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The Public Philosopher: "Committing acts of public philosophy"

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Paula McDonnell 09:18, Monday, 2 April 2012

Editors note:  Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel visits the London School of Economics for a series of public discussions in which he deconstructs contemporary ethical dilemmas. Hugh Levinson talks about working with The Public Philosopher. You can hear the programme on Radio 4 at 9am on Tuesday 3, 10 and 17 April 2012.  
 

Michael Sandel, Harvard political philosopher presents The Public Philosopher on Radio 4.

 

It’s great spending time with a rock star. Everyone’s gazing at you, or rather at your new best friend. Teenagers wait yearningly for their chance just to ask nervously for an autograph or even – OMG! - pose for a photo with their hero. It’s hormone city. It’s exciting. It’s wild. And who is the rock star? Mick Jagger? Bruce Springsteen? Or perhaps a newbie like Ed Sheeran?

 

Well, actually he’s er…Michael Sandel. Not a man to strap on a Telecaster or that likely to crowd surf, but a rock star all the same. A rock star of political philosophy.

 

We were at the London School of Economics to record the first in a series of discussions titled The Public Philosopher. We knew that Michael Sandel, who’s a professor at Harvard, had something of a following. After all, he had had a fantastic reception when he delivered a memorable series of Reith Lectures in 2009. But even in those three years, things had changed.

 

The first sign was when the tickets were released. The twittersphere went insane. “Anyone who doesn't apply on Tuesday is daft,” one fan tweeted. “Got a ticket for LSE Michael Sandel Lecture! #wooooo” wrote another.

 

There were 2,500 ticket requests in just a few hours. The application was window was hurriedly closed before things went too nutty. When we arrived at the venue, there was a long, long queue for return tickets, and the LSE was forced to open up two overflow rooms.

 

So why the excitement? It has a lot to do with Michael Sandel’s remarkable teaching style – or what he sometimes calls “committing acts of public philosophy.”

 

He starts with a current controversy and then throws it out to his audience, via a series of deceptively simple questions. “What do you mean by that? Who disagrees?  Tell us why that’s bad? Who has an answer to that question?” and his favourite: “What do you think?”

 

At the LSE, one question he addressed was whether universities should give preference to applicants to poorer backgrounds.

 

One audience member called Lucy argued that they should. So Michael Sandel posed a scenario where he was an applicant who had done well, but wasn’t admitted because of preferences given to poorer students.

 

“What do you say to me Lucy?” he asked.

 

Lucy began: “Well I think that if the other person got…”

 

Sandel interrupted “No, no talk to me...” And by challenging her managed to extract what he described as Lucy’s “radical thesis”.

 

Through this exciting, interactive style he gets to the roots of the philosophical notions we hold – often unconsciously – about notions like fairness and the public good. No wonder that the televising of his Harvard series of lectures on justice have been a massive internet hit and won him a global following. 

 

So that’s why he gets rock star treatment in London. But as he rather abashedly told me, that’s nothing. You should see what happens when he goes to Tokyo….

 

Hugh Levinson is Editor of The Public Philosopher on BBC Radio 4 

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Very interesting discussion. I would comment that discrimination is always dangerous. What about children with rich parents who never read a book - I would say their background is disadvantaged as compared with poor children whose parents give them encouragement to achieve.

  • Comment number 2.

    Interesting discussion. It cannot be assumed that all children who attend private school are from wealthy backgrounds. Many have scholarships, other parents make huge sacrifices to meet fees. In rural areas where there is no choice of state secondary schools, the decision to go private is often made to provide opportunity in something not available in the state school e.g. ensemble music experience. Private schools in general probably aim for a more rounded curriculum and are less exam driven than the state equivalent, many have an intake which is, in terms of academic ability, as 'comprehensive' as that of the state system. Why should A-Level or equivalent exam results not be a suitable selection process for all?

  • Comment number 3.

    A comment was made about the high fees for postgraduate study. As a two parent family which had never gone beyond the basic income tax bracket, getting them through school and trying to help with university fees meant that when one of them gained a post graduate place a decade ago, the £10.000 fee, let alone London living costs, meant that she could not go. So it is not just the poor, but average incomes, that are affected.

