This blog is hosted on Ideas on EuropeIdeas on Europe Avatar

Legal, Political and Moral Philosophy and … Hedgehogs

Back to Tartu from Tallinn for a couple of days I had time to read all SSRN advertisements, included a really appealing one:    

„Boston University School of Law will hold a conference on Ronald Dworkin’s forthcoming book, Justice for Hedgehogs, on September 25-26, 2009. Dworkin himself will give the keynote address on September 25 and a response on September 26“. 

And then comes the overview of the book:

„In Justice for Hedgehogs, Dworkin defends the unity of value – the one big thing he knows – and argues against “several foxy causes:” value skepticism, value pluralism, value conflict, and, in particular, the supposed opposition between the values of self-interest and those of personal and political morality. He argues for the integration of ethics (the principles that tell human beings how to live well) and morality (the principles that tell them how they must treat other people), and for a morality of self-affirmation as against a morality of self-abnegation. In doing so, he develops accounts of the indispensable conditions of living well – dignity, self-respect, and authenticity – and of our moral duties to others regarding aid and harm. He also argues that law is a branch of political morality that is in turn a department of morality more broadly understood. …“

As promised, I am back commenting on the topic.


One probably cannot afford participation in every important conference – in this case one may still morally participate and think of what the concepts (I do not repeat the concepts above): „unity of value“, „the value of living“, „personal responsibility for our own lives“ vs. „shame“ and „insult“ mean.  Are ethics and morals distinct categories? Can (subjective) people know, whether their ethical or moral convictions are true?

Thinking over such questions can add us also life-experience – if one knows that everybody respects each person’s personal responsibility for the success of his/her own life, what prevents one then from „helping“ other people fall? Why don’t people usually behave that way? And why do they sometimes behave that way? 

In his article „Do values conflict? A Hedgehog’s Approach“ 2001 Arizona Law Review 43, 251, Dworkin writes about similar issues, distinguishing at p. 252 between „choice“ and „tragic choice“ (what at least the philosophers I have read rarely dare).

Some importatnt books written by Ronald Myles Dworkin that you might already well know:

Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977 – Answering the questions, „What is law?“, „What is law for?“, „Must everyone always obey the law?“, „If not, when is a citizen morally free to disobey?“, and making us question should rights be determined before they could be taken seriously.  

Laws Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press – Discussing how judges should interpret in „difficult cases“. 

Freedom’s Law. Cambridge: Harvard University Press – Are constitutional issues moral issues?  

Sovereign Virtue. The Theory and Practice of Equality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press – How to balance equality and freedom?

Comments are closed.

UACES and Ideas on Europe do not take responsibility for opinions expressed in articles on blogs hosted on Ideas on Europe. All opinions are those of the contributing authors.