Thinkers & Advocates

Michael Sandel

Forget Confucius. China’s moral voice holds office hours in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Professor of Government, Harvard University

In March 2016, scholars converged on East China Normal University, a research university in Shanghai, to discuss the intersection of two philosophers famous throughout China: Confucius, an ancient Chinese philosopher, and Michael Sandel.

It may be surprising that an unassuming 64-year-old Harvard professor from Minnesota is held in such venerated company, but his work has been widely known in China for years, mostly because he’s embraced online learning technology, which has lent global reach to his ultra-popular undergraduate course, “Justice.” Sandel has remained tremendously influential in China because his Socratic lectures gently draw out everyday ethical dilemmas in a fast-moving society that’s increasingly wringing its collective hands about moral decay. In March 2016, Sandel swung by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the famously materialistic city to lecture to thousands of students about the “moral limits of markets.” Local media reported that 2,000 free tickets were claimed in an hour and a half.

(Photo Credit: Jared Leeds)

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