Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do?
PART ONE: MIND YOUR MOTIVE
Professor Sandel introduces Immanuel
Kant, a challenging but influential philosopher. Kant rejects
utilitarianism. He argues that each of us has certain fundamental
duties and rights that take precedence over maximizing utility. Kant
rejects the notion that morality is about calculating consequences.
When we act out of dutyâ€”doing something simply because it is rightâ€”only
then do our actions have moral worth. Kant gives the example of a
shopkeeper who passes up the chance to shortchange a customer only
because his business might suffer if other customers found out.
According to Kant, the shopkeepers action has no moral worth, because
he did the right thing for the wrong reason.
PART TWO: THE SUPREME PRINCIPLE OF MORALITY
says that insofar as our actions have moral worth, what confers moral
worth is our capacity to rise above self-interest and inclination and
to act out of duty. Sandel tells the true story of a thirteen-year old
boy who won a spelling bee contest, but then admitted to the judges
that he had, in fact, misspelled the final word. Using this story and
others, Sandel explains Kants test for determining whether an action is
morally right: to identify the principle expressed in our action and
then ask whether that principle could ever become a universal law that
every other human being could act on.