Review: Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?
Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent and accesible book on What is the right thing to do? Clear explanations of great philosophers’ positions (Mill, Kant, Aristotle, Rawls) and with many examples that make you think and examine your own moral stand.

Three main ideas to think about justice:

  1. maximizing welfare (utilitarian)
  2. respecting freedom (libertarian)
  3. promoting virtue (the good life)

Some of the examples in the book that make you think:

  • Price gouging; is it okay to ask (way) higher prices for e.g. water after a hurricane?
  • Should a Purple Heart also be awarded for psychological injuries?
  • Trolley problem: will you pull a swiitch to avert killing 5 people on one track and kill one person on another track? And would you push a fat person on a track and killing him, to avert the 5 potential deaths on the track further down?
  • Sergeant Marcus Lattrell on a secret mission encountered innocent (?) shepherds in Afghanistan. They didn’t kill them and were later ambushed by Taliban, killing all Americans except Luttrell.
  • A ship wreck in 1884, four people on a life boat without water. After a couple of weeks 2 killed another (who was terminally ill because he had drank sea water) and all 3 remaining at him. They were tried for murder (see…)
  • Voluntary army vs draft
  • Surrogate mothers (markets & morals); William and Elizabeth Stern paid Mary Beth to carry a baby, fathered by William (and Mary). On birth, Mary renegged and wanted to keep the baby. In more modern terms: What do we think of Indian surrogate mothers (paid for and) carrying inseminated eggs to birth from Western couples?
  • Is affirmative action just? (Chapter 7)
  • Should disabled golfer Casey Martin be allowed to use a golf cart? What is the essential nature of golf; is a telos (a goal) or honorific (deserving of recognition)? And in similar vein: Should Callie Brown (who is in a wheel chair) be allowed on the cheerleading squad of her High School? What does it mean to perform well in the role of cheerleader? Inspire and energize the crowd and/or tumble around?
  • What is the moral status of gay and lesbian relationships? Should gay marriage be allowed?

p.55 JS Mill: Better to be human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied

p.132 Kant: Morality is not about consequences, it is about principle. (p137) It is the intention or motive, that matters. Categrotical (=unconditional) imperative

Chapter 6: Rawls’ veil of ignorance: what should society look like if you don’t know which position you yourself will have in that society?

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