Philosophy Series, Part Two: Justice

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Thinking about Justice, the Greek philosopher Aristotle writes “it is thus clear that, just as some are by nature free, others are by nature slaves, and for [them], the condition of slavery is both beneficial and just.”

Aristotle’s defense of slavery is no more startling than the just society imagined by his teacher Plato. Plato’s Republic sounds like the old Soviet Union: with complete government control of writers and artists, no elections, no free speech, and no chance to move up for most of the population.

The cry for justice may be universal, but can there be a definition of Justice that is universal? Affirmative Action was established in the name of justice, but many people think it’s unjust. Most Americans think the death penalty is just; most Europeans think it’s not just unjust but barbaric. How does philosophy answer the call of justice, and can there be one answer?
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Michael Sandel, Professor of Government at Harvard University
Bernard Williams, Professor of Philosophy at All Souls College, Oxford.