy Bentham felt that utility and goods could be counted up and quantified as hedons like degrees on a thermometer.  More recent utilitarians have argued that goods are not only quantitative but also qualitative, meaning that the quality of the good, utility or pleasure achieved must be considered too.  This is the concept behind John Stuart Mill’s saying that it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied: Socrates asks deeper questions and lives a higher quality of life than the pig does, even if he remains unsatisfied in seeking deeper answers.
       
      Studying this reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.6.1 A Revised Version of Utilitarianism  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 2: How to Measure Pleasure”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 2: How to Measure Pleasure” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 24:45.  Then, watch the rest of the video lecture.
       
      Despite some powerful objections raised against it, some version of utilitarianism still seems plausible, since it seems to explain a large number of cases to our satisfaction.  In this lecture, Professor Sandel introduces John Stuart Mill’s improved version of utilitarianism, which attempts to reconcile a consequentialist ethical principle with the notion of individual and minority rights.  The importance of a well-informed majority for Mill’s view raises questions that are fundamental to the success of a democratic society.

      Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.6.2 A Revised Version of Utilitarianism  
    • Reading: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Julia Driver’s “The History of Utilitarianism”

      Link: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Julia Driver’s “The History of Utilitarianism” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read this entire encyclopedia entry, which compares various versions of utilitarianism.  Pay special attention to “Section 2: The Classical Approach” with its subsections on Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.  This article will help you understand in more detail why Bentham is usually classified as an act utilitarian, who focused on quantities of pleasure or happiness, while John Stuart Mill is usually classified as a rule utilitarian, who advises us to focus on rules that bring about high-quality utility in general.

      Studying this reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.7 Overview of Mill’s Utilitarianism  
  • 1.7.1 Mill’s Utilitarianism and Individual Rights  
    • Reading: John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism: “Chapters 1–3”

      Link: John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism: “Chapters1–3” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read Chapters 1–3 of this 1863 text by Mill.  In his text, Mill lays out the basic principles of his version of utilitarianism and distinguishes it from Bentham’s account as well as other competing moral theories.  Mill attempts to rescue the utilitarian pleasure principle from Bentham’s more hedonistic formulation by introducing the notion of intellectual pleasure and the idea that the majority can accept some degree of dissatisfaction in order to protect the rights of individuals. 
       
      Studying this reading should take approximately 2 hours to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 1.7.2 Mill’s Utilitarianism: Proof and Justice  
    • Reading: John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism: “Chapters 4 and 5”

      Link:  John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism: “Chapters 4 and 5” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read Chapters 4 and 5 of Mill’s text.  Here, Mill provides arguments that his theory can be empirically proven and identifies justice as the principle aim of a truly moral society.  Because of the way that he has defined morality in terms of pleasure and identified intellectual pleasures as inherently more valuable than sensual ones, a just society may be one in which some individuals must make sacrifices, but overall happiness is maximized.  Studying this reading should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • Unit 1 Discussion Board  
    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 1 Discussion Questions”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 1 Discussion Questions” (HTML)
                                                                                                                                                                 
      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials, please post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board.  Feel free to start your own related posts, and respond to other students’ postings as well.

      1. One of the famous examples of utilitarian ethics is known as lifeboat ethics.  Imagine you are on a sinking ship with many other people.  Five people rush to get on a lifeboat, and it only holds four people safely.  One of you will have to get off the lifeboat.  As a utilitarian, how would you decide if the people include you, your beloved mother, a world-famous heart surgeon who will save many lives, a world famous violinist whose music brings joy to many, and the single unwed parent of 10 children who desperately need their parent (and who may grow up to do terrible things without their parent in their life)?

      2. What are the disadvantages and advantages of population control for the utilitarian ethicist?  If we have fewer people, will that negatively affect production and supplying food?  If we have too many people, will that tax our resources too much?  How should the utilitarian decide about population control?
       
      3. Imagine you are the mayor of a town.  A power company wants to build a biomass incinerator in your town.  It will bring many new jobs, but it will also raise the level of air pollution in your community.  How should you decide what to do with the power company, following utilitarian ethics?

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 5 hours to complete.

  • Unit 2: Rights, the State, and the Free Market  

    So far, we have only considered theories of just action that base their criteria for justice on an action’s consequences.  Utilitarianism, as we have seen, provides a convincing justification for many of our moral intuitions, but even its more refined versions, such as the theory advanced by John Stuart Mill, start to seem unsatisfying once we realize that they reduce moral decisions to detached, rational calculations.  If we want a completely adequate theory of just action, we need to consider an alternative approach to justice and morality, one that promises to succeed in precisely the ways that utilitarianism fails.  This approach is captured by the political and economic position of libertarianism, which understands morality and justice as rooted in the natural rights of individual human beings.  Consequences matter, of course, but they are always secondary to considerations of natural rights.

    In this unit, we will become familiar with several arguments involving the individual citizen’s relationship to the state.  Plato, in the dialogue known as the Crito, gives arguments that claim the individual does not have a right to defy his or her government.  In contrast, contemporary proponents of libertarianism – much as Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick – as well as the eighteenth century wellspring of rights-based political philosophy – such as with philosopher John Locke – uphold individual rights and liberties.  John Locke argues that the contract we have with our government can always be rescinded.  In order to evaluate the appropriateness of libertarianism, we will also consider several cases in which rights and consequences come into conflict with one another.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Individual and the State: Plato’s Crito Dialogue  
    • Lecture: Yale University: Dr. Stephen Smith’s Introduction to Political Philosophy: “Lecture 3: Socratic Citizenship: Plato, Crito”

      Link: Yale University: Dr. Stephen Smith’s Introduction to Political Philosophy: “Lecture 3:  Socratic Citizenship: Plato, Crito” (YouTube)
       
