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Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? Paperback – August 1, 2010
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“[Sandel] The most famous teacher of philosophy in the world [has] shown that it is possible to take philosophy into the public square without insulting the public's intelligence.” ―Michael Ignatieff, The New Republic
“Michael Sandel. . . is currently the most effective communicator of ideas in English.” ―The Guardian
“This book is absolutely indispensable for anyone who wants to be a good citizen. It shows how to balance competing values, a talent our nation desperately needs nowadays.” ―Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
“More than exhilarating; exciting in its ability to persuade this student/reader, time and again, that the principle now being invoked--on this page, in this chapter--is the one to deliver the sufficiently inclusive guide to the making of a decent life.” ―Vivian Gornick, Boston Review
“Sandel explains theories of justice . . . with clarity and immediacy; the ideas of Aristotle, Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Robert Nozick and John Rawls have rarely, if ever, been set out as accessibly . . . In terms we can all understand, Justice confronts us with the concepts that lurk, so often unacknowledged, beneath our conflicts.” ―Jonathan Rauch, The New York Times
“Sandel dazzles in this sweeping survey of hot topics . . . Erudite, conversational and deeply humane, this is truly transformative reading.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A spellbinding philosopher . . . For Michael Sandel, justice is not a spectator sport . . . He is calling for nothing less than a reinvigoration of citizenship.” ―Samuel Moyn, The Nation
“Michael Sandel, perhaps the most prominent college professor in America, . . . practices the best kind of academic populism, managing to simplify John Stuart Mill and John Rawls without being simplistic. But Sandel is best at what he calls bringing ‘moral clarity to the alternatives we confront as democratic citizens' . . . He ends up clarifying a basic political divide--not between left and right, but between those who recognize nothing greater than individual rights and choices, and those who affirm a ‘politics of the common good,' rooted in moral beliefs that can't be ignored.” ―Michael Gerson, Washington Post
“Justice, the new volume from superstar Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, showcases the thinking on public morality that has made him one of the most sought-after lecturers in the world.” ―Richard Reeves, Democracy
“Hard cases may make bad laws, but in Michael Sandel's hands they produce some cool philosophy . . . Justice is a timely plea for us to desist from political bickering and see if we can have a sensible discussion about what sort of society we really want to live in.” ―Jonathan Ree, The Observer (London)
“Every once in a while, a book comes along of such grace, power, and wit that it enthralls us with a yearning to know what justice is. This is such a book.” ―Jeffrey Abramson, Texas Law Review
“Using a compelling, entertaining mix of hypotheticals, news stories, episodes from history, pop-culture tidbits, literary examples, legal cases and teachings from the great philosophers--principally, Aristotle, Kant, Bentham, Mill and Rawls--Sandel takes on a variety of controversial issues--abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action--and forces us to confront our own assumptions, biases and lazy thought. Sparkling commentary from the professor we all wish we had.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Michael Sandel is . . . one of the world's most interesting political philosophers. Politicians and commentators tend to ask two questions of policy: will it make voters better off, and will it affect their liberty? Sandel rightly points out the shallowness of that debate and adds a third criterion: how will it affect the common good?” ―Guardian
“Michael Sandel transforms moral philosophy by putting it at the heart of civic debate . . . Sandel's insistence on the inescapably ethical character of political debate is enormously refreshing.” ―Edward Skidelsky, New Statesman
“A remarkable educational achievement . . . Generations of students and educated citizens will be very well served by Sandel's introductory overviews.” ―Amitai Etzioni, Hedgehog Review
“Reading Justice by Michael Sandel is an intoxicating invitation to take apart and examine how we arrive at our notions of right and wrong . . . This is enlivening stuff. Sandel is not looking to win an argument; he's looking at how a citizen might best engage the public realm.” ―Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A road map for negotiating modern moral dilemmas . . . 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, Seattle Times
“Michael 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, syndicated columnist
“Justice is Sandel at his finest: no matter what your views are, his delightful style will draw you in, and he'll then force you to rethink your assumptions and challenge you to question accepted ways of thinking. He calls us to a better way of doing politics, and a more enriching way of living our lives.” ―E. J. Dionne, syndicated columnist
“There have been various attempts over the decades to bury moral philosophy -- to dismiss convictions about right and wrong as cultural prejudices, or secretions of the brain, or matters so personal they shouldn't even affect our private lives. But moral questions always return, as puzzles and as tragedies.” ―Michael Gerson, The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 1, 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374532508
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374532505
- Lexile measure : 1210L
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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For someone who doesn’t always agree with moral individualists, the author discusses this philosophical tradition in an extremely clear and unbiased way. This makes the force of his communitarian arguments at the end of the book all the stronger. The end will leave you with hope that there is a philosophical foundation for a sorely needed invigoration of American public services and civic life.
