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The Public Philosopher
42 minutes | Aug 26, 2019
Will AI make thinking obsolete?
Would you choose an algorithm rather than a human to mark your exam papers? Would you welcome a translation app that replaced foreign language learning? Would you trust a marriage prediction app to choose your life partner? Professor Michael Sandel of Harvard University - Radio 4's 'Public Philosopher' - puts these and other questions to an audience of students at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He generates a debate on the relationship between artificial intelligence and human decision-making, asking how far faith in technology depends on a mistrust of human subjectivity. Producer: Sheila Cook
42 minutes | Oct 29, 2018
Public Philosopher - Citizens of Nowhere?
Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel comes to St Paul's Cathedral to take on some of the hardest questions raised by the public discontent that characterises much of global politics today. With the help of a live audience, he asks whether globalisation and deepening inequality have eroded the bonds that hold communities together. He enquires if the continuing debate over Brexit reveals competing notions of political identity. Should we aspire to be citizens of the world, or is a citizen of the world a citizen of nowhere? He wonders if patriotism is a sentiment we should encourage or a prejudice we should overcome and whether, in diverse societies such as ours, a politics of the common good is even possible. Michael and his audience engage in a searching discussion of the contending visions of moral and civic identity that lie just beneath the surface of our fiercest public debates. Producer: Tim Mansel
42 minutes | Feb 6, 2018
Global Philosopher: Should there be any limits to free speech?
Sixty people from around the world join Professor Michael Sandel in a digital studio at Harvard to discuss free speech. Free speech is a cornerstone of democracy and freedom of expression is regarded as a fundamental human right. But even in democracies there are disputes about the limits to free speech. And most countries have laws restricting free speech, such as libel laws, or laws controlling forms of pornography. But should limits be placed on free speech? Should people be allowed to say and write whatever they like, even if it is untrue and is deeply offensive to vulnerable individuals or groups? Professor Sandel unpicks the philosophy of free speech. Audience producer: Louise Coletta Producer: David Edmonds Executive Producer: Emma Rippon
42 minutes | Mar 8, 2017
Would life be better if robots did all the work?
Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel asks if life would be better if robots did all the work. Professor Sandel skilfully and entertainingly uses live audiences to help address important ethical and philosophical questions. He has travelled across the world and brought together global audiences for his method of Socratic dialogue. Michael gathers an audience in a secondary school in Dagenham, East London, to address one of the most pressing issues of our times - the future of work in a world where automation threatens to replace more and more workers with robots. A much-cited Oxford University report predicts that 35% of jobs in the UK are at risk. There is nowhere better to examine this issue than Dagenham, where once 40,000 people built cars at the famous Ford factory. The plant stopped making cars in 2002 and now makes vast numbers of car engines, but with fewer than 3,000 employees. Barking and Dagenham is judged by the Legatum Institute as the least prosperous borough in London and among the 10 least prosperous in the UK. The unemployment rate is one of the highest in London. As automation moves from the factory floor to the office, Michael Sandel and his audience will try to understand how we regard the ethics surrounding this profound shift. Producer: Tim Mansel.
42 minutes | Jul 28, 2016
The Global Philosopher: Should the Rich World Pay for Climate Change?
Sixty people from thirty countries join Michael Sandel in a digital studio at Harvard to discuss the philosophical issues underlying the world's response to climate change. The developed world has caused climate change, belting out greenhouse gases as it became rich (at least, most people think so). But the developing world – huge and growing economies like India and China – is increasingly a big part of the problem. So who should pay to fix the mess? Is it fair to penalise the developing world as it strives to catch up? Is it acceptable that rich countries be allowed to buy credits, giving them permission to pollute? And is it time to re-think our material aspirations? Audience producer: Louise Coletta Producer: David Edmonds Executive Producer: Richard Knight
42 minutes | Mar 29, 2016
The Global Philosopher: Should Borders Matter?
Michael Sandel explores the philosophical justifications made for national borders. Using a pioneering state-of-the-art studio at the Harvard Business School, Professor Sandel is joined by 60 participants from over 30 countries in a truly global digital space. Is there any moral distinction between a political refugee and an economic migrant? If people have the right to exit a country, why not a right to enter? Do nations have the right to protect the affluence of their citizens? And is there such a thing as a 'national identity'? These are just some of the questions addressed by Professor Sandel in this first edition of The Global Philosopher. Audience producer: Louise Coletta Producer: David Edmonds Editor: Richard Knight (Image taken by Rose Lincoln)
53 minutes | Jan 20, 2015
Harvard professor Michael Sandel is Radio 4's 'Public Philosopher', guiding audiences through complex moral philosophical dilemmas. For the BBC's Democracy Day, Professor Sandel recorded this special edition of The Public Philosopher inside the Palace of Westminster, challenging his audience of MPs, Peers and the public to think deeply about the true nature of democracy. Producer: Ian Muir-Cochrane Editor: Richard Knight.
42 minutes | May 27, 2014
Imagine a country guilty of past crimes. What obligations do its current citizens have to make amends? In this edition of The Public Philosopher, Michael Sandel poses that question to an audience in Japan. The discussion involves students from Japan and from China and South Korea - countries which were victims of Japanese aggression during the Second World War.
42 minutes | May 20, 2014
Should it be compulsory to vote? Should we fine people who don't vote? Should we pay people to vote? This is the week that the UK goes to the polls - amid ongoing concerns about the level of democratic participation. In this edition of The Public Philosopher, Harvard professor Michael Sandel hosts a discussion about voting, with an audience at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
42 minutes | May 13, 2014
Morality and the State
Should governments try to influence private morality? Michael Sandel, The Public Philosopher, is back with a new series. In this first programme he is at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands, one of the world's most permissive countries. It has liberal laws on prostitution, cannabis and euthanasia. Professor Sandel leads a discussion about the role of the state in shaping and policing our moral values.