      Also Available In:
      Adobe Flash, HTML, Mp3 and QuickTime
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above, and view this entire lecture, which gives a background for the social and political theory given by Plato in the dialogue between Socrates and Crito.  Socrates explains to Crito why he feels that he must remain in prison and carry out the death sentence of the court of Athens.  Crito hopes that Socrates will simply leave Athens and go to live in another Greek city-state like Sparta.  Socrates feels this would be wrong; above all, Socrates respects the law (the government and the courts of Athens).  To disobey the law is wrong, even if he feels the death sentence they gave him is unfair.
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.1.1 Understanding Plato’s Theory of Philosopher Kings  
    • Reading: CliffsNotes: The Republic by Plato – Summary and Analysis: “Book VI” and “Book VII”

      Links: CliffsNotes: The Republic by Plato – Summary and Analysis: “Book VI” (HTML) and “Book VII” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read these entire webpages, ensuring to click the “Next Page” link to read the summary and analysis modules for all sections of Books VI and VII of Plato’s The Republic.  After reading these modules, you should be able to explain why Plato believes philosophers should govern the state.  Notice that Plato’s arguments implicitly criticize the prevailing form of government in fifth century Athens: democracy.
       
      Reading and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 2.1.2 Plato as Totalitarian? The Criticisms of Karl Popper  
    • Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Eric Brown’s “Plato’s Ethics and Politics in The Republic:” “4. Politics, Part One: The Ideal Constitution”

      Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Eric Brown’s “Plato’s Ethics and Politics in The Republic:” “4. Politics, Part One: The Ideal Constitution” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read section 4 titled “Politics, Part One: The Ideal Constitution” in its entirety, including subsections 4.1–4.4.  In this section, Dr. Brown provides a general overview of philosophical critiques of Plato’s ideal society from dystopian, anticommunist, feminist, and antitotalitarian perspectives.
       
      Reading and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Plato’s The Republic: “Book VI” and “Book VII”

      Links: Plato’s The Republic: “Book VI” (PDF) and “Book VII” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML (Book VI)
      HTML (Book VII)

      Instructions: Please read these entire books from Plato’s The Republic.  These parts address the concept of rule by philosopher kings.  It takes the form of a dialogue between Plato’s teacher (Socrates) and a number of interlocutors.  These two books present the most famous statements of Plato’s metaphysics – usually called the theory of forms.  Book VI focuses on his analogies of the sun and the divided line, which set up his famous allegory of the cave in Book VII.  Plato argues that it is philosophers who have the best access to the forms (i.e. to reality) and are therefore best suited to govern the state.  The need for rulers to have knowledge or wisdom is a recurring theme in both Eastern and Western thought.
       
      Reading and taking notes should take approximately 3 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: This text is in the public domain.

  • 2.2 Libertarianism as an Alternative Approach to the Question of Rights  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 3: Free to Choose”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 3: Free to Choose” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in: 
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Watch the first half of this video until the lecture break at 27:15.  You will watch the second half of the lecture in subunit 2.4.  Professor Sandel introduces the position of libertarianism as an alternative to utilitarianism.  Notice that the everyday understanding of libertarianism may or may not match what philosophers mean by libertarianism: while there is a libertarian political party in the United States, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines libertarianism as a specific moral or ethical view, which assumes that agents have self-ownership and the freedom to acquire property rights and external goods and status.  We have just seen how Mill argues that we should respect individual rights because it is good for the whole of society in the long run.  In other words, Mill holds that individual rights are to be valued for their utility.  Libertarianism, by contrast, assigns a more fundamental role to individual rights, holding that they should be valued in and of themselves, and because of this, the state should be limited in its power to restrict our right to individual liberty. 

      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.2.1 Milton Friedman and Individual Freedom  
  • 2.2.2 Rights, Taxes, and the Redistribution of Wealth  
    • Lecture: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 3: Who Owns Me?”

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 3: Who Owns Me?” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 27:52.  As you watch the video, consider if taxation is an obligation that we have to our fellow citizens  to bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number, or if it is in fact an unwarranted violation of our individual rights?
       
      In this lecture, Professor Sandel introduces the question of taxation as a test for the libertarian view of individual rights.  Taxation is a case in which the state redistributes property (money) throughout society. 

      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.2.3 From Economic to Philosophical Arguments for Libertarianism: Robert Nozick  
    • Reading: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Edward Feser’s “Robert Nozick (1938-2002)”

      Link: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Edward Feser’s “Robert Nozick (1938-2002)” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this article about the late philosopher Robert Nozick and his contribution to libertarian political thought.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Iowa State University: Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia (excerpts)

      Link: Iowa State University:  Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia (excerpts) (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Scroll down to the section of the website under the “Readings” heading, and select the PDF file labeled “Distributive Justice – Nozick.”  In this influential 1974 work, Nozick argues that only a minimal state is justifiable, since anything more would infringe on people’s individual rights.  Nozick holds that individuals have a basic right to property, which includes one’s self and the products of one’s labor. 

      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3 John Locke and Fundamental Individual Rights  
    • Reading: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 4: This Land Is My Land”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 4: This Land Is My Land” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Watch the first half of this video until the lecture break at 25:07.  Note that you will watch the second part of the lecture in subunit 2.10.  Here, Professor Sandel introduces the conception of individual rights via the arguments of the philosopher John Locke.  Locke’s idea that human beings have certain fundamental rights (life, liberty, and property) by virtue of a natural law has supplied a central justification for the legal protection of individual rights, since he advanced it in the late seventeenth century.  Professor Sandel also takes pains to place Locke’s views in relation to those of contemporary libertarians. 

      Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3.1 The “Right to Property” Challenged: Pharmaceutical Patents and the AIDS Crisis  
    • Reading: Santa Clara University: The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Dr. David Perry’s “The Global Distribution of AIDS Pharmaceuticals”

      Link: Santa Clara University: The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Dr. David Perry’s “The Global Distribution of AIDS Pharmaceuticals” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this entire article about the ethical dilemma raised by the AIDS crisis.  Consider the different sides of the argument as you read.  On the one hand, there is a tremendous need to reduce suffering through the distribution of effective AIDS drugs around the world.  On the other hand, there is the claim of pharmaceutical companies for their drug patent rights to be respected.  Do you think this case presents a serious challenge to Locke’s the idea of fundamental property rights?  What about the fundamental right to life?
       
