類まれなる講義の名手としても著名で、中でもハーバード大学の学部科目「Justice（正義）」は、延べ14,000人を超す履修者数を記録。あまりの人気ぶりに、同大は建学以来初めて講義を一般公開することを決定、その模様はPBSで放送された。この番組は日本では2010年、NHK教育テレビで「ハーバード白熱教室」（全12回）として放送された（また、3度再放送された）。同年8月、東大で「ハーバード白熱教室 in Japan」を行い、9月26日(日)にNHK教育でその模様が放送された。
Putting A Price Tag On Life
Michael Sandel: Last time we argued about the case of the Queen versus Dudley and Stephens, the life boat case, the case of cannibalism at sea, and with the arguments about the life boat in mind, the arguments for and against what Dudley and Stephens did in mind, let’s turn back to the philosophy, the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham was born in England in 1748, at the age of 12 he went to Oxford, at 15 he went to law school, he was admitted to the bar at age 19 but he never practiced law, instead he devoted his life to jurisprudence and moral philosophy. Last time we began to consider Bentham's version of utilitarianism. The main idea is simply stated and it's this. The highest principle of morality, whether personal or political morality, is to maximize the general welfare, or the collective happiness, or the overall balance of pleasure over pain. In a phrase "maximize utility". Bentham arrives at this principle by the following line of reasoning; we are all governed by pain and pleasure, they are our sovereign masters, and so any moral system has to take account of them. How best to take account? By maximizing. And this leads to the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. What exactly should we maximize? Bentham tells us happiness, or more precisely, utility. Maximizing utility is a principle not only for individuals but also for communities and for legislators. "What after all is a community?", Bentham asks. It's the sum of the individuals who comprise it and that's why when deciding the best policy, when deciding what the law should be and deciding what’s just, citizens and legislators should ask themselves the question, if we add up all the benefits of this policy and subtract all of the costs, the right thing to do is the one that maximizes the balance of happiness over suffering. That's what it means to maximize utility. Now today I want to see whether you agree or disagree with it and it often goes, this utilitarian logic, under the name of cost benefit analysis which is used by companies and by governments all the time. And what it involves is placing a value, usually a dollar value to stand for utility, on the costs and the benefits of various proposals. Recently in the Czech Republic there was a proposal to increase the excise tax on smoking, Philip Morris, the tobacco company, does huge business in the Czech Republic, they commissioned a study of cost benefit analysis of smoking in the Czech Republic and what their cost benefit analysis found was, the government gains by having Czech citizens smoke. Now, how do they gain? It's true that there are negative effects to the public finance of the Czech government because there are increased health care costs for people who develop smoking related diseases. On the other hand there were positive effects, and those were added up on the other side of the ledger. The positive effects included, for the most part, various tax revenues that the government derives from the sale of cigarette products but it also included health care savings to the government when people die early; pension savings, you don't have to pay pensions for as long and also savings in housing costs for the elderly, and when all the costs and benefits were added up, the Philip Morris study found that there is a net public finance gain in the Czech Republic of 147 million dollars, and given the savings in housing and health care and pension costs the government enjoys a saving, savings of over 1200 dollars for each person who dies prematurely due to smoking. Cost benefit analysis, now those among you who are defenders of utilitarianism may think that this is an unfair test, Philip Morris was pilloried in the press and they issued an apology for this heartless calculation. You may say that what's missing here is something that the utilitarian can easily incorporate, namely, the value to the person and to the families of those who die from lung cancer. What about the value of life? Some cost benefit analyses incorporate a measure for the value of life. One of the most famous of these involved the Ford Pinto case. Did any of you read about that? This was back in the 1970s, do you remember what the Ford Pinto was? A kind of car. Anybody? It was a small car, subcompact car, very popular, but it had one problem, which is the fuel tank was at the back of the car and in rear collisions the fuel tank exploded and some people were killed and some severely injured. Victims of these injuries took Ford to court to sue. And in the court case it turned out that Ford had long since known about the vulnerable fuel tank and had done a cost benefit analysis to determine whether it would be worth it to put in a special shield that would protect the fuel tank and prevent it from exploding. They did a cost benefit analysis, the cost per part, to increase the safety of the Pinto, they calculated at 11 dollars per part. And here's, this was the cost benefit analysis that emerged in the trial. 11 dollars per part at 12.5 million cars and trucks, came to a total cost of 137 million dollars to improve the safety. But then they calculated the benefits of spending all this money on a safer car, and they counted a 180 deaths and they assigned a dollar value 200 thousand dollars per death, 180 injuries, 67 thousand and then the cost to repair, the replacement costs to repair two thousand vehicles that would be destroyed without the safety device, 70, 700 dollars per vehicle. So the benefits turned out to be only 49.5 million and so they didn't install the device. Needless to say, when this memo of the Ford Motor Company's cost benefit analysis came out in the trial, it appalled the jurors who awarded a huge settlement. Is this a counter example to the utilitarian idea of calculating? Because Ford included a measure of the value of life. Now who here wants to defend cost benefit analysis from this apparent counter example? Who has a defense? Or do you think this completely destroys the whole utilitarian calculus?
