Harvard professor to discuss justice at GV

Courtesy Photo / photobureau.luther.edu
Harvard Professor and author Michael Sandel will be a guest lecturer for the Fall Arts Celebration

Courtesy Photo / photobureau.luther.edu Harvard Professor and author Michael Sandel will be a guest lecturer for the Fall Arts Celebration

Lauren Ringger

World-renowned academic lecturer Michael Sandel will come to Grand Valley State University next Thursday as part of the GVSU Fall Arts Celebration.

The popular Harvard professor will give a lecture called, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?”

Sandel has been a political philosophy professor at Harvard
for 30 years. More than 15,000 people have enrolled in his class “Justice,” the first Harvard University course made available online and on television for free.

“He is a great lecturer, and he would probably be interesting to anybody, but specifically people who are interested in ethics or public policy or politics will be interested in what he has to say,” said John Uglietta, chair of the Department of Philosophy. “But I think it is difficult to find people who aren’t interested in any of those things. He is also just a very engaging speaker; his classes and lectures are very popular.”

Sandel’s New York Times bestseller, “Justice,” looks the meaning of justice as well as a variety of different subjects like government bailouts and immigration reform. The book causes readers to reflect on what they think, and why.

“We all say, ‘Well, that wasn’t fair’ – well, explain to me why that wasn’t fair or explain what we owe each other,” said Phyllis Vandenberg, a GVSU philosophy professor. “What do we owe each other to be citizens of the same country, or different countries — what do we owe each other and what is our reasoning behind that? The lecture will give people a much deeper view when people say something like ‘that’s not fair’ or what it means to be just, or do the right thing.”
Sandel served on the President’s Council on Bioethics. In his course “Ethics, Biotechnology, and the Future of Human Nature,” Sandel explores the connection between science and ethics.

“Part of Sandel’s theory is that if we don’t address these issues directly we won’t make any progress on them,” Uglietta said. “It’s as if there are certain things we think we shouldn’t talk about because people will disagree about it. But if we avoid them, for one they really don’t get any better, and two, people that are willing to talk about them tend not to be very representative of all of the other people who are simply being to polite to say anything right now. I think he also believes that a lot of the questions we have about public policy at bottom resolve to deeper philosophical or ethical questions.”

Although the lecture is directed at those interested in political philosophy, justice or ethics, the applications of the lecture can be applied to any area of life.

“We are all citizens in our community, and it doesn’t matter what career you go into, doing something the right way and the fair way is important,” Vandenberg said. “So when we talk about issues of justice and politics—that involves every
citizen. We get insight on how we should vote, or what we can demand from our government, or what we can demand from each other, even in the workplace.”

There will be a panel discussion on Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. in preparation for Sandel’s lecture. The panel will include four GVSU faculty members: Charles Pazdernik from the classics department, John Uglietta from the philosophy department, Kathleen Underwood from both the history and women and gender studies departments and Darren Walhof from the political science department.

The panel will also include students from political science and philosophy. The discussion will take place in Rooms 2215 and 2216 of the Kirkhof Center.

“To have an esteemed Harvard professor coming to Grand Valley is very exciting, his lectures are very deep and any student could benefit from listening to one of them,” said Josh Barnhart, a political science at GVSU.

The lecture will be held in the L.V. Eberhard Center at 7 p.m. next Thursday, followed by a reception.

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