      Reading this article, taking notes, and answering the questions above should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3.2 Overview of John Locke’s Political Philosophy  
  • 2.3.3 Locke on the State of Nature, Rights, Property, and Labor  
    • Reading: John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government: “Chapters II and V”

      Link: John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government: “Chapters II and V” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read Chapters II and V of Locke’s 1690 text about the formation of a just state.  Locke’s conception of the state of nature is an important thought experiment in political philosophy.  A thought experiment is a hypothetical situation that is meant to illustrate a deeper philosophical truth or insight.  Locke’s state of nature thought experiment tries to show that the formation of a state is a natural consequence of the way human beings are, prior to the existence of any form of political organization.  Chapter V is the part that is most relevant to our discussion of property rights.  Locke argues that a human being’s self is his own property as well as anything with which he mixes his labor.  
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 2.3.4 The Consent of the Governed  
    • Lecture: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 4: Consenting Adults”

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 4: Consenting Adults” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 25:49.  Consider the following question as you watch the second half of this video lecture: if taxes are part of a government system instead of a state of nature, then why should we have to pay them?
       
      Professor Sandel uses Locke’s account of natural rights and state formation in order to reassess the question of whether taxation amounts to an infringement of an individual’s natural right to his or her property.  For Locke, natural rights are something that we possess inherently from the state of nature.  Taxes are part of a system of government that comes after that natural state.  Compare Sandel and Locke’s ideas on the consent of the governed to the notion of obedience to the state given in the Crito dialogue in subunit 2.1.
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3.5 Locke on the Origin of Society, the State, and Property Rights  
    • Reading: John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government: “Chapters VII-XI”

      Link: John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government: “Chapters VII-XI” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read Chapters VII-XI of Locke’s Second Treatise of Government.  In these chapters, Locke describes how human beings moved from the state of nature to the first, basic forms of social and political organization.  What is most important here is that these early societies formed by the mutual consent of a majority of their members, because they are better off for doing so.  As a result, however, individuals cede certain  rights to the state, such as the right to punish wrongdoers.  Here, we finally get Locke’s answer to the question of taxation: it is unjust for the government to take a man’s property without his consent.  Therefore, any just system of taxation must be based on the consent of the majority. 
       
      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 2.3.6 Locke on the Just Conditions of Government and When It May Be Disobeyed  
    • Reading: John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government: “Chapters XVIII and XIX”

      Link:  John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government: “Chapters XVIII and XIX” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read Chapters XVIII and XIX of Locke’s Second Treatise of Government.  In these final sections of Locke’s treatise, he draws out some of the consequences of his theory of government based on natural, individual rights.  Predictably, he argues that if a government fails to respect these rights, it is rightly understood as a tyranny and should be opposed, even undermined, by the people.

      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • Unit 2 Discussion Board  
    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 2 Discussion Questions”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 2 Discussion Questions” (HTML)

      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials, please post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board.  Feel free to start your own related posts, and respond to other students’ postings as well.

      1. One of the most controversial areas of government power in recent years is eminent domain law.  In eminent domain cases, a family may find themselves without their home, because their local government decides it is needed for a new building project or oil pipeline.  Given what you now know about Locke’s theory of property, is this a legitimate power of the government?  Why, or why not?  Explain your response.

      2. Is the theory of property advanced by Locke the only possible theory of property?  Consider how Locke’s theory relates to Native American conceptions of man’s relationship to the land.  Is it possible that Locke’s theory can be misused to justify inappropriate policies?
       
      3. A complicated area of international law involves intellectual property rights.  Some argue that with the advent of the internet, material should be made more widely available and intellectual property should become an outdated concept.  Do you agree or disagree, given the theories of property and labor in this unit?

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 5 hours to complete.

  • Unit 3: Morality, Markets, and Immanuel Kant  

    John Locke and the libertarian philosophers he inspired hold that justice and morality are a matter of respecting the fundamental rights that all individuals hold in common – life, liberty, and property (including the property of one’s self).  Libertarians like Milton Friedman argue that these principles are incompatible with the government placing restrictions on the free market.  But what happens when the market itself brings our rights into conflict with one another?

    In this unit, we will examine several case studies in which individual rights are disputed, and we will consider whether these cases provide sufficient reason to doubt the libertarian position.  We will also introduce the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, which – although difficult in its formulation – presents a convincing alternative to both utilitarian and libertarian theories of morality and justice.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 The Morality of the Market  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 5: Hired Guns?”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 5: Hired Guns?” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Watch the first half of this video until the lecture break at 27:00.  You will view the second part of the lecture in subunit 3.2.  Consider the following question as you watch the lecture: is it an abuse of the government’s power for it to order citizens to risk their lives in the military?  
       
      In this lecture, Professor Sandel calls the libertarian conception of self-ownership, along with the Lockean conception of consent, into question by confronting it with the controversial case of military conscription.  The problem is further complicated by the fact that military conflicts take place within a market economy.  This aspect of the problem is brought out in the Civil War practice in which the wealthy hired less affluent citizens to fight in their place. 
       
      Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.2 The Morality of Surrogate Motherhood: The Case of Baby M  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 5: Motherhood: For Sale”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 5: Motherhood: For Sale” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 27:27.  Then, watch the remainder of the video lecture.  While you watch the video, consider this question: Whose rights take precedence, those of the mother, or those of the child? 
       
      Motherhood immediately presents a complication to the general theory of natural rights.  Everyone who is familiar with the debate over abortion knows this.  The matter becomes yet more complicated when motherhood, and in a sense, children, are exchanged on the free market.  In this lecture, Professor Sandel introduces the case of Baby M, in which a surrogate mother’s claim to the baby she has carried came into conflict with the claim of the baby’s biological father. 
       
      Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: The Supreme Court of New Jersey’s Opinion “In the Matter of Baby ‘M’”

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: The Supreme Court of New Jersey’s Opinion “In the Matter of Baby ‘M’” (HTML)

      Instructions: Read this ruling by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in the 1988 case of Baby M.  This reading helps to supplement the introduction to this case in Sandel’s lecture above.  This case is about the fight between the baby’s surrogate mother and biological father for custody.  The surrogacy contract, according to which the woman agreed to carry the child of another couple for $10,000, was invalidated by the court as “potentially degrading to women,” and the court took itself to be protecting “the best interests of the child.”  The case remains controversial, however, since it fails to settle the question as to whether there ought to be legal limitations to a woman’s ownership of her body. 

      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1.5 hours to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.3 Overview of Feminist Perspectives on Reproductive Rights and the Family  
  • 3.4 Human Organs as Commodities  
    • Reading: Santa Clara University: The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Professor Claire Andre and Professor Manuel Velasquez’s “Kidneys for Sale”

      Link: Santa Clara University: The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Professor Claire Andre and Professor Manuel Velasquez’s “Kidneys for Sale” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this article in its entirety.  As you read the article, consider what becomes of the right to property when it comes into conflict with the right to life.  This article gives an overview of the conflicts that arise when human bodies – or parts of them – are considered become market commodities like any other.  Organ transplants are sometimes necessary in order to save a life.  But if they can be bought and sold in a free market, then they may tend to go to the highest bidder, rather than to the patients in the most need.  
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.5 Grounding Moral Action in Rational Principles: Immanuel Kant  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 6: Mind Your Motive”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 6: Mind Your Motive” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Watch the first half of this video until the lecture break at 28:15.  You will view the remaining portion of the lecture in sub-subunit 3.5.3.  This lecture introduces a third major approach to morality: Immanuel Kant’s deontological or duty-based ethics.  In contrast to the utilitarians, Kant holds that an action’s consequences are not what make it right or wrong, but rather the principle on which the action was based.  Kant’s view is similar to Locke’s in that he ascribes fundamental rights to persons, but what really sets Kant apart is his insistence that even if we do the right thing, we still have not acted morally unless we have also done it for the right reason. 
       
      Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.5.1 Overview of Kant’s Moral Theory  
  • 3.5.2 Kant’s Motive of Duty  
    • Reading: Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: “Preface” and “First Section”

      Link:  Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: “Preface” and “First Section” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read the entire “Preface” and “First Section” of Kant’s 1785 text about morality.  What Kant argues here is that the only absolutely good thing in the world is good will, or the human desire to act morally, and that this desire is only possible for us because we are rational beings.  According to Kant, we have an absolute duty to act on the basis of the moral principles that are the result of our own rationality.  This is, in fact, what separates us from the animals, and it is why Kant so opposes the utilitarian view, which seems to make human beings into the slaves of their desires for pleasure and to avoid pain. 
       
      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 3.5.3 How a Kantian Decides on the Right Thing to  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 6: The Supreme Principle of Morality”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 6: The Supreme Principle of Morality” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 29:00.  View the remainder of the video lecture.  Pay close attention to the distinction Professor Sandel draws between hypothetical and categorical imperatives, since this is what sets Kant apart from the utilitarians.  Professor Sandel helpfully breaks down some of the complexity of Kant’s moral philosophy by illustrating the major contrasts that Kant uses to develop it.  Although he gives three different versions of it, Kant thinks of his categorical imperative as a singular rational principle for deciding how to act.  As long as we follow the categorical imperative, we are acting out of duty, and we are respecting ourselves and others as rational beings. 
       
      Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.6 Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals  
    • Reading: Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: “Second Section”

      Link: Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: “Second Section” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read the entire “Second Section” of Kant’s text.  Unlike the method we have been employing so far in this class, Kant’s view is that morality is not something that can be derived from examples.  What he wants is to find universal principles of morality that spring wholly from reason and not from experience.  This is why he calls his system metaphysics of morals.  In this section, Kant argues forcefully against utilitarian (or popular) moral theories, and he puts forward his own, absolutely binding moral principle: the categorical imperative.  In Kant’s ethical theory, a categorical imperative is a universal command, a principle that should be followed by anyone in any situation.  If a command like “always tell the truth” can be chosen and represents a moral rule we all should follow, then it has the status of a categorical imperative, and is therefore a duty.  Kant’s examples in this section are meant to show that actions can only be considered truly moral if they are motivated by the duty to follow this imperative. 
       
      Reading this piece and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 3.6.1 Kant’s Theory of Freedom  
    • Reading: Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: “Third Section”

      Link: Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: “Third Section” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read the entire “Third Section” of Kant’s text.  In this section, Kant presents his view of what human freedom consists in, namely, following our rational principles rather than being guided by our appetite for please and our desire to avoid pain.  Because Kant has based both freedom and morality on rationality, this means that to be free is to be moral.  Or, in other words, to be free is to be bound by our duty to ourselves. 
       
      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 3.6.2 A Kantian Analysis of Lying  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 7: A Lesson in Lying”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 7: A Lesson in Lying” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Watch the first half of this video until the lecture break at 22:25.  You will view the second part of this lecture in subunit 4.2.  While you watch this video lecture, consider the following question: can Kant possibly be right that it is never permissible to lie?  At first, Kant’s idea that duty and autonomy are compatible seems very counterintuitive.  In this lecture, Professor Sandel helps us make some sense of this view, and he applies it to the example of lying.  Ordinarily, we might think that lying is morally impermissible most of the time, unless it would help us avert some worse harm.  Kant famously denies this commonsense view, asserting that even if we were sure that some great harm was to result from our failing to tell a lie at the right moment, the lie would still be immoral, since it would mean that we failed to respect the moral law that springs from our rationality.  
       
      Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.6.3 The Ethics of Lying  
    • Reading: Santa Clara University: The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Tim C. Mazur’s “Lying”

      Link: Santa Clara University: The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Tim C. Mazur’s “Lying” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this entire article about the ethics of lying.  The author runs through the responses that advocates how three major moral theories – Kantianism, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics – would give to the practice of lying.  This analysis highlights the difference between Kantian and utilitarian ethics in general and gives a preview of Aristotle’s view, which we will look at in Unit 5. 
       
