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?
Michael J. Sandels 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, and this fall, public television will air a series based on the course. Justice offers readers the same exhilarating journey that captivates Harvard students. This book is a searching, lyrical exploration of the meaning of justice, one 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, patriotism and dissent, the moral limits of marketsSandel dramatizes the challenge of thinking through these conflicts, and shows how a surer grasp of philosophy can help us make sense of politics, morality, and our own convictions as well. Justice is lively, thought-provoking, and wisean essential new addition to the small shelf of books that speak convincingly to the hard questions of our civic life.
In pushing us to track the movements of our own moral compasses, Sandel lays out before us a cavalcade of conundrums, many based on real-life events, and forces us to arrive at our own decisions about the correct course of action. Pondering these hypothetical scenarios is all the more compelling because Sandel offers a working vocabulary of right and wrong based on the competing principles of liberty, equality and fairness. Not only that, he manages to present solid arguments both for and against the positions he considers, placing the burden squarely on the reader to make up his or her own mind. (Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman).
The Seattle Times
For those seeking a short course through moral philosophy from a witty writer, fast on his feet, and nimble with his pen, this thin volume is difficult to beat.
This stimulating volume.. succeeds admirably in translating to a wider audience the challenging moral dilemmas [Sandel] and his students confront and will help thoughtful readers focus their thinking about what a just society might look like while sharpening the vocabulary they call upon to express their views.
Erudite, conversational and deeply humane, this is truly transformative reading.
The London Times
The lectures were provocative and challenging. [The book] is, sadly, a far less engaging, less lively version of Sandel’s argument, though the relationship with the radio lectures does come through. He is a charismatic speaker who attracts huge audiences, but, without the compelling delivery, readers may find it hard to sustain the sense of moral urgency that Sandel urges upon us. I would, however, encourage them to persevere.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Esperanza Reynolds Justice, a subject that inspires reason On Tuesday, October 27th, 2009, Lisa Moreno, Pablo Carvallo and I attended a book review at Books & Books, Coral Gables, Florida. This book store chain has a calendar of events filled with exciting opportunities to get to know authors of books... Read More
Justice on PBS
Sandel's writing style bears the unmistakable imprint of an accomplished teacher and lecturer. While reading certain passages you can almost see him pacing beside the lectern, pausing to give emphasis to a particular thought or casting his eyes over the audience in search of a willing volunteer for questioning. Interested readers can now take a seat in the lecture hall alongside Harvard College students, thanks to a 2009 PBS lecture series.
You can access the complete episodes, plus a wealth of related material on the series website: justiceharvard.org
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