Friday, April 20, 2012

Philosophy Rules

I really loved the series of Public Philosophy programmes on Radio 4 with Michael Sandel. Only three of them and they are over now but still available on the iplayer, maybe here. 45 minutes each.

This is not about the issues although, for the record, they were:

1. Should universities allow a certain number of people from poor backgrounds to access places, regardless of exam results?

2. Should a banker be paid more than a nurse?

3. Should you pay people to get healthy?

I want to comment briefly on why I loved the programme. We work in this country on a very legal model of debate. A case is put. It is countered. It is questioned until it squirms. That is seen as success. Paxman's famous assessment of his own work on Newsnight was, 'Why is this lying bastard lying to me?' It doesn't allow a case to be nuanced and tends to entrench the interviewee rather than allow them to change. I doff my cap in passing to Ken Clarke for being prepared to answer journalists' questions whatever brief he holds. He squirmeth not.

The Public Philosophy programme's approach was to take a straw poll and then ask a representative of the minority view to speak (if there was one) or to put an opening question. Sandel, always courteously and succinctly, summarised the point just made, using the contributor's name, and then either teased out the view a little more, or put it to someone who held a different view.

He set up examples to test theories. He retained good humour. No-one was put down.

It was just simply a joy to listen to and proof positive that people with differing viewpoints, arguing clearly, well-refereed and listening to each other, can make more progress than a cross-examination will ever make.

Public Philosopher 1 Moral Maze 0.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Hi Steve,
If you liked the radio programme you'll like these films in the same format: