Justice: A Reader Paperback – 27 Sep 2007
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Michael Sandel is one of the most popular and influential college professors in America. For more than twenty years, hundreds of students at a time have packed into a Harvard University lecture hall to hear his discourses on justice; and hundreds have streamed out feeling a surprisingly personal connection with their gifted teacher. This book reveals Sandel's secret recipe for enthralling students with timeless questions of law, justice, and morality in a decidedly contemporary context. (Anita L. Allen, Professor of Philosophy and Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School)
This thoughtful, stimulating, and convenient collection brings a range of classic moral and political philosophers (from Aristotle to John Stuart Mill)
This outstanding collection successfully blends historical and contemporary thought, on issues of theoretical and practical importance, to illuminate the main problems of justice. It is accessible to undergraduates in philosophy, with breadth and depth enough to engage the experienced philosophical reader hoping to rethink some central debates. (Michele Moody-Adams, Director and Hutchinson Professor of Ethics and Public Life, Cornell University)
About the Author
Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. He is the author of numerous books, including Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Democracy's Discontent, Public Philosophy and most recently, The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.
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What Socrates said about the most important thing that humans can discuss is how we should live together.
These readings go a long way to answering some of these questions.
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Forget about the tedium of philosophy classes - memorizing arguments of great philosophers and reproducing them in exams. This is different. If Sandel continues to gain access to the country through the national media, he might do for us what Socrates did for the ancient Greeks. He might succeed in making moral reflection a public endeavor, not a solitary activity. To him, a philosopher can be an interlocutor for the people.
Justice starts out in a friendly manner with its first case being the price gouging for necessities in the aftermath of Hurricane Charlie. At the time, newspapers were filled with editorials on how price gouging is not wrong since there's no "just price" and supply and demand should be allowed free reign. Yet buyers in emergencies are under duress and thus not truly free. That's why we feel a sense of outrage. We learn that we share principles tracing back to famous dead philosophers.
By mid-book, Sandel cuts close to the bone and you can see now why he's popular with students. He shows us that justice is inescapably judgmental and that political arguments are often about anything but virtue. He wants philosophy to be used on economics, not just on matters of abortion and gay marriage. Sandel demonstrates that the growing inequality in the U.S. undermines the solidarity that a democracy requires.
Sandel points to the hollowing out of the public realm on which a democratic society depends. As public services decline and decline, as we let our common spaces for all but wealthy Americans deteriorate, we undermine our shared democratic citizenship.
Common spaces accessible by our democracy include public transportation, parks, schools, hospitals and health clinics, libraries, the news media and more. Much of public life has become overly market-based, he says. We privatize prisons and contemplate a system of monetary rewards for teachers whose students achieve higher scores on state assessments. We've allowed a terrific gap in military service with a smaller percentage of our public officials having children in the military and serving in the wars than ever before, he says. We load heavy burdens onto families of our troops. We gave tax cuts to the rich in time of war and were advised to go shopping, he says. In all this, Sandel explains the schools of philosophical thought that provided the principles we adopted.
Sandel contrasts ancient theories of justice, concerned with virtue, with modern theories concerned with freedom. Yet we share beliefs about virtue. We just don't apply them to economics and politics as he advises. Our society has deep currents of moral convictions.
Anyone who is interested in reading moral philosophy can read this as a stand alone book. Those who has enrolled or planning to enroll in Professor Michael Sandel's class will find this book very useful. Some of the important reading materials for the course are actually not included in the online course because of copyright issues. If you do not have this book, you will need to either borrow the actual literature from a public library or buy it. The online course is very intensive and, if you have this book, I recommend that you just follow the order of the materials but read a chapter ahead of the course.