Justice : A Citizen’s Guide to the 21st Century – a review

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about the effects of some of the actions I take, particularly placing some of my work within an ethical and philosophical framework.

Yesterday, I caught ‘Justice : A Citizen’s Guide to the 21st Century’ on BBC4.

It is an absolute joy of a programme and I’d say that it has helped me reframe some of the questions that come to me on a day to day basis.

Michael Sandal, a professor in political philosophy at Harvard University, presents some of the key tenets of some prominent philosophers, Bentham, Kant, Aristotle for example and puts some of the challenges that they presented in their writings but in a modern context.

Philosophy and ethics, as Sandal states at the beginning, does not take place in a lecture hall vacuum of reading dusty texts but it takes place every day with every decision we make.

These tenets of ethics and philosophy affect every decision I make both in a professional and personal basis. When I make decisions about how to spend my time and whether to spend longer at one visit to be later for another. To the decisions relating to compulsory admission to hospital and decisions about ‘best interests’ and where the line for capacity and individual freedoms are drawn – these are all decisions that come to me daily.

As Sandal takes us to different places to discuss some of the concepts that were expounded by these philosophers.

It led me to question myself (almost socratically!)

Do I make the right decisions? Are there right decisions?

Perhaps it is the system that needs to be changed?

How does the state serve the citizen, or perhaps it is the citizen that serves the state – and if so, is there any problem with that?

Does the state protect us? What do we offer to the state in response?

Has the nature of the ‘Social Contract’ Changed?

Mainly there is a question of individual and collective rights.

I love the ideas of creating a context to promote a better way of politics working that moves away from the individual but doesn’t dismiss the individual rights.

It is an excellent programme which I can’t recommend highly enough that left me massive room for reflection. It presents what can appear to be somewhat ethereal concepts as they have become and places them on a practical level. Not just on the nature of my work and my place as a ‘cog in the machine’  but the nature of modern politics and the ethical base and role of politicians.

We can’t rely on politicians to be the vanguard and determiners of what a society should be like but take a role as citizens in creating a world and society in which we want to live, taking action, if necessary to make changes.

I try not to lose the connection with my background as a philosophy graduate but this programme re-instilled and reinvigorated some of my love for debate about ethics (ethics was always one of my favourite courses).

It is part of a season on BBC 4 about ‘Justice’.  I didn’t catch the debate about Justice and the Big Society which was on over the weekend, but I hope to catch it on the iPlayer. There a lot of really interesting programmes coming up. As for this programme, I’d recommend it highly.