Julie: Well, I think that once again they’ve made the same mistake the previous case did, that they assigned a dollar value to human life, and once again they failed to take account things like suffering and emotional losses by the families. I mean families lost earnings but they also lost a loved one and that, uh, is more valued than 200 thousand dollars.
Michael Sandel: Right, and uh, wait, wait, wait. That's good. What's your name?
Julie: Ahh, Julie Rotoe.
Michael Sandel: So if 200 thousand, Julie, is too, too low a figure because it doesn't include the loss of a loved one and the loss of those years of life; what would be, what do you think would be a more accurate number?
Julie: I don't believe I could give a number, I think that this sort of analysis is, shouldn't be applied to issues of human life. Can't be used, monetarily.
Michael Sandel: So, they didn’t just put too low of a number, Julie says, they were wrong to put any kind of number at all. All right let’s hear someone who
Michael Sandel: You have to adjust for inflation. All right, fair enough. So what would the number be now? This was 30, 35 years ago. 2 million dollars. You would put 2 million. And what's your name?
Michael Sandel: Voitek says we have to allow for inflation, we should be more generous. Then would you be satisfied that this is the right way of thinking about the question?
Voitek: I guess, unfortunately it is, for, there needs to be a number put somewhere, like I'm not sure what that number would be but, I do agree it could possibly be a number put on human life.
Michael Sandel: All right, so Voitek says, and here he disagrees with Julie, Julie says we can't put a number on human life for the purpose of a cost benefit analysis. Voitek says we have to, because we have to make decisions somehow. What do other people say, think about this? Is there anyone prepared to defend cost benefit analysis here? As accurate, as desirable?
Yes, go ahead.
Raul: I think that if Ford and other car companies didn't use cost benefit analysis they'd eventually go out of business because they wouldn't be able to be profitable and millions of people wouldn't be able to use their cars to get to jobs to put food on the table, to feed their children. So I think that cost benefit analysis isn't employed the greater good is sacrificed, in this case.
Michael Sandel: All right let me ask you, what’s your name?
Michael Sandel: Raul, there was recently a study done about cell phone use by drivers when people are driving a car and there's a debate about whether that should be banned. And the figure was that some 2000 people die as a result of accidents each year using cell phones and yet the cost benefit analysis, which was done by the Center of Risk Analysis at Harvard, found that if you look at the benefits of the cell phone use and you put some value on the life it comes out about the same. Because of the enormous economic benefit of enabling people to take advantage of their time, not waste time, be able to make deals and talk to friends and so on while they are driving. Doesn't that suggest that it’s a mistake to try to put monetary figures on questions of human life?
Raul: Well I think that if the great majority of people tried to derive maximum utility out of a service like using cell phones and the convenience that cell phones provide, that sacrifice is necessary for satisfaction to occur.
Michael Sandel: You're an outright utilitarian?
Raul: In, yes.
Michael Sandel: OK. All right then, one last question Raul
Michael Sandel: Umm, and I put this to Voitek. What, what dollar figure should be put on human life to decide whether to ban the use of cell phones?
Raul: Well, I don't want to arbitrarily calculate a figure, I mean right now, I think that...
