Campus News

Michael Sandel to speak at Xavier

By: Max Creager ~Staff Writer~

(Cambridge, MA - September 15, 2008) Moral Reasoning 22: Justice, taught by Professor Michael Sandel inside Sanders Theatre at Harvard University.  Staff Photo Justin Ide/Harvard News Office

Photo courtesy of harvard.edu | Michael Sandel has given TED talk presentations in addition to his “Morality and the Free Market” speech.

One of the most prolific modern political scientists, Michael Sandel, will come to speak at Xavier on Oct. 15 about his philosophical work, most notably his 2010 book “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” and his 2013 book “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.”

Sandel has been a Harvard professor for 35 years and has won critical acclaim around the world for his engagement in philosophical, moral and political issues. His Harvard course titled “Justice” enrolled more than 15,000 students after it was made available free online. Sandel has also given the Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Oxford University and served on President George W. Bush’s council for bioethics from 2002 to 2005.

Sandel continues to work with the BBC to produce a radio series called “The Public Philosopher.” In the series Sandel asks particularly challenging ethical questions such as, “Should nurses get paid more than bankers? Is rape worse than other violent crime? Is it right to bribe people to be healthy?”

One of Sandels key issues is raising the level of public discourse to capture large important philosophical, moral and political questions of modern times. “At a time when political argument consists mainly of shouting matches on cable television, partisan vitriol on talk radio and ideological food fights on the floor of Congress, it’s hard to imagine a reasoned public debate about such controversial moral questions as the right way to value procreation, children, education, health, the environment, citizenship and other goods. I believe such a debate is possible, but only if we are willing to broaden the terms of our public discourse and grapple more explicitly with competing notions of the good life,” Sandel wrote in his article for The Atlantic titled “What isn’t for sale.”

His comments come at a time where many students and citizens feel that our political discourse has been thwarted by partisan politics and the influence of celebrities or talking heads rather than leaders. “Isn’t it dangerous, they ask, to bring morality and religion into politics? Isn’t it safer for government to try to be neutral and avoid taking side on the moral and religions convictions its citizens espouse? I say no, not necessarily, for two reasons. First, it’s often not possible for government to be neutral on substantive moral questions. And second, the attempt to do so can make for an impoverished public discourse,” Sandel said in his 2009 lecture at Oxford titled “Morality in Politics.”

This attempt to bring moral questions into the heart of American political discourse will certainly offer a substantive dialogue and challenging discourse for Xavier students and faculty. Given what has thus far been an extremely interesting start to the 2016 campaign season, Michael Sandel’s talk will likely offer students an original and highly credited ethical and philosophical paradigm through which to view the future of modern American politics.

For more background information on Sandel’s work, see his material that has been made free online by TED, Harvard University and BBC radio 4. Micheal Sandel, co-sponsored by the Cintas Institute for Business Ethics and the Brueggeman Center, will speak 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 in Duff Banquet Hall at Cintas Center.