What do you do?

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. He is the author of Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge University Press), Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1996), Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (Harvard University Press, 2005), and The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (Harvard University Press, 2007). His writings have also appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and The New York Times. The recipient of three honorary degrees, he has received fellowships from the Carnegie Corporation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ford Foundation. From 2002 to 2005, he served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics, a national council appointed by the President to examine the ethical implications of new biomedical technologies. A summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University (1975), Sandel received his doctorate from Oxford University (D.Phil.,1981), where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He lives with his wife and two sons in Brookline, Massachusetts.
  • Transcript


Question: What do you do?

Michael Sandel: The way I would describe what I do is I teach political philosophy. And what that really amounts to is inviting students to reflect critically on their own moral and political convictions; to figure out what they believe and why; and to do that in the company of some of the great philosophers of the past. So I invite students to read some of the famous works of political philosophy, but with an eye to contemporary challenges and dilemmas. And above all, with an eye to sorting out . . . Students very, very much wanted to sort out their own moral and religious convictions … their own take on the world. That’s really what I do.

Recorded on: 6/12/07