If you can only read two books on moral and political philosophy, this and The Righteous Mind are essentially everything you need to know, in my opinion.
I found that Sandel repeats himself frequently, and uses a lot of short stories to explain a concept. It felt more circular and kind of energy-draining to try and find out the point he was trying to make. Additionally, he doesn't go into any real depth with the theories, just mentions a few basic points and then goes right into another hypothetical.
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I like my Kindle and I hate location numbers - part of the reason I chose an e-version of this book was Amazon's claims that it includes actual page numbers. It doesn't and they are not an option.
NOTE: I am wide open to being proven wrong and would welcome it; if anyone replies with a way to see pages, I will take it all back.
Now, years later, Professor Sandel has written a book based on the content of that course which has now become famous beyond the ivy walls. Which means I had a second chance to be his student. (Or third chance, if you consider I rejected the idea of enrolling in the online edX version of Justice as too onerous.)
No one would describe Justice as a beach read, but I did read it on vacation, an advantage that allowed me to focus more fully and not abandon the book for too-long intervals. It is a page-turner in its own way. Sandel’s gift is two-fold. First, he streamlines the key arguments and perspectives of a select group of great moral philosophers. The ideas aren’t dumbed down, but they are artfully reduced to their essence. Second, he uses real-world anecdotes to illustrate the application of the various philosophies, and equally important, he explains the intellectual challenges made to each. (Which allowed me to pretend that’s exactly what I was thinking and I was glad he brought it up.)
Moral issues used in the book include the famous runaway trolley problem, outrage over the bailout, exploding gas tanks in Ford Pintos, a consensual cannibalism case from Germany, the voluntary military, surrogate pregnancy, selling kidneys, Bill Clinton and Monica, affirmative action, reparations, evacuating Ethiopian Jews, buying American, and much more. In each case, although Sandel is clearly a contemporary American liberal, he avoids taking a decisive stand but works through the logical conclusion of the relevant moral philosophy.
Thus about 80% of the book is an engaging, readable distillation of important ideas about justice, society, and morality. In the last 20% or so, Sandel goes beyond teaching and presents his own argument for a new approach to justice in our times. Once you wrap your head around it, you realize that he is advocating for a revolutionary re-thinking of the moral neutrality which has been the unwritten goal of justice in America for some decades. His is a bracing, risky gambit–but once you’ve read the whole book, you’ll see why it may be the only way to save modern politics.
A remarkable, compact book that will stimulate the logic circuits of your brain and leave you pondering Big Questions.
Unusual words: utilitarianism; Jeremy Bentham; John Stuart Mill; libertarianism; universal rights; laissez-faire; pure practical reason; Immanuel Kant; categorical imperative; intelligible realm; John Rawls; moral desert; Aristotle; telos
If you like Justice, you might like:
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.
However, the most beautiful thing about the book for me was the self-reflection it promoted in me as I tried to engage the questions as rigorously as I could. Doing that, in the first instance, is the Right Thing to Do, I think.
Top reviews from other countries
Some authors appear constantly, yet they've never been so clear, such as Kant or Mill's utilitarism.
Equally, some notions, such as justice, fairness, liberty and other similar ones, are explained beautifully and, importantly, in their different meanings throughout history.
A very good book who repays repeated readings.
The problem is that on the page it can be really quite dry. There were some sections where my attention started to wander, and it took a quick re-read to make sure I'd actually taken it in. I believe you can still find Sandel's lecture course on justice (on which this book is largely based) on YouTube. There his easy charm and the presence of an engaged and questioning audience of bright young minds really bring this stuff to life. I'd recommend giving that a watch as a companion to this book.
As another reviewer said, 'Justice' makes us think, and there is no higher praise for any book, of any genre. It is true that its most examples and debates are USA-centred and highly specific to the Americans, but don't let that put you off, the questions this exceptional book poses are universal and so, to the intelligent reader, pretty much everything in here will be highly relevant no matter where we live. And if you're looking to form a well-rounded, informed view of the world we live in, you could do worse than reading also Sandel's What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets and the not at all insignificant Globalization: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Steger.