Michael J. Sandel

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In its constitution and its laws, the just society seeks to provide a framework within which its citizens can pursue their own values and ends, consistent with a similar liberty for others.

Michael J. Sandel (born 5 March 1953) is an American political philosopher and a professor at Harvard University. He is best known for the Harvard course "Justice", and for his critique of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice in his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982).

Quotes[edit]

  • Admittedly, the tendency to bracket substantive moral questions makes it difficult to argue for toleration in the language of the good. Defining privacy rights by defending the practices privacy protects seems either reckless or quaint; reckless because it rests so much on moral argument, quaint because it recalls the traditional view that ties the case for privacy to the merits of the conduct privacy protects. But as the abortion and sodomy cases illustrate, the attempt to bracket moral questions faces difficulties of its own. They suggest the truth in the "naive" view, that the justice or injustice of laws against abortion and homosexual sodomy may have something to do with the morality or immorality of these practices after all.
    • Michael J. Sandel, "Moral Argument and Liberal Toleration: Abortion and Homosexuality" (1989)

The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self, 1984[edit]

Michael J. Sandel. The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self, 1984

  • Political philosophy seems often to reside at a distance from the world. Principles are one thing, politics another, and even our best efforts to ‘live up’ to our ideals typically founder on the gap between theory and practice.

    But if political philosophy is unrealizable in one sense, it is unavoidable in another. This is the sense in which philosophy inhabits the world from the start; our practices and institutions are embodiments of theory . . . . for all our uncertainties about ultimate questions of political philosophy — of justice and value and the nature of the good life — the one thing we know is that we live some answer all the time.

  • This liberalism says, in other words, that what makes the just society just is not the telos or purpose or end at which it aims, but precisely its refusal to choose in advance among competing purposes and ends. In its constitution and its laws, the just society seeks to provide a framework within which its citizens can pursue their own values and ends, consistent with a similar liberty for others
  • Unlike the liberty of the early republic, the modern version permits — in fact even requires — concentrated power.

Democracy's Discontent, 1998[edit]

Michael J. Sandel, Democracy's Discontent, 1998

  • Political philosophy seems often to reside at a distance from the world. Principles are one thing, politics another, and even our best efforts to live up to our ideals seldom fully succeed.
    • Preface
  • But if political philosophy is unrealizable in one sense, it is unavoidable in another.
    • Preface
  • A public philosophy is an elusive thing, for it is constantly before our eyes.
    • Chapter 1.

Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 1998[edit]

Michael J. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 1998

  • The liberalism with which I am concerned is a version of liberalism prominent in the moral and legal and political philosophy of the day: a liberalism in which the notions of justice, fairness, and individual rights play a central role, and which is indebted to Kant for much of its philosophical foundation.
    • Introduction
  • We have seen that Rawls’ theory of justice requires for its coherence a conception of community in the constitutive sense, which requires in turn a notion of agency in the cognitive sense, and we have hound that Rawls’ theory of the good can allow for neither. This calls into question the theory of justice, or the thoery of the good, or both.
    • Ch 4. Justice and the Good
  • Not egoists but strangers, sometimes benevolent, make for citizens of the deontological republic; justice finds its occasion because we cannot know each other, or our ends, well enough to govern by the common good alone. This condition is not likely to fade altogether, and so long as it does not, justice will be necessary. But neither is it guaranteed always to predominate, and in so far as it does not, community will be possible, and an unsettling presence for justice.
    • Conclusion: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice

Public Philosophy (2005)[edit]

Michael J. Sandel, Public Philosophy (2005),

  • The Second World War supplied the occasion for the spending, and Keynesian economics supplied the rationale. But Keynesian fiscal policy had political appeal even before the war demonstrated its economic success. For unlike the various proposals for structural reform, such as vigorous antitrust action or national economic planning, Keynesian economics offered a way for the government to control the economy without having to choose among controversial views of the good society. Where earlier reformers had sought economic arrangements that would cultivate, citizens of a certain kind, Keynesians undertook no formative mis­sion; they proposed simply to accept existing consumer preferences and to regulate the economy by manipulating aggregate demand.
    • 1. America's Search for a Public Philosophy
  • The advent of the new political economy marked a decisive moment in the demise of the republican strand of American politics and the rise of contemporary liberalism. According to this liberalism, gov­ernment should be neutral as to conceptions of the good life, in or­der to respect persons as free and independent selves, capable of choosing their own ends. Keynesian fiscal policy both reflected this liberalism and deepened its hold on American public life. Although those who practiced Keynesian economics did not defend it in precisely these terms, the new political economy displayed two features of the liberalism that defines the procedural republic.
    • 1. America's Search for a Public Philosophy

External links[edit]

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