Aristotle believes the purpose of politics is to promote and cultivate the virtue of its citizens. The telos or goal of the state and political community is the good life. And those citizens who contribute most to the purpose of the community are the ones who should be most rewarded. But how do we know the purpose of a community or a practice? Aristotles theory of justice leads to a contemporary debate about golf. Sandel at Harvard University describes the case of Casey Martin, a disabled golfer, who sued the PGA after it declined his request to use a golf cart on the PGA Tour. The case leads to a debate about the purpose of golf and whether a players ability to walk the course is essential to the game. How does Aristotle address the issue of individual rights and the freedom to choose? If our place in society is determined by where we best fit, doesnt that eliminate personal choice? What if I am best suited to do one kind of work, but I want to do another? In this lecture, Sandel addresses one of the most glaring objections to Aristotles views on freedom—his defense of slavery as a fitting social role for certain human beings. Students discuss other objections to Aristotles theories and debate whether his philosophy overly restricts the freedom of individuals.
Sandel at Harvard University describes the 1996 court case of a white woman named Cheryl Hopwood who was denied admission to a Texas law school, even though she had higher grades and test scores than some of the minority applicants who were admitted. Hopwood took her case to court, arguing the schools affirmative action program violated her rights. Students discuss the pros and cons of affirmative action. Should we try to correct for inequality in educational backgrounds by taking race into consideration? Should we compensate for historical injustices such as slavery and segregation? Is the argument in favor of promoting diversity a valid one? How does it size up against the argument that a students efforts and achievements should carry more weight than factors that are out of his or her control and therefore arbitrary? When a universitys stated mission is to increase diversity, is it a violation of rights to deny a white person admission? Sandel introduces Aristotle and his theory of justice. Aristotle disagrees with Rawls and Kant. He believes that justice is about giving people their due, what they deserve. When considering matters of distribution, Aristotle argues one must consider the goal, the end, the purpose of what is being distributed. The best flutes, for example, should go to the best flute players. And the highest political offices should go to those with the best judgment and the greatest civic virtue. For Aristotle, justice is a matter of fitting a persons virtues with an appropriate role.
Is it just to tax the rich to help the poor? John Rawls says we should answer this question by asking what principles you would choose to govern the distribution of income and wealth if you did not know who you were, whether you grew up in privilege or in poverty. Wouldnt you want an equal distribution of wealth, or one that maximally benefits whomever happens to be the least advantaged? After all, that might be you. Rawls argues that even meritocracy—a distributive system that rewards effort—doesnt go far enough in leveling the playing field because those who are naturally gifted will always get ahead. Furthermore, says Rawls, the naturally gifted cant claim much credit because their success often depends on factors as arbitrary as birth order. Sandel at Harvard University makes Rawlss point when he asks the students who were first born in their family to raise their hands. Professor Sandel recaps how income, wealth, and opportunities in life should be distributed, according to the three different theories raised so far in class. He summarizes libertarianism, the meritocratic system, and John Rawlss egalitarian theory. Sandel then launches a discussion of the fairness of pay differentials in modern society. He compares the salary of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor ($200,000) with the salary of televisions Judge Judy ($25 million). Sandel asks, is this fair? According to John Rawls, it is not. Rawls argues that an individuals personal success is often a function of morally arbitrary facts—luck, genes, and family circumstances—for which he or she can claim no credit. Those at the bottom are no less worthy simply because they werent born with the talents a particular society rewards, Rawls argues, and the only just way to deal with societys inequalities is for the naturally advantaged to share their wealth with those less fortunate.
Immanuel Kants stringent theory of morality allows for no exceptions. Kant believed that telling a lie, even a white lie, is a violation of ones own dignity. Professor Sandel at Harvard University asks students to test Kants theory with this hypothetical case: if your friend were hiding inside your home, and a person intent on killing your friend came to your door and asked you where he was, would it be wrong to tell a lie? If so, would it be moral to try to mislead the murderer without actually lying? This leads to a discussion of the morality of misleading truths. Sandel wraps up the lecture with a video clip of one of the most famous, recent examples of dodging the truth: President Clinton talking about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Sandel introduces the modern philosopher John Rawls and his theory of a hypothetical social contract. Rawls argues that principles of justice are the outcome of a special kind of agreement. They are the principles we would all agree to if we had to choose rules for our society and no one had any unfair bargaining power. According to Rawls, the only way to ensure that no one has more power than anyone else is to imagine a scenario where no one knows his or her age, sex, race, intelligence, strength, social position, family wealth, religion, or even his or her goals in life. Rawls calls this hypothetical situation a veil of ignorance. What principles would we agree to behind this veil of ignorance? And would these principles be fair? Professor Sandel explains the idea of a fair agreement with some humorous examples of actual contracts that produce unfair results.
During the Civil War, men drafted into war had the option of hiring substitutes to fight in their place. Professor Sandel at Harvard University asks students whether they consider this policy just. Many do not, 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 todays voluntary army open to the same objection? Should military service be allocated by the labor market or by conscription? What role should patriotism play, and what are the obligations of citizenship? Is there a civic duty to serve ones country? And are utilitarians and libertarians able to account for this duty? In this lecture, Professor Sandel examines the principle of free-market exchange in light of the contemporary controversy over 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 in the mid-eighties that raised the unsettling question, Who owns a baby?” In 1985, a woman named Mary Beth Whitehead signed a contract with a New Jersey couple, agreeing to be a surrogate mother in exchange for a fee of $10,000. However, after giving birth, Ms. Whitehead decided she wanted to keep the child, and the case went to court. Sandel and students debate the nature of informed consent, the morality of selling a human life, and the meaning of maternal rights.
The philosopher John Locke at Harvard University believes that individuals have certain rights so fundamental that no government can ever take them away. These rights—to life, liberty and property—were given to us as human beings in the the state of nature, a time before government and laws were created. According to Locke, our natural rights are governed by the law of nature, known by reason, which says that we can neither give them up nor take them away from anyone else. Sandel wraps up the lecture by raising a question: what happens to our natural rights once we enter society and consent to a system of laws? If we all have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, how can a government enforce tax laws passed by the representatives of a mere majority? Doesnt that amount to taking some peoples property without their consent? Lockes response is that we give our tacit consent to obey the tax laws passed by a majority when we choose to live in a society. Therefore, taxation is legitimate and compatible with individual rights, as long as it applies to everyone and does not arbitrarily single anyone out.
We consider the sum of a random number of random variable (e.g., with customers in a store). We then introduce 4 useful inequalities: Cauchy-Schwarz, Jensen, Markov, and Chebyshev. It’s a statistics lecture at Harvard University.
We introduce the Beta distribution and show how it is the conjugate prior for the Binomial, and discuss Bayes’ billiards. Stephen Blyth at Harvard University then gives examples of how probability is used in finance.
We work through some extra examples, such as the coupon collector problem, an example of Universality of the Uniform, an example of LOTUS, and a Poisson process example. It’s a statistics lecture at Harvard University.