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Justice for Hedgehogs [Kindle Edition]

Ronald Dworkin
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In Dworkin’s master work, the central thesis is that all areas of value depend on one another. This is one, big thing that the hedgehog knows, in contrast to the fox, who knows many little things. Dworkin’s understanding of the relationship—between ethics, morality, and political morality—is significantly revised and also greatly elaborated. He argues that “dignity” is the essential core of living well and that a satisfactory account of dignity would, in turn, point to two principles. The first states that it is objectively important that each person’s life go well; and the second that each person has a special responsibility for identifying what counts as success in his or her own life. Dworkin believes that values cohere and that in order to defend that coherence he has to take up a broad variety of philosophical issues that are not normally treated in one book. He discusses the metaphysics of value, the character of truth, the nature of interpretation, the conditions of agreement and disagreement, the phenomenon of moral responsibility and the problem of free will as well as more substantive issues of ethical, moral and legal theory.


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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 easy material is handled in a way that adds depth, while the complex ideas are communicated so deftly you forget that in the hands of a less elegant writer (or more confused mind) they would be incomprehensible." --New Humanist, March/April 2011, Conor Gearty

"The first thing to be said about this remarkable book is that it has nothing to do with animal rights...Justice for Hedgehogs is not a work of vapid generalisation. It is full of sustained argument and arresting observations drawn from a lifetime of thought and a great armoury of knowledge...Dworkin makes a formidable case for his two rules, presented with insight, wit and forensic elegance." --Spectator, 19 March 2011, Jonathan Sumption

"Dworkin is a very impressive writer, with what his early prey, H.L.A. Hart, is said to have described as a `fluent and somewhat elusive analytical style'. He has a keen lawyerly eye for the way to present a case, and is indefatigable in doing so. He knows a great deal, and deploys what he knows with admirable skill. His works are proper objects of wonder."
--Times Higher Education, 27 January 2011, Simon Blackburn

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). -- Conor Gearty New Humanist 20110301 Justice for Hedgehogs is Dworkin's most ambitious book to date...It is full of sustained argument and arresting observations drawn from a lifetime of thought and a great armory of knowledge. -- Jonathan Sumption The Spectator 20110319 In a sustained, profound, and richly textured argument that will, from now on, be essential to all debate on the matter, Ronald Dworkin makes the case for...the unity of value...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. C. Grayling New York Review of Books 20110428 [Dworkin's arguments] display great intellectual rigour...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. -- Richard King The Australian 20110326 The 79-year-old professor of philosophy's grand, perhaps culminating, statement of what truth is, what life means, what morality requires and justice demands...[Dworkin] builds up a comprehensive system of value--embracing democracy, justice, political obligation, morality, liberty, equality--from his notions of dignity and self-respect. -- Stuart Jeffries The Guardian 20110401 Justice for Hedgehogs represents a powerful account of what our moral world would have to be for our moral life to be harmonious. -- William A. Galston Commonweal 20110715 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. -- Richard Susskind The Times 20110803

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 855 KB
  • Print Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (3 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008BAGXT8
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #179,641 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are there many little things or one big thing? 9 Jan. 2011
By Hande Z TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
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. 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. 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 a fox who thinks he is an hedgehog?

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. Indeed, Dworkin invites responses in a specially created website: [...]t. There have already been comments and criticisms: See Miachael Smith: 2009 Boston Law Review vol 90 p.509 (commenting on the draft manuscript). Nonetheless, "Justice for Hedgehogs", like most of Dworkin's books, is an elegant, charming, and provocative intellectual work.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fox 1, hedgehog 0. 20 Nov. 2011
Format:Hardcover
Ronald Dworkin wrote "Taking Rights Seriously" in the late 1970's. It was a ground-breaking work; clear, articulate and libertarian.

While Dworkin is still a liberal, this latest offering is neither clear nor quite so articulate. It purports to be an attack on political cynicism and scepticism but indirectly and unintentionally supports exactly such a position. He sees the cynics and sceptics as `foxes', while the kind and moral people are `hedgehogs'. This is a most unfortunate metaphor, given that foxes are quick-witted, perceptive and courageous while hedgehogs blunder about and get run over. In this country hedgehogs are in decline. Dworkin's support for them is unlikely to change that glum fact, although I actually share his ambition.

The book starts brilliantly with a clear exposition of an important principle:
No government is legitimate unless it shows "Equal concern for the fate of every person over whom it claims dominion"(p2). We can all sign-up to that. But then he leaps into an entirely different realm when he says:
"Second, it must respect fully the responsibility and right of each person to decide for himself how to make something valuable of his life". Whoa, those two statements are not joined. Who will adjudicate on the `value' of my neighbour's aims, should they clash with mine? The latter sounds like an unnecessary addendum to a diluted version of the Communist Manifesto.
In "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", Robert Pirsig's central character has a mental breakdown because he is asked, by the young teacher's administrator, "Do you teach quality? (value)". He gets badly stuck on shared values. So does Dworkin.
Anyone dealing in `values' must nail his values to the mast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dworkin at his very best... 25 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Dworkin at his very best...
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 12 Aug. 2011
Format:Hardcover
A well structured and thought provoking book. Not necessarily accessible to the average lay person - although Dworkin's target audience are those who already have some understanding of moral/legal constructs. I would recommend it, just not as light reading.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dworkin and the Abandonment of Colonial Metaphysics 12 July 2011
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ronald Dworkin (b. 1931) has enjoyed a long career as a writer on legal and political philosophy. In addition to his many books, Dworkin writes for a broad public in analyzing Supreme Court decisions in the New York Review of Books. The scope of his writing has expanded over the years. In his most recent book, "Justice for Hedgehogs", Dworkin broadens his scope from legal and political philosophy to address larger philosophical questions of metaphysics, interpretation and epistemology, and ethics. It is a challenging and wonderful work.