  • Comment number 4.

    Very much enjoyed the discussion

    For one great moment I thought the concept of meritocracy was going to be addressed...

    For example: when we have created the perfect one what then? Will those who have reached the top entirely on merit be so exemplary that the process will begin all over again, or will the `top` people run true to human behaviour through the pull up the ladder behind them ensuring the succession of their own and those in their own image!

    And if this happens what becomes of those with less merit; who will speak for them?

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you for an exciting program. Can I suggest that the terms discussed be definied before discussion starts. What are universities for ? To create leaders for a nation. As grand as it sounds, it is non the less true. Who do you want as a leader? The best and fairest: and that is why the so called ''meritocracy'' has been put in place, which at the end of the day is nothing less than another term for academic selection. It is not matter either you deserve it or not. It is a matter wether you gonna be the best for the job.
    Yet, as a nation, it would be a huge mistake to have an elite who turns the country into a nepotic system, the sons of the so called elite, being, as we all know, much more likely then their counterparts to attend the best universities.
    That's when positive discrimination kicks in. A country need leaders representing all communities and the country makes room for them. A kid from a poor background whose parents first language is not English (my first language is not English, so I do apologise in advance for any barbarisms) and who benefits from unconditional love and support might not be more deserving than a kid who witness violence at home in a good suburb. University choice is not about being fair or making up for life difficulties. It's all about what is good for the country. And what is good for any country is a leadership which reflects its social making and in doing so gives hope to all the parents of all the children of all the communitis and walk of life that one day their kids can lead.

  • Comment number 6.

    What an amazing gift Michael Sandel has for leading a debate. The calmness of his voice, perfect summation of each point of view, referring back to previous points of view by name. It made what could have been an otherwise dry topic one of the most interesting programmes I have heard. Can't wait for the next one.

  • Comment number 7.

    Its Interesting that in this debate so many forms of class discrimination are displayed . The simplest is the voice, and although subjective, we can all hear a fair amount of middle or upper-class accents. The next is argument form. Sandal is trying to employ a strict logical format to the argument. He is skilful in distilling the arguments so that they can be conditioned as , ' legitimate ' or sound arguments . But the bluff and bluster from some of the students is such that it suggests a fair amount of interview practice. The third is the level of self confidence displayed. Non of these skills are readily available to the working class . I am from this class, and I know. So I am pointing out that this debate is being held amongst a class of people that have already benefited from the discrimination they are trying to solve. This is all very nice and altruistic but why not try asking someone who hasnt already benefited. maybe he or she would give a simpler answer. My answer to this then is this, Universities should NOT give preference to working class people. They should be asked to judge their applicants purely on academic achievement. But they should be scientific in there approach . The results should be viewed blind. No interview , no reference to extra curricular activity and the university should not know which school the applicant came from. This would immediately remove some of the discrimination present in the application process. The next stage is more complicated. Why should we have privileged education? Why should a richer child have a better education than a poorer one? We should scrap private education. We dont send black children to one school and white to another, why do we do it for rich and poor? And the results are clear , most professionals have a private education. Are we supposed to believe richer people are genetically predisposed to the professions? This simple inequality needs to be addressed . Then the other inequalities in children's lives. Surestarts are being attacked by this government , and this is a terrible thing. Children from worse off backgrounds need this help at an early age.

  • Comment number 8.

    One participant commented that the inability to define class scientifically was a showstopper for positive discrimination. How about using total family expenditure on the candidate's education, total amount of welfare benefits recieved by candidate's family over candidate's lifetime? Then downgrade the entrance requirements proportionately according to how much positive discrimination is deemed appropriate.

    Just a starting point for a mechanism to which many other factors could be added. Not addressing the question of whether positive discrimination would be a good thing, although I think it would be for several of the reasons discussed in this program. We need more of this sort of debate, and even more we need some politicians prepared to take on the "markets are gods" mentality seriously.

