Lectures  |    |  September 4, 2009

Harvard University, Michael Sandel – Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?

Lectures from free online course delivered through EdX. This introduction to moral and political philosophy is one of the most popular courses taught at Harvard College.

About This Course

Taught by lauded Harvard professor Michael Sandel, Justice explores critical analysis of classical and contemporary theories of justice, including discussion of present-day applications. Topics include affirmative action, income distribution, same-sex marriage, the role of markets, debates about rights (human rights and property rights), arguments for and against equality, dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life. The course invites learners to subject their own views on these controversies to critical examination.

The principal readings for the course are texts by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. Other assigned readings include writings by contemporary philosophers, court cases, and articles about political controversies that raise philosophical questions.

What You’ll Learn

  • The fundamentals of political philosophy
  • An understanding of social justice and criminal justice, and the roles they play in the modern justice system
  • A deeper sense of the philosophy that underlies modern issues such as affirmative action, same sex marriage, and equality
  • The ability to better articulate and evaluate philosophical arguments and ask philosophical questions

About the Instructor

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he teaches political philosophy. His course “Justice” has enrolled more than 15,000 Harvard students. Sandel’s writings have been published in 21 languages and include The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? (2020); What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012); Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (2009); The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (2007); Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (2005); Democracy’s Discontent (1996); and Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982; 2nd ed., 1998).


1. The Moral Side of Murder
2. The Case for Cannibalism
3. Putting A Price Tag On Life
4. How To Measure Pleasure
5. Free To Choose
6. Who Owns Me?
7. This Land Is Your Land
8. Consenting Adults
9. Hired Guns?
10. For Sale: Motherhood
11. Mind Your Motive
12. The Supreme Principle Of Mortality
13. A Lesson In Lying
14. A Deal Is A Deal
15. What’S A Fair Start?
16. What Do We Deserve?
17. Arguing Affirmative Action
18. What’s The Purpose?
19. The Good Citizen
20. Freedom vs. Fit
21. The Claims Of Community
22. Where Our Loyalty Lies
23. Debating Same Sex Marriage
24. The Good Life