website statistics Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (Audiobook) - PDF Books Online
Hot Best Seller

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (Audiobook)

Availability: Ready to download

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? These questions are at the core of our public life tod 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? These questions are at the core of our public life today - and at the heart of Justice, in which Michael J. Sandel shows how a surer grasp of philosophy can help us to make sense of politics, morality, and our own convictions as well. Sandel's legendary 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. In the fall of 2009, PBS will air a series based on the course. Justice offers listeners the same exhilarating journey that captivates Harvard students - the challenge of thinking our way through the hard moral challenges we confront as citizens. It is a searching, lyrical exploration of the meaning of justice, a book 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, the moral limits of markets, patriotism and dissent - Sandel shows how even the most hotly contested issues can be illuminated by reasoned moral argument.Justice is lively, thought-provoking, and wise - an essential new addition to the small shelf of books that speak convincingly to the big questions of our civic life. ©2009 Justice; (P)2009 Macmillan Audio


Compare

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? These questions are at the core of our public life tod 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? These questions are at the core of our public life today - and at the heart of Justice, in which Michael J. Sandel shows how a surer grasp of philosophy can help us to make sense of politics, morality, and our own convictions as well. Sandel's legendary 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. In the fall of 2009, PBS will air a series based on the course. Justice offers listeners the same exhilarating journey that captivates Harvard students - the challenge of thinking our way through the hard moral challenges we confront as citizens. It is a searching, lyrical exploration of the meaning of justice, a book 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, the moral limits of markets, patriotism and dissent - Sandel shows how even the most hotly contested issues can be illuminated by reasoned moral argument.Justice is lively, thought-provoking, and wise - an essential new addition to the small shelf of books that speak convincingly to the big questions of our civic life. ©2009 Justice; (P)2009 Macmillan Audio

30 review for Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (Audiobook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    مشاري الإبراهيم

    I've attended the 24 Harvard University lectures that the book is based on; that's why I'm going to consider that I read the book. The topic, the way it was structured, presented and executed was one of the best I've ever experienced. It is arguably the best online course on philosophy you could attend. In a nutshell, Michael Sandel discusses: What's the right thing for humans to do, whereby he explains theories around Justice, morality and human good. In order to do so, he constantly starts wit I've attended the 24 Harvard University lectures that the book is based on; that's why I'm going to consider that I read the book. The topic, the way it was structured, presented and executed was one of the best I've ever experienced. It is arguably the best online course on philosophy you could attend. In a nutshell, Michael Sandel discusses: What's the right thing for humans to do, whereby he explains theories around Justice, morality and human good. In order to do so, he constantly starts with a controversial (real or theoretical) case study to juxtapose different theories of justice and morality. For example Michael Sandel starts with the classic example of a train headed towards 5 people on the track. The breaks don't work. If the train continues it will kill the 5 people. Then he introduces the option of pulling a leaver to switch to another track whereby only 1 person is standing. The question is: What do you do? Through such examples he explains different schools around morality and justice. 1) The Utilitarian view: This school advocates maximizing "pleasure" to the largest "number" of people. By doing so, the individual and the society are acting morally and justly. As such, the moral and just decision for the utilitarians is: to chose to kill the one person instead of five, as this maximizes the "pleasure" as much as possible. This maximization is, in itself, the prime/only moral justification. The challenge happens when Sandel introduces a twist to the example: "What if there was no other track, and you were a on a bridge watching the train heading towards the 5 people. Now, imagine there was a very large person standing next to you. If that large person falls on the tracks and hits the train, the train will stop and as a result, not kill the 5 people. If you had the opportunity would you push that person of the bridge? From a utilitarian perspective, how can you argue against doing this? given that the outcome is the same as chosing the 2nd track with one person on it. As both options maximize the good. Obviously, the utilitarian school isn't that shallow, but this gives you glimpse of the philosophical implication of rationalizing morality through maximizing pleasure or good. Another challenge is around the inherent moral value of a given deed; if maximizing good/pleasure is the rationale, an individual action might be moral in one scenario and immoral in another according to the collective pleasure. 2) The libertarian view: This school advocates maximizing individual freedom (freedom to do what a person pleases with their lives, time and possessions (e.g. money, property). Issues such as: Consent, equality, minimizing state interference/taxation, and social contracts are major themes here. So any action that results in maximizing individual freedoms (without resulting in material harm on other individuals or liberties) is moral. As you can imagine, the libertarian school of thought would advocate against switching the tracks as that results in involving the additional person to the equation without their consent. The challenge with this line of thinking is: What if two people consent to horrific actions to be done on one another e.g. - ( in Germany someone (X) put an add that they want someone (Y) to to apply to be killed and eaten by him. Eventually, another person (Y) volunteered and they both (X and Y) executed the act.) What do you do then? - ( in some native american cultures, taking drugs is part of the religious experience) should the government allow them to do so? If yes, what If I come up with a religion and register it and say that consuming cocaine is part of my religion? what then? - ( in some parts of Canada indulging in sexual acts with animals is legal) Why? because there is no infringement on individual freedoms The challenge now becomes, what do we do if a mother and her son want to have sexual intercourse? two siblings? or a person wants to ride a motor bike without a helmet? shouldn't taxation be banned (as it infringes on individual's ownership)? As a result, all judgement of acts are skewed towards the one measure (freedom). 3) The virtue or Teleology school: whereby it focuses on ensuring achieving virtues or purpose. This has been originally argued by Aristotle. The idea here is that one needs to understand the underlying meaning of something (e.g. life, economy, marriage, money) and its purpose in order to say what is just and moral. The example here is about a golfer who has a bad leg and wanted the PGA to provide him with a cart. The PGA refused, and the case went up to the supreme court. The main debate was: is walking an essential part of golf? if it was, then providing a cart is unfair. Also if someone suggested to give everyone a cart then it changes the nature of the game itself. The challenge in this school is a very deep and philosophical one. Who decides on virtue and purpose? one of the earlier arguments was that each group/society sets them. The challenge is: what if the group or society agrees on something like slavery or segregation of people of color, or banning Hijab? This is where Michael Sandel argues that speaking of justice requires embarking on finding a framework to answer/define the 'Telos' of life. Is it God and religion? can pure reasoning get us there? Overall a very thought provoking book and lectures that I recommend you start asap

  2. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Single Quote Review: Click to Expand. Click to Expand. Bonus: A quick passage from the book (representative, both): And here is the letter of acceptance, shorn of honorific implications, that a philosophically frank law school should send those it admits: Dear successful applicant, We are pleased to inform you that your application for admission has been accepted. It turns out that you happen to have the traits that society needs at the moment, so we propose to exploit your assets for society’s advan Single Quote Review: Click to Expand. Click to Expand. Bonus: A quick passage from the book (representative, both): And here is the letter of acceptance, shorn of honorific implications, that a philosophically frank law school should send those it admits: Dear successful applicant, We are pleased to inform you that your application for admission has been accepted. It turns out that you happen to have the traits that society needs at the moment, so we propose to exploit your assets for society’s advantage by admitting you to the study of law. You are to be congratulated, not in the sense that you deserve credit for having the qualities that led to your admission—you do not—but only in the sense that the winner of a lottery is to be congratulated. You are lucky to have come along with the right traits at the right moment. If you choose to accept our offer, you will ultimately be entitled to the benefits that attach to being used in this way. For this, you may properly celebrate. You, or more likely your parents, may be tempted to celebrate in the further sense that you take this admission to reflect favorably, if not on your native endowments, then at least on the conscientious effort you have made to cultivate your abilities. But the notion that you deserve even the superior character necessary to your effort is equally problematic, for your character depends on fortunate circumstances of various kinds for which you can claim no credit. The notion of desert does not apply here. We look forward nonetheless to seeing you in the fall. Sincerely yours . . .