39 minutes | Mar 26, 2013
Is rape worse than other violent crime?
Is rape a worse crime than other forms of violent assault? Should verbal sexual harassment be banned? These are two questions put by Harvard's Michael Sandel - BBC Radio 4's 'Public Philosopher' - who takes the programme to an audience at the Jaipur Literature Festival. The discussion follows the brutal rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi at the end of last year, a crime that provoked a national outcry in India.
42 minutes | Oct 30, 2012
The eminent American political philosopher Michael Sandel is Radio 4's "Public Philosopher." Now, as America prepares for its Presidential elections, he is going on the road in America with a unique mission to challenge ordinary voters and lay bare the deeper moral questions bound up in the noisy Romney and Obama campaigns. In this week's programme, Professor Sandel is at Harvard, his home university in the intellectual heartland of New England. Much of the debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama has been about welfare policy, social security and healthcare. Underlying this, Professor Sandel believes, is a moral and philosophical disagreement about the nature of the American dream itself. Earlier this year, Obama was attacked for his remarks about the role of government. "Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive," the President said. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." Republicans saw this as an attack on business and accused Obama of stifling the idea of individual success at the core of the American dream. The right's policies are more focussed on individual choice -- lowering taxes and opposing, for example, the type of universal health care policy which Obama has enacted. Against this backdrop, our public audience will be asked: "Who Built It? Is the American vision of individual responsibility for one's own success a myth?" Michael Sandel weaves through these issues with the help of philosophers past and present. Producer: Mukul Devichand.
42 minutes | Oct 23, 2012
The eminent Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel is Radio 4's "Public Philosopher." Now, as America prepares for its Presidential elections, he and Radio 4 are going on the road in America with a unique mission to lay bare the deeper moral questions bound up in the noisy Romney and Obama campaigns. In this week's programme, Professor Sandel visits the heartland of America's deep south, hosting a public discussion at the University of Dallas in Texas. He challenges ordinary Texans to consider the moral issues raised when it comes to controlling immigration and deciding who should be entitled to citizenship. Texas has a long frontier with Mexico and the issue of immigration divides people sharply. A million people in Texas are "undocumented" living without immigration papers. Many Hispanic voters want immigration to be reformed and President Obama recently outlined initiatives aimed at this base. Mitt Romney, too, is reaching out to Hispanic voters but many in the Tea Party movement pull the Republicans in the other direction. They insist that the border must be closed and deportations must be stepped up. Against this backdrop, our public audience will be asked: "how far should an open society go on accepting outsiders?" Michael Sandel weaves through these issues with the help of philosophers past and present. Producer: Mukul Devichand.
41 minutes | Apr 17, 2012
Should we bribe people to be healthy?
The eminent Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel brings his trademark style to a discussion on a current issue, questioning the thinking underlying a current controversy This week, he takes a provocative look at the controversial subject of incentivising good health. Michael Sandel has been enthralling students at Harvard for years. These discussions - recorded in front of an audience at the London School of Economics - bring his trademark style to Radio 4. They're challenging, outspoken and interactive. Sandel turns his attention to health and ponders whether the present constraints on the NHS leave us with no choice but to bribe people to be healthy. Profound moral questions lie behind paying people to lose weight, quit smoking or abandon alcohol. Michael Sandel weaves through these issues with the help of philosophers past and present. Producer: Adele Armstrong.
42 minutes | Apr 10, 2012
Should a banker be paid more than a nurse?
The eminent Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel brings his trademark style to a discussion on a topical issue, questioning the thinking underlying a current controversy. This week, he digs deep into the morality of high pay and bankers' bonuses. "My image of a banker is an overweight man behind a desk" says Alice. The audience bursts into laughter. "My image of a nurse," she goes on, "is an overworked woman who works night shifts and is constantly on her feet". Michael Sandel asks "So by that logic, Alice, maybe there's a case for paying nurses more than bankers. Am I right?" Alice agrees and so begins Michael Sandel's journey through the morality of fair pay. He explores whether fair pay is a question of the importance of the contribution one makes, whether it is a reward for effort ...and whether it's the market that should define how much people should get paid. He questions whether Wayne Rooney gets the pay he deserves for "kicking a pigskin around a field for a certain period of time". In this series of public events, recorded at the London School of Economics, he challenges his audience to apply critical thinking and philosophical reasoning to a host of ethical dilemmas most people rely on gut instinct to resolve. Producer: Adele Armstrong.
42 minutes | Apr 3, 2012
Should universities give preference to applicants from poor backgrounds?
"We're going to engage in an experiment ....an experiment in public philosophy. We sometimes think that philosophy is remote, abstract and distant from the world we actually inhabit. I think otherwise". So says the eminent Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel as he challenges an audience to examine the big ideas, the big philosophical questions that lie behind our views. In a series of public events, recorded at the London School of Economics, he brings his trademark style to a discussion on a current issue. This week, he delves into the thorny issue of access to universities. "Should students from poor backgrounds be given priority in admissions?" he asks. He demands a show of hands. The brave ones volunteer to explain the thinking behind their views. The audience is swept along. "Who decides if you're from a poor background...what does that mean to come from a poor background? The way our system works right now is fair because we're just numbers" says Georgia, arguing that academic results are all that matter. Fazal's view, reflecting his experience of American universities, is very different. "On one piece of paper you're writing down your experiences, your grades. On the other you're writing down your financial background...how much money you can potentially pay". Throughout, Michael Sandel acts as referee, thinker and devil's advocate. His lectures to Harvard undergraduates have been described as "spellbinding...an exhilarating journey". They are popular, provocative and interactive. Now he brings that approach to Radio 4. Producer: Adele Armstrong.
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