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Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  17,943 ratings  ·  1,623 reviews
"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 more robust and th ...more
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2005)
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 ·  17,943 ratings  ·  1,623 reviews

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مشاري الإبراهيم
I've attended the 24 Harvard University lectures that the book is based on; that's why I'm going to consider that I read the book.

The topic, the way it was structured, presented and executed was one of the best I've ever experienced. It is arguably the best online course on philosophy you could attend.

In a nutshell, Michael Sandel discusses: What's the right thing for humans to do, whereby he explains theories around Justice, morality and human good. In order to do so, he constantly starts wit
Riku Sayuj

Single Quote Review:

Click to Expand.

well a picture-quote...

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
Daniel Clausen
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2018
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did...I 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
Portal in the Pages
I'm going to think fondly of this book for a long long time. My copy is battered and stained and loved. ...more
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"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 liberal (more sophisticated). And then, surprise, he throws three c
Jan Rice
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
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 ...more
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
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read, usa, politics
THE Christmas present to not-so-subtly shame the people who've wronged you during the last year! :-) Jokes aside, Harvard professor and moral philosopher Sandel does an excellent job discussing ethical decision-making. Offering different perspectives and illustrating different viewpoints depending on what premises decisions are based on, he always remains engaging by giving examples and directly questioning the reader (granted, the book is based on university lectures, but don't we all know plen ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, favorite
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
Thoughts soon.
Larry Bassett
Jun 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This book and its online course got me started (about four years ago, I see) in internet learning. There are now several MOOC (massive open online course) websites that have tens of thousands of students worldwide taking a wide variety of courses. And all for free!

I have taken some online community college courses in Virginia - free for us senior citizens. I started with the local college then moved into courses from other parts of the state. Then I discovered Coursera and have taken courses in
I wept and I smiled with joy after reading a book on Philosophy!

I believe in the saying that the right book finds you at the right time and this book further strengthens my belief.

Reading this book was a beautiful experience. Thank You, Mr. Sandel.
Jan 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy

I greatly enjoyed the first two-thirds of Michael Sandel’s new book, Justice: A Reader, which only made the final third more disappointing. Sandel begins his book with a long and fruitful discussion of philosophical thought, ranging from Rousseau to Nozick to Rawls, with compelling thought experiments and concise explanations of the different schools of thought. In the end, Sandel argues that each school falls short, in part due to neglecting the moral leg
robin friedman
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Justice And The Good Life

Michael Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard. His course on ethics has for many years attracted large numbers of students. His book "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" likewise has brought philosophical questions in the public sphere alive to many readers. I heard Sandel give the contents of this book in a 5-CD audio set. Sandel reads clearly and slowly, and I was able to follow the presentation. Still, I greatly prefer written books to audio.

Sandel's book i
Tariq Mahmood
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: corporations
This book changed my view on the role of Justice and morality used to create laws to govern societies, nations. The implementation and thoughts, indeed the 'correct' decisions taken by any nation when dealing with issues like rights of an individual, gay marriages, taxes, wars, medicinal research etc, eventually determine whether the nation will develop or dissolve nation states. Michael makes a strong case for Aristotle's concept of telos, in deciding all complex cases the ultimate end, purpose ...more
M Jahangir kz
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a great read.
This book is adopted from the famous legendary course of Michael j Sandel in Harvard University, where he has been teaching for almost 3 decades, due to the popularity of the course, it has been televised worldwide and now is also available free of cost in the form of 12 episodes on YouTube.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the book as well as his course episodes on YouTube.

The subject of the book as its name suggests revolves around Ethics, Justice, philosophy.

It introduces reader
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great overview/introduction to philosophy and justice. He covers various theories of getting at justice and how they would help us resolve thorny social issues. There is a way to escape relativism and get at justice and Sandel is one of the clearest and most compassionate voices pulling us toward a shared understanding of what justice might look like
Rizky Akita
Sep 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you think "Justice" and "Philosophy" are things you don't really care about or something you consider as 'way too complicated to learn about', then I recommend you to pick this book and add it into your personal bookshelves. I bought this book due to my passion on debating and I thought this book will improve my speech quality. It turned out, Michael J. Sandel fulfills my expectation.Nay, he exceeded my expectation.

