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Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Paperback – 24 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st Edition edition (24 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184614213X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142130
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 572,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Justice is a lucid and compelling analysis of our current moral dilemmas, which argues for a new commitment to citizenship and the common good (Shirley Williams )

Sandel dazzles in this sweeping survey of hot topics . . . Erudite, conversational and deeply humane, this is truly transformative reading (Publishers Weekly )

An ambitious and an appealing idea. Intriguingly, I find myself persuaded that it might well be worth a try (Lisa Jardine, The TImes )

One of the world's most interesting political philosophers . . . Sandel makes his case not with the usual philosopher's hypotheticals but with news stories torn out of the papers (Guardian )

In the beautifully concise explanations of American philosopher Michael Sandel, I see great insight into our current predicaments. If any political reckoning is on its way . . . then perhaps it might come from the philosophy department of Harvard (Madeleine Bunting )

About the Author

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

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64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Diziet on 5 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first thing to say about this book is just how readable it is. Although 'justice' is a subject that interests us all from the point when, as children, we first said 'but it's not fair', too often it can be a dry and academic subject with no immediate apparent relevance to 'real life'. Not so this book.

Sandel takes us on a tour of theories of justice in roughly chronological order. Starting with Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism, Sandel clearly explains the principles involved and then provides a critique. Moving on, he outlines John Stuart Mill's attempts at refining and expanding Bentham's 'simple' Utilitarianism with more emphasis on the individual. Next, Sandel gives a concise description and critique of Libertarians, mentioning Robert Nozick as a contemporary example.

From there, Sandel moves to a philosopher who rejected Bentham, Mills and Libertarianism - namely Immanuel Kant. Sandel's explanation of Kant's 'categorical imperative' and the autonomous individual is the clearest and most understandable that I have ever come across - explaining the difference between, for example, the Golden Rule (treat others as you would be treated) and Kant's non-contingent principles. Sandel then moves on to
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Morgan on 9 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
Michael Sandel has dedicated his life to moral philosophy and deciding what is the right thing to do. He is an incredibly talented lecturer, seeming to be able to explain even the most complicated subjects in a way that is easy to comprehend.

He has managed to do the same with this book. He presents moral dilemmas with clear examples and follows them with proposed answers from famous philosophers such as Kant, Rawls and Aristotle (don't worry if you currently don't know much about these people, I didn't when I first started reading either).

This being said, it is incredibly easy to read. I have been reading this alongside books requires for my law course and it compliments them very well and is often a welcome break!

I would strongly recommend it to those with little knowledge in the area but with some interest. It will very quickly have you pausing your reading to try and form your own arguments and opinions on the moral dilemmas he presents you with.

So if you want thought provoking ideas, insight from a life devoted to moral philosophy and perhaps even if it's just you want a 'little bit more' from your holiday book then this is the book for you.


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mark Douglas on 5 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
I first heard the author, Michael Sandel on a podcast talking about economic and social ethics. His approach is simple: present the different theories and let you decide for yourself.

This book challenges the way you think about everything! From economics and torture of terrorists, to your everyday life issues. It enhances your emotional and ethical intelligences. It's easy to read and it helps you understand why some politicians and political parties believe in what they do, but also equips you with the framework to challenge these perceptions intelligently.

I dont know how to sell this book to you...but all I can say is it has added to my life by giving me the intellectual framework to assess our world and forced me to make an ethical choice which I struggle to maintain every day (in a good self-growth way).

Perhaps look up Michael Sandel, hear one of his Harvard Lectures and then if you like what you hear, then buy the book.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Ekisenge on 9 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. It's been a while since I read any philosophy but wanted to get back into it. After buying the book I was a little concerned that starting with a topic as heavy as justice may have been a bad choice. Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong.

From start to finish the arguments are interesting, thought provoking and easily understood. The author's ability to present complexity in simple everyday terms testfies to a lack of pomposity, all to common among academic writers.

When reading Justice, one gets the sense of a writer confident in his own ideas but one who would also welcome scrutiny. A deep desire to get to "the truth" is palpable throughout. This is evident from the detailed and objective attention that Sandel pays to the key theories of Justice before constructing his own argument. Indeed, the bulk of the book is dedicated to considering the strengths and weaknesses of each of the main schools of thought.

After a brief introduction, the book proceeds to consider utilitariasm. It starts with the rather harsh form first propounded by Jeremy Bentham, and gives due credit to John Stuart Mill's attempt to round off some of the harsher edges of this school of thought. Sandel then proceeds to consider the libertarian attack on utilitarianism and clearly and objectively outlines the arguments on both sides.

One of the best features of the book is the author's determination to put these arguments in context and make them relevant to our everyday modern lives. To this end, at Chapter 4, the author discusses several current social questions from the utilitarian and libertarian perspectives.
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