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Sandel on justice

Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2011

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

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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.



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