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did...I think the problem for me is that I took a political philosophy class when I was an undergraduate that was amazing. I got to read many of the texts this book was based on in depth. I don't think anything beats reading through these texts yourself and trying to pick through the reasoning yourself. The book also reinforces a fear I have. I have a feeling that Sandel is actually a lot smarter than this book makes him out to be. I have a feeling th I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did...I think the problem for me is that I took a political philosophy class when I was an undergraduate that was amazing. I got to read many of the texts this book was based on in depth. I don't think anything beats reading through these texts yourself and trying to pick through the reasoning yourself. The book also reinforces a fear I have. I have a feeling that Sandel is actually a lot smarter than this book makes him out to be. I have a feeling that a savvy editor urged him to go simpler (lower?). The cover of the book advertises Sandel as popular and a global phenomenon...and I was worried that in order to be these things, the book would need to be a dumber version of itself. And that's kind of what it was. As a work of philosophy, it was't really that satisfying. As a popular moral treatise, it seemed thin and not really a revelation, certainly not inspiring (For really inspiring moral reflections and prose, read James Baldwin). Many of the chapters seem like they could have been written by a motivated senior undergraduate. I'm almost ashamed to admit this deep fear of mine, but it seems like in order to write something popular that many people will read (and *gasp* find smart) you have to aim for the median...if not even lower. I've found this to be true lately in all sorts of communication activities ranging from talking to senior management to writing popular blog posts -- aim for the middle or slightly lower and hope you get lucky. That being said, let me say this: The book is a serviceable and easy introduction to political philosophy and ethics. (The topical topics seem to me too American, and somewhat irrelevant given the utter moral collapse in US politics). One thing this book did motivate me to do is to look for something challenging to read -- something that forces me to read a paragraph twice to wrap my head around the idea. The book also makes me want to urge people to be really, really smart. Don't be constrained by a world of medians -- if you have something smart to say/ research / think through, don't be constrained by the tyranny of the TED talk / popular think book / popular blog post format. Go big! Write a 500 page tome only 5 people will read! Be as smart as you can even if you are misunderstood. That is the most punk rock / awesome thing you can do in these times.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Portal in the Pages

    I'm going to think fondly of this book for a long long time. My copy is battered and stained and loved. I'm going to think fondly of this book for a long long time. My copy is battered and stained and loved.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    "He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god." This quote from Aristotle's Politics was new to me. It was one of many highlights in this book. Sandel's "Justice" is organized in a very interesting way. He starts with utilitarian, then libertarian political philosophy. You might assume he's following a sequence of conservative (less sophisticated) to liberal (more sophisticated). And then, surprise, he throws three c "He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god." This quote from Aristotle's Politics was new to me. It was one of many highlights in this book. Sandel's "Justice" is organized in a very interesting way. He starts with utilitarian, then libertarian political philosophy. You might assume he's following a sequence of conservative (less sophisticated) to liberal (more sophisticated). And then, surprise, he throws three crazy detours. Kant, Rawls, Aristotle. This is not the usual stroll through moral and political philosophy's "greatest hits". The covert moral and political stances of so many so-called philosophers is a big reason why "Justice" feels so refreshing. You might wonder how the author votes or what his 'theoretical paradigm' is, but not for long. (He's actually pretty middle of the road.) Oddly enough, he does have a secret agenda--a philosophical one! One thing that was a little frustrating at times: I kept expecting him to talk about actual policy making. This was because he reads his examples so thoroughly, e.g. the moral aspects of issues as difficult as affirmative action or gay marriage, I kept expecting him to say "...and so the answer is:...". But he sticks to the script (philosophy in light of politics/ethics)--and the result is a thrilling read. A must for thoughtful people across the political spectrum.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    On Plato's cave: ...He's right, I think, but only in part. The claims of the cave must be given their due. If moral reflection is dialectical--if it moves back and forth between the judgments we make in concrete situations and the principles that inform those judgments--it needs opinions and convictions, however partial and untutored, as ground and grist. A philosophy untouched by the shadows on the wall can only yield a sterile utopia. (p. 29) I don't think I ever before heard anyone criticize th On Plato's cave: ...He's right, I think, but only in part. The claims of the cave must be given their due. If moral reflection is dialectical--if it moves back and forth between the judgments we make in concrete situations and the principles that inform those judgments--it needs opinions and convictions, however partial and untutored, as ground and grist. A philosophy untouched by the shadows on the wall can only yield a sterile utopia. (p. 29) I don't think I ever before heard anyone criticize the meaning behind the metaphor of Plato's cave. It is just one of the unusual points Michael Sandel makes in this book. As I started reading, I thought this book was going to reflect a philosopher's exploration of justice, that is, divorced from the kind of psychological slant taken by Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, for example, or from a historical framework as in Jerry Muller's The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought. I thought the author was simply going to explore the various philosophical schools a la Philosophy 101, along with looking at some of the implications of those approaches. Instead, as the book progressed, a trajectory emerged, hidden or unclear at times but eventually reaching a crescendo, followed by a denouement, almost like a play. I don't mind saying that much, but at the same time feel this book could be susceptible to spoilers, almost like a work of fiction. I don't want to interfere with anybody else' voyage of discovery. By the way, we're talking about justice as morality here, as in the subtitle, What's the Right Thing to Do, not about justice as punishment and the opposite of mercy, as one sometimes hears it used. We're taking a much broader look at justice than simply "the justice system." We're talking about how goods and other valuables should be distributed, and onward from there to further points about how one should live. In the earlier chapters we take a look at Utilitarianism (the greatest good for the greatest number) and Libertarianism (ownership of one's person and resources and the freedom to decide what to do with them as long as one isn't hurting anybody else). Those approaches and attendant difficulties if carried to their logical extremes were fairly easy to understand. Then on to market economies and whether there should be things that money can't buy. Think conscription during the American Civil War and rich people paying needier ones to serve for them. From a libertarian point of view that may be hunky-dory, but, then, what is free choice? Isn't the poor man in that situation being coerced by his financial status? What about today's volunteer army? Does allowing the market to decide the issue constitute freedom? Rousseau turned the tables on that conclusion. Then on to a long chapter on Kant--on his moral philosophy and his ideas about freedom. Is it the ability to do anything you want, as in defying former New York Mayor Bloomberg and drinking as large a soda as you want? In the US, the Left and Right came together to condemn Bloomberg for interfering with their free choice. No! says Kant; you are just being coerced by your inner drives, in this case your sugar craving, and you are not free as long as you are following your inclinations. Doing whatever you want is being a slave to your passions. Then what is freedom? Duty, he says--doing something because it's right. Certainly, whether you get a positive charge out of doing something is not key, for, again, a positive feeling cannot be the signal you have done the right thing. Doing the right thing is the opposite of doing something to get a particular result. You need rules you have chosen, rules that would not be self-contradictory if they were universalized, and rules that treat persons as ends, not as means. With Kant we get to talk about lies, since one of his rules is never to lie. Would you lie to a murderer to protect a friend that murderer is after? I had always thought that a misleading truth was just as bad as a lie, but there can be a principled defense of the claim that a deceptive truth is better than a bald-faced lie. The deceptive truth does not coerce or manipulate the hearer to the same extent--and in telling a deceptive truth the speaker makes obeisance to the rule against lying in a way that the bald-faced liar does not. For the American political philosopher John Rawls, we are all parties to an implicit social contract in which we agree to what would be fair if we were blind to what our own status and position in society was going to be. With Rawls, the author gets into the intriguing area of desert, that is, what we deserve. Proceeding along those lines, we find ourselves in unfamiliar and perhaps contested territory, since if we didn't truly earn what we have, than how can we claim to deserve it? Sandel gives an example of his students, who, upon hearing these arguments, claim they do deserve their acceptance at Harvard, that they did work hard for it. Then he asks them how many of them are the first-born in their families, and it always turns out that 75 to 80% are. Research shows that first-borns have a stronger work ethic and achieve more conventional success. Did the students earn their status, or is it not just another morally arbitrary fact? The idea of moral desert is deeply engrained. It's hard to think outside that box. Don't we bask in self-approval when fortune smiles on us and struggle with shame when it does not? Aristotle with his focus on the purpose of things (telos) was particularly hard to understand, since we don't so much think that way. Instead of the neutrality espoused by Kant and Rawls, should governments attempt to establish what is good? Whose good? Which comes first, the good or the right? What goods/values in society are associated with respect and honor, and who is worthy of respect and honor? From Aristotle, Sandel moves on to the fraught subject of collective responsibility. For example, should we have affirmative action? The people benefiting from it are not the ones who suffered under slavery, and in fact are likely to be middle-class rather than mired in poverty. The people taxed to pay for it are not the ones who perpetrated slavery. But, then, are there no social encumbrances on us? Is patriotism wrong? Group loyalty? And here is where our author's narrative does intersect with historical understanding: Liberal political theory was born in an attempt to spare politics and law from becoming embroiled in moral and religious controversies. The philosophies of Kant and Rawls represent the fullest and clearest expression of that ambition. ...A politics emptied of substantive moral engagement makes for an impoverished civic life. It is also an open invitation to narrow, intolerant moralisms. Fundamentalists rush in where liberals fear to tread. ...If our debates about justice invariably embroil us in substantive moral questions, it remains to ask how these arguments can proceed. Is it possible to reason about the good in public without lapsing into wars of religion? (my italics) (p. 243) This book clarified some puzzles for me. I hadn't understood very well the debates over to what degree we are participating in a "social contract." Sandel helped me see that the egalitarian, individualist, voluntarian approach assumes we all have all signed on individually. It is surprising to me that libertarianism and liberalism are quite close in those matters. I also understood better what the factual versus the normative means; factual means what is and normative is what ought to be. I gathered from the first that Michael Sandel is one of those popular professors with a large following. Apparently he's more than a big man on the campus. He's being called a "moral rock star." Here's a fun 2013 article on him from Financial Times. I loved reading this book, and my husband liked it, too. It has given me some new ideas and better ways of thinking, and I love books that do that. We read chunks of it out loud, but also had to read alone for stretches to complete in time for a book club meeting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    Michael Sandel is something of a “moral rock star” according to the Financial Times, with hordes of acolytes the world over. It is easy for me to see why. This book, published in 2009, discusses theories of fairness and freedom that have been the basis of political discourse and civic structure in the U.S. for some fifty years, bringing us to the state of affairs we currently observe in our market-(un)regulated society. Sandel suggests that we may get twinges now and again that something is amis Michael Sandel is something of a “moral rock star” according to the Financial Times, with hordes of acolytes the world over. It is easy for me to see why. This book, published in 2009, discusses theories of fairness and freedom that have been the basis of political discourse and civic structure in the U.S. for some fifty years, bringing us to the state of affairs we currently observe in our market-(un)regulated society. Sandel suggests that we may get twinges now and again that something is amiss in our transactional economy, with the mad rush to acquire more, and our knowing the cost of everything does not reflect the value of anything…of anything that really matters. Sandel has a very smooth, well-practiced style filled with amusing or absorbing ethical and moral choices that have been presented to us over the years, some of which we (or the Supreme Court) may have responded to but not resolved to our satisfaction. Sandel waits for the end of his book to wade into the abortion issue, when we have been well-steeped in philosophical theory for hours. I was hoping for that. I have never bought into any of the increasingly shrill and limited arguments on either side of that debate, and felt we were missing something essential in our thinking. Sandel gently points to why the arguments of neither side satisfy our craving for justice and suggests there may be another way to look at the issue. You will need to go there to see what he suggests. If we look at the theories of justice that have been incorporated into our thinking since Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and John Rawls (1921-2002), we have first the principle of respect for an individual because they are human with the capacity to reason (Kant) and the notion of social and economic equality and basic liberties for all (Rawls). Sandel gives lots of examples how these actually play out in a society based on the rule of law. We get tied up with some people questioning equality, and some questioning fairness. Sandel thinks we might want to look again at what Aristotle said about political philosophy. Defining rights requires us to figure out the purpose or end of the social practice in question. And justice is honorific, that is, we need to reason out what it is we are trying to achieve, what virtues we want to promote by reward. It does seem to be a step we have skipped. We need to question and define again, together, the “good life.” We need to look at the ends, the virtues we hope to achieve by rewards of wealth or position. I would be surprised if many people did not share my sense that there is something seriously amiss in the way we are valuing both the productive capacity of the populace and our physical “plant,” that is to say, our land and resources. Additionally, Sandel remarks on the need to restore community. Wealth disparities allow us to live apart from one another when we need to interact more; we need to see what is true and what is only imagined. We need to influence one another. In the prevailing philosophies espoused by the political parties, either the one in power or the one challenging it, something is missing, something important, like meaningful debate about who we are as people, as Americans. In this book, Sandel talks about some of those things I could sense were missing but couldn’t articulate. It has to do with values—the real ones, not the price of a Birkin bag. The lack of recognition about what is important has led us to unconscionable wealth disparities and trite but vicious debate on the political stage. Unless we address what is really important, it ultimately does not matter who wins the election. That way hell lies. Sandel is much feted around the world for his discussions of justice, but in the Financial Times interview linked above he tells us that his ideas achieve less resonance in two countries: the United States and China. As a result of his celebrity, he has several TED talks posted on YouTube (links below) which cover some of the material in his books, and the course he teaches at Harvard is posted online as well. Sandel is very clear in expressing difficult concepts, so I recommend you go straight to him rather than take my word for it. TED Talk on Democratic Debate TED talk on The Moral Limits of Markets