Michael Sandel: You want to take it under advisement?
Raul: Yeah, I'll take it under advisement.
Michael Sandel: But what roughly speaking would it be? You got 2300 deaths...
Michael Sandel: You got to assign a dollar value to know whether you want to prevent those deaths by banning the use of cell phones in cars.
Michael Sandel: So what would your hunch be? How much? A million? Two million? Two million was Voitek's figure.
Michael Sandel: Is that about right?
Raul: Maybe a million.
Michael Sandel: A million!?
Michael Sandel: You know, the uh, that's good, thank you. So these are some of the controversies that arise these days from cost benefit analysis, especially those that involve placing a dollar value on everything to be added up. Well now I want to turn to your objections, to your objections not necessarily to cost benefit analysis specifically, because that's just one version of the utilitarian logic in practice today, but to the theory as a whole, to the idea that the right thing to do, the just basis for policy in law is to maximize utility.
How many disagree with the utilitarian approach to law and to the common good? How many agree with it? So more agree than disagree, so let’s hear from the critics.
Anna: My main issue with it is that I feel like that you can't say that just because someone is in the minority what they want and need is less valuable than someone who is in the majority umm so I guess I have an issue with the idea that the greatest good for the greatest number is OK because there is still, what about people who are in the lesser number, like it's not fair to them, they didn't have any say in where they wanted to be.
Michael Sandel: All right that's an interesting objection, you are worried about the effect on the minority.
Michael Sandel: What's your name by the way?
Michael Sandel: Ahh, who has an answer to Anna's worry about the effect on the minority? What do you say to Anna?
Yongda: Umm, she said that the minority is valued less; I don't think that’s the case because individually the minority's value is just the same as the individual of the majority. It's just that the numbers outweigh the umm minority and I mean at a certain point you have to make a decision and I'm sorry for the minority but sometimes it's for the general, for the greater good.
Michael Sandel: For the greater good. Anna what do you say? What's your name?
Michael Sandel: What do you say to Yongda? Yongda says you just have to add up people’s preferences and those in the minority do have their preferences weighed. Can you give an example of the kind of thing you’re worried about when you say you’re worried about utilitarianism violating the concern or respect due the minority?
Michael Sandel: Can you give an example?
Anna: So, well with any of the cases that we’ve talked about, like for the ship wreck one umm I think that the boy who was eaten still had as much of a right to live as the other people and umm just because he was the minority in that case, the one who maybe had less of a chance to keep living, that doesn't mean that the others automatically have a right to eat him just because it would give a greater amount of people the chance to live.
Michael Sandel: So there may be certain rights that the minority members have, that the individual has that shouldn't be traded off for the sake of utility? Do I , Yes Anna. Yeah this would be a test for you.
Back in ancient Rome they threw Christians to the lions in the Coliseum for sport, if you rea...
Think how the utilitarian calculus would go. Yes the Christian thrown to the lion suffers enormous excruciating pain but look at the collective ecstasy of the Romans.
