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Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? [Kindle Edition]

Michael J. Sandel
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (322 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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?

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, and this fall, public television will air a series based on the course. Justice offers readers the same exhilarating journey that captivates Harvard students. This book is a searching, lyrical exploration of the meaning of justice, one that invites readers of all political persuasions to consider familiar controversies in fresh and illuminating ways. Affirmative action, same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide, abortion, national service, patriotism and dissent, the moral limits of markets—Sandel dramatizes the challenge of thinking through these con?icts, 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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Harvard government professor Sandel (Public Philosophy) dazzles in this sweeping survey of hot topics—the recent government bailouts, the draft, surrogate pregnancies, same-sex marriage, immigration reform and reparations for slavery—that situates various sides in the debates in the context of timeless philosophical questions and movements. Sandel takes utilitarianism, Kant's categorical imperative and Rawls's theory of justice out of the classroom, dusts them off and reveals how crucial these theories have been in the construction of Western societies—and how they inform almost every issue at the center of our modern-day polis. The content is dense but elegantly presented, and Sandel has a rare gift for making complex issues comprehensible, even entertaining (see his sections entitled Shakespeare versus the Simpsons and What Ethics Can Learn from Jack Benny and Miss Manners), without compromising their gravity. With exegeses of Winnie the Pooh, transcripts of Bill Clinton's impeachment hearing and the works of almost every major political philosopher, Sandel reveals how even our most knee-jerk responses bespeak our personal conceptions of the rights and obligations of the individual and society at large. Erudite, conversational and deeply humane, this is truly transformative reading. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sandel, a Harvard law professor, effortlessly integrates common concerns of individuals with topics as varied as abortion, affirmative action, and family loyalties within the modern theories and perspectives on freedom. He reviews philosophical thought from the ancient to more modern political philosophers, including Immanuel Kant and John Rawls. Sandel critiques three ways of thinking about justice: a utilitarian perspective that seeks the greatest happiness for the greatest number; the connection of justice to freedom with contrast between what he calls the laissez-faire camp that tends to be market libertarians and the fairness camp with an egalitarian slant that acknowledges the need for market regulation; and justice tied to virtue and pursuit of the good life. Although the last is generally associated with the cultural and political Right, he exposes connections across political lines. Sandel reveals how perspectives on justice are connected to a deeper and reasoned analysis, a moral engagement in politics, and a counterintuitive conclusion in modern politics. Whether or not readers agree with Sandel’s conclusions, they will appreciate the encouragement to self-examination on the most mundane topics. --Vernon Ford

Product Details

  • File Size: 649 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 184614213X
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002Q7H7L0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,343 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 118 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blind Justice? - an eye-opening discussion October 7, 2009
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Michael Sandel's discussion of Justice begins and ends with what he believes are the three main views on what Justice is or rather what it should promote: the maximum good to the largest possible number of people, individual freedom or encourage the collective virtues and the development of harmonious and enlightened communities (who wouldn't?)?.

Sandel's discussion, based on a popular course he teaches at Harvard, mixes a pretty good dose of 'history of political philosophy' with an interesting selection of hypothetical and real life 'cases', meant to stimulate thinking and understanding of the difficulties one faces when one's mission is to distribute 'justice'.

Is affirmative action justified as a criterion for college admission? Are the handicapped entitled to jobs their handicaps prevent them from performing well? Are abortions 'murder' or an expression of free choice? Should the State get out of the 'marriage' business altogether? Is it okay to kill and eat a sick boy about to die anyway if that would save the lives of three men? These are some of the dilemmas Sandel presents his students. And, for context - or is this the true purpose of the course? - he presents a summary of what he considers to be some of the more prominent thinking on the matters of morality and justice: the Utilitarians, Kant, Aristotle, John Rawls.

The journey ends with an attempt to answer the initial question: what is Justice for? And, now, that we better understand the main arguments and their proponents and we saw how they applied in 'real life', Sandel is ready to reveal his preference.
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259 of 283 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book Ever for Practical Morality September 22, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book will not satisfy the elite of hair-splitting moral philosophers, but to my mind it is the best book I have ever seen explaining moral philosophy to neophytes. The examples come mostly from contemporary American social life and many are well-known in the literature. But many were new to me, and included some of the most morally conflictual issues I have ever encountered. I just cannot imagine a better way to present the content of modern moral philosophy to the world.

