This past semester I had the good fortune of taking a class in ethics. I rather enjoyed the class and it sparked my interest in deepening the learning on the subject. As a result, I did some digging and came across a course that has been put online (Aside: I am a big fan of iTunes U!). The course is called “Justice” and it is offered by Harvard University. The professor: Michael Sandel.
I find the subject of ethics fascinating. I think it is a subject that everyone should have at least a basic understanding of. That is, I think people should have read some of the basic texts or at least know some of the basic arguments from the different theorists or theories (eg. Utilitarianism, Aristotle, Locke, Rights Theory, etc.).
Back to this course: it’s fantastic! There are 12 ‘episodes’ that are really a total of 24 classes. There’s a different subject each week and the professor really engages the students. There’s a great deal of discussion between the students and the professor on a range of moral issues.Here’s a quote from the professor during what could have potentially become a rather contentious point in the last episode: “We’ve done pretty well over a whole semester and we’re doing pretty well now dealing with questions that most people think that can’t even be discussed in a university setting.”
After watching all 12 episodes, I think that his quote is spot on. The students (and the professor) spoke about a number of contentious and possibly controversial subjects without descending into ad hominem attacks. In fact, the way that the students engaged in civil discourse is what I’d like to think that our politicians and pundits could do to set an example for the citizens of the world.
Here’s a short video preview of the course, in case you’re interested:
On another note, I’m really looking forward to reading Michael Sandel’s new book called: What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.