  • Comment number 9.

    If you are determined that places at your institution should be awarded by a new criteria based on perceived deprivation then ask yourself whether you would sacrifice your own place to help further the injustice that you want to remove.

  • Comment number 10.

    It was an interesting programme about the clash of two fundamental principles. On the one hand we have meritocracy. We want the best brain surgeons or aircraft designers - irrespective of class, gender or colour. On the other hand we object to unfairness. Today almost everyone decries any discrimination against women and blacks for education. Many also feel that the obstacles to working class children getting to higher education are too high.
    The central question is where do you draw the line between the two principles capability and fairness?
    Each of us draws a line depending on our class, gender, ethnicity, attitudes of those around us, the media and politicians. There is no objective 'right solution'.
    My personal view is that the debate is dominated by products of public school and Oxbridge and, dare I say it, philosophers. That is why the tripling of tuition fees was hardly mentioned.

  • Comment number 11.

    I was disappointed that no one asked why we differentiate between pre 18 education and post? Ultimately why shouldn't everyone who wants to go to university go? We don't advocate that only particularly able or particularly rich children go to school, we assume that learning benefits them and society so why don't we see university education in the same light? Not that everyone must go (like school) but why not those that want to learn go, it can only enrich, and if they can't hack it they will change paths having learnt something.
    Would have been interesting to explore further ed from a different perspective.

  • Comment number 12.

    Enjoyed the programme. But there is a difference between class (which is becoming less relevant these days) and wealth. Attacking wealthy individuals and groups seems to be on the up since the financial crisis. I come from a working class background. I left school with no o levels and 1 cse grade 3. Over the years I have accumalated wealth. I have become a parent. I want the best for my children and send them to private school. It seems ilogical to me to now discriminate against my children because I want for them the education I didn't have.

  • Comment number 13.

    A wonderful show, well done Radio 4. Once again you have provided the listeners with a thoughtful and lively programme with a fanstasic speaker. He was so amazing, listening, guiding and calling people by their name. I wish I had him as a lecturer - wonderful. Shall listen to all the rest!

  • Comment number 14.

    Good programme! I was wondering what the implications would be for private schools. If pupils were at greater risk of being rejected simply because they attended a certain school, parents might be less inclined to pay the school fees.

    I have heard that in Texas the top 10 per cent of pupils from all schools are helped in some way to pursue a course at university. I have no details of the scheme. I have also read that one country in Asia outlawed private tuition in a bid to make the education system fairer.

  • Comment number 15.

    I enjoyed Lucy's point about how we should feel privileged to have a university place.

    At our University, undergraduate students often seem like they are just going through the motions after college. A lack of motivation manifests itself as low attendance and time spent on youtube in labs. It makes you wonder who lost out. Poorer students? I think not. Just look at the figures for UCAS applicants after fee rises http://www.ucas.ac.uk/about_us/media_enquiries/media_releases/2012/20120327

    For 17/18 year olds there is a low 3% drop, with an 11% drop in older students. I believe that older students may make a more informed choice about coming to university, and maybe could warrant a place over 17/18 year olds. Figures for academic excellence of older, compared to younger students are patchy at best, but this is a debate I’d like to see more of.

  • Comment number 16.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the debate about University entrants. I have just retired from University of Sussex and the only criteria that I considered important was that the student could cope with the much more intensive subject matter, and especially in Engineering, that their maths was first class. Letting someone in who is disadvantaged with lower A level grades just makes them even more disadvantaged if they can't keep up. Do you really want your suspension bridge built by someone who scraped through their degree with 41%?

  • Comment number 17.

    I thought this was a well-led debate by Michael Sandel - it was extremely riveting and thought-provoking to listen to. I myself am in my last year of secondary school hoping to get the grades for my single conditional offer (out of four) to study at university in the Autumn. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to attend a very good independent school through a bursary which pays for most of my school fees. I am definitely not middle-class (I have one parent who provides for three of us under 18) but can understand the distinction being made about the differences between state and independent sector schools (I went to a state primary school and have friends at top grammar schools).

