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Justice for Hedgehogs Hardcover – February 10, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674046714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674046719
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #990,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Dworkinian statement is usually clear, sharp, and pointedly thought-provoking. This book contains 423 pages of such statements covering a range of subjects from skepticism to morality, living the good life, interpretation, dignity, free will law, and truth. Dworkin's thesis here is that all these abstracts can be unified and grounded on the value he described as "Dignity". By conventional interpretation of the phrase "A fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing", the fox hesitates to form one single, all-encompassing value that attaches to all things on earth. The hedgehog, on the other hand, believes that it has its thumb pressed against that solitary, centrifugal nerve and the value that controls all values. It is Dworkin's thesis that a single principle (which he identifies as "dignity") unifies all moral values. He claims that the pluralism of thinkers like Isaiah Berlin cannot be sustained, let alone function because one cannot have two values diverse but equally true. Dworkin does not mask his intention to show us that he is an hedgehog, but can he assume that role without grasping and reconciling the truth in all the disparate values that philosophers, scientists, and theologians, have hitherto been unable to reconcile? If Dworkin could, and had done so, one wonders if he might not have been, like Tolstoy, a fox who thinks he is an hedgehog? How strong is his foundation based on "dignity"?

To have expressed all his views as emanating from one stock value in such a relatively short book, Dworkin might have had to omit steps in arguments which, no doubt, his critics will pursue.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the one fact known by the hedgehog: some things are morally right and some things are morally wrong, even if no one agreed with the fact or no people existed to agree with the fact. How you live your life, treat other people, and construct a political state depends on this one fact.

If this thesis sounds like cowboy justice unfit for a philosopher, think again. Dworkin starts with a summary of the whole book and his motivations in chapter 1, and he methodically spends the rest of the book defending them.

This book is a philosophical essay, but a very readable one for anyone with a small amount of background knowledge. Dworkin takes extra care not to lose anyone along the way in unclear terminology, although the book may spark an interest in more reading you didn't know you had. The 400+ pages are are clear, detailed, and accessible to anyone who's ever even heard of Rawls, Kant, or John Stuart Mill. If you haven't heard of them, you may have to make a few trips to Wikipedia or to Intro to Western Philosophy 101, but Dworkin summarizes arguments for and against anything he discusses, so extra references aren't necessary otherwise.

Bottom line- if you believe the the hedgehog, read the book. If you don't believe the hedgehog, read the book.
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Format: Hardcover 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. "Justice for Hedgehogs" boldly but responsibly challenges much, perhaps most, contemporary and conventional thinking regarding ethics, morality, and values and therefore is a potential watershed of new thought here.

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 . . ." (p. 7) Dworkin asserts " . . . that all true values form an interlocking network, that each of our convictions about what is good or right or beautiful plays some role in supporting each of our other convictions in each of those domains of value." (p. 120) To put this differently and as is often stated in in the text, there is a unity of all values, a unity which cannot be evaded by the wily fox without engaging in self-contradiction. 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.
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Format: Hardcover
Very often, we are asked by people who wish to transmit "values" to stop thinking. Either because "it is obvious" or because "belief requires not to question" or many other such.

Mr. Dworkin is willing to take on these views and argue them rationally, to show where they fail rationally.

He is also willing to state that values exist and to attempt their rational explanation.

Finally, he stands up to argue for a well-lived value- driven life based on using my mind to find my way.

To find all 3 elements in one book, and so open yourself to an immediate external check of coherence of you ethics, rationality, and powers of clear argumentation takes courage and commands my respect.

To do it well, intellectually, and to be readable and often even funny while doing so, is art.

As I am working my way through the book still, and will probably need time to digest and reflect his work, I cannot yet say whether he fails or succeeds in his goal of creating a clear recipe for a well-lived life on a rational basis, for me personally. Even if he did not, the failure might be mine in following his approach, not his in creating it.

But he succeeds already now at improving my analysis of arguments and thought processes, at leading me to question myself, in a constructive way of good teaching, and so his book is already now a gift to me.
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