One Big Thing

Justice for Hedgehogs
Ronald Dworkin
Belknap/Harvard University Press, $35, 528 pp.

In nearly four decades of reviewing books, Justice for Hedgehogs is arguably my most challenging assignment, in part because of the book’s density and length, in part because it covers such a wide range of topics in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political theory. This is also, and less arguably, the least necessary review I’ve ever penned, because the book comes, so to speak, pre-reviewed. In September 2009, the Boston University Law Review organized a massive symposium on the near-final draft, featuring a keynote address by Ronald Dworkin and thirty-six scholarly essays minutely examining every aspect of the book’s argument. The proceedings, published in April 2010 as volume 90, number 2 of the Law Review, included a thirty-eight-page response from Dworkin, occasionally praising, more often taking issue with, each of his critics. There is little left to say.

There is a further difficulty. Commonweal is not a law review, which will frequently offer reviewers twenty pages or more to address a book like this. In the space I have, the best I can do is give readers some sense of Dworkin’s enterprise and then focus on what I take to be the core of his argument.

To begin, Dworkin advances a general account of morality and moral argument. He opposes skepticism, claiming that moral truth is achievable. But it cannot be reached in the way many believe scientists proceed, by exposing hypotheses to confirmation or...

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About the Author

William Galston is Ezra Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of Liberal Purposes and Liberal Pluralism, both published by Cambridge University Press. Galston served as deputy assistant for domestic policy under President Bill Clinton, 1993–95.