Yongda: Well, umm, in that time, I don’t, if umm ahh, in modern day of time to value the umm to, give a number to the happiness given to the people watching I don’t think that any like policymaker would say the pain of one person, the suffering of one person is much much, is I mean, comparison to the happiness gained
Michael Sandel: No, but you have to admit if there were enough for Romans delirious enough with happiness, it would outweigh even the most excruciating pain of a handful of Christians thrown to the lion. So we really have here two different objections to utilitarianism. One has to do with whether utilitarianism adequately respects individual rights or minority rights and the other has to do with the whole idea of aggregating utility or preferences or values, is it possible to aggregate all values to translate them into dollar terms. There was in the 18, in the 1930s, a a psychologist who tried to address this second question. He tried to prove what utilitarianism assumes, that it is possible to translate all goods, all values, all human concerns into a single uniform measure, and he did this by conducting a survey of young recipients of relief. This was in the 1930s, and he asked them, he gave them a list of unpleasant experiences and he asked them how much would you have to be paid to undergo the following experiences and he kept track. For example, how much would you have to be paid to have one upper front tooth pulled out. Or how much would you have to be paid to have one little, one little toe cut off. Or to eat a live earthworm 6, 6 inches long, or to live the rest of your life on a farm in Kansas, or to choke a stray cat to death with your bare hands. Now, what do you suppose, what do you suppose was the most expensive item on that list. Kansas? You’re right it was Kansas, for, for Kansas people said they’d have to pay them, they would have to be paid $300,000. What do you think, what do you think was the next most expensive, not the cat, not the tooth, not the toe, the worm. People said you’d have to pay them $100,000 to eat the worm. What do you think was the least expensive item, not the cat, the tooth during the Depression people were willing to have their tooth pulled for only $4500. Now here’s what Thorndike concluded from his study, any want or satisfaction which exists, exists in some amount and is therefore measurable; the life of a dog or a cat or a chicken consists of appetites, cravings, desires and their gratifications. So does the life of human beings, though the appetites and desires are more complicated. But what about Thorndike’s study, does it support Bentham’s idea that all goods, all values can be captured according to a single uniform measure of value or does the preposterous character of the different items on the list suggest the opposite conclusion? That maybe whether we are talking about life or Kansas or the worm, maybe the things we value and cherish can't be captured according to a single uniform measure of value. If they can't, what are the consequences for the utilitarian theory of morality?
That's the question we will continue with next time.
Michael Sandel: All right now, let's take the other part of the poll, which is the highest experience or pleasure? How many say Shakespeare? How many say. Fear Factor? No, you can't be serious. Really?
How To Measure Pleasure
Michael Sandel: Last time, last time we began to consider some objections to Jeremy Bentham's version of utilitarianism. People raised two objections in the discussion we had, the first was the objection, the claim that utilitarianism by concerning itself with the greatest good for the greatest number fails adequately to respect individual rights. Today we have debates about torture and terrorism, suppose a suspected terrorist was apprehended on September 10th and you had reason to believe that the suspect had crucial information about an impending terrorist attack that would kill over 3000 people, and you couldn’t extract the information. Would it be just to torture the suspect to get the information? Or do you say no, there is a categorical moral duty of respect for individual rights? In a way we are back to the questions we started with about trolley cars and organ transplants. So that's the first issue. And you remember we considered some examples of cost benefit analysis, but a lot of people were unhappy with cost-benefit analysis when it came to placing a dollar value on human life. And so that led us to the second objection, It questioned whether it is possible to translate all values into a single uniform measure of value. It asks, in other words, whether all values are commensurable. Let me give you one other example of an experience, this actually is a true story, it comes from personal experience, that raises a question at least about whether all values can be translated without loss into a utilitarian terms. Some years ago, when I was a graduate student, I was at Oxford in England, and the men’s, they had men and women's colleges. They weren’t yet mixed, and the women's colleges had rules against overnight male guests. By the 1970s these rules were rarely enforced and easily violated, or so I was told. By the late 1970s, when I was there, pressure grew to relax these rules and it became the subject of debate among the faculty at St. Ann's college, which is one of these all women’s colleges. The older women on the faculty were traditionalist. They were opposed to change on conventional moral grounds, but times had changed and they were embarrassed to give the true grounds for their objections and so they translated their arguments into utilitarian terms. If men stay overnight they argued the costs to the college will increase. How you might wonder, well they’ll want to take baths and that will use up hot water they say. Furthermore they argued we will have to replace the mattresses more often. The reformers met these arguments by adopting the following compromise; each woman could have a maximum of three overnight male guests each week. They didn’t say whether it had to be the same one or three different ones, provided, and this was the compromise, provided