You’re sitting on a trolley car, careening down a train track. There are five men ahead working on the track and you will kill them all if you proceed. You can’t stop, but what you can do is veer off onto a separate track and kill only one man instead of five. Do you do it?
It’s a classic ethical problem, and it is one of the stories with which Michael Sandel sometimes begins his undergraduate course “Justice,” which explores the ethics of topics as varied as democratic practice, market capitalism, war, torture, and bioethics. Held in Sanders Theater at Harvard University, the course regularly enrolls hundreds of students. Perhaps even more remarkable than the numbers enrolled is that Sandel is able to work with the audience in such a large amphitheater to create a dynamic, participatory experience rich in conversation and debate. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the course, among the first to be offered online, has made its way to viewers around the world.
This week we look forward to hosting Michael Sandel at the Library of Congress, where he will deliver the Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg Biennial Lecture on Jurisprudence. The event is hosted and organized by the Law Library of Congress and co-sponsored by the Kluge Center. The lecture, titled “Justice, Neutrality and Law,” will focus on questions such as whether the law should affirm certain moral judgments, or be neutral on moral and spiritual questions. The lecture will be filmed and live tweeted with the hashtag #KelloggLecture.
Political philosopher Michael Sandel delivers the 2015 Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg Biennial Lecture on Jurisprudence on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. For more information, click here.