    However, I do not think that working class (however you define this) students should have priority or an entitlement to a university place based on their family income or financial background. I believe that the problem of university allocation should be addressed by equalling the balance between the broad spectrum of education, across the grammar schools, comprehensives, etc. For example though I am naturally quiet and shy, through many opportunities to give presentations since the age of twelve, I now feel relatively confident in presenting myself to others. Though I am nowhere near as vocal and skilled in comparison to others in my class at my independent school, I find there is generally a difference in public-speaking between state and independent schools. Gearing state schools to incorporate other skills such as public-speaking, broadening student's knowledge beyond the curriculum and other intellectually stimulating activities will enable them to become more interesting and vibrant people, who can not only achieve the grades, but have a passion and energy that has been nurtured.

    This is because though I believe that Lucy had a valid point about the student who achieved ABB against all the odds in a low-performing state school vs. the AAB student from an independent school, the fact is that universities have to decide who will cope better and thrive on the course at university. Though the ABB student may have worked very hard to gain those grades, the truth is that they are still not academically as high as the AAB student. Therefore, it would seem that the AAB student would do better at university. However, if you supplemented the ABB student's curriculum with the described activities, it may become clear through their personal statement or interview that they warrant the place more than the AAB student. The ultimate purpose of university is to better yourself academically and they should select students on academic ability and potential. Academic ability can easily be measured through grades and cut-off marks but potential can just as simply be explored through more personal vices such as in an interview etc. By taking the time to discover the applicant's true personality you can more sensibly judge who to give a place too.

    Although I do accept that the practicality in this suggestion is flawed as the majority of courses rely merely on grades and a personal statement, I think that someone needs to invoke a huge reform in the way university places are conducted. Though not entirely related, the whole system of applying BEFORE you have your final exam grades seems ridiculous - I think something needs to be done to either shift exam timetables earlier or universities need to sort out their admin quicker so that they can place students after exam results. With friends applying to American universities, perhaps the idea of a personal essay (much less restricted than the current UCAS personal statement) is an idea to adopt so that again a wider perception of the individual is accounted for?

  • Comment number 18.

    Apparently 50% of the UK gold medallists at the Beijing olympics were educated at private schools (compared to 8% of the population). Given that the 2012 Olympic Games will be largely funded by general taxation (to a much greater extent in fact than our leading universities which also enjoy significant revenues from non-governmental sources) should the selectors discriminate in favour of those from less advantaged backgrounds?

  • Comment number 19.

    I listened to the programme and was underwhelmed. Failed to see what all the fuss was about. Yes, the Professor stimulated and facilitated a thought provoking discussion - but so he should - he is an ivy league academic after all! On the basis of what I heard I wouldn't call him an intellectual or real thinker. I studied Philosophy in the 1980s at two Universities - in the UK (Essex) and US (Memphis) - and the impact of some of the professors and ordinary lecturers I experienced there will stay with me for life. It was a privilege to be taught by them. They may not all have been famous names like Professor Sandel, but their learning and erudition was profound. Sandel must have a good agent I imagine and knows how to 'market' himself in this un-intellectual age.

  • Comment number 20.

    I attended this and enjoyed the debate, I thought Sandel chaired it well. In fact, I'm actually James who spoke towards the end of the show and have a few further thoughts on the issue.

    It's strange to hear yourself back on something like this and cringe a bit, but I should come clean and say I actually attended private school, which may make my comments sound fairly hypocritical. I was also fortunate enough to go to Oxford after much hard work so how would I have felt if I knew I'd been discriminated against? That's a tough question, but this goes beyond the individual and is a societal issue. I guess the problematic attempt is, at the very least, to think impartially about these matters, irrespective of where you come from and whether you've benefited from current arrangements.