the guests paid 50 pence to defray the costs to the college. Next day, the national headline in the national newspaper read “St. Ann's girls 50 pence a night”, another illustration of the difficulty of translating all values, in this case a certain idea of virtue, into utilitarian terms. So that's all to illustrate the second objection to utilitarianism, at least part of that objection that questions whether utilitarianism is right to assume that we can assume uniformity of value, the commensurability of all values and translate all moral considerations into dollars or money. But there is a second aspect to this worry about aggregating values and preferences. Why should we weigh all preferences, that people have, without assessing whether they are good preferences or bad preferences, shouldn't we distinguish between higher pleasures and lower pleasures? Now part of the appeal of not making any qualitative distinctions about the worth of people’s preferences, part of the appeal is that it is nonjudgmental and egalitarian. The Bethamite utilitarian says, everybody's preferences count and they count regardless of what people want. Regardless of what makes different people happy, for Bentham all that matters, you will remember, are the intensity and the duration of a pleasure or pain. The so-called higher pleasures or nobler virtues are simply those, according to Bentham, that produce stronger, longer pleasure. He had a famous phrase to express this idea, “the quantity of pleasure being equal, push pin is as good as poetry.” What was push pin? And it was some sort of child’s game, like Tiddley Winks, push pin is as good as poetry Bentham says. Lying behind this idea, I think, is the claim, the intuition, that it's a presumption to judge. Whose pleasures are intrinsically higher or worthier or better? And there is something attractive in this refusal to judge, after all some people like Mozart, others Madonna. Some like ballet, others bowling. Who's to say, a Benthamite might argue, who’s to say which of these pleasures, whose pleasures are higher, worthier, nobler than others. But is that right? This refusal to make qualitative distinctions? Can we all together dispense with the idea that certain things we take pleasure in are better or worthier than others? Think back to the case of the Romans in the Coliseum, one thing that troubled people about that practice is that it seemed to violate the rights of the Christians. Another way to objecting to what's going on there is that the pleasure that the Romans take in this bloody spectacle should that pleasure, which is a base kind of corrupt degrading pleasure, should that even be valorized or weighed when deciding what the, what the general welfare is? So here are the objections to Bentham’s utilitarianism. And now we turn to someone who tried to respond to those objections. A later day utilitarian, John Stuart Mill, so what we need to examine now is whether John Stuart Mill had a convincing reply to these objections to utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill was born in 1806, his father, James Mill, was a disciple of Bentham’s and James Mill set about giving his son, John Stuart Mill, a model education. He was a child prodigy, John Stuart Mill, he knew Latin at the age of, sorry, Greek at the age of three, Latin at 8 and at age 10 he wrote a history of Roman Law. At age 20, he had a nervous breakdown. This left him in a depression for five years, but at the age of 25 what helped lift him out of this depression is that he met Harriet Taylor. She and Mill got married, and they lived happily ever after and it was under her influence that John Stuart Mill tried to humanize utilitarianism, what Mill tried to do was to see whether the utilitarian calculus could be enlarged and modified to accommodate humanitarian concerns like the concerns with respect to individual rights and also to address the distinction between higher and lower pleasures. In 1859 Mill wrote a famous book on liberty. The main point in which was the importance of defending individual rights and minority rights and in 1861 toward the end of his life he wrote the book we read as part of this course, Utilitarianism. He makes it clear that utility is the only standard for morality, in his view, so he’s not challenging Bentham’s premise, he’s affirming it. He says very explicitly “the sole evidence that it is possible to produce that anything is desirable is that people actually do desire it.” So he stays with the idea that our de facto actual empirical desires are the only basis for moral judgment, but then on page eight, and also in chapter two, he argues that it is possible for a utilitarian to distinguish higher from lower pleasures. Now those of you who have read Mill already, how, according to him, is it possible to draw that distinction? How can a utilitarian distinguish qualitatively higher pleasures from lesser ones base ones, unworthy ones?
John: if you’ve tried both of them and you will prefer the higher one naturally always.
Michael Sandel: That's great, that’s right. What's your name?
Michael Sandel: So, as John points out, Mill says here's the test. Since we can't step outside actual desires, actual preferences, that would violate utilitarian premises, the only test of whether a pleasure is higher or lower is whether someone who has experience both would prefer it. And here in chapter two, we see the passage where Mill makes the point that John just described. “Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it,” in other words no outside, no independent standard “then that is the more desirable pleasure.” What do people think about that argument? Does that, does it succeed? How many think that it does succeed? Of arguing within utilitarian terms for the distinction between higher and lower pleasures? How many think it doesn't succeed? I want to hear your reasons. But before we give the reasons, let's do an experiment of Mill’s claim. In order to do this experiment we’re going to look at three short excerpts of popular entertainment. The first one is Hamlet's soliloquy. It will be followed by two other experiences. See what you think.
