Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? by Michael J. Sandel is the book about moral philosophy. To be exact, the very best introduction to moral philosophy. In a book of no more than 300 pages, Sandel describes all of the main theories about moral justice both in full and objective as can be. Born from his most popular course at Harvard, and a lifetime of work, Justice is your way into moral reasoning.
Central questions posed in the book relate to moral judgement both on a large and small scale. Is it wrong to lie? How much personal freedom should we have? What do we owe one another? To answer these questions Sandel takes the reader on a journey through many of the factions of moral reasoning. The book starts with utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number, discusses libertarianism, Kant, Rawls, and Aristotle.
The chapter on Aristotle starts with a story about a disabled cheerleader. The individual in question is kicked off the squad, after a year of great cheering. From a real-life example, the book takes a step back and contemplates on the merit of cheer-leading (or any profession in that matter). Sandel explains that Aristotle is concerned with the theological aspect of justice; the purpose of an activity.
The beauty of the book lies in both the examples and how they are presented. Each chapter is not ended with a closed conclusion about what is right but leaves the judgement (or moral reflection) over to the reader. By this process, the book stops being a passive information source and engages the reader to really think things over.
Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard. His Justice course at Harvard has been one of the most attended courses in the history of the University (15.000 and counting). He has been an influential political philosopher and has written multiple books. To introduce yourself to moral reasoning and get a better grasp on the big questions of life, Justice should be the next book on your list!
More on Justice
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBdfcR-8hEY – The Legendary Course (taped in 2005)
http://www.justiceharvard.org/ – Online Environment for the Course
http://www.gov.harvard.edu/people/faculty/michael-sandel – Harvard Bio
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reasoning-moral/ – Moral Reasoning