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Interview: Michael Sandel on justice

Should we torture one person to save many? What is fairness? To accompany BBC4's justice season, philosopher Michael Sandel explains why justice is at the heart of contemporary political debate

By Nigel Warburton   January 2011

Nigel Warburton: For me the word justice seems to imply that there is some injustice in the world—it seems to be something like a legal term almost, that you want to set things to rights. Is that how you understand the word?

Michael Sandel: Well the simplest way of understanding justice is giving people what they deserve. This idea goes back to Aristotle. The real difficulty begins with figuring out who deserves what and why.

Broadly speaking I think there are three answers to the question ‘What is justice?’ There’s the utilitarian answer which says justice means maximising happiness. Answer…

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