Justice What's the Right Thing to Do Author:Michael J. Sandel “For Michael Sandel, justice is not a spectator sport, The Nation's reviewer of Justice remarked. In his acclaimed book—based on his legendary Harvard course—Sandel offers a rare education in thinking through the complicated issues and controversies we face in public life today. It has emerged as a most lucid ... more »and engaging guide for those who yearn for a more robust and thoughtful public discourse. “In terms we can all understand," wrote Jonathan Rauch in The New York Times, Justice “confronts us with the concepts that lurk . . . beneath our conflicts."
Affirmative action, same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide, abortion, national service, the moral limits of markets—Sandel relates the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of the day, and shows how a surer grasp of philosophy can help us make sense of politics, morality, and our own convictions as well.
Justice is lively, thought-provoking, and wise—an essential new addition to the small shelf of books that speak convincingly to the hard questions of our civic life.
Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1980, and the author of many books. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Michael J. Sandel's “Justice" course is one of the most popular and influential at Harvard. Up to a thousand students pack the campus theater to hear Sandel relate the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of the day. Justice offers readers the same journey that captivates Harvard students. This book is an exploration of the meaning of justice, one that invites readers of all political persuasions to consider familiar controversies in fresh and illuminating ways. What are our obligations to others as people in a free society? Should government tax the rich to help the poor? Is the free market fair? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? Is killing sometimes morally required? Is it possible, or desirable, to legislate morality? Do individual rights and the common good conflict? Justice is thought-provoking and wise—an essential work that speaks convincingly to the hard questions of our civic life.
"Using examples drawn from recent experience, Sandel explores a variety of approaches to theories of justice. Sandel reviews the cold calculation of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism (which asks which course of action will lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people), to John Stuart Mill's more humane but more abstract approach to utilitarianism, with examples ranging from throwing Christians to the lions in Rome (hard on the Christian but served as entertainment for thousands and so arguably justifiable to utilitarians) to exploring the morality of torture in ticking-bomb scenarios (our former vice president will find this discussion of particular interest) . . . Sandel explores the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant (who explored the concept of duty as defining morality), John Rawls (who argued for a system of morality flowing from equality), and even Aristotle. But the ultimate aim here, appropriate to any college survey course, is to leave the reader with a range of different perspectives through which to view the world and the moral choices that we make. Sandel is at his best in weaving modern-day problems into convincing applications of competing theories of justice . . . [H]e concludes with a flourish: 'A just society can't be achieved simply by maximizing utility or by securing freedom of choice. To achieve a just society we have to reason together about the meaning of the good life, and to create a public culture hospitable to disagreements that will inevitably arise.' Quoting Robert F. Kennedy and President Obama, he argues that this approach to moral philosophy can and should have a real impact on our common good. For those seeking a short course through moral philosophy from a witty writer, fast on his feet, and nimble with his pen, this thin volume is difficult to beat."—Kevin J. Hamilton, The Seattle Times
“Michael J. Sandel, political philosopher and public intellectual, is a liberal, but not the annoying sort. His aim is not to boss people around but to bring them around to the pleasures of thinking clearly about large questions of social policy. Reading this lucid book is like taking his famous undergraduate course `Justice? without the tiresome parts, such as term papers and exams.?—George F. Will
"For nearly 30 years, Harvard professor Michael Sandel has taught a course entitled 'Moral Reasoning 22,' nicknamed 'Justice,' to a packed auditorium of more than 1,000 undergraduates. This stimulating volume, prepared in conjunction with a PBS series airing this fall and available online succeeds admirably in translating to a wider audience the challenging moral dilemmas he and his students confront and will help thoughtful readers focus their thinking about what a just society might look like while sharpening the vocabulary they call upon to express their views. At its heart, Sandel's book offers a broad and, for the most part, readily comprehensible survey of some of the major theories of justice. He rejects the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and its grounding of morality in the attempt to maximize the overall balance of pleasure over pain and is equally critical of the unbridled free market ideology of libertarianism. While more sympathetic to what he calls the 'liberal neutrality' of Immanuel Kant and his modern counterpart John Rawls, he likewise finds their ideas wanting. But Sandel is more than a tepid repackager of received philosophical wisdom. He subjects each of these theories to a probing critique and is a witty and graceful writer who understands he's addressing the intelligent general reader, not an academic audience.« less
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Bob P. reviewed Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? on
This book was very thought provoking. It explores the three main lines of thought regarding individual freedom and rights as well as social justice and what is best for society. It was very helpful for me in clarifying my thoughts about what is just and how to apply this philosophy to real world situations.