      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 3 Discussion Board  
    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 3 Discussion Questions”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 3 Discussion Questions” (HTML)
                                                                                                                                                                 
      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials, please post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board.  Feel free to start your own related posts, and respond to other students’ postings as well.

      1. Philosophers who are critical of Kant have noted that Kant’s theory often leaves us with two conflicting duties.  Imagine a student who is trying to finish his college degree, and he then receives a phone call informing him that his mother has been diagnosed with cancer.  The student’s first instinct is to go home and take care of his mother.  His mother says, “stay, I want you to finish school, do not come home.”  How would Kant advise us in choosing between these two duties (duty to mother and duty to finish school)?


      2. In the past, doctors would sometimes omit telling patients the truth about their condition.  For example, a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness who is about to leave on a long-awaited vacation might not be told about his terminal illness until he returned from his trip.  Such decisions by doctors are now considered to be unethical and a violation of the patient’s right to actively participate in his or her own treatment.  Do doctors have a duty to tell their patients the truth, no matter what? Why, or why not?
       
      3. One of Kant’s famous examples, illustrating the need to always act from duty, is the two shopkeepers example: one shopkeeper gives correct change even when she might be tempted not to, whereas another shopkeeper always gives correct change but does it to be liked and because she wants to be elected to city council someday.  For Kant, the first shopkeeper without external motivation is actually more morally praiseworthy.  Does this same distinction apply to companies?  Should companies always act from the right intention, and not to increase their market share?  Explain your response.

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 5 hours to complete.

  • Unit 4: John Rawls's Theory of Justice  

    In the 1970s, the late philosopher John Rawls put forward what is widely considered to be the most important contemporary theory of justice.  Rawls’s theory is a clever update of the traditional social contract approach, but its starting point, rather than the natural rights of individuals, is the deceptively simple idea of fairness.  Who would disagree with the proposal that a just society should be a fair one? 

    As we shall see in this unit, Rawls’s theory is both convincing and controversial.  We will begin with Thomas Hobbes, one of the most well-known proponents of social contract theory in the history of philosophy.  For Hobbes, life before the social contract, or life before government, is “nasty, brutish, and short.”  Hobbes makes this claim, because he finds that human nature itself tends towards selfishness and cruel treatment of others, especially without a contract with a government that keeps the peace and punishes those who break contracts.  Rawls has a somewhat more positive view of human nature: he is an advocate of political liberalism, and his political philosophy conflicts with many popular contemporary ideas and ideologies.  Therefore, we will be looking at issues of equality in society and the questions of whether certain social goods – such as income, education, and opportunity – should be redistributed in order to ensure fairness.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 Social Contract Theory in Historical Focus: Thomas Hobbes  
  • 4.2 Social Contract Theory without the Contract: John Rawls  

    Note: John Rawls is famous for devising a contemporary version of social contract theory that does not rely on the existence of any actual social contract or historical state of nature.  He is similar to Kant in that he thinks we can derive a theory of justice from reason itself  by imagining that we need to define the principles of a fair society without knowing in advance what position we will occupy in that society.  Rawls’s thought experiment is known as the veil of ignorance.

    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 7: A Deal Is a Deal”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 7: A Deal Is a Deal” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 23:07.  Then, watch the remainder of the video lecture.  In this video, Sandel discusses the concept of social contracts, social compacts, and mutual agreements in civil society.  These are compared to the kinds of agreements that are the hallmark of justice for Rawls and the foundation of civil society for Locke and Hobbes.  Just laws, which are laws that are in accord with justice, come from these kinds of agreements.  For Kant, contracts that generate justice are “ideas of reason.”  This allows Kant to provide an objective basis for contracts and laws, a way to describe laws as over and above subjective preferences.

      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete. 

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.2.1 Overview of Rawls’s Theory of Justice  

    Note: The basic idea of Rawls’s theory of justice is that society should be organized so that everyone has an equal share of rights, liberties, opportunities, and wealth.  In other words, a just society is a fair society.

  • 4.2.2 Rawls’s Idea of the Original Position  

    Note: Rawls aims to provide a theory of justice that is even more general than that of Locke or Kant, since it is based on purely hypothetical original position.  How would we choose to organize society, if we had no idea what position we would have in it?  Rawls’s idea is that we should try to make it as fair as possible so that no matter what position we ended up in, we would have the same resources and chances as everyone else.

    • Reading: Iowa State University: John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (excerpts)

      Link: Iowa State University:  John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (excerpts) (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      Google Docs
       
      Instructions: Scroll down to the “Readings” section of this webpage and download the PDF file labeled “A Theory of Justice – Rawls.”  Read pages 1–6 of this set of selections from John Rawls’s 1971 text.

      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.2.3 Rawls’s Difference Principle: Leveling the Playing Field  

    Note: Societies in which success is a function of each individual’s abilities, or meritocracies,gives an unfair advantage to those who are born into positions of privilege or greater natural ability.  According to Rawls, the technique of reasoning from the original position demonstrates that social benefits will always need to be redistributed in order to benefit the least well-off.

  • 4.2.4 Rawls’s Two Principles of Justice  
    • Reading: Iowa State University: John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (excerpts)

      Link: Iowa State University: John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (excerpts) (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      Google Docs
       
      Instructions: Scroll down to the “Readings” section of this webpage, and download the PDF file labeled “A Theory of Justice – Rawls.”  Please read pages 7–14 of this document.  In these selections, Rawls presents his two principles of justice: first, everyone should have an equal right to basic freedoms, and second, resources and institutions should be arranged to benefit the least well-off  in order to create equality of opportunity.  These principles are a far cry from the minimal government intervention advocated by libertarians.  Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.3 The Question of Distributive Justice  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 8: What Do We Deserve?”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 8: What Do We Deserve?” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break at 25:10.  Then, view the remainder of the video lecture.  Contingencies will always exist that make the social playing field uneven.  As you view this video lecture, ask yourself: should we as a society allow these inequalities to continue, or should we try to correct for them?
       