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    I love books like this: they challenge the mind and lead to great discussions. Michael Sandel teaches a very popular course at Harvard entitled “Justice.” It’s available in video through the iTunes University (a phenomenal resource, I might add.) Sandel uses a series of hypothetical situations to focus the class on the different ways philosophers would have analyzed and puzzled out solutions to the problems raised in the hypotheticals. (This somewhat Socratic method is also used very effectively I love books like this: they challenge the mind and lead to great discussions. Michael Sandel teaches a very popular course at Harvard entitled “Justice.” It’s available in video through the iTunes University (a phenomenal resource, I might add.) Sandel uses a series of hypothetical situations to focus the class on the different ways philosophers would have analyzed and puzzled out solutions to the problems raised in the hypotheticals. (This somewhat Socratic method is also used very effectively in several magnificent series created by Fred Friendly: The Constitution: That Delicate Balance and Ethics in America I & II - both available for free and I cannot recommend them too highly.)* Sandel, reprises some of the major themes of that course in this fascinating book. I listened to this book as an audiobook and it’s read by Sandel who does an excellent narration. He again begins by posing several moral dilemmas and uses those as jumping off points for a discussion of the three philosophical theories and asking how they might help us decide what constitutes justice: that which provides the maximum good to the largest possible number of people; individual freedoms as opposed to collective virtues; or that which promotes the development of harmonious communities. One example of a moral dilemma is taken from a true story. A platoon sergeant in Afghanistan was behind Taliban lines with three other soldiers on patrol when they came across two goat herders with their flock. Knowing that if they released the goat herders their position might be revealed they had to make a decision: whether to kill the goat herders and possibly save themselves, or whether to let them go and assume they were innocent civilians. They had no way to simply disable the man and boy and leave them. The sergeant polled his men and the vote was to kill them, but, examining his “Christian conscience” the sergeant decided to let them live. They were later ambushed by the Taliban and all of his men were killed and he barely escaped having been severely injured. In fact the rescue chopper sent to rescue them was shot down killing those on board. The sergeant later said he had made the wrong decision and should have killed the goat herders. Thank goodness I have never been faced with such a dilemma. A really intriguing case was that of how we view our bodies. The Libertarian argues we own our bodies and therefore can do whatever we want with them. Can we then sell our body parts? Let’s envision the poor Indian who desperately wants to send his children to college. He sells one kidney. Problems yet? Now along comes a second child and the man is willing to sell his second kidney for his child even knowing that he cannot survive. How many of us would approve of his decision? Is he despicable? or a hero? So if he is despciable, how about the man who throws himself in front of the train to push his child out of the way who wandered on to the tracks. I suspect most people would consider him a hero, yet he is deliberately sacrificing his life for that of the child? How is that different from the Indian? A real case involved a prisoner in the Califonia prison system (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article...) who wanted to donate his remaining kidney to his daughter (the first donation had failed to take.) How is his willingness to self-sacrifice his life for his child different from the fellow with the fellow who saves his daughter from the train? The UC Ethics board denied his request. So does their decision mean that the state owns his body and can determine what to do with it? And what if a pregnant woman decided to sell (does it make a difference if it’s a donation as opposed to a sale?) her fetus? What are the rights of the state? Sandel uses the last couple of chapters to state his own preference of what constitutes Justice. I found these the least interesting of the book. The best part if his weaving of the hypotheticals with a deep understanding of the historical and philosophical viewpoints. Listening to this book, I was reminded of a talk I heard given by Rushworth Kidder whose point was that deciding between good and evil is easy; the hard decisions are those that require choosing between two goods each of which may have a different outcome. My wife and I listened to this book on a trip and the dilemmas posed some very lively discussions. * http://www.learner.org/resources/seri... and http://www.learner.org/resources/seri...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    THE Christmas present to not-so-subtly shame the people who've wronged you during the last year! :-) Jokes aside, Harvard professor and moral philosopher Sandel does an excellent job discussing ethical decision-making. Offering different perspectives and illustrating different viewpoints depending on what premises decisions are based on, he always remains engaging by giving examples and directly questioning the reader (granted, the book is based on university lectures, but don't we all know plen THE Christmas present to not-so-subtly shame the people who've wronged you during the last year! :-) Jokes aside, Harvard professor and moral philosopher Sandel does an excellent job discussing ethical decision-making. Offering different perspectives and illustrating different viewpoints depending on what premises decisions are based on, he always remains engaging by giving examples and directly questioning the reader (granted, the book is based on university lectures, but don't we all know plenty of lectures that are more or less monologues?). From Aristotle to John Rawls, Immanuel Kant and many others, Sandel takes schools of thought and concepts that at first might seem abstract and applies them to practical questions - and while some of them might be answered quite easily (is it okay to raise prices for home repairs after a severe storm?), others seem unanswerable (is it okay to kill one innocent person to save a greater number of innocent people?). Will Sandel provide us with a general guideline for moral behavior? Oh no, we have to go on thinking for ourselves when we face moral challenges. But he inspires new ways of thinking, and that's already quite an achievement. You can also watch Sandel's lectures on justice here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Piyush Bhatia