Hamlet: What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, an apprehension, how like a god. The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals, and yet to me, what is this quintessence dust? Man delights not me.
Fear Factor: Imagine a world where your greatest fears become reality, each show six contestants around the country battle each other in three extreme stunts, these stunts are designed to challenge the contestants both physically and mentally. Six contestants, three stunts, one winner. Fear Factor
The Simpsons: The Simpsons, hi-diddley-ho pedal to the metalophiles. Flanders? Since when do you like anything cool? Well I don’t care for the speed but I can't get enough of that safety gear, helmets, roll bars, caution flags. I like the fresh air and looking at the poor people in the infield. Dang Cleetus why did you have to park by my parents. Now honey they’re my parents too.
Michael Sandel: I don’t even have to ask which one you like most. The Simpsons? How many like The Simpsons most? How many Shakespeare? What about Fear Factor? How many preferred Fear Factor? Really? People overwhelmingly like The Simpsons better than Shakespeare, now let's take the other part of the poll. Which is the highest experience or pleasure, how many say Shakespeare? How many say Fear Factor? No, you can't be serious. Really? What? All right, go ahead. You can say it.
Nate: I found that one the most entertaining
Michael Sandel: I know, but which do you think was worthiest and noblest experience? I know you found it the most entertaining.
Nate: if something is good just because it is pleasurable, well what does it matter whether you have some sort of abstract idea of whether if it is good by someone else's sense.
Michael Sandel: All right. So you come down on the straight Benthamite side. Who is to judge? And why should be judge? Apart from just registering and aggregating de facto preference. Alright, that’s fair enough. What's your name? Nate, OK fair enough. All right, so how many people think The Simpsons is actually, apart from liking it, is actually the higher experience? Higher than Shakespeare? All right let’s see the vote for Shakespeare again, how many think Shakespeare is higher? All right, so why is it, ideally I’d like to hear from someone, is there someone who thinks Shakespeare is highest but who preferred watching The Simpsons? Yes.
Laneshia: Like I guess just sitting watching The Simpsons it’s entertaining because they make jokes and they make us laugh but like someone has to tell us that Shakespeare was this great writer, we had to be taught how to read him, how to understand him. We had to be taught how to kind of take in Rembrandt and kind of analyze a painting.
Michael Sandel: Well let me … What’s your name?
Michael Sandel: Laneshia, when you say that someone told you that Shakespeare is better. Are you accepting it on blind faith? You voted that Shakespeare is higher only because the culture tells you that or teachers tell you that, or do you actually agree with that yourself?
Laneshia: Well in the sense of, in the sense of Shakespeare, no, but earlier you made a an example of Rembrandt. I feel that I would enjoy reading a comic book more then I would enjoy kind of analyzing Rembrandt, because someone told me it was great, you know.
Michael Sandel: Right, so some of this seems to be you’re suggesting a kind of a cultural convention and pressure. We are told what books, what works of art are great.
Who else? Yes.
Joe: Although I enjoyed watching The Simpsons more in this particular moment in Justice, if I were to spend the rest of my life considering the three different video clips shown. I would not want to spend that remainder of my life considering the latter two clips. I think I would derive more pleasure from being able to branch out in my own mind, sort of considering more deep pleasures, more deep thoughts.
Michael Sandel: And, tell me your name.
Michael Sandel: Joe, so if you had to spend the rest your life on a farm in Kansas, with only, with only Shakespeare or the collected episodes of the Simpsons. You would prefer Shakespeare? What do you conclude from that about John Stuart Mill's test, that the test of a higher pleasure is whether people who have experienced both prefer it
Joe: Can I cite another example briefly?
Michael Sandel: Yeah.