      This lecture deals with a highly divisive issue, namely whether the wealth of the most successful members of society should be redistributed through taxation to benefit the most disadvantaged.  Professor Sandel examines the libertarian, meritocratic, and egalitarian approaches to this question, and he asks students to decide which one they think is the most just. 
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.3.1 Different Approaches to Justice: Retributive and Restorative  
    • Reading: Wikipedia’s “Restorative Justice”

      Link: Wikipedia’s “Restorative Justice” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire article, which describes the key differences between retributive and restorative justice.  In social and political philosophy, there are traditionally two major types of justice: distributive justice describes how the status, wealth and goods in society will be portioned out from the beginning, and retributive justice describes punishments, penalties, and restitution for situations where someone wrongs someone else and breaks a social contract.  In recent years, retributive justice theory has been contrasted with restorative justice: retributive justice focuses on punishment and penalty, while restorative justice focuses on restitution and restoring community relationships.
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

      Terms of Use: The article above is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.  You can find the original Wikipedia version of this article here.

    • Reading: UNICEF’s “Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention”

      Link: UNICEF’s “Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire text, which describes how restorative justice approaches and diversion approaches to justice for young people have been used in a variety of international contexts.  UNICEF describes restorative justice as an attempt to reach a just solution by involving both the offender who commits a crime and the victim/wronged party.  Both parties participate in planning a resolution of the crime’s effect with the help of a facilitator.
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.3.2 Income Inequality in the US  
    • Reading: University of California at Santa Cruz: Professor G. William Domhoff’s “Wealth, Income, and Power” Article

      Link: University of California at Santa Cruz: Professor G. William Domhoff’s “Wealth, Income, and Power” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this article, which presents statistical information about the way wealth and income are distributed in the United States.  Although the majority of the evidence concerns the US alone, the article also contains some information about income and wealth gaps in the rest of the world.  Professor Domhoff goes on to make an argument about the connection between wealth and power that is not directly related to our interests here. 
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.3.3 Affirmative Action as Distributive Justice  
  • 4.3.4 Affirmative Action Opposed: The Case of Cheryl Hopwood  
    • Reading: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s Ruling in Cheryl J. Hopwood v. State of Texas

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s Ruling in Cheryl J. Hopwood v. State of Texas (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read the US Court of Appeals’ decision in the case of Cheryl J. Hopwood.  This US Court of Appeals decision involved a group of white students who sued the University of Texas School of Law on the grounds that the school selected several minority students instead of them despite the fact that they had superior academic qualifications.  Thus, the plaintiffs argued that they had been discriminated against based on their race.  The court decided in their favor, and although the decision was later overturned, the court’s statement provides a reasoned argument for the idea that affirmative action constitutes racial discrimination. 
       
      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

    • Reading: Cornell University Law School: The Supreme Court of the United States’ Opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger

      Link: Cornell University Law School: The Supreme Court of the United States’ Opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read the US Supreme Court’s decision in the case that overturned the Hopwood v. Texas decision.  In this case, the court ruled that affirmative action is a necessary and constitutional policy for university admissions but rejected the use of quotas in the admissions process. 

      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete. 

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 4.3.5 Affirmative Action and Racial Profiling  
    • Reading: Slate Magazine: Michael Brus’s “Proxy War”

      Link: Slate Magazine: Michael Brus’s “Proxy War” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read the entire article, “Proxy War,” linked above.  What is the difference between the way opponents of affirmative action think about race and the way opponents of racial profiling think about it?  The author of this magazine article argues that despite being denounced by people on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they both employ the same logic by treating race as a proxy.  If we want to have a coherent theory of distributive justice, then we need to get clear on the categories according to which social goods are distributed. 
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 4 Discussion Board  
    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 4 Discussion Questions”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 4 Discussion Questions” (HTML)

      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials, please post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board.  Feel free to start your own related posts, and respond to other students’ postings as well.

      1. In times of financial crisis, some governments have chosen to use debtor’s prisons as a way to both punish those persons who default on debts and as a deterrent to those who might willingly default on debts in the future.  Is this a legitimate use of the government’s power to punish those who break social contracts, in reference to Hobbes and Rawls?  Why, or why not?
       
      2. Local governments in the past would sometimes not provide fire department services to members of the community; instead, private fire departments would sell yearly subscriptions as a form of fire insurance.  Is this a legitimate form of social contract, or would you argue that fire protection is so important to the public good that a government should always provide such services?  Explain your response.
       
      3. In Rawls’s second principle of justice, much attention is given to the concept of social mobility, the idea that if we do have to have inequality in society, then we should be able to move up by work and education.  What do you think Rawls might say about recent lawsuits involving colleges and universities and affirmative action policies used to choose new students?

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 5 hours to complete.

  • Unit 5: Ethics and Politics of Virtue  

    Prior to any of the theories we have considered so far, most accounts of what it is for a person to be moral, or for a society to be just, centered on some conception of virtue.  The most famous proponent of virtue as the basis for living a good human life and creating a good state is Aristotle.  Although recently, a growing number of philosophers, as well as moral and political theorists, have been returning to the concept of virtue as an antidote to what they interpret as an over-emphasis on individual rights and freedoms and a neglect of community and tradition in political thought since the Enlightenment.  But can we as a society come to agree about what living virtuously means?

    In this unit, we will examine Aristotle’s theory of a society organized on the basis of virtue, as well as some modern communitarian extensions of his general line of thought.  We will contrast Aristotle’s notion of virtue with the existentialist concepts of will to power (as in Friedrich Nietszche) and radical freedom and radical responsibility (as in Jean-Paul Sartre).  We will see how these theories bear on the topics of slavery, patriotism, and same-sex marriage. 

