Justice for Hedgehogs

Dworkin Katrien Schaubroeck reviews Ronald Dworkin's Justice for Hedgehogs, in Metapsychology:

Justice for hedgehogs is written in a clear and engaging style, and it discusses the big questions of life, which are of interest to everyone, but the book is nevertheless mainly directed at a professional audience, working in political and legal theory, moral philosophy and meta-ethics. The book contains Dworkin's views on human dignity, the meaning of life, moral obligation, democracy, liberty and equality, the authority of law and many other valuable things. His conviction that the truth about each of these things is coherent and mutually supporting (that is, his belief in the unity of value) enables him to write an all-inclusive value theory merging ethics, morality, legal and political philosophy and even aesthetics. The glue is a particular understanding of 'interpretation', and the belief that that is what lawyers, artists, critics, historians, philosophers, moral agents (all of us) do: they interpret, as opposed to scientists who investigate. Interpreting is an essentially normative activity in Dworkin's value account of interpretation, because it makes the success of a particular interpretation dependent on the standard set by the best account of the value being served by interpretation in the genre to which the particular claim belongs. For instance, interpreting what another person says in a normal conversation succeeds when one grasps what this person really intends to say, because communicating intentions is the point (or value, Dworkin thinks that intrinsic and justifying goals of interpretation coincide) of conversational interpretation. In the different interpretive genre of law the actual mental states of legislators do not determine the best interpretation of a particular law because the point of legal interpretation differs from the purpose of conversational interpretation. Also moral reasoning is a matter of interpreting, namely of finding an interpretation of concepts like generosity, kindness, rights and duties that identifies and serves the value of moral reasoning best. If moral reasoning and legal judging are interpretive activities, there is no good reason why we should think it inevitable that legal requirements and moral obligations sometimes conflict. All it takes is another, and better, interpretation of the value served by these practices. Interpretation knits values together.

If coherence were the sole criterion, one would think that several sets of beliefs resulting from interpretation could be equally successful. But Dworkin is not only a holist about value, but also an objectivist.