R onald Dworkin is wondering about what his friend Alfred Brendel does when he plays the piano. When he plays a great sonata, for example, he must think his interpretation is better than other interpretations or he wouldn't play it that way, mustn't he? We're having coffee in the vast, coolly modern sitting room of his four-storey Belgravia house. He reclines, suave and donnish, in his grey armchair.
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Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? The fox knows many things, the Greeks said, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In his most comprehensive work, Ronald Dworkin argues that value in all its forms is one big thing: that what truth is, life means, morality requires, and justice demands are different aspects of the same large question.
He develops original theories on a great variety of issues very rarely considered in the same book: moral skepticism, literary, artistic, and historical interpretation, free will, ancient moral theory, being good and living well, liberty, equality, and law among many other topics. What we think about any one of these must stand up, eventually, to any argument we find compelling about the rest. Skepticism in all its forms-philosophical, cynical, or post-modern-threatens that unity. The Galilean revolution once made the theological world of value safe for science.
But the new republic gradually became a new empire: the modern philosophers inflated the methods of physics into a totalitarian theory of everything. They invaded and occupied all the honorifics-reality, truth, fact, ground, meaning, knowledge, and being-and dictated the terms on which other bodies of thought might aspire to them, and skepticism has been the inevitable result.
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Previous page. The Rule of Law. A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition. The Myth Of Sisyphus. What We Owe to Each Other. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Next page. Review The first thing to strike you about this remarkable book is its ambition In Justice for Hedgehogs all of Dworkin's great talent is on display, the themes overwhelming in their sheer bigness.
The basic point is that like the hedgehog in a famous essay by Isaiah Berlin, there is one big thing Dworkin knows above all else-it is what makes sense of how we act as persons, how we relate to others and how we construct our society The nineteen substantive chapters stand as a great statement of a life well lived and with, it is hoped, many years still to go.
It is full of sustained argument and arresting observations drawn from a lifetime of thought and a great armory of knowledge. Dworkin writes as an applied philosopher; the topics he discusses are matters of practical importance. They affect whether and how people can give meaning to their lives.
They make a difference in legislatures and courts of law whose decisions touch hundreds of millions of lives. That is what gives the overall argument its urgency, for Dworkin's principal aim in establishing the unity of value is the familiar and central one for him: to show how law and government can be based on political morality He completes, in [the] final chapter, a chain of reasoning that can be seen as uniting convictions of personal morality with principles of political justice, and then showing how these are all gathered together in a larger system of moral ideals that he believes lawyers and judges must deploy in discovering what the abstract principles of the American Constitution really mean and require.
We are in at the birth, here, of a modern philosophical classic, one of the essential works of contemporary thought. It is bound to be a major debate-changer, because even the many who will find much to disagree with-Dworkin, after all, disagrees with them in advance, and robustly-will not be able to ignore the challenges he poses.
And out of the heat to come, much light will shine. A daring and demanding treatise Defining morality as the standards governing how we ought to treat other people, and ethics as the standards governing how we ought to live ourselves, Dworkin argues that living morally and living ethically are inseparable.
What we achieve is less important than the manner in which we live our lives, and that is judged in part by how we treat other people. To live well, Dworkin writes, is to live one's life as if it were a work of art. In a work of art the value of what is created is inseparable from the act of creating it. A painting is not only a product; it embodies a particular performance. For Dworkin, it isn't the product value of a human life that is most important but its performance value.
A life should be an achievement 'in itself, with its own value in the art in living it displays. Justice for Hedgehogs attempts to give human beings their due, not in any spirit of self-congratulation but so that we may build a better life for all. Galston Commonweal The most profound legal book of the season is Justice for Hedgehogs This book is [Dworkin's] theory of everything and rests on the notion that 'value' is the one big philosophical thing For the first time, all pieces of Dworkin's jurisprudential thinking fall formidably into place.
