Justice: What is the Right Thing to Do?

Course Number


Study Group Leaders (SGL)

Jerry Wald


This course will take place in a BOLLI classroom (22-person capacity) with a maximum enrollment of 15 to allow for some social distancing. The classroom will be equipped with a HEPA air purifier.

10-Week Course

Feb. 28 - May 8. No Class April 24.


We all find ourselves in situations where we wonder, “What is the right thing to do?” Whether this occurs in our personal lives or when assessing broader political issues, our beliefs about the nature of the “just” or “fair” course of action inform our behavior. In this course, we will prepare for class by watching Harvard professor (and Brandeis alumnus) Michael Sandel’s online lectures from his renowned Justice course and read relevant excerpts from his book. Leading theories of justice from Aristotle, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, John Rawls, Immanuel Kant, and other critical thinkers will be examined. We will use these Harvard classroom lectures as jumping off points to cover important present-day issues including, but not limited to, wealth inequality, access to education and healthcare, affirmative action, and property rights. At the end of the course students will have developed a conceptual framework to more precisely assess the right thing to do. The goal is not to teach students what to believe, but to help them clarify and refine their own views by introducing them to canonical thinkers and ideas.

Group Leadership Style

More facilitated discussion than lecture.

Course Materials

The Harvard videos from Professor Sandel’s Justice course are available online for free at https://scholar.harvard.edu/sandel/justice and on YouTube. We will also read relevant excerpts from Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010). Additional material covering present-day issues that pose philosophical moral dilemmas will be made available online.   

Preparation Time

2-3 hours per week.


Jerry Wald was an attorney for 34 years in Chicago and Connecticut. In his retirement, he devotes time as a board member and treasurer of the Harry Chapin Foundation. He is also a driver for the American Cancer Society and a mentor in an English literacy program. Jerry is in the process of publishing his first book, which explores some of the topics that the class will cover. He enjoys kayaking, hiking, traveling, and reading. He received his undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Illinois and is also a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School.