    What I disagreed with and what stirred me up in the show were the comments from some in the audience asserting that 'class' was not a quantifiable issue in this debate. I think it is for many, albeit in a different guise: no one's saying for a moment that we're talking about old 19th century divides for instance, but the figures for access to university do tell a story. Research from the Sutton Trust, for example, shows that one third of students admitted to Oxford and Cambridge come from the top 100 schools in the country, 84 of which are independent schools (and independent school pupils form 7% of the population). Granted, however, as one comment above said, that the makeup of private schools is more diverse than often suggested.

    The problem is, what is to be done here? I don't think accepting the status quo is an adequate answer since, by many measures, social mobility is getting worse. A report by the last government, for instance, found that the richest tenth of households in the UK received income four times above those in the poorest decile (well up on the '80s). No surprises, it's much greater when you switch from income to assets.

    I think we should consider all sides of the debate: what are the arguments for alternative action, what are the arguments against. An alternative (and better) approach might be to emphasize the importance of supply side reform at the level of schools by extending opportunities to more children through academies and other policy ideas. Additionally, an integrated approach towards key factors in the early years such as childcare has been called for by recent research. What can't be done, I believe, is to deny that the issue is a live one and to leave the table. All options should be assessed.

    That's why I

  • Comment number 21.

    ...That's why I enjoyed attending a discussion about a very complex issue, although I regret that shrill comments like mine stupidly simplified the problem somewhat. I fundamentally agree that no one should nor could ever stop preventing parents from doing the best that they can for their children. At the macro level though, if improving social mobility and wider access to university is something to aspire towards, what should we be doing differently?

  • Comment number 22.

    *prevent parents from doing the best...

  • Comment number 23.

    the last comment read ..." what can be done...." to level the playing field for university entrance between the rich and poor , improving social mobility and enriching the discussion and representation in our universities and leadership positions . Surely one of the most comprehensive and effective ways of addressing the problem would be to fund State Education properly so that those attending state schools do not miss out on so much privilege and opportunity , and to pay teachers a realistic salary and reward them properly for the job they do , thereby attracting and retaining and motivating teachers . ( mostly a female dominated profession ..... ) This strikes me as a great value for money strategy to improve the the quality and diversity of university entrance . Teachers teach critical thinking , and a variety of other life skills , our society would be better off with stronger state sector education , and I simply do not believe that this would be too expensive . Education IS the basis of a thriving democracy , without strong state sector education , we are all the worser - off . By the way , I am a nurse , I've worked in Paediatrics for 30 years , AND I WILL BE TUNING IN !!!!!!!! I live abroad now , and I am disgusted by the classest attitude in British society when I visit the UK . Like many in my age group , I left because nurses are paid so badly in the UK and working conditions are horrendous ...and yes , we save lives , improve the quality of life , and death , we are mainly a female workforce , and totally underpaid and rushed off our feet . The haemorrhage of a skilled workforce of British Trained nurses continues , and the NHS is on its knees , such that when my Mum needed treatment for cancer there was not a bed because there were no nurses to run the bed ....... my family and the doctors and nurses at the hospital had to improvise to find a bed run by skilled capable nurses ......Education and health are part of social capital . Nurture it and society is better off , underfund it and we all suffer .

  • Comment number 24.

    Your euphoria over this programme is entirely unjustified. Even Harry Redknapp could have done a better job. Sandel invited mainly American students to make comments from LSE when this should have been a discussion relevant to the UK and of interest to a Radio 4 audience. Perhaps the BBC would consider some UK "Polymaths" next time. How much did this US invitee cost us I wonder.

  • Comment number 25.

    I thought I heard mainly British accents from students , one
    American , one Irish studying in America and some students from India .

  • Comment number 26.

    Should a banker be paid more than a nurse?

    A perfectly functioning market is the best way of setting the pay of an employed person (not perfect, but better than any other system). The problem is the market does not always function perfectly for various reasons eg monopoly, collusion.

    Where the Government is the monopoly employer, the market can't function properly.
    Bankers are an example where the the market is not functioning perfectly for reasons of collective self interest of the group involved.
    Footballers' pay is a result of problems in the TV and broadcasting market, and restrictive collaboration by Football clubs.

