Can a philosophy program share the same visual codes as the reality shows to which we resort to disconnect our brain? In The great debate, documentary series that can be seen in Filmin, an aerial plane discovers a master of ceremonies approaching a score of people of different races and religions. They are prepared to discuss together different aspects related to their coexistence and the conversation is interspersed with the statements on camera of some of the participants.
Although all the elements sound to us, the content of the program is different from other entertainment formats. The host is the American philosopher Michael J. Sandel, Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 2018, which is placed before a group of millennials to pose various ethical questions. Are the rich countries morally obligated to receive the refugees? Can the robots take on the work of the humans? Asks in some of the five chapters of the series.
The participants do not talk in the middle of a desert island, but in the center of a Greek agora. The debate, although it deals with issues similar to those faced by the opponents of the famous television competitions, rises several integers while remaining accessible to all audiences.
In addition to reformulating elaborate philosophical theories to adapt them to more earthly issues (Is it logical that Cristiano Ronaldo earn a thousand times more times a year than a professor?), The other objective of The great debate is to claim something that neither the contestants of the realities nor Trump, Bolsonaro or their political rivals practice: a form of measured, respectful and profound dialogue. "Unfortunately, arguing with the intention that both sides of a conflict end up somewhere in between is not the popular option at the moment. We have forgotten that listening is more important than talking, "laments Marc Josten, producer of the program.
Sandel moderates the debates inspired by his classes in political philosophy at Harvard
The classes of political philosophy that Sandel teaches at Harvard University since the 1980s are always overcrowded. They are so successful that can be seen full on YouTube and have resulted in a book, Justice: do we do what we should?, in which he examines the different concepts of equity and raises practical problems applicable to today's society. It is the text that inspires this series created by the Dutch public chain Human.
The channel organizes each year several festivals of philosophy thought partly for the youngest and in which the American philosopher and teacher is usually the big star of the poster. "Everyone wants to be challenged by their questions," Josten says over the phone. "So we thought it would be important to turn those meetings into a series, take the debate back to its origins, in Greece, and appeal to the Socratic method on which Sandel rests ".
The program thus adopts one of the philosopher's missions: that new generations learn to reason. "Sandel defends the idea that people over 40 years of age already have an opinion about things that is very formed and that makes it very difficult for them to change their minds. For this kind of dialogue, we need the guests to be open-minded and even, at the end of the chapter, to have a different point of view from the one they had at the beginning, "explains the producer of El gran debate.
With more than 30 years of experience as a teacher, Sandel is not only the philosopher necessary for this format, but he is also perfect in his role as master of ceremonies. "Only he could do it. He knows how to listen like nobody else and has a prodigious memory. You can remember the arguments that the guests have given and, five or ten minutes later, retrieve one of them if necessary to keep the debate alive, "says Josten.
Human has already started Change your mind (Change your mind), a new documentary series in which the philosopher also participates. On this occasion, they debate in the center of the city "the place where Sandel's issues have a real and practical reflection".