Mark Bao's Reviews > Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

Justice by Michael J. Sandel
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Jul 26, 2014

it was amazing

I read this book in spurts so I'll have to go over this book again before I write a full review. Nonetheless, one of the most important books I've read. Throughout the book, Sandel examines different systems of justice and talks about scenarios and the difficulties of each thing. Starting with utilitarianism, he then goes through libertarianism, Kant's categorical imperative, Rawls' theory of justice, and virtue ethics to talk about what the right thing to do is – how to maximize justice.

Perhaps in proof of how difficult this question is, where he ends up, a system of justice that incorporates a moral conception of virtue that is not fully based in choice but communal commitments, is not quite fully convincing. He argues what is, not what should be with his communitarian view. Further, he neglects to give enough examples of how this would play out in real life. Most crucially, however, he neglects to talk about the fact that people have different moral views on the virtue of something and there is usually no agreement on what the right virtue is. What this means is that such a virtue-based system can devolve into what is essentially majoritarianism. His level of rigor in attempting to disprove the theory he believes in is nowhere near the level of rigor he used to disprove competing ones.

While weak and unconvincing in its ending, perhaps due to some element of confirmation bias that I have as a left-leaning, reason-reliant person, the ideas he presents about the progression and the pitfalls of utilitarianism and libertarianism are very clear and I see the beginning of a strong argument about the incorporation of morals in deliberations about justice. Notwithstanding all that, it's still an excellent read that will not only teach folks about these different systems of justice but also how to approach them – how to poke holes in them, find alternative explanations, and understand the complexity of justice.
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Reading Progress

July 26, 2014 – Shelved
July 26, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
October 20, 2014 –
page 19
6.17% "Starting off pretty good. Reading this to stay sane."
October 21, 2014 – Started Reading
October 24, 2014 –
page 29
October 25, 2014 –
page 47
15.26% "Nice so far."
April 3, 2015 –
28.0% "So much good stuff in here."
June 19, 2015 –
70.0% "A fitting book for jury duty"
June 20, 2015 – Finished Reading

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