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Aristotle as a Champion of Merit-Based Justice  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 9: What’s the Purpose?”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 9: What’s the Purpose?” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 26:20.  Then, watch the remainder of the video lecture.  Professor Sandel addresses some of the arguments made in the debate over affirmative action as a form of distributive justice.  He then introduces Aristotle as an advocate of a very different theory of distributive justice, namely, that social goods, such as jobs, political positions, and material goods, should be distributed based on their purpose.  That is, Aristotle would argue that the University of Texas Law School should accept only those who are best suited to studying the law. 
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.1.1 Overview of Aristotle’s Political Theory  
  • 5.1.2 Aristotle: A Social Order Based on Virtue  
    • Reading: Benjamin Jowett’s Translation of Aristotle’s Politics

      Link: Benjamin Jowett’s Translation of Aristotle’s Politics (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read Book One of Aristotle’s Politics linked above.  Aristotle begins his political theory by investigating the forms of social political organization that existed during his lifetime. The relationship between men and women, masters and slaves, and households and the state, all come into existence in order to fulfill a certain purpose.  A well-organized society is, therefore, a society in which everyone fulfills their purpose and is thus given the opportunity to excel at the role to which they are best suited. 
       
      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 5.2 Justice Is Respect for Virtue  

    Note: Modern and contemporary theories of justice, such as those of Mill, Kant, and Rawls, typically divorce the idea of justice from the idea of virtue, implying that what virtues individual people possess should not be a factor in deciding how to organize society.  Aristotle, on the other hand, makes virtue the basis for his theory of justice.  Distributive justice, in Aristotle’s account, becomes a way of honoring people for their excellences of character.

    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 10: The Good Citizen”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 10: The Good Citizen” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Watch the first half of this video until the lecture break at 26:55.  You will view the second part of this lecture in subunit 5.6.  Aristotle’s notion of good personal ethics and virtue directly relates to his theory of the state.  The state has a vested interest in the virtuous behavior of the citizens who live in it, so the state has the power to make paternalistic laws that will moderate people’s behavior.  The purpose of the human being is to lead a virtuous, flourishing life, and the state has an interest in rewarding the virtuous development of those in the state.

      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.3 Virtue vs. Disability: The Case of Casey Martin  
    • Reading: Cornell University Law School: The United States Supreme Court’s Opinion in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Casey Martin

      Link: Cornell University Law School: The United States Supreme Court’s Opinion in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Casey Martin (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read this ruling by the Supreme Court on the case of PGA Tour, Inc. v. Casey Martin. The Aristotelian conception of justice as honoring an individual’s virtues is called into question in the case of Casey Martin, who sued the PGA for refusing to allow him the use of a golf cart during the tour.  In this case, the court decides in favor of Martin, or, in other words, against a purely virtue-based policy of distributive justice.
       
      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 5.3.1 Does Respect for Virtue Mean Sacrificing Freedom?  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 10: Freedom vs. Fit”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 10: Freedom vs. Fit” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 27:40.  View the remainder of this lecture.  In this lecture, Professor Sandel addresses a major challenge to Aristotle’s virtue-based theory of justice.  What happens if people want to do something other than what they are best suited for?  Should they be denied that freedom in order to maintain an ideal society?  Or, is this curtailment of personal freedom itself unjust?  Aristotle’s surprising view of natural slavery has led many to accept the latter view. 
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.3.2 Aristotle on Citizenship, Justice, and the State  
    • Reading: Benjamin Jowett’s Translation of Aristotle’s Politics

      Link: Benjamin Jowett’s Translation of Aristotle’s Politics (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read Book Three of Aristotle’s The Politics.  Aristotle begins by defining what the state is and what the conditions for citizenship are.  The second half of the book is devoted to the topic of justice, and it is here that Aristotle makes his famous argument about equality.  For Aristotle, justice is not simply a matter of respecting the equality of all citizens, but of determining in what specific ways people are said to be equal or unequal. 
       
      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 5.3.3 Aristotle on Virtue, Pleasure, and Pain  
    • Reading: W.D. Ross’s Translation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: “Book II”

      Link: W.D. Ross’s Translation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: “Book II” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read sections 1–3 of Book II from Nicomachean Ethics linked above.  In these passages, Aristotle discusses his idea that moral virtue is a matter of habit.  He also mentions that the role of good legislators is to instill good habits in the citizens they govern.  But in order for the legislators to help citizens develop their virtues, they would first need to know what it means to live virtuously and what specific virtues there are. 
       
      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 5.4 Constrained Freedom: Justice within the Bounds of a Community  

    Note: Kant agrees that the role of the state is to cultivate a virtuous citizenry, but he disagrees that the state should decide in advance what it means to be virtuous.  Instead, Kant advocates a framework in which individuals are free to pursue their own visions of what the good life.  Communitarians, inspired by Aristotle, resist Kant’s (and Rawls’s) view of individual freedom as too radical and believe that some moral obligations result from the communities of which individuals are a part.

  • 5.4.1 Alasdair MacIntyre and the Virtuous Community  

    Note: MacIntyre opposes the radical individualism espoused by most contemporary liberal democracies and urges that a truly just society is one in which tradition and community should be regarded sources of individual identity and moral obligation.  For philosophical support, MacIntyre turns to Aristotle, whose views about virtue predate the Enlightenment emphasis on individual rights.

