Lyceum — Justice What's the Right Thing To Do?

Philosophy teaches us and unsettles us by confronting us with what we already know; there’s an irony: the difficulty consisted in this course is that it teaches what you already know; it works by taking what we know from familiar and unquestioned settings and making it strange. that’s how the examples work. … philosophy estranges us, not by providing us with new information, but by inviting and provoking a new way of seeing. The risk is once the familiar turns strange it is never quiet the same again. Self-knowledge is like a lost innocence, however unsettling, you find it; it can never be unthought or unknown.

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel is a fantastic introduction to the major ideas of Political Philosophy related to Justice. The book is based on his Harvard course by the same name1. Sandel walks us through three major ways of thinking about Justice - Utilitarianism (maximizing welfare for the many), Libertarianism (respecting the freedom of others), and Aristotle’s Telos (promoting virtue). He introduces these concepts citing examples from the real world that are easy to digest and understand. I enjoyed reading the book.

My first philosophical source text was Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, while the book is highly recommended for beginners, it was an extremely difficult read, enough to put me off of reading philosophy completely. I had to reread passages multiple times for them to make sense to me. This book on the other hand is very approachable for beginners. The course and consecutively the book is designed for people who want a taste of philosophy especially political philosophy. Sandel walks us through three major ideas and explains their various facets by giving detailed modern examples. How each discipline would think and the kind of opinions an asserter of that theory would have. The way each of them thinks about morality, justice, and the nature of good. Sandel is very objective about the theories (except the last couple of chapters, where he tells us about his principles and values and with whom they align with), it almost feels like he’s a narrator in a documentary.

If you are someone who is looking to read about Political Philosophy, this would be my humble recommendation as a good starting point.