    "We cannot know until we try and that it always seems impossible until it is done." A book of political philosophy and ethics, this book compares and contrasts several important approaches to justice and provides a study of different political philosophies, and simultaneously applies them to address contemporary legal and political issues. Sandel illustrates the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives. The approaches to justice presented in the book fall into three categories: 1.Wel "We cannot know until we try and that it always seems impossible until it is done." A book of political philosophy and ethics, this book compares and contrasts several important approaches to justice and provides a study of different political philosophies, and simultaneously applies them to address contemporary legal and political issues. Sandel illustrates the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives. The approaches to justice presented in the book fall into three categories: 1.Welfare:MaximizingWelfare( Utilitarianism) 2. Freedom : Respecting Freedom ( Libertarianism ) 3. Virtue : Cultivating and promoting virtue Chapter by chapter, Sandel has elaborated the above-mentioned approaches while parallelly identifying the primary and eminent political philosophers who held such views. One such philosopher is John Rawls, distinguished as a pre-eminent philosopher of the 20th century and who originally gave birth to the "Justice Theory". The book enables the reader to rethink their understanding of justice and practices in their morally- and religiously charged public spheres. The book also includes assorted arguments for affirmative action and the telos of a social institution. The fact that Sandel presents his arguments in line with the views of the intellectual giants of all times - Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Bentham, Locke, Kant makes the reader comprehensively engaged to the book. Such profound critique, written in a reader-friendly language enables the reader to develop critical thinking and a balanced approach towards arguments.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Minh

    Totally recommended this for wanna-be philosophers. This is written in plain, simple language, that are also very practical and realistic. The author manages to introduce each philosophy back up with each example, then refute each philosophy. I have not finished yet but I am in love with it so far. I read this alongside with my online Harvard University's course. Great book! I actually managed to re-read the book a 2nd time because there were so many amazing quotes I did not have the time to writ Totally recommended this for wanna-be philosophers. This is written in plain, simple language, that are also very practical and realistic. The author manages to introduce each philosophy back up with each example, then refute each philosophy. I have not finished yet but I am in love with it so far. I read this alongside with my online Harvard University's course. Great book! I actually managed to re-read the book a 2nd time because there were so many amazing quotes I did not have the time to write down on last time, as well as properly read the last few chapters on Rawls' Theory of Justice, which was absolutely fascinating.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Thoughts soon.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    This book and its online course got me started (about four years ago, I see) in internet learning. There are now several MOOC (massive open online course) websites that have tens of thousands of students worldwide taking a wide variety of courses. And all for free! I have taken some online community college courses in Virginia - free for us senior citizens. I started with the local college then moved into courses from other parts of the state. Then I discovered Coursera and have taken courses in This book and its online course got me started (about four years ago, I see) in internet learning. There are now several MOOC (massive open online course) websites that have tens of thousands of students worldwide taking a wide variety of courses. And all for free! I have taken some online community college courses in Virginia - free for us senior citizens. I started with the local college then moved into courses from other parts of the state. Then I discovered Coursera and have taken courses including the History of Rock 'n' Roll and the Morality of Everyday Life. Right now I am taking the Practical Ethics course offered by the well known author and philosopher Peter Singer. And just to fill in, I have watched some fascinating TED talks that have been part of some online course assignments. I am thinking of this because I am reminded on the PBS NewsHour that today is the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. It is hard to believe that I was in my forties when I first hooked up and now I have a daughter in her 20s who has never known a world without the magic of the net. My daughter who is 10 has a Kindle and my Dad who is 93 watches his stock portfolio on his laptop. But the Michael Sandel book and course are still right up to date with the times. I think they could still be a great beginning for anyone just getting into online education. I am pleased that a study of Justice is a part of my lifelong learning experience.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad

    Michael Sandel did a remarkable job here, it’s very rare to tackle such a complicated subject and write about it in a way that makes it clear and so easy to absorb, without compromising the substance of what is being discussed, this will open up the pores of your conscious, and make you think about Justice and morality in a different way, and will introduce you to how different philosophers through human history thought about these matters, as well as what each philosophical school is adapting i Michael Sandel did a remarkable job here, it’s very rare to tackle such a complicated subject and write about it in a way that makes it clear and so easy to absorb, without compromising the substance of what is being discussed, this will open up the pores of your conscious, and make you think about Justice and morality in a different way, and will introduce you to how different philosophers through human history thought about these matters, as well as what each philosophical school is adapting in their beliefs, theoretically and practically. Sandel throughout the book does not only lay out theoretical thoughts and reflections, but also provides controversial real life examples, and reflect on them from different points of view, that will make the reader relate to how important it is to debate and really think about morality and justice. When you finish the book, you will feel the gravity of our collective thought about morality and justice, and how pivotal this can be in human history. Overall, I loved this book immensely, I believe it’s an essential read, and it’s the type of stuff that everyone should be taught in school.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    http://publiusnapkin.wordpress.com/20... I greatly enjoyed the first two-thirds of Michael Sandel’s new book, Justice: A Reader, which only made the final third more disappointing. Sandel begins his book with a long and fruitful discussion of philosophical thought, ranging from Rousseau to Nozick to Rawls, with compelling thought experiments and concise explanations of the different schools of thought. In the end, Sandel argues that each school falls short, in part due to neglecting the moral leg http://publiusnapkin.wordpress.com/20... I greatly enjoyed the first two-thirds of Michael Sandel’s new book, Justice: A Reader, which only made the final third more disappointing. Sandel begins his book with a long and fruitful discussion of philosophical thought, ranging from Rousseau to Nozick to Rawls, with compelling thought experiments and concise explanations of the different schools of thought. In the end, Sandel argues that each school falls short, in part due to neglecting the moral legitimacy of communal bonds, such as family, ethnicity, and nation, which, he argues, are not contractual, voluntary decisions made by the individual, but inescapable moral obligations that do not depend on individual consent. Sandel anticipates my objection “that so-called obligations of solidarity are actually just instances of collective selfishness, a prejudice for our own kind. These critics concede that we typically care more for our family, friends, and comrades than we do for other people. But, they ask, isn’t this heightened concern for one’s own people a parochial, inward-looking tendency that we should overcome rather than valorize in the name of patriotism or fraternity?” Sandel disagrees, citing examples of shame that ethnic groups feel for the behavior of their ancestors. He rightly notes that “pride and shame are moral sentiments that presuppose a shared identity.” I don’t disagree that nationality, for example, serves as a focal point; Americans are ashamed by the behavior of other Americans that might only offend a German. It would be hard to deny that such tribalism is natural. Sandel loses me when he argues that what is natural, ipso facto, is morally just. Sandel proceeds to examine the cases of Robert E. Lee and David Kaczynski (brother to the “Unabomber”) in light of his moral perspective. As most are familiar, Lee opposed secession and slavery, yet not only turned down an offer to lead the Union army, but led the rebel forces out of allegiance to his kinsman in Virginia. While admitting it is difficult to defend Lee’s decision, Sandel finds “it is hard not to admire the loyalty that gave rise to his dilemma. But why should we admire loyalty to an unjust cause? You might well wonder whether loyalty, under these circumstances, should carry any moral weight at all. Why, you might ask, is loyalty a virtue rather than just a sentiment, a feeling, an emotional tug that beclouds our moral judgment and makes it hard to do the right thing? Here’s why: Unless we take loyalty seriously, as a claim with moral import, we can’t make sense of Lee’s dilemma as a moral dilemma at all. If loyalty is a sentiment with no genuine moral weight, then Lee’s predicament is simply a conflict between morality on the one hand and mere feeling or prejudice on the other.” A fanciful way to restate the debate: if Lee’s tribal loyalty is moral, then it’s a moral dilemma, if it is not, it is not. Sandel proceeds: "The merely psychological reading of Lee’s predicament misses the fact that we not only sympathize with people like him but also admire them, not necessarily for the choices they make, but for the quality of character their deliberation reflects. What we admire is the disposition to see and bear one’s life circumstance as a reflectively situated being—claimed by the history that implicates me in a particular life, but self-conscious of its particularity, and so alive to competing claims and wider horizons. To have character is to live in recognition of one’s (sometime conflicting) encumbrances." Unless I am really missing something here, Sandel’s claim for the morality of Lee’s decision lies in the facts that a) some people sympathize and admire people like him, b) the decision was the product of careful deliberation, and c) a particular life will have a particular context. I do not find these justifications sufficient. If you accept that humans are not perfectly moral in nature, then there is a (strong) possibility that humans might admire a decision that was carefully arrived at and yet immoral. Sandel then argues that you cannot explain David Kaczynski’s difficult decision to turn in his brother unless you appreciate the moral import of family loyalty. While David made a different decision than Lee, “the dilemmas they faced make sense as moral dilemmas only if you acknowledge that the claims of loyalty and solidarity can weigh in the balance against other moral claims, including the duty to bring criminals to justice. If all our obligations are founded on consent, or on universal duties we owe persons as persons, it’s hard to account for these fraternal predicaments.” I completely disagree. Evolutionary studies have done a pretty effective job of explaining such fraternal predicaments. Fraternal loyalty has been an evolutionary advantageous trait. Humans exhibit it. The fact that Joe Blow wants to start bow-legged Joe Blow, Jr., at shortstop on his little league baseball team does not mean that this nepotism is the least bit moral; it does suggest that natural selection has conditioned human behavior. To restate my objection, Sandel equates humans’ natural behavior with morally-just behavior; a slight of hand that avoids engaging the moral question at hand. In the end, his argument fails to dissuade me from that “familiar idea of freedom … the idea that says we are unbound by any moral ties we haven’t chosen; to be free is to be the author of the only obligations that constrain us.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    This book changed my view on the role of Justice and morality used to create laws to govern societies, nations. The implementation and thoughts, indeed the 'correct' decisions taken by any nation when dealing with issues like rights of an individual, gay marriages, taxes, wars, medicinal research etc, eventually determine whether the nation will develop or dissolve nation states. Michael makes a strong case for Aristotle's concept of telos, in deciding all complex cases the ultimate end, purpose This book changed my view on the role of Justice and morality used to create laws to govern societies, nations. The implementation and thoughts, indeed the 'correct' decisions taken by any nation when dealing with issues like rights of an individual, gay marriages, taxes, wars, medicinal research etc, eventually determine whether the nation will develop or dissolve nation states. Michael makes a strong case for Aristotle's concept of telos, in deciding all complex cases the ultimate end, purpose or goal of the outcome must not be lost on the adjudicator, for every decision becomes a precedent which has a huge impact on all future judgements. The author explains political philosophy in a clear and simple language replete with examples which makes this it very easy to follow.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    A great overview/introduction to philosophy and justice. He covers various theories of getting at justice and how they would help us resolve thorny social issues. There is a way to escape relativism and get at justice and Sandel is one of the clearest and most compassionate voices pulling us toward a shared understanding of what justice might look like

