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Justice with Michael Sandel

Welcome to Justice!

Justice is one of the most popular courses in Harvard's history, and has captivated more than 14,000 students.

Now it's your turn to hone your critical-thinking skills and explore the moral decisions we all face in our lives. Check out this short introduction video and begin your journey.

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What's the Right Thing To Do?
Is torture ever justified? Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? How much is one human life worth?

Watch the videos to hear Harvard professor Michael Sandel talk about justice, equality, democracy, and citizenship. Then, visit the community to discuss: what do you think, and why?

One of the Most Popular Courses in Harvard’s History
Nearly one thousand students pack Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre to hear Michael Sandel talk about justice, equality, democracy, and citizenship.

Now it’s your turn to take the same journey in moral reflection that has captivated more than 15,000 students, as Harvard opens its classroom to the world.

Cool Philosophy
"Hard cases may make bad law, but in Michael Sandel’s hands they produce some cool philosophy. The course on justice that he's been teaching at Harvard for the past 30 years has made him one of the most popular teachers in the world."
- The Observer (London)
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Episode 01If you had to choose between killing one person to save the lives of five others and doing nothing, what would you do?
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Episode 02Sandel presents some contemporary cases in which cost-benefit analysis is used to put a dollar value on human life.
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Episode 03With humorous references to Bill Gates and Michael Jordan, Sandel introduces the libertarian notion that redistributive taxation (taxing the rich to give to the poor) is akin to forced labor.
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Episode 04If we all have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, how can a government enforce tax laws passed by the representatives of a mere majority?
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Episode 05During the Civil War, men drafted into war had the option paying less privileged citizens to fight in their place. This leads to a debate about war and conscription. Is today’s voluntary army open to the same objection?
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Episode 06Professor Sandel introduces Immanuel Kant, a challenging but influential philosopher. Kant argues that only when we act out of duty, do our actions have moral worth.
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Episode 07If your friend were hiding inside your home, and a person intent on killing your friend came to your door and asked you where he was, would it be wrong to tell a lie?
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Episode 08Rawls argues that even meritocracy, a distributive system that rewards effort, doesn’t go far enough in leveling the playing field because those who are naturally gifted will always get ahead.
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Episode 09Should we compensate for historical injustices such as slavery and segregation? When a university’s stated mission is to increase diversity, is it a violation of rights to deny a white person admission?
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Episode 10How does Aristotle address the issue of individual rights and the freedom to choose? If our place in society is determined by where we best fit, doesn’t that eliminate personal choice?
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Episode 11We inherit our past, and our identities, from our family, city, or country. What happens if our obligations to our family or community come into conflict with our obligations to humanity?
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Episode 12In the final lecture, Sandel makes the case for a new politics of the common good. Engaging, rather than avoiding, the moral convictions of our fellow citizens may be the best way of seeking a just society.

Featured Discussion

Take from the Rich, Give to the Poor

Take from the Rich, Give to the Poor

According to philosopher Robert Nozick, when the government takes even a dollar from Bill Gates, a billionaire, and gives it to a poor person, it is like forcing Gates to work for the poor person. Is Nozick right to think that redistributive taxation is like forced labor? Should there be no redistributive taxation whatsoever?

Active Discussions

Majority Rules

John Locke believes that government, once it is set up, should be guided by the principle of majority rule. However, he also believes that the purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, including their “unalienable” right to property. What if these two goals conflict? What if a poor majority wants to tax a rich [...]

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