Read Best Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?Author Michael J. Sandel – Andy-palmer.co.uk

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? 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, orlikely 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. 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 liberalsophisticated 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 liberalsophisticated 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 isBut 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 I m going to think fondly of this book for a long long time My copy is battered and stained and loved. I wanted to like this book a lotthan I didI 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 lotthan I didI 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 phenomenonand 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 medianif 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 For Michael Sandel, justice is not a spectator sport, The Nation s reviewer of Justice remarked In his acclaimed book based on his legendary Harvard course Sandel offers a rare education in thinking through the complicated issues and controversies we face in public life today It has emerged as a most lucid and engaging guide for those who yearn for a robust and thoughtful public discourse In terms we can all understand, wrote Jonathan Rauch in The New York Times, Justice confronts us with the concepts that lurk beneath our conflicts Affirmative action, same sex marriage, physician assisted suicide, abortion, national service, the moral limits of markets Sandel relates the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of the day, and shows how a surer grasp of philosophy can help us make sense of politics, morality, and our own convictions as wellJustice is lively, thought provoking, and wise an essential new addition to the small shelf of books that speak convincingly to the hard questions of our civic life 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 achieveconventional 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 religionmy 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 sthan 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 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 , 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 interactwe 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 DebateTED talk on The Moral Limits of Markets 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 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 and Thoughts soon. 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


About the Author: Michael J. Sandel

Michael J Sandel b 1953 is an American political philosopher wholives in Brookline, Massachusetts He is the Anne T and Robert M Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1980 He is best known for the Harvard course Justice , which is available to view online, and for his critique of John Rawls A Theory of Justice in his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice 1982 He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.Sandel subscribes to a certain version of communitarianism although he is uncomfortable with the label , and in this vein he is perhaps best known for his critique of Rawls Rawls s argument depends on the assumption of the veil of ignorance, which he claims allows us to become unencumbered selves Sandel s view is that we are by nature encumbered to an extent that makes it impossible even in the hypothetical to have such a veil Some examples of such ties are those with our families, which we do not make by conscious choice but are born with, already attached Because they are not consciously acquired, is it impossible to separate oneself from such ties Sandel believes that only a less restrictive, looser version of the veil of ignorance should be postulated Criticism such as Sandel s inspired Rawls to subsequently argue that his theory of justice was not a metaphysical theory but a political one, a basis on which an overriding consensus could be formed among individuals and groups with many different moral and political views.


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