Back when I was in college, one of the weirder things facing a Harvard philosophy major was that by far the university’s most popular course on philosophy, “Justice,” was taught by a professor from the political science department rather than the philosophy department. The course wasn’t even cross-listed! Consequently, I didn’t take it even though it got great reviews. Fortunately, along comes the internet to the rescue, as WGBH and Harvard co-produced a TV series based on the course that now has all its episodes up online. So now I’ll finally get to know what he has to say about this.
Minor point here being that the actual Philosophy Department needs to step up its game or Sandel’s mind-share dominance edge will only grow larger and larger. Let’s put Phil 144 online — the Internet wants to hear about Tarski!
More broadly, during this general period of media gloom and doom, it is worth pointing out that in many ways the media landscape is getting way way better. Over the summer I listened to David Blight’s lectures on the civil war and have been following along with Brad DeLong’s lectures on economic history. Someday soon I’ll catch up on Sandel’s justice class. And over time more-and-more of this kind of material is going to be available to more-and-more people. It’s a huge win for human knowledge and quality of life that’s probably never going to be measured in the national output statistics. Fundamentally, though, this kind of thing is one of the reasons why I’m an optimist about the trajectory of human history. It’s just a small thing — a PBS show based on a college course available on the internet — but it’s part of a big positive change.