In the British monthly "Prospect" (January 21, 2011), Nigel Warburton interviews Professor Michael Sandel (Harvard):
"Interview: Michael Sandel on Justice"
"I do think that Kant has a powerful argument against the utilitarian way of thinking about morality and justice. The hard question arises when it comes to identifying what universal rights we have and what it means to respect them. Kant thought the reason duties and rights are categorical and universal is that we can arrive at them by abstracting from all of our particular interests, values, ends and purposes in life. That is, if we subtract all the differences between our interests, values and so on, what we’re left with are those interests, values etc that we all share. That’s what makes them universal: we arrive at them regardless of who in particular we are.
But that way of defining and deriving rights comes at a cost. It requires us for purposes of justice to abstract altogether from the particular conceptions of the good life that we have."
Michael Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard University. His latest book is "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009).
See some of my previous posts on Michael Sandel here, here & here.
Beginning in January 2011, BBC4 TV is hosting a debate on the state of justice in Britain and the world today - "Justice: A Citizen's Guide" - including lectures by Michael Sandel.