Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sandel's text, which is a book form of his well-regarded Harvard class, has been useful in my ethics class at Creighton this year. Sandel intelligently discusses the major ethical and political theories and uses very engaging real-life stories and thought experiments that greatly assisted the classroom discussion. The book could use a new edition, as some of the contemporary references aren't contemporary to a current crop of students ("What's a Unabomber?" was asked in class, for instance) and his idyllic hopes for the Obama administration expressed in the final chapter have not quite born fruit.

There are some shortcomings. The chapter on utilitarianism did not seem fair to me, even though I'm not big on that theory. He too cavalierly dismisses Mill in particular and also gives no sense of any development to the theory since Mill (in class we read Peter Singer's latest book to make up for that). Also, he gives little in the way of recent virtue theories, something else I also supplemented. And given his final critique of the Rawlsian tradition for what he considers the impossibility of a neutral public reason, the book could use a chapter on Martha Nussbaum's attempts from within the Rawlsian tradition to address this concern.

He gives a great presentation of Kant.

View all my reviews


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