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The Idea of Justice


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Amartya Sen is Lamont University Professor, Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Economics, at Harvard University. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998 and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1998-2004. His many books include Development as Freedom, Rationality and Freedom, The Argumentative Indian and Identity and Violence.


Nobel Prize winner in economics, Sen (Development as Freedom) is also an eminent philosopher. Here, he uses his skill in both disciplines to criticize prevailing theories of justice and to propose a replacement. John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971) is the most famous example of what Sen calls a transcendental theory, describing an ideal state of affairs. This does not tell us what to do in our imperfect world; for that, he argues, a comparative theory is needed, ranking various possible outcomes. To consider only wealth or add an estimate of happiness is inadequate. In addition, the capabilities of people to achieve good lives need to be assessed. Following Rawls, Sen stresses public reason, a type of democratic deliberation that emphasizes reasonable agreements among people with different conceptions of the good. Throughout the book, Sen's wide historical knowledge is put to good use. Verdict This is an essential book; it sums up and extends the contributions of one of the world's leading thinkers about justice.-David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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