Michael Sandel is a quite famous political philosopher with a reputation for extreme adherence to a particular brand of community-oriented virtue theory that is critical of the two major traditions in moral philosophy---utilitarianism (Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Peter Singer) and deontology (Immanuel Kant, John Rawls). However, the reader will likely not discover this fact until the very end of the book, so even-handed and appreciative is Sandel of the alternative approaches. Indeed, the book is filled with the tension of a World Cup match, where the top players in the world are paraded before us in all their splendor, and where it is difficult to call any one a looser. This attitude contrasts sharply with the standard behavior of professional philosophers, who have hissy-fits when confronted with arguments with which they disagree (Sandel is capable of this as well, of course, but not in this elegant volume).

The most important thing the student learns from this book is that morality is for real, and leading a moral life is the highest goal to which we can aspire. I learned moral philosophy in an era dominated by the sort of analytical philosophy according to which moral statements are meaningless utterances, and moral behavior is irrational and constricting.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
There has been much discussion lately about what science can tell us about ethics, much of it frankly misguided or downright bizarre. Science is indeed informing us on how we evolved a sense of right and wrong, and it is beginning to elucidate how the brain works when we make moral judgments (or fail to do so). As interesting as this is, it says nothing about ethical questions per se, no more than understanding the evolution and neurological bases of mathematical thinking tells us whether Fermat's theorem is correct or not. You will not find much science in Michael Sandel's book, but it will give you endless food for thought to deepen your understanding of ethics. The book covers all the major philosophical approaches to ethical theory, from deontology to consequentialism, from libertarianism to virtue ethics. While the author (like myself) favors a neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics, he provides an accessible yet sophisticated discussion of all approaches. Moreover, this isn't just theoretical philosophy. The book has a very applied bent (and no, applied philosophy is not an oxymoron), as each discussion is introduced by an actual example of a moral conundrum taken from everyday life or from well known cases in the news. We learn, for instance, that to make sense of disputes about the essence of cheerleading, or playing golf with the aid of a cart, one needs to examine Aristotle's concept of virtue and what sort of polity we wish our society to be (even the Supreme Court got into it!). In the book you will find insightful discussions of affirmative action and abortion, for instance, which may actually change your mind about those issues, or at the very least give you a more sophisticated understanding of the other side and why their position cannot be cavalierly dismissed. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Important ideas for a thinking society
The book based on the series. This book introduces one to the different conceptions of Justice, and how difficult it can be to find true north in the moral and political... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Erick Wilberding
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 20 days ago by Mauricio Sarreiro
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading, good sourcing, excellent examples.
Well written, seems like a thorough introduction to the subject matter. I am not through reading it, and am taking the course. Read more
Published 23 days ago by rogsonl
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
No problems
Published 24 days ago by M. E. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
everything great!
Published 27 days ago by David Christy
5.0 out of 5 stars you might enjoy this book
If you are interested in an overview of the philosophy, as well as the politics of American justice, you might enjoy this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Manuela Thiess
5.0 out of 5 stars A moral quest for the curious
Sandel is presenting major philosophical schools and idea in a manner that corresponds to our current life and the dilemmas this lifestyle is posing as well. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Georgi Yanakiev
5.0 out of 5 stars good deal
Can't say more good words for it--it was so great. I kept reading it during the flights and my leisure time. The quality is good and the delivery was very fast. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Shiyuan Yin
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read for all people with different backgrounds or education
Well written with right amount of detail. A good read for all people with different backgrounds or education.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Very thought-provoking. Loved it!
Published 1 month ago by Beverly
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More About the Author

Michael Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at the University of Harvard. Sandel's legendary 'Justice' course is one of the most popular and influential at Harvard. In 2007, Harvard made Sandel's course available to alumni around the world through webstreaming and podcasting. Over 5,000 participants signed up, and Harvard Clubs from Mexico to Australia organized local discussion groups in connection with the course. In May 2007, Sandel delivered a series of lectures at major universities in China and he has been a visiting professor at the Sorbonne, Paris. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council on Foreign Relations. Sandel is the author of many books and has previously written for the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic and the New York Times. He was the 2009 BBC Reith Lecturer.

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