Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

About the Show

A series of programmes in which Professor Michael Sandel aims to help viewers think critically about the moral decisions faced by people every day. In his opening lecture, Sandel presents a hypothetical scenario in which students consider whether killing one person to save five others is the right thing to do. The assumptions behind our moral reasoning are often contradictory, and the question of what is right and what is wrong is not always straightforward. In his second lecture, Sandel introduces the principles of Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, with a famous 19th-century law case involving a shipwrecked crew of four and a captain's decision to kill - and eat - the weakest crew member to ensure the survival of the others. The case leads to a debate among students about the moral validity of the Utilitarian theory of maximising overall happiness, often summed up as 'the greatest good for the greatest number'.