  18. 4 out of 5

    M Jahangir kz

    This is a great read. This book is adopted from the famous legendary course of Michael j Sandel in Harvard University, where he has been teaching for almost 3 decades, due to the popularity of the course, it has been televised worldwide and now is also available free of cost in the form of 12 episodes on YouTube. I thoroughly enjoyed both the book as well as his course episodes on YouTube. The subject of the book as its name suggests revolves around Ethics, Justice, philosophy. It introduces reader This is a great read. This book is adopted from the famous legendary course of Michael j Sandel in Harvard University, where he has been teaching for almost 3 decades, due to the popularity of the course, it has been televised worldwide and now is also available free of cost in the form of 12 episodes on YouTube. I thoroughly enjoyed both the book as well as his course episodes on YouTube. The subject of the book as its name suggests revolves around Ethics, Justice, philosophy. It introduces readers to some of the great philosophical writings about justice, specially the work of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and John Rawls. With regards to justice, It takes up contemporary legal and political controversies that raise philosophical questions.. As Aristotle said Justice is giving people what they deserve, but things get tricky when it comes to decide who deserves what and why, and this is what the book is all about. For Aristotle the right things and the just thing to do was in terms of teleological, taking on thing by means of its purpose, or end, for Kant it was duty for the sake of duty, Kant said that a good act has no moral worth if it was done for the sake of some means, like shopkeeper not deceiving due to the fear of being caught and its reputation, for Kant it was wrong, you have to do the right thing just for the sake of it is right, not because of other means, Kant is in favor of the categorical justice, which is doing the right thing unconditionally. It is a thought provoking book, it gives you a new perceptive of looking at justice, it Sparks serious philosophical arguments and debates about what is really the right thing to do, is killing one person for saving five is the right thing? Should right thing be in terms of utilitarians principles of greatest happiness for greatest number, or it should be in terms of the libertarian principles of prioritizing the individuals rights and freedom. Is it the right thing to tax rich person and redistribute the money in less privilege class? The libertarian questions this as it challenge the individual freedom and the right of the person, utilitarianism say it is good as it is the Greatest good for greatest number. What about the role of free market? Is anybody free to sell his/ her body or? What about a person willing to sell his kidneys for the sake of monetary value, should it be discouraged? The book also raises and Sparks serious argumentative discussion on things like same sex marriage: what is the primary role of marriage, is it procreation, love, compassion or what? And other issues such as abortion, surrogacy, equality, obligations, consents, social contracts, it discusses these things with every possible angel, the book is kind of argumentative discussion with author providing all the possible pros and cons of that particular thing. The book is very vast, the written style is very lucid and cohesive, the book provides real life legal and political contemporary examples when discussing things and it is very helpful in observing justice in a real sense.

  19. 4 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Justice And The Good Life Michael Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard. His course on ethics has for many years attracted large numbers of students. His book "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" likewise has brought philosophical questions in the public sphere alive to many readers. I heard Sandel give the contents of this book in a 5-CD audio set. Sandel reads clearly and slowly, and I was able to follow the presentation. Still, I greatly prefer written books to audio. Sandel's book i Justice And The Good Life Michael Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard. His course on ethics has for many years attracted large numbers of students. His book "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" likewise has brought philosophical questions in the public sphere alive to many readers. I heard Sandel give the contents of this book in a 5-CD audio set. Sandel reads clearly and slowly, and I was able to follow the presentation. Still, I greatly prefer written books to audio. Sandel's book is insightful in the way it combines philosophical theory with discussion of contemporary political issues. He tends to move back and forth between them to show how they are related and to suggest how different ethical approaches may give different answers to ethical dilemmas. Sandel's answers to specific questions tend to be on the liberal side of the American political spectrum. There is a fluidity in his approach, however, which recognizes that ethical questions involve issues of value and worth, which are subjects of discussion and good faith disagreement. The part of this book I most enjoyed was Sandel's exposition of great ethical philosophers. He offers careful introductions to Bentham, Mill, Kant, John Rawls, and Aristotle. Broadly speaking, Sandel distinguishes three approaches to Justice and the Good Life: 1. utilitarianism, 2. various schools emphasizing individual autonomy and freedom of choice. 3. "virtue" ethics which involves cultivating virtuous behavior and reasoning about the common good. The third approach derives from Aristotle. It is the ethical philosophy of most appeal to Sandel. His discussion of Aristotle's politics and ethics is sympathetic and good in its emphasis on teleology -- purpose -- as a key component of human activity and in its recognition of the inherently social and political nature of human life. Sandel's approach is fresh because Aristotelianism generally has more appeal to conservative tending thinkers than to liberals. But Sandel argues for a "politics of the common good" which takes moral and spiritual concerns seriously and does not leave such issues solely in the purview of the Christian right. He rejects attempts at value neutrality -- which involve making decisions about public issues which claim to be nonjudgmental about the values of individuals. We need to come to terms with values, Sandel argues and discuss them with our fellows in a community. Politics requires moral engagement and a culture of respect. I found much to be learned from Sandel. Sandel's discussions of specific questions of public ethics are also good but for me less interesting than his discussion of broader questions. He discusses questions such as abortion and gay marriage but he emphasizes that such difficult issues of the culture wars far from exhaust the scope of ethics. Sandel is probably more concerned with matters such as the growing inequality of income in the United States and its bad effect on our public life and on questions about the proper sphere of markets and about the place of non-market norms in ethical decision-making. He uses many examples, large and small, to illustrate his questions. For example, he discusses the philosophical parable of the "runaway streetcar" which shows some of the difficulties people tend to find with utilitarianism and about their seemingly inconsistent responses to similar ethical situations. Sandel examines a recent Supreme Court decision brought by a professional golfer who needed to use a cart on the golf course because he was unable to walk. He sued because the professional golf association would not allow him to use his cart to play in a major tournament. The Court ruled the golfer was entitled to play. For Sandel, the case raised various ethical questions and questions about personality that involve the telos -- the purpose -- of the game of golf. Is part of the goal of golf to test the participant's capacity for strenuous physical activity (as is football, say) by walking around the course? Or is the purpose to show the player's skill in concentrating and responding to mental stress by putting the ball in the cup in as few strokes as possible? Sandel supports the player and the decision of the Court in the case by finding that golf tests the latter skill set rather than the former. Other ethical questions, for Sandel, involve the telos -- the purpose -- of an activity and the type of human behavior that deserves to be honored. Sandel examines the debate about gay marriage and asks about the telos of marriage. Is its purpose procreative, or the celebration of love and commitment between two people regardless of gender, is it both of these, or is it something else? Sandel's own answer to this question seems rather clear. The reader or listener, however, may consider the issue using Sandel's Aristotelian framework and work to his or her own conclusion. I was not always persuaded by Sandel's own answers to particular questions. But I enjoyed this book and the reminder it offered me of the importance of ethics and its role in public life. Robin Friedman

