Summary of Sandel`s Justice

Michael Sandel
The Greatest Happiness Principle
• Utilitarianism – The greatest happiness for the
greatest number of people
– Cabin boy
– Objection#1 – Individual rights
• Is torture ever justified
– Objection #2 – A common currency of value (cost-benefit
Do We Own Ourselves?
• Libertarianism
– The minimal state
– Free market philosophy
• Taxing Bill Gates to help the poor
– Do we own ourselves
• Consensual cannibalism
Hired Help
• Markets and Morals
– What’s just – drafting soldiers or hiring them?
• Objection #1 – Fairness and freedom
• Objection #2 – Civic virtue and the common good
– Outsourcing pregnancy
– Questions:
• How free are the choices we make in a free market?
• Are there certain virtues and higher goods that markets do not
honor and money cannot buy?
What Matters Is the Motive
• Immanuel Kant
– The Categorical Imperative
– Emphasis on human dignity – people as ends in
• Autonomous according to a law we give ourselves – Free will (nondeterministic)
• What’s moral? Look for the motive – do the right thing for the
right reason.
• Duty vs. inclination
– I.e. Kant was against casual sex.
The Case for Equality
• John Rawls
– The moral limits of contracts
– Behind a veil of ignorance
• Not utilitarianism
• The difference principle – only those social and economic
inequalities are permitted that work to the benefit of the least
advantaged members of society.
– Did Gates’s wealth arise as part of system that, taken as a
whole, works to the benefit of the least well off?
– Incentives
– CEOs and sports starts don’t deserve more money but
because a system of progressive taxation helps the
• Rawls:
– Share each other’s fate and avail ourselves of the accidents
of nature and social circumstance only when doing so is for
the common benefit.
– The most compelling case for more equal society that
American political philosophy as yet produced.
Arguing Affirmative Action
Correcting for the testing gap
Compensating for past wrongs
Promoting diversity
Do racial preferences violate rights?
– Racial segregation and anti-jewish quotas
• Can justice be detached from moral desert?
• The proper mission of social institutions is contested
and fraught …
Who Deservers What?
• Aristotle
– Justice, Telos and Honor
– Justice is teleological – Defining rights requires us to figure
out the telos (the purpose, end, or essential nature) of the
social practice in question.
– Justice is honorific – To reason about the purpose of
practice, means to reason (argue) about what virtues it
should honor and reward.
– What’s the purpose of university, of politics?
• Learning by doing – learning by deliberation and discussion
• Negotiating between two extremes
What Do We Owe Each Other
• Dilemmas of Loyalty
Apologies and reparations
Should we atone for the sins of our predecessors?
Moral individualism
Should government by morally neutral?
Justice and freedom
The claims of the community
• Obligations of solidarity, loyalty historic memory, and religious faith –
moral claims that arise from the communities and traditions that
shape our identity.
– Storytelling beings
• We, as moral agents, arrive at our purposes and ends through telling
• Obligations beyond consent
– Natural duties we owe to other human beings – to persons
as persons.
• Three categories of moral responsibility:
1. Natural duties: universal, don’t require consent
2. Voluntary obligations: particular, require consent
3. Obligations of solidarity: particular, don’t require consent
• Solidarity and Belonging
– Family obligations
– French resistance
– Rescuing Ethiopian Jews
• Is patriotism a virtue?
– Border patrols
– Is it unfair to “Buy American?”
• Can loyalty override universal moral principles?
– Robert E. Lee
– The Bulger brothers and David Kaczynski
Justice and the Common Good
• Kennedy speech about religion – moral neutrality
– Rawls – Need for tolerance in the face of disagreements
and abide by the limits of liberal public reason.
• “How would our argument strike us in the form of a Supreme
Court opinion?”
• Obama rejected moral neutrality
– Abortion issue and stem cell debates and same –sex
• Morally neutral?
• Freedom of choice?
• Depends on definitions of purpose
– Committed relationship, recognition of the state
• A politics of the common good
– If a just society involves reasoning together about the good
life, what kind of discourse would point us in this
– The challenge is to imagine a politics that takes moral and
spiritual questions seriously, but brings them to bear on
broad economic and civic concerns …on all issues.
• A just society requires a strong sense of community,
and it must cultivate in citizens a concern for the
whole, a dedication to the common good.
• A politics of moral engagement
– Based on mutual respect as human beings
– Lack of engagement makes for an impoverished public
discourse and lessening of mutual respect.
– “A politics of moral engagement is not only a more
inspiring ideal than a politics of avoidance. It is also a
more promising basis for a just society.”

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