    The Government has a responsibility for taking steps to ensure as far as possible that markets function properly. Where this is not possible it should ensure that pay differentials are socially acceptable.
    What is socially acceptable is a political decision any government has to take. If it does not, it risks social breakdown.

    To limit pay differentials the Government can use the tax system, taxing the companies or organisation that pay salaries that abuse socially acceptable differentials.

  • Comment number 27.

    1) I agree to some extent with jaystar: neither market works very well. In this country, as far as the NHS is concerned, there is effectively only one buyer (the NHS) and only one supplier (the union). With bankers, the owners (shareholders) are in a weak position relative to the management, and there is only a very limited supply of candidates for the top jobs in these very big banks since there aren't many banks to produce them.
    2) I didn't think like was being compared with like: ALL nurses are being compared with SOME bankers. Not all bankers get paid huge sums. And if there were an open market for nurses, I dare say there would emerge a small number of top nurses, who would command a large salary, as do top doctors even now.

  • Comment number 28.

    Firstly - fantastic(!) to have this kind of debate so freely aired and calmly discussed by the public and a man of patience and insight.

    But! (secondly) - I felt a crucial area was jumped over... as follows:

    It was established that it is unfair that more pay is given to persons having the benefit of privileged opportunity - through parents education and monetary levels etc. and then, quite simply, by way of their intrinsic talent and further still even, with regards to a persons ability to manifest motivation itself. I thought this was very well argued for and, personally, can't agree more with the notion. (Please let's hear arguments against it!) But then Michael leapt us forward to a perfect meritocracy, missing out a huge area in-between and, in my opinion, the region where the real crux of today’s agenda lies. Furthermore (given a perfect meritocracy) it is beyond me to consider the very notion that we could measure a persons actual effort in terms of how hard they apply themselves to a task - in the light of how we know one person will perform a task with little effort whilst another take great effort. (But anyone who has a proposal for how to achieve this, again, please speak up!). So... with regards that crucial area between the two points I have the following thoughts:

    The market does seem like a very good arbitrator of 'worth' but we know it fails at times. Whilst the idea of some kind of a 'central body' determining these matters is obviously prone to subjectivity and so clearly is unsatisfactory. Measurement of effort (as discussed) is then, of course, fraught with difficulty - but, nevertheless, desirable. It strikes me then that a compromise is in order... one to deal with today’s world whilst we wait for the magic 'effort calculating machine' to materialize. This compromise, thankfully, is one that is already available, in that it exists - people use it today - just not that many people. What I'm referring to is 'one wage companies'.

    Lets start with a simple explanation of the set up: A one wage company pays its employees and directors etc. all equally, CEO to cleaner - on an hourly basis. But you are paid with a yearly salary (with agreed hours) and then for overtime if indeed necessary. As such you are reviewed by peer groups that can be rotated etc.

    Then the company competes in the market with other companies as per usual, in the same entrepreneurial manner as today - no change to the system required. If the company is successful it can raise the wage for all who work for it. In this way - every member of staff has an incentive to do a good job and work hard. Incentive to be a manager or a highly skilled technician etc. will then be based on an individual’s talent and aptitude for the task only.

    I'd advocate a kind of 'kite mark' to assist these companies - in a sort of 'cfc free' logo manner. So that the public can 'buy organic' - i.e. easily make the choice to support one wage companies.

    Now, I feel that this notion could be applied across all fields. For the idea that only large amounts of cash attracts 'the brightest and the best' seems to me a fallacy. We all know of academics who give away most of their wage to charity and very talented people who dedicate their lives to helping others or simply enjoying their privilege rather than chasing money. To which I can only presume, in the manner of philanthropic Victorian bankers, that there are persons out there who would enjoy, and be highly capable of rising to, the challenge of running a large bank without taking large remuneration for their efforts. Their simply must be!