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rizky Akita

    If you think "Justice" and "Philosophy" are things you don't really care about or something you consider as 'way too complicated to learn about', then I recommend you to pick this book and add it into your personal bookshelves. I bought this book due to my passion on debating and I thought this book will improve my speech quality. It turned out, Michael J. Sandel fulfills my expectation.Nay, he exceeded my expectation. Here's my review : 1. Sandel gives a comprehensive overview toward all basic ph If you think "Justice" and "Philosophy" are things you don't really care about or something you consider as 'way too complicated to learn about', then I recommend you to pick this book and add it into your personal bookshelves. I bought this book due to my passion on debating and I thought this book will improve my speech quality. It turned out, Michael J. Sandel fulfills my expectation.Nay, he exceeded my expectation. Here's my review : 1. Sandel gives a comprehensive overview toward all basic philosophies. Instead of trying to take a side on particular theory, he chooses to stand on neutral corner and gives appropriate up-and-down of each theory. Believe me, this quality makes the book quite entertaining in its own way :) 2. He tries to pull the whole "Clash of the Theories" on the ground. He does an extraordinary job on giving simple examples and some precedents regarding the issues. Really, it makes me understand the case bazillion times easier and to see how a particular philosophy theory works in real life. 3. The way he puts all theories in such order is exactly what i call as 'reader-friendly' and 'reader-oriented'. Great structure, oustanding flow! 4. I use English as my second language, so I was surprised to see how easy it was for me to finish (and also to comprehend)the whole case he presents. I even rarely feel this way in Indonesian politics book. So, kudos for Sandel for making this book with such earthy words. In short, this book is a solid one!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Mills

    This is a thorough, easy-to-read, and provocative book about the various philosophies on social justice. The author, Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel, covers the reasoning of Aristotle, Rawls (the "invisible vail"), the utilitarian viewpoint, and Libertarianism, contrasting the value of the maximum satisfaction for the maximum amount of people with that of the rights and autonomy of individuals. Did I say it was easy reading? Yes, it is written in plain English, and illustrated with relevant This is a thorough, easy-to-read, and provocative book about the various philosophies on social justice. The author, Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel, covers the reasoning of Aristotle, Rawls (the "invisible vail"), the utilitarian viewpoint, and Libertarianism, contrasting the value of the maximum satisfaction for the maximum amount of people with that of the rights and autonomy of individuals. Did I say it was easy reading? Yes, it is written in plain English, and illustrated with relevant contemporary cases, such as that of a woman who grew up in a disadvantaged, single-parent home and worked her was through college with a 3.8 GPA, just to have her application to the University of Texas law school rejected in favor of less qualified applicants who happen to be minorities (she was white.) And that of the all-volunteer military, which in doing away with the draft eliminates the fear of most Americans of losing a loved one in a distant war (the author also covers the Civil War method of avoiding conscription, which was for wealthy yankees to pay poorer men to take on their military duty, and the trend toward using private contractors for traditionally military duties.) An absorbing book that will make you think! I also very much enjoyed the eponymous DVD series, where the author, in his usual role, lectures students on this subject. If you've ever fancied a class at Harvard, find this series of DVDs (I just happened upon them in the library) to augment the book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    What should the college educated person know about ethics? What are the most relevant and helpful tools in terms of concepts and theories in guiding lives to use increased mindfulness in understanding the ethical decision-making of our own, of others, and for the Common Good? I am reviewing Sandel’s work from the perspective of an instructor of ethics and considering it for adoption as a course text. One lament in academic philosophy is that the field “lost” their complete claim to ethics since n What should the college educated person know about ethics? What are the most relevant and helpful tools in terms of concepts and theories in guiding lives to use increased mindfulness in understanding the ethical decision-making of our own, of others, and for the Common Good? I am reviewing Sandel’s work from the perspective of an instructor of ethics and considering it for adoption as a course text. One lament in academic philosophy is that the field “lost” their complete claim to ethics since newer versions of General Education requirements often include a course on ethical reasoning or some type of applied ethics. As ethics-as-curriculum was lost (or grew?) out of it’s disciplinary silo to “GenEd” status more professors across a wide variety of disciplines teach an ethical inquiry course, often applied and theme-, field-, or career-specific. As a sociologist, I’ve enjoyed teaching an upper-level undergraduate “Global Ethics” for a decade. While I took a Ph.D. course in Ethical Sociology, and cavort with philosophers and “real” ethicists, I know in academia there are those that would question my qualifications to teach formal ethics. Indeed (and in the context of the rapid decline of public higher education) I’ve reviewed syllabi for some of these specific ethics-in-the-major courses that appear with little or even any ethical theory, where professors can make intuitive or dogmatic, “commonsense” claims centering on identifying simple right from wrong behaviors on that career. When searching for an ethics text it was oddly difficult to find a general one with a fully dedicated chapter on religious ethics. This seems like a miss given the role of religion and the critical need for “world religions” study any place and time we can fit it into our K-16 curriculum. I did find such a decent textbook in Judith Boss’ Ethics for Life: A Text with Readings, and supplement with some additional Rawls, but would consider switching to Sandel. His work is thorough and doesn’t shirk from the thorniest issues yet written with the comprehension needs of undergraduates in mind – explaining concepts in a sophisticated way that is assessable, and in not so terribly many pages. This kind of writing seems often to come from teaching well for a long time, as he has. Sandel is good to include McIntyre’s After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory thesis that finding the Good is in our reconciliation to the narrative of our life stories in our socio-cultural and interpersonal context, not understood via any individual event or awareness. This is something I’ve long expressed to undergraduates, often in their own existential angst of creating meaning in their lives. I find McIntyre’s view is helpful for those with non-Christian religions who reject the notion of a personal God. However, missing are specifics about differences in political philosophy without which justice and the ethical Good cannot be understood. Sandel misses key opportunities here - to explain how Conservative supreme virtues of tradition, duty, and justice actually do compete in the intellectual marketplace with Liberal virtues of both individual and group rights and equality. A way to rise above the toxic, counter-productive bipartisan divisions is to teach directly to the conflict (as Robert Hughes implores in Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America) and to show that ethical valuing happens across the political spectrum and perspectives we find “bad” or wrong often do have competing ethical virtues at their root. Surely this is critically absent from our educational or civic institutions given how Trump has evenly split the electorate in the US along supposedly political lines. If an instructor of ethics adopts Sandel's book, you may want to consider supplementing it on cultural relativism – another basic concept that students need to consider, even if they want to reject it over some (false) dichotomy for absolutism. Moral universals may be obtained through intersubjective verification, but that presumes all kinds of community and communication for any fully agreed-upon list. Relativism is needed to pore our ethnocentric perceptions of the Other through in an increasingly pluralistic, multicultural world, so we can ask ourselves: can things be different but just as good? Judgment comes back in to play after relativism is considered. My high school educated grandfather would respond to my wild ideas: “You’re entitled to your opinion….even if it’s wrong!” He knew to bring back in judgment after the open-minded relativism and acceptance of diversity in a pluralistic society. I also would criticize Sandel’s overall approach (and rejection) of utilitarianism without noting the primacy of the philosophy that does underlies virtually all contemporary thinking in applied economics, decision science, risk assessments, and our entire legal system with cost-benefit analysis. It would be helpful to note the context of Bentham’s utilitarian calculus was designed, ironically, as Liberal reform to help the poor and less fortunate by determining social well-being and suffering in an objective way. However, utilitarianism today, unlike Sandel’s claim that individualism can’t be accounted for in the theory, is exactly used to justify all kinds of Conservative, regressive, and status quo-oriented individual (including corporate “individuals”) fleecing of the Common Good for vast gains of wealth and power. For example, the cost-benefit philosophy influenced the judge who determined that the Maine shipyard workers who had cancer and disease from asbestos work would receive smaller settlements since the average age was older. All corporate charters merely need to claim “benefit” (e.g., attracting sellers) to justify huge (and often collective) costs. Means-ends analysis also needs clear explication: how utilitarianism justifies a bad means for a good end, while Kantian deontology demands “never do a bad thing” and a bad means cannot be justified. This is a reason, students understand, that moderate Christians in the U.S. could be anti-war clear the last two generations and the trajectory of Christians to the Right in the U.S., so that the Kantian categorical imperative or Christian “do unto others” are ignored in order to adopt a pro-military and pro-war worldview for the patriotic, increasingly nationalistic, U.S. Christian church congregations. Sandel surely uses war in other examples in his class, but in a book this sweeping a mere paragraph on the Vietnam War inadequately frames the pivotal subject matter of warfare for ethical study since nothing else leads to the thorough explication and examination of different views of human nature embedded in different political philosophies. I tell students that all issues that have anything remotely to do with biological life are the most inherently and strongly political: from genetic engineering and birth control to abortion, and all end-of-life issues including hospice and euthanasia. There is some slippage in his arguments about how to understand abortion. He first assumes “developing fetus” as a moral issue then claims we need to question that exact conceptualization. He over-explains the concept of governmental “neutrality” as the rationale for abortion rights. Privacy seems to be the most central concept. His assumptions smack of the “fetus fetishes” that have developed in reaction to the gaining of reproductive rights for women, as Ruth Hubbard notes (the first female scientist to gain tenure at Harvard). Like an acorn isn’t confused with an oak tree, medical science gives us definitions of an zygote and embryo well before we get to “fetus” stage, which assumes a “developing” personhood. Martha Saxton, disabilities rights activist, claimed that nobody is “pro” abortion and that it’s a stop-gap measure. Surely access to abortion is needed in a country like the U.S. that due to lack of K-12 comprehensive sex education and access to birth control has 5-6 times higher teen pregnancy rates than other comparable European countries (with no less sexually active teens than ours). Puritan doctors regularly performed abortions for women before the “quickening”, or the fetus’ movements felt at about 12 weeks, exactly the cut-off point for the safest, legal abortions in the U.S. Students are surprised to learn that abortion wasn’t a moral issue among one of the most rigidly religious groups in U.S. history. I admit I may be hard to please on any attempts to couch the “abortion debate” and it’s frustrating to attempt to do so in the ethics class. With Pence coming in as Vice President in about six weeks, I'm angered that the fight for holding any ground in reproductive rights is going to demand so much of our time and energy, as he does not even support an exception for rape and incest for abortions. Already this last week Texas passed a law that aborted fetuses must be given funerals. So many ethical issues, no little time... Teachers of ethics struggle to explain ourselves as moral animals, much less to explain others, so we have many more questions than answers. However, while we may think means and motives matter, generally moral development leads to the focus on ends, as Sandel advocates. We are consequentialists in a non-consequentialist world, so it’s helpful to be open and transparent about that both in and out of the classroom. Marx said that we only have the field of ethics because we’ve allowed the unethical to develop. I’m not sure that we’re better off with ethics coopted by General Education standards and courses in our universities, but Sandel’s book may be my new choice in text for Ethics class. It’s an especially ethical choice since used ’09 copies are under $10 online for students.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Skane