Joe: In bio biology, neurobiology last year. We were told of a rat, who is tested, particular center in the brain where the rat was able to stimulate its brain and cost itself intense pleasure repeatedly. The rat did not eat or drink until it died. Umm so the rat was clearly experiencing intense pleasure. Now if you ask me right now if I would I rather experience intense pleasure or have a full lifetime of higher pleasure. I would consider intense pleasure to be low pleasure. I would right now enjoy intense pleasure but… Yes, I would, I would certainly would, but over a lifetime. I think, I would think almost the complete majority here would agree that they would .rather be hu … a human with higher pleasure then be that rat with intense pleasure for a momo … momentary period of time. Now in answer to your question, I think this proves. Well, I won't say proves, I think the conclusion is that Mill… Mill’s Theory that when the majority of the people are asked what they would rather do umm they will answer that they would rather engage in a higher pleasure.
Michael Sandel: So you think that this supports Mill….. You think Mill is onto something here?
Joe: I do.
Michael Sandel: All right, is there anyone, who disagrees with Joe and who thinks that our experiment disproves Mill’s test, shows that that’s not an adequate way, that you can’t distinguish higher pleasures within the utilitarian framework? Yes.
Student: Ahh If whatever is good is truly just whatever people prefer, it’s truly relative and there’s no objective definition then there will be some society where people prefer The Simpsons more ahh, anyone can appreciate the Simpsons but I think it does take education to appreciate Shakespeare
Michael Sandel: All right you are saying it takes education to appreciate higher things. Mill’s point is that the higher pleasures do require cultivation and appreciation and education. He doesn't dispute that. But once having been cultivated, and educated, people will see, not only see the difference between higher and lower pleasures, but will actually prefer the higher to the lower. You will find this famous passage from John Stuart Mill, “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied, better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied and if the fool or the pig are of a different opinion it is because they only know their side of the question.” So here you have an attempt to distinguish higher from lower pleasures, so going to an art museum or being a couch potato and swilling beer and watching television at home. Sometimes Mill agrees we might succumb to the temptation to do the latter, to be couch potatoes. But even when we do that, out of indolence and sloth, we know, that the pleasure we get gazing at Rembrandts in the museum is actually higher, because we have experienced both, and it is a higher pleasure, gazing at Rembrandt, because it engages our higher human faculties. What about Mill’s attempt to reply to the objection about individual rights? In a way he uses the same kind of argument, and this comes out in chapter five. He says, I dispute the pretensions of any theory that sets up an imaginary standard of justice not grounded on utility, but still he considers justice grounded on utility to be what he calls the chief part and incomparably the most sacred and binding part of all morality. So justice is higher, individuals rights are privileged but not for reasons that depart from utilitarian assumptions, justice is a name for certain moral requirements which regarded collectively stand higher in the scale of social utility and are therefore of more paramount obligation than any others. So justice is sacred, it’s prior, it’s privileged, it isn't something that can be easily traded off against lesser things. But the reason is ultimately, Mill claims, a utilitarian reason once you consider the long run interests of humankind, of all of us as progressive beings. If we do justice and if we respect rights, society as a whole will be better off in the long run. Well is that convincing or is Mill actually, without admitting it, stepping outside utilitarian considerations and arguing for qualitatively higher pleasures and for sacred or especially important individual rights? We haven’t fully answered that question, because to answer that question, in the case of rights and justice, will require that we explore other ways non-utilitarian ways of accounting for the basis of rights and then asking whether they succeed. As for Jeremy Bentham, who launched utilitarianism as a doctrine and moral and legal philosophy, Bentham died in 1832 at the age of 85 but if you go to London you can visit him today, literally, he provided in his will that his body be preserved, embalmed and displayed in the University of London, where he still presides in a glass case with a wax head. Dressed in his actual clothing, you see before he died Bentham addressed himself to a question consistent with his philosophy; of what use could a dead man be to the living? One use he said was to make one's corpse available to the study of anatomy. In the case of great philosophers, however, better yet to preserve one's physical presence in order to inspire future generations of thinkers. You want to see what Bentham looks like a stuffed? Here’s what he looks like. There he is. Now, if you look closely you will notice that the embalming of his actual head was not a success so they substituted a wax head, and at the bottom for verisimilitude. You can actually see his actual head on a plate. You see it? Right there. So what's the moral of story? The moral of the story, by the way they bring him out during meetings of the Board at University College London and the minutes record him as present but not voting. Here is a philosopher, in life and in death, who adhered to the principles of his philosophy. We will continue with rights next time.
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