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Write a customer review. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Verified Purchase. Ronald Dworkin, an NYU professor influential in the disciplines of philosophy, law, and politics, has written a monumental study in values theory, a monograph reflecting his life's work in all these areas. Basing his title in a metaphor from an ancient Greek poem that the fox knows many things while the lowly hedgehog knows one "big thing", Dworkin sides with the hedgehog against the smug and relativistic fox.
The "ordinary view" of the hedgehog--meaning a kind of intuitive view of the objective reality and relevance of values in individual lives and political society--is essentially correct, and therefore it merits sophisticated philosophical defense and explication. I believe that there are objective truths about value. I believe that some institutions really are unjust and some acts really are wrong. All this strays far from orthodox positions found in learned circles.
At the same time Dworkin disavows any dependence on metaphysics, scientism, or religion--his thinking is purely secular.
As he insists over and again, the realm of values is independent "as a separate department of knowledge with its own standards of inquiry and justification.
In Part Two Dworkin argues a major sub-thesis, that values thinking what I would call axiology is a hermeneutic enterprise--it is thoroughly interpretive. We are morally responsible to the degree that our various concrete interpretations achieve an overall integrity so that each supports the others in a network of value that we embrace authentically.
Later in the book he considers and defends such matters as judicial review. Parts Three and Four are discussions of ethics and morality respectively. Ethics and morality are foundations of social values, hence the political activities upon which governments are based and also the laws that reflect human values.
Ethics, again, is defined as the study of how to live well, how to live one's life as a "performance" that achieves meaning and integrity. Morality relates to our interactions with others, how we interpret our own living well in such a way that it enhances social relationships.
An essential principle underlying ethics and morality is human "dignity", and dignity has two subordinate principles, self-respect and authenticity. Self-respect means to take our own life seriously, to treat our own living-well as important. Self-respect could have no real meaning if it did not also imply supporting the self-respect of others, i.
Authenticity means taking responsibility for a life narrative that serves to unify one's various life projects, to achieve conscious consistency in our living well and social interactions. Dworkin in this light defines what it is that legitimizes government. This is an application of the principle of dignity. A legitimate government must, in its policies and laws, express an equal concern for every person, and it also must respect the responsibility of each person to create his or her own life.
Professor Dworkin's politics undoubtedly leans toward the "liberal" side of the spectrum, but these two political principles also encompass to some extent the "socialist" side of our current politics as well as the "libertarian" side, conceptually uniting the two within the scope of his values theory. While aesthetics does not play a significant part in the overall values scheme, it is not ignored.
Still an expansion of this values theory to include "beauty" in the classical sense more explicitly with "truth" and "goodness", which are emphasized in "Justice for Hedgehogs", would be important to what could become a new direction in axiology.
A more significant criticism relates to religion. While actually it is important that this theory not be tied to any particular religious tradition, Dworkin offers what can only be seen as a simplistic caricature of religion.
Values probably are an essential part of human religion, and one could accuse him of either running the risk of contradicting himself as an external skeptic of religion which is apparently where he places himself or betraying a kind of internal skepticism, which would make him too fox-like in his secular stance.
Probably the major difference I would have with Dworkin, however, relates to the actual locus of value. While I agree with his argument that value studies are independent--of science and metaphysics as well as theology--the whole argument of "Justice for Hedgehogs" implies that values form a kind of ontological substrate of our living, and of the possibility of living well.
He believes that it would be "foolish" to think of ourselves as "in some way trapped within the realms of value" p. In other words, throughout the argument there is an implicit assumption that values are real--"objectively" real--and that we live and move and have our being within them. It seems therefore that this assumption implies a kind of ontological-axiological ground of our reality. Such an assumption need not require a scientific-empirical proof any more than it would dependence on any god.
That said, I am deeply impressed with what Dworkin has done. We struggle to have a coherent theory of values in the midst of the fox-like cultural background we have inherited from the Enlightenment, and our fox-like scholars tend to derogate all the "ordinary" hedgehogs among us.
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Justice for Hedgehogs
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