Part 1 - Hired Guns?: During the Civil War, men drafted into war had the option of hiring substitutes to fight in their place. Many students say they find that policy unjust, arguing that it is unfair to allow the affluent to avoid serving and risking their lives by paying less privileged citizens to fight in their place. This leads to a classroom debate about war and conscription. Is today’s voluntary army open to the same objection? Part 2 - For Sale: Motherhood: Professor Sandel examines the principle of free-market exchange as it relates to reproductive rights. Sandel begins with a humorous discussion of the business of egg and sperm donation. He then describes the case of “Baby M”—a famous legal battle that raised the unsettling question, “Who owns a baby?” Students debate the nature of informed consent, the morality of selling a human life, and the meaning of maternal rights.
Justice is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history, having taught more than 14,000 students over the course of two decades. In this course, Sandel challenges us with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do. He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios. The results are often surprising, revealing that important moral questions are never black and white. This course also addresses the hot topics of our day—affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism and rights—and Sandel shows us that we can revisit familiar controversies with a fresh perspective. Each lecture in this course has two parts as well as related readings and discussion guides.