Michael Sandel

by MinJin from Seoul

To argue about justice is unavoidably to argue about virtues, about substantive moral and even spiritual questions.
Michael Sandel ( (-))
Michael Sandel ( (-))

Michael Sandel is a Jewish man who was born in May 5th, 1953. He usually read non-fiction books in his childhood and his only habit in reading books is having questions. It appears during his lectures too. He always says to his students, 'Ask questions as if the author is next to you. The book is kind of an invitation to the conversation with the author.'

He was interested in politics, economics at first and didn't have a chance to study philosophy deeply before he went to the graduate school. When he went to Oxford graduate school, he read some books about philosophy and he began to study in earnest.

He graduated from Brandeis University and completed a doctorate at Oxford University. He also became the youngest professor at Harvard University when he was 27. In his age 29, he released (1982) which criticized John Rawls, a master of liberalism and winner of international fame. As he used a word 'communalist' for the first time in his book, he is considered to be one of the world's best scholars. He has taught 'political philosophy' at Harvard University since 1980 and his lecture 'Justice' which he taught for 20 years is considered to be a lecture that the most students attended.

In his book 'Justice', an international bestseller, there are some opinions of great thinkers about 'Justice' with his critical eyes by dealing with some actual problems such as volunteer military system, trolley dilemma etc.

This story is mentioned in his book as well as in his lecture. Suppose that you are a driver of the train. The train is going fast. You see 5 workers on the track so you tried to stop but you can't because the breaks don't work. You see the side track on the right and there is only one worker. So this is the situation that you can decide the victim by turning a steering wheel. If you turn the train only one worker will die but if you don't, 5 workers will die. What would you do in that situation? Will you turn the train or not? What is the right thing to do? At first, I thought I have to turn the train because "Killing one person is better than killing 5.". Then let's suppose you are not a driver, you are watching that train is going to kill those 5 workers in front of the track. This time, you see a fat man next to you and assume that you can save 5 workers if you push the fat man into the track. 'Would you push that man to save 5 workers?' I said I wouldn't. The problem is made here. What became the principle? I said 'It's better to save 5 lives even 1 is killed' at first question. It is the same principle but my answers were different compare with the first one. In his book, he cares about some others' opinions and show readers 'philosophy' so that they could learn philosophy with an interesting story. However, he doesn't come up with a specific answer of justice and gives readers chances to think back their opinion.

His new book 'What money can't buy' deals the moral limits of the market. Nowadays, people can buy almost everything with their money and the thing that we cannot buy is becoming fewer. Michael Sandel found a problem from that fact and gives a question to readers 'What could be the roles of market and money in the society?'. He also gives lots of examples that help readers understand easily and finally make readers be closer to an answer.

I read his book because of my friend's recommendation. I don't really like reading books but when I read just about 5 pages, I thought it is really interesting. I was never interested in philosophy but I learned many things through his books. After finishing reading book, I thought for a long time 'What is the right thing to do?'. Of course the book made me confused but I could have time to think and debate with someone. As he changed my thinking, it affects my real life. I always think deeper before I take an action. It made me act more carefully and reduce the mistakes.To me, who always texts and surfs on the internet, he is a hero who made me think and study philosophy. As I mentioned before, when we read his books or listen to his lecture, they are not only lectures but discussions. He always gives us questions and asks our thoughts. And it makes his books and lectures more interesting. This thing makes Michael Sandel a great philosopher and also an author.

He gives people lots of lessons and information that people never thought before through his books and lectures. Even though philosophy is a difficult subject to normal people, he made those people understand perfectly and even made them think deeper. I want to recommend this book to those who don't like to read books and use smart phones all the time. If they read his books, they will learn the delight of reading and thinking. For these reasons, people should think of him as a hero.

Page created on 5/31/2016 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/31/2016 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

What's the right thing to do? - A video of his lecture: "Justice"
Justice with Michael Sandel - All about Justice with Michael Sandel.

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