Posts Tagged ‘Michael Sandel’


Now, here’s the thing.  I like Michael Sandel. I really do. (I even met him once, though I really, really doubt he would remember.) He’s done a lot to advance the cause of political communitarianism–a position that I respect immensely though I do not share it–and I generally regard him as a decent political philosopher.

Perhaps that’s why I have such a hard time sharing his optimism that the world’s democratic processes can be positively reformed if we simply replicate the Socratic teaching model he uses with a roomful of highly intelligent professionals in this TED session (or his classes at Harvard) with audiences throughout the world. It’s an idea that doesn’t live up to the rest of Sandel’s body of work.

That said, it’s not as though he doesn’t have a point. In a sense he’s right. We (in the US) generally have lost the art of public debate.  In my view that’s got a lot to do with our media culture, the state of our educational institutions, our particular political landscape at this point in history, and a host of other factors. I’m just not sure that the cure for what ails us is a re-instating of Aristotelian etiological vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong–I love Aristotle’s ideas too; rather more than Sandel’s in fact– but there’s something a bit too easy about Sandel’s approach to political deliberation here. The missing elements of this talk (and here I find myself thinking back to Jim Freeman’s ISSA keynote from last summer) only remind me, yet again, of how much “mainstream” moral and political philosophy could gain through an acquaintance with argumentation theory.

But maybe that’s just me. Perhaps I’m missing something in this talk, or I simply need a hug today or something.

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