Here's my review :

1. Sandel gives a comprehensive overview toward all basic ph
Nancy Mills
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a thorough, easy-to-read, and provocative book about the various philosophies on social justice. The author, Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel, covers the reasoning of Aristotle, Rawls (the "invisible vail"), the utilitarian viewpoint, and Libertarianism, contrasting the value of the maximum satisfaction for the maximum amount of people with that of the rights and autonomy of individuals. Did I say it was easy reading? Yes, it is written in plain English, and illustrated with relevant ...more
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Christy by: Jan Rice
What should the college educated person know about ethics? What are the most relevant and helpful tools in terms of concepts and theories in guiding lives to use increased mindfulness in understanding the ethical decision-making of our own, of others, and for the Common Good? I am reviewing Sandel’s work from the perspective of an instructor of ethics and considering it for adoption as a course text.

One lament in academic philosophy is that the field “lost” their complete claim to ethics since n
Piyush Bhatia
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book of political philosophy and ethics, this book compares and contrasts several important approaches to justice and provides a study of different political philosophies and simultaneously applies them to address contemporary legal and political issues. Sandel illustrates the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives.
The approaches to justice presented in the book fall into three categories:

1.Welfare:MaximizingWelfare( Utilitarianism)
2. Freedom : Respecting Freedom ( Libertariani
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Michael Sandel did a remarkable job here, it’s very rare to tackle such a complicated subject and write it about in a way that makes it clear and so easy to absorb, without compromising the substance of what is being discussed, this will open up the pores of your conscious, and make you think about Justice and morality in a different way, and will introduce you to how different philosophers through human history thought about these matters, as well as what each philosophical school is adapting i ...more
Rebecca Skane

A run-through of civil and political philosophies of some of the greats (Kant, Rawls, Aristotle) and how they would approach existing problems in today's societies. Not devoid of his own philosophies, the author tended to take the same concepts and twist them to fit his argument which I found slightly infuriating. In the end, he asked for a "more robust public engagement with our moral disagreements" to "provide a stronger, not a weaker, basis for mutual respect." I can't help but wonder how dis
Tuan Anh Le
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Who to vote for? Which party's programme is the best? How to think about political decisions? These are questions that have bugged me for a while.

This book provides answers to this questions, and more. It is an amazingly clearly written book, given the difficulty of the subject. There is also an edX course that closely follows the book's content which I found very helpful: .

Discussions about justice revolve around utility, freedom and goodness. The heated dis
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do? By Michael J. Sandel

“Justice: What’s The Right Thing to Do?” is a fascinating book about practical justice. Harvard law professor Michael Sandel takes his very popular class to the public and hits upon the most fascinating and controversial topics in an even-handed approach. This excellent 320-page book is broken out in the following ten chapters: 1. Doing the Right Thing, 2. The Greatest Happiness Principle/Utilitarianism, 3. Do We Own Ourselves?/Libertari
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I live in a country where the head of state seems to think that his duties to the people he governs are restricted to ensuring that they have the chance to become as prosperous as possible, this being the highest good he can provide them (nevermind the fact that his modus operandi for doing so is deeply flawed- he seeks to enable the very wealthy to become even more wealthy claiming that this 'increases the size of the cake' and hence the size of everyone's slice - a piece of sophism that has di ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
First I should say right at the beginning that the title is a bit misleading: I don't think there is a single issue in which Sandel tells us explicitly the right thing to do. But he does give what seems to me a very clear description of various ways of thinking about justice. He examines utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number), then the absolute privileging of "freedom of choice"--both from the libertarian (largely economic) and from the liberal egalitarian views of Immanuel Kant ...more
I enjoyed it very much.
Needs to be watched, again and again.

Here's the links on edx and Youtube
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
After a horrendous debate with the weirdest moral justifications, my coach told me to watch this open course called Justice with Michael Sandel. He said that will give me all the philosophical knowledge I'll need for debates. Certainly he was exaggerating, but the course was grandiosely eye-opening nevertheless. Sandel explains justice theories from Michael Bentham's Utilitarianism to Kant's Categorical Imperative, with such clarity and wit that my 16-year-old brain actually followed willingly f ...more
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Pakistani Readers: Debate and Philosphy 1 43 Jan 23, 2015 07:10AM  
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Uinta County Library: Are you thinking yet? 1 9 Sep 06, 2013 08:00AM  

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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 L ...more

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