Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

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Macmillan, Aug 17, 2010 - Philosophy - 308 pages
19 Reviews
A Harvard law professor explores the meaning of justice and invites readers on a journey of moral and political reflection, 'to figure out what they think, and why.' Does a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder 'deserve' the Purple Heart? Should the U.S. government formally apologize and make reparations for slavery? Is it wrong to lie to a murderer? Following the taxpayer bailout of the company, are executives at insurance giant A.I.G. still entitled to their bonuses? Should a professional golfer afflicted with a severe circulatory condition be allowed to use a golf cart during tournaments? Are you obliged to surrender your criminal brother to the FBI? Although Sandel concedes that answering the many questions he poses, bound up 'with competing notions of honor and virtue, pride and recognition,' is never easy and inevitably contentious, it's necessary for a healthy democracy. 'Justice,' he writes, 'is inescapably judgmental.' Using three approaches to justice-maximizing welfare, respecting freedom and promoting virtue-the author asks readers to ponder the meaning of the good life, the purpose of politics, how laws should be constructed and how society should be organized. Using a compelling, entertaining mix of hypotheticals, news stories, episodes from history, pop-culture tidbits, literary examples, legal cases and teachings from the great philosophers-principally, Aristotle, Kant, Bentham, Mill and Rawls-Sandel takes on a variety of controversial issues-abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action-and forces us to confront our own assumptions, biases and lazy thought. The author has a talent for making the difficult-Kant's 'categorical imperative' or Rawls's 'difference principle'-readily comprehensible, and his relentless, though never oppressive, reason shines throughout the narrative. Sparkling commentary from the professor we all wish we had.
 

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User Review  - cdogzilla - LibraryThing

Well-reasoned, compelling, and argued persuasively, this is a book I felt obliged to read slowly and deliberately from a perceived obligation to be able to internalize its lessons. If I were charged ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - spoko - LibraryThing

I wasn't sure I'd get much out of this book, since I've already listened to the series of Dr. Sandel's lectures on which it's based. But I loved that series, and figured the book would be worth a shot ... Read full review

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Contents

1 DOING THE RIGHT THING
3
2 THE GREATEST HAPPINESS PRINCIPLE UTILITARIANISM
31
3 DO WE OWN OURSELVES? LIBERTARIANISM
58
4 HIRED HELP MARKETS AND MORALS
75
5 WHAT MATTERS IS THE MOTIVE
103
6 THE CASE FOR EQUALITY
140
7 ARGUING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
167
8 WHO DESERVES WHAT?
184
9 WHAT DO WE OWE ONE ANOTHER? DILEMMAS OF LOYALTY
208
10 JUSTICE AND THE COMMON GOOD
244
NOTES
271
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
293
INDEX
295
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1980. He has taught his undergraduate course "Justice" to more than 15,000 Harvard students over the years, and video footage of the course was adapted into a PBS television series. Sandel graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University and received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He served on the George W. Bush administration's President's Council on Bioethics. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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