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Michael J. Sandel discusses how there are three different approaches to justice: welfare, virtue, and freedom. The theme of the book is on how and what is considered moral. He introduces several perspectives on morality and we as readers are given insight into what people of different groups consider the rights and wrongs of morality. Some of these different beliefs are utilitarianism, libertarianism, and different philosophers views. The first five chapters give us a unique perspective of how each of them perceives morality and the reasons behind their thought. When Justice was published, in 2009, it was at a time where the natural rights of a person were being questioned. For example, the LGBT community and their marriage rights were being condemned, but was it right to deny them? According to a Libertarians, it was wrong because “it is their body and mind” can they can choose to love who they want regardless of sex. The contents of Justice are still relevant today. Every day is a battle, in that we have to decide if what we stand for is moral or not.
Chapter one of Justice begins by retelling the details of hurricane Charley and how many people were devastated by the disaster it left in its wake. Individuals and families were left without shelter and electricity, many people had to go out and buy supplies. However, when they went to buy things necessary for their survival, they were met with increased prices. Businesses had raised the prices on their goods and services and took advantage of the devastation that the hurricane had created. Here is where Sandel brings in the question of morality. Were the businesses right to raise prices under those circumstances or were they wrong to take advantage of people under distress? When word got out of what was happening, many were outraged.
According to Sandel, the anger that many expressed was towards injustice. That in times of trouble we should come together and help one another instead of taking advantage of each other. Another example Sandel introduces is the matter of the purple heart. The purple heart is given to soldiers who suffered physical injuries on the battlefield, but not psychological injuries. Mental illnesses such as PTSD are not given a purple heart because it is not visible. Is it right to overlook injuries that are not visible? Sandel also presents the trolley dilemma in which it puts the reader in a situation where their morality is tested.
Chapter two discusses utilitarianism and what is best for the majority. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of the doctrine of utilitarianism, stressed the importance of maximizing happiness. In that, “we are governed by the feelings of pain and pleasure.” (p. 34) Bentham’s idea of utilitarianism is structured in a way that any decision made has to be made with the happiness of the majority in mind. However, the majority is not always right.
Sandel provides an example of how something is done for the majority can be seen as controversial. In ancient Rome, the Romans would throw Christians into a lion’s den as a form of amusement for the masses. The argument is that even though many people find the display enjoyable does it make it morally correct? Sandel then goes on to talk about whether or not one can put a value on life. Should we care more about the product than the individuals who use them? John Stuart Mills argues that one can do anything thing they want as long as it does not have an impact on others.
Chapter three introduces Libertarianism, which is the belief in free will. That one can do anything they desire, considering that it does not harm others. Robert Nozick, a philosopher, defends libertarianism by stating that “no one should be forced to do anything he or she does not want to” (p. 62) An example would be Michael Jordan and whether or not he should be taxed more because he is part of the one percent. Libertarians would argue that he should not be coerced into paying more taxes because he earned his wealth by working hard for it. Libertarians also believe that we own ourselves and we should be able to decide what to do with our bodies provided that we do not injure anyone.
Chapter four is about the economic market and how we conduct ourselves. In this chapter, there are two main examples that are given, military draft and surrogacy. There are three forms of the draft, first is conscription, where one does not have a choice, the Civil War hybrid system, in which one can pay or their replacement, and the volunteer army. Many prefer the volunteer system because it seems juster. The second example, surrogacy, many argue that it is not right to use a life as a means of exchange. It is not right to put a value on life, that surrogacy is degrading the life of the child. Lastly, chapter five focuses on Immanuel Kant and how he views morality. He believes that in order for something to be morally right, it is not about the outcome of what you did, but why you did it.
That one should do something because it is the right thing to do and not because of personal gain. For example, the shopkeeper that did not take advantage of the child and charges him the usual price. In this example, the shopkeeper lacks morality because he only charged the child the usual price as to save his reputation, not because it was the right thing to do. EvaluationChapter one gives us the basis of the book which is “what is morality?”. Sandel gives us different scenarios in which it puts the readers in a position to decide what’s right or wrong. I do not think that it is right for businesses to take advantage of people who were affected by a natural disaster. Instead of trying to profit off someone’s misery, we should come together and help each other in our time of need. Ass for the purple heart debate, I believe that veterans, whether it is a physical or mental injury should be awarded a purple heart.
They fought for our country, showed bravery in times of peril and should be awarded for their service. In the trolley scenario, I do not know what decision I would make. Sacrificing one person to same many is not an easy decision for me to make. If it came down to it, I know what I would do, but is it right? This chapter has given me so much to think about and the different perspectives to take into account.
Chapter two and three gives the readers two different views on morality. In chapter two Sandel talks about utilitarianism and how sacrificing the one for the sake of many is the right way. This would be alright if you were part of the majority, but not everyone is. In a utilitarian world, there are no individual rights because it is always about what is best for the majority. Is it right for one person to be in misery if it means that the others will live in peace? For example, the city of happiness. All the citizens know of the child that is to live in misery and it is because of that child their city is a perfect utopia. I do not think this is right even if it means I get to live in a utopia because everyone should have an equal chance at life whether it is good or bad.
Chapter three is about Libertarianism which focuses on an individual’s right. Because it is focused on oneself, we are in control of our own bodies and what we decide to do with it. I believe this to be true, but to what extent. If one is free to do what they want, then what about bodily harm. Is putting yourself in danger the right thing to do or should there be a restriction to how much self-harm one can inflict on oneself? Whether it is for the masses or oneself, we should think about the morality of the situation before we act.
Chapter four talks about one’s morals within the market system. I believe that surrogacy is not about exchanging a life for money but more about helping a family. Surrogacy allows couples that cannot bear their own children to have children that are genetically related to them. I believe that when you sign the contract, one must honor it no matter what. For the example about the draft, I think that a volunteer army is the best approach. This way people will not be forced into the military and will be more likely to participate in training and contribute to the cause. Some people have also used money as an incentive to join the army. But, is right to buy people’s lives? It depends on one’s perspective on the matter.
Chapter five was mainly on Immanuel Kant and what his beliefs about morality are. I thought that this chapter was interesting because I think in a similar way. He believed that for one to be moral, they need to have an appropriate motive for undertaking a task. It cannot be based on selfish reasons and it does not have to appease the public. You do something because it is right. He also states that we often mistake ideas for our own because of conformity. We as people like to be in the majority, but often times the ideas we believe to be our own are often influenced by other people. Is this freedom or are we creating a false sense of freedom by our interpretation? Justice by Michael Sandel presents many different views on what morality is and how different group perceives it. I enjoyed the first half of this book and found it fascinating how different groups determine what is moral or not.
Having morality and knowing the different views on morality will allow us to work towards a goal that will encompass each belief. I believe that having good morals will make a good person and that in turn will allow good to exist in the world because without morals the world would be in turmoil.
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