Skip to content
  • Video
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Sandel on justice

Updated Tuesday 18th January 2011

Michael Sandel explores why we should care about justice and being just

Watch

Copyright The Open University

Listen

Copyright The Open University

Read

Michael Sandel

Justice is about how we should organise our collective life, how we should treat one another.  And so unless we take up fundamental questions of justice we can't figure out how to organise our collective life, we can't figure out what a fair society or a decent society looks like.  It would be very difficult to have a view, to develop an argument about how the good things in life should be distributed, whether income or wealth or power or opportunities, without confronting fundamental questions about the meaning of justice. 

Justice isn’t only about my own individual interests, though it could be argued that unless I participate in deliberation about what a just society looks like I can't really develop my human capacity.  This was Aristotle’s idea.  There’s a connection between thinking through big questions about justice, debating them with our friends, our neighbours and fellow citizens, and developing our capacity as human beings to reflect on justice and the meaning of the good life. 

So I don’t think it’s possible, I myself don’t think it’s possible to separate questions of justice, how to organise society so that it’s fair and gives people what they deserve on the one hand from questions about the good life on the other.  I think that in order to reflect on the meaning of justice and the nature of our rights, we have to take up hard questions about the meaning of the good life, about the best way to live.

(1’42”)

 

Find out more

Want to know more about philosophy, ethics and right and wrong? Consider these courses from The Open University:

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

OU on the BBC: Justice: The Good Life Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Neither Fanboy under CC-BY licence article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

OU on the BBC: Justice: The Good Life

Sometimes, the law cannot be neutral on issues of social debate. Michael Sandel explains why.

Article
Tolstoy and the search for the meaning of life Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Public Domain article icon

History & The Arts 

Tolstoy and the search for the meaning of life

Works such as War and Peace indicate Tolstoy struggled with the meaning of life. This piece explores his pondering of life and death. 

Article
The father of modern management Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images article icon

Money & Business 

The father of modern management

We look at one the world's most influential management thinkers, Peter Drucker 

Article
Why death and dying? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Why death and dying?

Although it's something we'll all experience, the idea of a course dedicated to death and dying might seem unusual. Dr Carol Komaromy explains why studying death is not so morbid

Article
Debate: Life and death Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images article icon

History & The Arts 

Debate: Life and death

Forum member Keving made a plea to live in the moment

Article
Sun Tzu (4th Century BC) Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

History & The Arts 

Sun Tzu (4th Century BC)

Sun Tzu wrote in the 4th century BC, but his ideas still influence military, political and business leaders today

Article
On trust and philosophy Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

History & The Arts 

On trust and philosophy

On a journey from Plato's Republic to the Mitchell Brothers' Walford, can we use philosophy to understand trust?

Article
Nigel Warburton on... blame Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University article icon

History & The Arts 

Nigel Warburton on... blame

What standards do we apply when we apportion blame? Are there degrees of censure?

Article
Assisted conception: Do you have a right to have a child? Creative commons image Icon Einaphets 32 under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

History & The Arts 

Assisted conception: Do you have a right to have a child?

Do we have a right to have babies? And is that even a simple question?

Article