Esteemed Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel will lecture about democratic argument at Campbell Hall tomorrow at 8 p.m.
A New York Times best-selling author on the topic of global justice, Sandel has taught political philosophy at Harvard University since 1980. Sandel, who calls for a return to civilized discussion of our nation’s most pressing issues in an era of “ideological food fights” within Congress, will address a range of contemporary issues including government bailouts, same-sex marriage rights and healthcare.
[media-credit name=”Michael Sandel” align=”alignleft” width=”178″][/media-credit]“Today [debate] is particularly challenging,” religious studies professor Wade Roof, director of the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life, said. “The extremist voices — both right and left — dominate the airwaves and the Internet. New technology and ways of communication have contributed to this polarized situation. The question is how can we ‘tame’ the voices, listen better to one another and arrive at a more rational solution to the issues that divide us.”
Roof said he hopes today’s lecture, “The Lost Art of Democratic Argument — Can We Reason Together About Values Without Rancor and Incivility?” will stress the importance of rational deliberation between citizens with differing political views.
“Hopefully, the audience will learn more about how we can engage in civil discourse as we debate major public issues today,” Roof said. “There’s too much incivility and hype. As Americans who believe in democracy, we can do better.”
Amanda Clark, a third-year religious studies major, said she hopes Sandel’s lecture will clarify how to avoid the politicized finger-pointing that followed the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz.
“I feel like the best way to solve any issue is to have a balanced solution that was reached by compromise,” Clark said. “But politicians and pundits are not interested in creating balanced solutions or compromises.”
Clark said she has lost faith in many of today’s political figureheads who use public debate to generate publicity rather than productivity.
“[Politicians] seem to be more interested in making arguments that involve more underhanded insults than talking about facts or having a real discussion,” Clark said. “They just end up saying things they know will get them re-elected.”
Sandel has taught his popular Harvard course, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?”, for two decades. The class, which bears the same name and topic as his New York Times best-seller, has seen over 14,000 students enroll since its start, and has been expanded into a 12-part online series and broadcast on local public television channels.
Tickets for the lecture cost $10 for students and $15 for general public.