    A run-through of civil and political philosophies of some of the greats (Kant, Rawls, Aristotle) and how they would approach existing problems in today's societies. Not devoid of his own philosophies, the author tended to take the same concepts and twist them to fit his argument which I found slightly infuriating. In the end, he asked for a "more robust public engagement with our moral disagreements" to "provide a stronger, not a weaker, basis for mutual respect." I can't help but wonder how dis A run-through of civil and political philosophies of some of the greats (Kant, Rawls, Aristotle) and how they would approach existing problems in today's societies. Not devoid of his own philosophies, the author tended to take the same concepts and twist them to fit his argument which I found slightly infuriating. In the end, he asked for a "more robust public engagement with our moral disagreements" to "provide a stronger, not a weaker, basis for mutual respect." I can't help but wonder how dismayed he must be at editorial comment sections. Full review - Justice: What's the Right Thing To Do? Book Review

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tuan Anh Le

    Who to vote for? Which party's programme is the best? How to think about political decisions? These are questions that have bugged me for a while. This book provides answers to this questions, and more. It is an amazingly clearly written book, given the difficulty of the subject. There is also an edX course that closely follows the book's content which I found very helpful: https://www.edx.org/course/justice-4 . Discussions about justice revolve around utility, freedom and goodness. The heated dis Who to vote for? Which party's programme is the best? How to think about political decisions? These are questions that have bugged me for a while. This book provides answers to this questions, and more. It is an amazingly clearly written book, given the difficulty of the subject. There is also an edX course that closely follows the book's content which I found very helpful: https://www.edx.org/course/justice-4 . Discussions about justice revolve around utility, freedom and goodness. The heated disagreements often come from differences within or between these camps. To think about an issue, it is helpful to decompose the arguments along these axes which makes it easier to think about. Every concept is illustrated using a thought experiment which highlights the particular tension (e.g. the trolley problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley... to illustrate limitations of utilitarianism). Prof Sandel walks us through utilitarianism as the most prominent representative of the first camp. The disadvantages of utilitarianism can be addressed by the liberal notions of justice which are based on respecting freedoms of people (book covers libertarianism, Kant and Rawls). This line of thinking pervades Western politics and it is enlightening to see all the nuances spelled out. The limitations of the "freedom" camp lead us onto Aristotle and his notion of politics as promoting the virtues. The last chapter offers several ways of improving current political discourse. Be prepared to question your assumptions.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    was not expecting much but boy this really got me thinking.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Book

    Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do? By Michael J. Sandel “Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do?” is a fascinating book about practical justice. Harvard law professor Michael Sandel takes his very popular class to the public and hits upon the most fascinating and controversial topics in an even-handed approach. This excellent 320-page book is broken out in the following ten chapters: 1. Doing the Right Thing, 2. The Greatest Happiness Principle/Utilitarianism, 3. Do We Own Ourselves?/Libertari Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do? By Michael J. Sandel “Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do?” is a fascinating book about practical justice. Harvard law professor Michael Sandel takes his very popular class to the public and hits upon the most fascinating and controversial topics in an even-handed approach. This excellent 320-page book is broken out in the following ten chapters: 1. Doing the Right Thing, 2. The Greatest Happiness Principle/Utilitarianism, 3. Do We Own Ourselves?/Libertarianism, 4. Hired Help/Markets and Morals, 5. What Matters is the Motive/ Immanuel Kant, 6. The Case for Equality/ John Rawls, 7. Arguing Affirmative Action, 8. Who Deserves What?/ Aristotle, 9. What Do we Owe One Another?/ Dilemmas of Loyalty, and 10. Justice and the Common Good. Positives: 1. Wow, what a fascinating topical book. 2. Well written and as engaging a book as you will find. 3. Thought-provoking does not do it “justice”. 4. Truly an educational and insightful book. 5. All of the hot topics are here and then some: bailouts, military draft, surrogacy, affirmative action, slavery, immigration, same-sex marriage, abortions, stem cells, to name a few. 6. Professor Sandel treats the captivating premises with even-handed expertise. This is the biggest strength of this book. 7. Moral philosophy has never been this much fun, and this from an engineer. 8. Practical justice at its best. 9. You will never run out of water-fountain topics ever again. 10. A true test of your ability to handle conflicts. 11. Great wisdom throughout, “to ask whether a society is just is to ask how it distributes the things we prize: income and wealth, duties and rights, powers and opportunities, office and honors”. 12. The three ways of approaching the distribution of goods: welfare, freedom, and virtue. 13. Utilitarianism (maximize welfare) in detail. 14. Great philosophers and their ideas: Bentham, Mill, Socrates, Aristotle, Rawls, Anderson, Locke, and Kant. 15. Libertarians and their philosophy. 16. Conservatives and laissez-fare economics. 17. Free markets and their two claims: freedom and welfare. 18. Kant and his emphasis on human dignity. 19. Kant and basing morality on “pure practical reason”. 20. What acting morally is all about. 21. The four rival theories of distribution justice: feudal or caste, libertarian, meritocratic, and egalitarian. 22. Interesting insight on affirmative action. 23. Aristotle and telos of politics. 24. The three categories of moral responsibility: natural duties, voluntary obligations, and obligations of solidarity. 25. The power of solidarity…great examples. 26. The role of religion. How the religious right became the right. 27. The same-sex marriage topic is one of the standouts. 28. How to achieve a just society. Let me think… 29. Politics of moral engagement…interesting. 30. Links worked great! Negatives: 1. My biggest complaint is Professor Sandel’s dismissive attitude toward the science of morality. Morality is a human invention and as such should be put to the test. I think neuroscientists may have a say in this arena. 2. Kant’s philosophy can be complicated. 3. I disagree with the following statement, “Freedom of the will is not the kind of thing that science can prove or disprove. Neither is morality”. Once again, it may be best to hold judgment on this. 4. A separate bibliography is warranted. In summary, what a great book…you may not agree with everything in it and I certainly didn’t but you will find yourself thinking about all the hot topics and questioning yourself on the best approach to address them. Much kudos to Professor Sandel for such an interesting, thought-provoking book. Highly recommended! Further suggestions: “Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality” by Patricia S. Churchland, “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer, “The Brain and the Meaning of Life” by Paul Thagard, “Hardwired Behavior” by Laurence Tancredi, , and “SuperSense” by Bruce M. Hood.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    I live in a country where the head of state seems to think that his duties to the people he governs are restricted to ensuring that they have the chance to become as prosperous as possible, this being the highest good he can provide them (nevermind the fact that his modus operandi for doing so is deeply flawed- he seeks to enable the very wealthy to become even more wealthy claiming that this 'increases the size of the cake' and hence the size of everyone's slice - a piece of sophism that has di I live in a country where the head of state seems to think that his duties to the people he governs are restricted to ensuring that they have the chance to become as prosperous as possible, this being the highest good he can provide them (nevermind the fact that his modus operandi for doing so is deeply flawed- he seeks to enable the very wealthy to become even more wealthy claiming that this 'increases the size of the cake' and hence the size of everyone's slice - a piece of sophism that has disproved itself countless times as impecunious farmers and failed engineering students end their own lives, convinced that the system offers them no other recourse). All questions of moral or ethical right and wrong are monopolised by a religious right that seeks to saffronise all walks of life while pursuing pretty much the same goals of enabling the pursuit of happiness-as-wealth. Individual liberties and freedoms are low on the agenda of either political group, especially when they clash with developmental exigencies or traditional values. So it's a somewhat different set-up from the American one against which Sandel contextualises his analysis of differing approaches to justice, but it has similar elements, notably the choice between privileging market dynamics over ethics or ceding all ethical authority to a religious tradition. Sandel argues that utilitarian, liberal and libertarian notions of social justice have all fallen short; they ignore the fact that justice implies judgement, and that these judgements have to be made on the basis of an ethical position. By emphasising on the production of value or the protection of freedom no matter what, we tacitly imply that ethics and morality have no place in reasoned public discourse. This creates situations where financial greed masquerades as public good or where fundamentalist rabble-rousing occupies the moral vacuum left by the liberal refusal to bring questions of virtue into political parlance. Sandel proposes a more rigorous approach to justice and citizenship - one where every citizen is involved in activities that build their sense of belonging to a community and holding civic duties in addition to rights and freedoms. He suggests that when we focus on enabling prosperity are flattening our conception of the good life to a single parameter - financial wealth - and by focussing solely on individual freedom we are ingnoring the complex and vital ethical debates at play in numerous issues. He does not offer a solution to anything, but a suggestion that justice and a society's notion of what is right should be matters of debate and discussion in which the ethical dimension is openly addressed. The decision of what might be the right thing to do in any given situation might be hard to arrive at, or even impossible at times, but he argues that an engaged civic body that attempts to constantly evolve its own cherished version of the good life is in a better position than one that allows profit, unqualified individualism or the denial of moral imperatives to take precedence. I found this book excellent, a great corrective to the seductive simplicity of the utilitarian and libertarian rhetoric that I've often been swayed by and a stirring call to a more demanding, engaged notion of what it means to be a member of a society.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    First I should say right at the beginning that the title is a bit misleading: I don't think there is a single issue in which Sandel tells us explicitly the right thing to do. But he does give what seems to me a very clear description of various ways of thinking about justice. He examines utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number), then the absolute privileging of "freedom of choice"--both from the libertarian (largely economic) and from the liberal egalitarian views of Immanuel Kant First I should say right at the beginning that the title is a bit misleading: I don't think there is a single issue in which Sandel tells us explicitly the right thing to do. But he does give what seems to me a very clear description of various ways of thinking about justice. He examines utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number), then the absolute privileging of "freedom of choice"--both from the libertarian (largely economic) and from the liberal egalitarian views of Immanuel Kant and John Rawls. He explains what the arguments are for and against each of these views. He then moves on to Aristotle, the only philosopher he discusses who makes defining the good life basic to understanding what is just. And finally he reveals his own modified Aristotelianism (apparently, and unfortunately, called "communitarianism"),which tries to take a sense of shared community into account for answering vexing questions about immigration, same-sex marriage, income redistribution, and the like. He quotes JFK's speech explaining how his Catholicism would not affect his exercise of power, and he finds it a bit naive. He also quotes Obama's two speeches on the same subject and finds them much better at accurately defining the problem without actually promising specific decisions. He then--to my surprise--cites Robert F. Kennedy (the last politician about whom I was truly excited) for what he considers the proper injection of morality and community spirit into public life. He quotes a speech RFK made in 1968, three months before his assassination, and I can't resist copying it here, even though it's long. "Our Gross National Product is now over 800 billion dollars a year. But that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts...the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans." Wow. He can still get my heart going. The quote provides a segue into Sandel's next book (What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets). He summarizes what will become that book in one page here. The present book is the better of the two.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Radwa

    I enjoyed it very much. Needs to be watched, again and again. Here's the links on edx and Youtube https://courses.edx.org/courses/cours... https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... I enjoyed it very much. Needs to be watched, again and again. Here's the links on edx and Youtube https://courses.edx.org/courses/cours... https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...

  30. 5 out of 5

    JakeR

    After a horrendous debate with the weirdest moral justifications, my coach told me to watch this open course called Justice with Michael Sandel. He said that will give me all the philosophical knowledge I'll need for debates. Certainly he was exaggerating, but the course was grandiosely eye-opening nevertheless. Sandel explains justice theories from Michael Bentham's Utilitarianism to Kant's Categorical Imperative, with such clarity and wit that my 16-year-old brain actually followed willingly f After a horrendous debate with the weirdest moral justifications, my coach told me to watch this open course called Justice with Michael Sandel. He said that will give me all the philosophical knowledge I'll need for debates. Certainly he was exaggerating, but the course was grandiosely eye-opening nevertheless. Sandel explains justice theories from Michael Bentham's Utilitarianism to Kant's Categorical Imperative, with such clarity and wit that my 16-year-old brain actually followed willingly for twelve hours, which is no small feat. His teaching method consists of 40% lecturing and 60% debates amongst students and analysis of real-life cases, making the theories he teaches actually useful, instead of simply conceptual as in the case of most other philosophy courses. He was also able to clear the persisting question in my mind since I first came in contact with philosophy: why does it actually matter. Common people live by principles along the lines of the philosophy of Nietzche or Epictetus all the time without even studying them like "It is what it is~”, so why is it actually necessary to go through all these difficultly worded texts? During the last class he said: “When we first came together some 13 weeks ago, I spoke of the exhilaration of political philosophy, and also of its dangers. About how philosophy works and has always worked, by estranging us from the familiar by unsettling our settled assumptions. And I tried to warn you that once the familiar turns strange, once we begin to reflect on our circumstance, it’s never quite the same again. I hope you have by now experienced at least a little of this unease, because this is the tension that animates critical reflection and political improvement, and maybe even the moral life as well.” —which is probably the best justification I've ever heard of. I wish to describe more about the course, but it is ultimately a journey, and if I provide a summary of its contents, it might deter one from embarking the journey on the first place. Without the long process of going through 12 hours of lectures, revelations won’t strike as powerfully, so do check it out yourself, free on Youtube: youtube.com/watch?v=kBdfcR-8hEY&l...

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...