  • 5.4.2 Patriotism: Virtue of Loyalty or Collective Selfishness?  
    • Reading: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 11: Where Our Loyalty Lies”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 11: Where Our Loyalty Lies” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break  at 24:25.  Then, continue watching the remainder of the video lecture.  Certain communitarian theories would urge that patriotism is an important component of justice and morality, since national traditions and a sense of collective belonging inform the identities of each citizen to some extent.  Critics of patriotismargue that it is a kind of prejudice at best, and at worst, can lead to persecution and injustice on a massive scale.  In this lecture, Professor Sandel explores the intricacies of this issue as students argue both for and against patriotism. 
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.4.3 Ethical Issues surrounding Patriotism  
    • Reading: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Igor Primoratz’s “Patriotism” Article

      Link: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Igor Primoratz’s “Patriotism” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this article, which outlines the ethical issues associated with patriotism.  As you read, consider the following questions: does patriotism entail support for the government of your country and all of its policies, or is it simply a moral attachment to a certain cultural heritage and narrative?  Is there any version of patriotism that is morally permissible, or even morally imperative?  Please make sure you read the section about MacIntyre’s view on patriotism carefully.
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.5 Justice, the Good, and the Problem of Agreement  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 12: Debating Same-Sex Marriage”

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 12: Debating Same-Sex Marriage” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Watch the first half of this video until the lecture break at 23:55.  You will view the second part of this video in subunit 5.8.  While you view this video lecture, ask yourself: how can we establish a just society without arriving at some kind of consensus about what the good (in this case, the good for same-sex couples and other members of the moral community) is?  In this lecture, Professor Sandel makes the case that questions of morality and justice cannot be separated from questions about the good.  The problem, though, is that all members of a society seldom agree on what the good is.  This leads to a discussion of same-sex marriage, a hotly contested issue in the United States.  
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.5.1 The Moral and Legal Status of Sodomy  
    • Reading: Cornell University Law School: The Supreme Court of the United States’ Opinion in Lawrence v. Texas

      Link: Cornell University Law School: The Supreme Court of the United States’ Opinion in Lawrence v. Texas (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read this opinion rendered in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas.  In this decision, the Supreme Court struck down a previous ruling and affirmed that state laws against sodomy violate the constitutional right to due process.  The decision was seen as a major advance for equal rights among homosexuals.  Arguments in the case centered on how we ought to understand the basic concept of liberty. 
       
      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 5.5.2 A Solution to the Same-Sex Marriage Question: Ending the Institution of Marriage  
    • Reading: Slate Magazine: Michael Kinsley’s “Abolish Marriage”

      Link: Slate Magazine: Michael Kinsley’s “Abolish Marriage” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this magazine article, which suggests a novel, but certainly controversial solution to the cultural impasse over whether same-sex marriage should be made legal.  In this article, the author proposes that, because it is a form of discrimination for the government to offer the freedom to marry only to opposite-sex couples and because the campaign to award marriage-rights to same sex couples seems doomed to gridlock, the best way to guarantee equal freedoms for everyone is to eliminate marriage altogether, at least as far as it exists as a legal status. 
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.5.3 A Contemporary Natural Law Argument against Same-Sex Marriage  
    • Reading: MIT Anscombe Society: Professor John Finnis’s “Law, Morality, and ‘Sexual Orientation’”

      Link: MIT Anscombe Society: Professor John Finnis’s “Law, Morality, and ‘Sexual Orientation’” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      Google Docs
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the John Finnis article from this list to download the PDF file.  In this article, Finnis presents a sophisticated argument for the view that marriage is properly an arrangement entered into by a man and a woman and not by a same-sex couple, because men and women are naturally capable of procreating without the help of a third party and because the continuity of married life provides a stable environment for children to be brought up in. 
       
      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.5.4 The Right to Marriage  
    • Reading: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health

      Link: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      HTML
       
      Instructions: Read this ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health linked above.  In this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court decided that marriage was a constitutionally-protected right of all citizens, including same-sex couples (at least within the state of Massachusetts).  The court grounded their arguments in the principles of due process and equal protection, both derived from the liberal tradition’s conception of freedom and quality.  This case prompted a string of state court decisions regarding same-sex marriage and sparked a national debate on the topic. 
       
      Reading this article and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

  • 5.6 Cultural Relativism  
    • Reading: University of Central Arkansas: James Rachels’ “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”

      Link: University of Central Arkansas: James Rachels’ “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read this webpage on the issues of cultural relativism and absolutism, which describe these classic issues as they were understood by a major ethical theorist, James Rachels.  Rachels acknowledges that there may be some cultural differences that seem insurmountable but that when it comes to ethical theory, there can be overriding ethical principles that can be followed across cultures.
       
      Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.7 Existentialist Ethics  
  • 5.7.1 Friedrich Nietzsche  
  • 5.7.2 Jean-Paul Sartre  
  • 5.8 The Relation between Morality and the Law  
    • Lecture: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 12: The Good Life”

      Link: YouTube: WGBH Educational Foundation and Harvard University: Professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” “Episode 12: The Good Life” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U
       
      Instructions: Start the video after the lecture break at 24:40.  Then, watch the remainder of this video lecture.  In this lecture, Professor Sandel concludes the discussion of justice by asking what cases like same-sex marriage and abortion can tell us about the relation between morality and the law.  As you view this video lecture, consider the questions that follow.  Is it possible to legislate without imposing moral judgments and unfairly restricting freedoms?  In other words, can the government be neutral about divisive moral issues?
       
      Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 5 Discussion Board  
    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 5 Discussion Questions”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “PHIL103: Unit 5 Discussion Questions” (HTML)

      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials, please post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board.  Feel free to start your own related posts, and respond to other students’ postings as well.

      1. Consider someone with unusual opinions or unusual goals in life, for example, someone who chooses never to marry.  How does this person’s decision relate to existentialist ethics (as in Sartre’s radical freedom and radical responsibility)?  How should this person behave toward people he or she dates?  Explain your response.
       
      2. How would you weigh economic arguments in favor of same-sex marriage?  For example, consider the argument that when people pair up and take care of each other in old age, it decreases financial burdens on our society and government as a whole.  Or, consider a student who is applying to college and filling out their financial aid paperwork.  If the student is the child of a same-sex couple, then is that student only obligated to report the lower income of one parent, because both parents are not legally married?  Is this fair to other students who must report the income of their opposite-sex married parents who need the same financial aid resources?

      3. Should the state be able to involve itself in cases where citizens, who are adults and who are able to give informed consent, choose to harm themselves?  For example, note the different state policies on physician assisted suicide/euthanasia.  Explain your response.

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 5 hours to complete.

  • Final Exam  

« Previous Unit Next Unit » Back to Top