Philosophy
Philosophy
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Episode 169
Featuring Michael Sandel
Demetri Kofinas speaks with Michael Sandel, professor of Government Theory at Harvard University Law School and host of the BBC series “The Public Philosopher,” about how our society has moved away from a politics of the common good and how we might begin to engage in the moral and political renewal required to fix it.

In Episode 169 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Michael Sandel, professor of Government Theory at Harvard University Law School, host of the BBC series “The Public Philosopher,” and author of numerous, bestselling books including his latest, “The Tyranny of Merit.”  

When people complain about meritocracy, the complaint is usually not about the ideal but about our failure to live up to it. According to this complaint, meritocracy is a myth, a distant promise yet to be redeemed. This complaint is certainly valid. But what if the problem runs deeper? What if the real problem with meritocracy is not that we have failed to achieve it but that the ideal is flawed? What if the rhetoric of rising no longer inspires, not simply because social mobility has stalled but, more fundamentally, because helping people scramble up the ladder of success in a competitive meritocracy is a hollow political project that reflects an impoverished conception of citizenship and freedom? 

Perhaps nowhere has this mindset around success and failure been more evident than in our response to the pandemic, where we were continually assured by our public officials that we are “all in this together.” And yet, for those of who have been working from home during this time or who are economically independent enough to prioritize social distancing, take the necessary health precautions, and access the highest quality health services this catchphrase rings hollow. We know it’s not true. We know that there are two different realities for two different classes of people in this society, the winners and the losers.  

In their conversation today, Michael and Demetri explore how we got to this point, what it means for our society, and how we might begin to engage in the moral and political renewal required to fix it.

You can access the episode overtime, as well as the transcript and rundown to this week’s episode through the Hidden Forces Patreon Page. All subscribers gain access to our overtime feed, which can be easily added to your favorite podcast application.

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Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

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Episode Recorded on 12/14/2020

Michael J. Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University. He is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government Theory at Harvard University Law School, where his course Justice was the university's first course to be made freely available online and on television. It has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world, including in China, where Sandel was named the "most influential foreign figure of the year" (China Newsweek). He is also known for his critique of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice in his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982). His books What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets and Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? were international bestsellers and have been translated into 27 languages. Sandel’s legendary course “Justice” was the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and has been viewed by tens of millions. His BBC series “The Public Philosopher” explores the philosophical ideas lying behind the headlines with participants from around the world.  He received his doctorate from Balliol College, Oxford (1981), as a Rhodes Scholar, where he studied under philosopher Charles Taylor.

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