Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?” as Want to Read:
Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  14,271 ratings  ·  1,259 reviews
Michael J. Sandel's "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. Justice offers readers the same exhilarating journey that captivates Harvard students.

What are our obligations to other
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2005)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,271 ratings  ·  1,259 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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 philosophicboth):
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.
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 constantl
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
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 th
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 cri/>...He's
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 o ...more
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who want to learn ethics and philsophy
An excellent overview of philosophical/ethical systems. If only I had this book earlier when I started reading philosophy, I'd have saved a lot of time. Go for the iTunes U version if you'd like!

Starts off with a brief overview of ethical systems - utilitarianism, libertarianism, Kant's categorial imperative, Rawlsian justice, and then works through case examples - affirmative action, euthanasia, etc. Very clear and thorough arguments, for and against. If Sandel has a bias for one ov
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
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
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite, philosophy
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
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 legitimacy of communal bonds, such
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
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
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 over
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
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
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 et
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 disagreements o
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 Ourselve
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
Chris Chapman
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: zz-yr-2019
I wish I had read this before A History of Western Philosophy. Maybe it was naïve of me to think that book would be Philosophy for Dummies; but then, short-ish chapters on (Russell's selection of) major philosophers I think does reasonably lead you to think "good place to start for the beginner".

Far from it.

That book left me thinking that half of philosophy is beyond words boring (all the stuff about categories and the general vs the particular) and the other half is incomprehensib
The Book Nazi
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Amidst all this recession and economic downturns experienced in G8 countries..Michael J. Sandel makes sense. He believes that markets if left to themselves or encouraged to spread too far, can injure basic moral values and short change the common good.

From the things I've heard on the Intenet, This Harvard Lecturers introductory course on justice is a hot ticket on the campus. Now readers get to read his arguments in a book form and I have no doubt that this book would appeal to anyone wh
Smartly written and easy to read, this book is Sandel's writeup of his legendary Harvard course on Ethics and Justice. I first watched the course online (iTunes) and wanted to read the book.

Both are excellent -- entertaining and enlightening. I can't recommend them more highly.

The book uses real life cases, major ethical "rocks" (abortion, selling human organs, ..) and hypotheticals (e.g. trolley car problems) to elucidate and clarify the totally of Western theoretical philosophy of
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
People may say that this book is beyond my years of learning, since I'm only 17 years old. I do have to admit, I took down this book for several days and then back to reading it again.

So why did I continue reading?
I'm in love with the facts, that's it. And this book doesn't just explain about justice, it explains what people should do. Justice has many different forms in other cultures. And Michael, I think, defines it as a moral conscience that people has and what it'll do for
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I like this book because it asks good questions to think about. Even though it seems to be an ordinary ethics textbook from time to time, it makes itself extraordinary with a wide range of real examples.
Sourbh Bhadane
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tor-nonfiction
Justice is one of those books that immediately started influencing my thoughts and views. No matter what your political opinions are, this book will force you to question those. Sandel touches upon a wide range of topics using real-life cases and discusses them objectively in the light of "principles of justice" that he introduces in the beginning. An extra added cherry on the top is that Sandel does not list his views until the fag end of the book. Almost the whole book lets the reader form his ...more
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. ...more
Amy Morgan
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-issues
This was basically my introduction to the philosophy of ethics, and now I want to read more. It was a tough read, but I think I will now have a better mental structure of the philosophy of ethics and will be able to understand more on this topic in the future.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Pakistani Readers: Debate and Philosphy 1 40 Jan 23, 2015 07:10AM  
Justice 2 47 Jan 03, 2014 12:35PM  
Uinta County Library: Are you thinking yet? 1 8 Sep 06, 2013 08:00AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Idea of Justice
  • Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality
  • Justice: Rights and Wrongs
  • Causing Death and Saving Lives
  • A Theory of Justice
  • Dexter and Philosophy: Mind over Spatter
  • Contemporary Political Philosophy
  • Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent
  • Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
  • Writings on an Ethical Life
  • Justice for Hedgehogs
  • Matthew (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
  • Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership
  • The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
  • Iron Man and Philosophy: Facing the Stark Reality
  • Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics
  • Supervillains and Philosophy: Sometimes, Evil is its Own Reward
  • Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century
See similar books…
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 o ...more
“Markets are useful instruments for organizing productive activity. But unless we want to let the market rewrite the norms that govern social institutions, we need a public debate about the moral limits of markets.” 30 likes
“Self-knowledge is like lost innocence; however unsettling you find it, it can never be 'unthought' or 'unknown'.” 24 likes
More quotes…