    In this way - individual 'one wage' firms would compete with each other and other 'non one wage' firms with the discretion of 'natural selection' providing for obtaining the best results. And so it will be the market itself that will determine if the concept is of worth. Indeed, all institutions could work this way, not just those within markets. For example a government based entity like the NHS - whilst still providing the same 'health care for all service' could move, at the end of one tax year, from a hierarchy of wages to an evened out 'one wage'. Think how good the cleaning staff would become - for they'd feel as respected and essential as the rest of the staff, to which today we all know only to well that they indeed are ... for a surgeon is impotent to achieve without a properly clean hospital. And if my surgeon is motivated to operate on me in order to earn large levels of remuneration then let them go private. I myself can't imagine the best doctors being monetarily motivated - it goes against logic - and is no different to today really.

    So imagine if you will, the camaraderie created and the jealousy removed whilst still providing for the reverie, excitement, motivation and incentive obtained from competition. The combination appeals to me greatly... the idea of humanity itself being allowed to 'self determine' whether it wishes to compete for the best products and services - whilst simultaneously, with regards to wages, ... leveling the 'paying field'.

    Please speak up with any flaws to this proposal - or indeed with any further embellishments to expand the concept.

    Many thanks for reading.

  • Comment number 29.

    Too much emphasis on the concept of equality of opportunity and not enough on the reasons for the structure of inequality. When the latter issue was raised by a female respondent after 30 mins Sandel (unusually) didnt ask her name or seem interested in what she had to say. Disappointing too that her contribution was edited out for the 30 min version at 9.30.pm.

  • Comment number 30.

    'An expansion of the debate'

    Michael Sandel has tethered us into the question of 'pay' by various means:

    Firstly by examining directly the fairness of the means of access to 'high pay' (or the good life as he referred to it), i.e. through higher education.

    Then (secondly) by questioning the markets position as dictator of the pay we receive as employees.

    And today (at least on the radio) - thirdly - by posing an interesting moral conundrum with regards to the manner in which we pay for our health.

    Now I'm particularly interested in Michael's choice of 'pay' as leitmotif to these three debates because I'm convinced it is this that is actually the next critical issue for humanity to face. This idea being the source of much commotion in the world as exemplified by the recent 'Occupy' movement and, in this way, being a potential source for the responsibility for many of humanities woes - economically, politically and psychologically. In my mind, and I'm sure too that of many many others, the moral and philosophical question of how we pay each other is paramount to the progress of the species. To me, the issue will one day become as blatant as that of the question of human slavery, gender discrimination, race discrimination, sexual discrimination, religious discrimination and humanities abuse of the 'natural' world. The human species has been blessed with the power to reason and has, thankfully, stepped up to this challenge again and again. And so, with regards to the issue of pay, I feel we must now step up once again - as with the aforementioned issues - to attend to this matter as well. But, as with those previous issues, I believe that we collectively have difficulty seeing the true nature of the problem before it has been 'outed', so to speak. And it is only through the slow input into the public arena - through patient and open debate that these issues will develop to a point of clarity for all. Take tonight's dilemma for example. I, personally, find it patently clear that the question of paying someone to be more healthy in order to save the impact on the governments purse in the long term equates directly to the issue of pay in its entirety. For, yes, we think of ourselves as free 'dignified' individuals (to quote our NHS doctor) making choices - freely - in this world in which we live. But the slightest philosophical examination of this concept scratches away the veneer of this ('colloquially' at least) presumed truth. The reality, of course, is that we are all constantly under 'coercion', all constantly being guided by the hand of 'incentive', all constantly being 'bribed', if you will, to follow the precepts of the system that we, in the large majority, find ourselves embroiled within. That system being the trade of our effort as people of this world for reward. Now to my mind the notion of the removal of the vast red tape, that constitutes the organisation of this system, is the holy grail of our time - one far off it would regrettably seem - but one that we should enjoy the challenge of striving towards (the time, energy, stress, etc. to be potentially saved being, perhaps, near incalculable in its profundity). For as Michael quite (astutely) playfully described to us with his 'thank you note discussion' at the end of today's lecture ... and considering how we appear to be creatures capable of such high degrees of sensitivity, compassion and understanding ... the really big philosophical question, for each and every one of us, is whether being 'paid' to do ANYTHING is of any moral value at all.

 

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