Read and watch the two philosophers on markets, morals and justiceby Michael Sandel / May 10, 2013 / Leave a comment
On Wednesday night (8th May), Prospect hosted an evening of conversation between Michael Sandel and AC Grayling at the Royal Geographical Society in London. There is an edited transcript below.
The event was divided into three parts. It began with a conversation between Sandel and Grayling, which spanned a wide range of subjects, including the relationship between markets and morality, justice, and the future of education.
Sandel then conducted one of his trademark Socratic dialogues with the audience, engaging them in an extraordinary debate about walrus hunting in Canada. Starting with this unusual topic, Sandel led audience members through a lively moral discussion. At the end, Sandel took questions from the audience.
Here are videos of all three:
AC Grayling: You were brought up mainly in California, educated at Brandeis and then at Oxford. You were a Rhodes scholar there and stayed on for your doctorate, and you were supervised for your doctoral studies by Charles Taylor. What influence still persists from your time talking to Charles Taylor?
Michael Sandel: I had a wonderful time at Oxford and Charles was at the centre of a small but compelling group of heterodox, moral and political philosophers who stood outside the then mainstream of purely analytic philosophy, which was largely utilitarian.
I came late to philosophy—I had studied politics as an undergraduate. So I was first enticed, almost forced, to study Kant by Alan Montefiore. Then after I had done that, with Charles I studied Aristotle and Hegel, and then with Stuart Hampshire, Spinoza. All of these thinkers were in a way counter-cultural, at odds with the mainstream.
I found it all fascinating, and the influence this had on me was to question some of the overly individualistic assumptions that informed contemporary moral and political philosophy, including those of Rawls. Also, to question the idea that debates about justice and rights can be neutral with respect to conceptions of the good life.
Grayling: I know you don’t like the label “communitarian” but that is of course one that’s associated with Charles Taylor’s views. You did mention the overly individualistic view of things. This is tremendously important because a large part of what you’ve thought, especially in talking about the marketisation of our society, has really been a lament for the sense of…