The University of Cincinnati is excited to announce that it has chosen Michael Sandel's Justice: What's the Right thing to Do as the first-year common reading book for the 2014-2015 academic year. Justice asks us to reflect on the ethical principles that guide our daily lives and therefore allows us to engage in dialogue that encourages understanding the many sides of an issue. In addition, the book correlates well with the Bearcat Bond, UC's honor pledge, which states:
As a member of the University of Cincinnati, I will uphold the principles for a Just Community and the values of respect, responsibility, and inclusiveness. I will promote the highest levels of personal and academic honesty and aspire continuously to better myself, the Bearcat community, and the world.
The common reading program creates a common academic experience and dialogue for all participants--first-year students, faculty, and staff. Programming around topics raised in the common book helps students realize the scope and quality of the work underway at the University of Cincinnati.
What is the Common Reading Program?
The goals of the common reading program are to:
· model intellectual engagement by setting high expectations of participation (both reading and discourse)
· foster educationally purposeful in-class and out-of-class experiences
· create engagement opportunities among faculty, students, and staff
· develop a sense of community
Think of the following questions while reading this book and exercising your moral sense and reasoning:
- The Overall Good and Utilitarianism: Look at this video: http://bit.ly/11EHhsN. There are times when the only way to prevent harm to a large number of people is to harm a smaller number of people. Is it always permissible to harm a smaller number in order to prevent harm to a large number? Suppose a man has planted a bomb in New York City, and it will explode in twenty-four hours unless the police are able to find it. Should it be legal for the police to use torture to extract information from the suspected bomber? Further, suppose the man who has planted the bomb will not reveal the location unless an innocent member of his family is tortured. Should it be legal for the police to torture innocent people, if that is truly the only way to discover the location of a large bomb? According to the principle of utility, an action is right insofar it tends to increase happiness and wrong insofar as it tends to decrease happiness. In other words, the principle tells us that the right thing to do is always whatever will produce the greatest amount of happiness and whatever is necessary to prevent the greatest amount of unhappiness. But what if the majority of the members of a community derive pleasure from being racist? Should we let them be racist, if that would produce the greatest balance of pleasure? Are some pleasures objectionable?
- Individual Freedom and Libertarianism: Is it unjust for the government to require people to wear seat belts and to prohibit them from engaging in other self-endangering activities? What if we know that many more people will die without such legislation? Should people be free to hurt or kill themselves, provided their actions do not violate anyone's else rights? Libertarians think that we must never violate anyone else's rightsâ€”even if doing so would increase overall happiness. Do you think the government can limit individual rights for the overall good? Should it limit drug use? Prostitution?
- What Can Money Buy? In some developing countries, it is possible to buy a kidney for a few thousand dollars. The seller is often very poor and needs the money to support himself or his family. Is it morally permissible to buy his kidney? Should the sale of organs from living adults be illegal? What do you think about the morality of prostitution? Is it morally wrong to sell (or rent) the use of one's sexual organs? In the American Civil War, men who were drafted for the army had the option of hiring a substitute to take their place, or paying a fee to avoid military service. Are these practices tantamount to selling off one's duty as a citizen, or are they perfectly acceptable market transactions? Does it make a difference whether the transaction takes place during a war or in peacetime?
- Fairness, Merit, and Affirmative Action: In 1974, Allan Bakke, a white male, applied to medical school at the University of California, Davis. He was rejected, even though his grades and test scores were higher than some of the minority candidates who were admitted. Bakke sued the medical school. Do you think Bakke was treated unfairly? The U.S. Supreme Court decided that he should be let in. Was the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court just? Does he have a right to be considered solely on the basis of his academic and personal merit? His natural talents are a factor over which he had no control, so why is he entitled to be judged only by his personal and academic merit? Here's a similar issue: Often, naturally gifted athletes go to college on scholarship. However, their natural talents are a factor over which they had no control. Is it fair to reward people for factors of their life over which they had no control?
- Morality and the Law: Modern liberalism maintains that law should try to be neutral on controversial moral and religious questions. According to this view, the law should not promote any particular conception of the best way to live, but let citizens choose for themselves how best to live their lives. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln debated with Stephen Douglas about slavery. Douglas argued that the federal government should not take a stand on the controversial question of slavery. Lincoln thought that the moral question raised by slavery could not be avoided. The government would be taking a stand, one way or the other. Do you agree with Lincoln? Think about this: Some believe that the purpose of marriage is procreation and that, therefore, same-sex marriages should not be permitted. Others believe same-sex marriage should be permitted because the purpose of marriage is to honor and promote loving relationships between committed adults, regardless of their sex. Is it possible to defend a position on same-sex marriage without making a judgment about the purpose and value of marriage?