This post was written by Hatchet reporter Lila Weatherly.
Political philosopher and Harvard University professor Michael Sandel visited Lisner Auditorium on Thursday to explore ethical dilemmas in politics and society with students.
The lecture was part of a series for business students endowed by Board of Trustees member Richard Blackburn.
Here are a few takeaways from the lecture:
1. Posing questions to the audience
Sandel gave students examples of ethical dilemmas and asked them to take sides: Would it be OK to auction off a rhino hunt to raise money for conservation? What about putting a sticker price on immigration?
Those topics sparked heated debate, but Sandel said that’s what he was aiming to do.
“We need to revive the lost art of democratic discourse, and that means we need to learn the art of engaging with one another. Very much like we’ve done today,” Sandel said.
2. The ‘skyboxification of American life’
Sandel said there is less discourse among Americans now because classism keeps people of different socioeconomic backgrounds from interacting. He called it the “skyboxification of American life.”
At baseball games years ago, Sandel said, “There were always more expensive box seats and cheaper bleacher seats.”
“Everybody ate the same stale hot dogs and had to wait in the same long lines in the restrooms. When it rained, everyone got wet,” he said.
Now, baseball stadiums have luxury suites that keep some people from the rain. With separation between the rich and poor, not everyone has the same experience. That separation can make it difficult to solve ethical issues, Sandel said.
“Those who are affluent and those with modest means live and work and shop and play in different places. We send our children to different schools,” Sandel said.
3. ‘We won’t know until we try’
Sandel said to be most effective, people with different views should talk to each other with mutual respect.
“We need to engage more directly with the competing values of the ethical convictions, and moral and spiritual convictions, that citizens bring to public life,” he said.
He pointed out that in a pluralistic society where people disagree on values, it is important to reason with and listen to others.
“Not because it will lead to an agreement, but because we won’t know until we try,” Sandel said.