A Lesson in Lying / A Deal Is A Deal
Michael Sandel professor, philosophy, Harvard
Lecture Thirteen: "A Lesson in Lying"
Immanuel Kant's stringent theory of morality allows for no exceptions; he believed that telling a lie, even a white lie, is a violation of one's own dignity. His theory is put to the test with a hypothetical case. If your friend was hiding inside your home, and a killer knocked on your door asking where he was, what could you say to him -- without lying -- that would also save the life of your friend? This leads to a discussion of "misleading truths" -- and the example of how President Clinton used precise language to deny having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, without outright lying to the public.
Lecture Fourteen: "A Deal Is A Deal"
Sandel introduces the modern philosopher John Rawls and his theory of a "hypothetical contract." Rawls argues that the only way to achieve the most just and fair principles of governance is if all legislators came to the bargaining table in a position of equality. Imagine if they were all behind a "veil of ignorance" -- if their individual identities were temporarily unknown to them (their race, class, personal interests) and they had to agree on a set of laws together. Then and only then, Rawls argues, could a governing body agree upon truly fair principles of justice.
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