Dworkin's title derives from a famous essay by Isaiah Berlin "The Hedgehog and the Fox" taken in its turn from the Greek poet Archilocus who said: "the fox knows many things but the hedghehog knows one big thing." Berlin's essay was largely a defense of the way of the fox and of pluralism. It shows a healthy skepticism of any claim to know the single truth. Dworkin for his part takes the side of the hedgehog. Dworkin's basic claim is for what he calls the "unity of value" and the claim that people can work to ethical truth rather than to a variety of competing claims to the truth. In many respects. this may seem an audacious claim that goes contrary to much modernistic thought. Dworkin realizes and plays upon this and develops his claims slowly and carefully. In many respects, Dworkin draws heavily on modernism and modernistic arguments, especially in his emphasis on interpretation. He gives some ancient philosophical doctrines a modernistic turn. In reading this book, as with many philosophical works, it is best to read the introductory chapter carefully and return to it together with the concluding epilogue. Doing so will bring focus to the lengthy arguments and help the reader understand Dworkin's project.

Dworkin uses the phrase "colonial metaphysics" several times and speaks of tne need finally for its abandonment (p. 418). What he means is roughly this: many people have seen ethical truths as dependent somehow on a more basic form of metaphysics. With the Enlightenment, thinkers adopted a metaphysics of naturalism and tried to explain ethics within the terms of a scientific worldview. This proved unsucessful. Prior to that, many thinkers offered a religious, theistically based explanation for ethics. In both these cases and other cases, ethical truth was deemed dependent upon some other truth. Basically, ethical truths were viewed as analogously to discovering "things" "out there" in the way a scientist studies bodies or a theologian studies God. Dworkin denies that ethics has this form of metaphysical basis in "things". That is why he claim that ethics should not be viewed as a "colony" of metaphysics and should be studied on its own terms. Dworkin makes creative use of the philosophy of David Hume who denied that ethical truths could be at all derived from what is. While many people have taken Hume's argument as leading towards skepticism, Dworkin maintains instead that it leads to the independence (non-colonial character) of ethics and that ethics is its own self-contained form of truth.

Early in the book, Dworkin tries to confront various forms of ethical skepticism and maintains, successfully or not, that the important forms of such skepticism are self-refuting. (Such arguments are regularly used in metaphysics, less commonly in ethics.) He wants to find a form of ethics not rooted in theology or scientism. He finds such a source by discussing ethics as an interpretive discipline. Interpretation and meaning play large roles in much modern thinking. What distinguishes Dworkin in his claim that truth is found in interpretation, whether of legal texts, poems, or works of art and music. People know in two ways, for Dworkin: we know the natural world scientifically and the ethical, human world through meaning. We discover truth differently, but in neither case, if it is to have meaning at all, is it "subjective". Interpretive truth differs from scientific truth in that it is found through argument and in that its concepts are interrelated. In human life, Dworkin distinguishes and then interrelates what he calls ethics and morality. People have an ethical duty to themselves that is expressed adverbiably: to live well and meaningfully with a project of the individual agent's choosling. Morality is the duty owed to others. It has a Kantian basis for Dworkin which involves expanding to others the realization of one's own dignity and right to choose one's form of life. As with all ethical concepts, ethics and morality fold together, I think, in leading the good life.

Much of Dworkin's project, for those with philosophical background, can be viewed as uniting Hume and Kant. Dworking also is heavily influenced by what he sees as the interpretive, interrelated character of Platonic and Aristotelian ethics without their metaphysical trappings (pp. 184 -188). Charles Peirce, mentioned all-too-briefly, is another thinker with a large influence on Dworkin (pp 177 -178).

As the book develops, Dworkin explains his independence thesis in the first part and his understanding of interpretation and its nature in the second part. In the third part, Dworkin develops his concept of ethics (finding purpose in one's own life) and in the fourth, his concept of morality (our duties to other people). In the final part of the book, Dworkin returns to the legal and political philosophy which had been the focus of his efforts prior to this book. The epilogue with its title "Dignity Indivisible" aptly and with a sense of urgency and passion recapitulates Dworkin's arguments and what he perceives as their importance.

The book works best in its breadth, in its fresh and challenging discussion of truth, interpretation and unity. Observations on law and politics are interthreaded throughout the book, but the final section of the book on these matters seems to me rushed and less than convincing. I do not agree with some of Dworkin's political or legal conclusions but still find much to admire and learn from in his work. On occasion, Dworkin simply refers to his earlier writings, assuming perhaps too optimistically familiarity on behalf of his readers. The book takes a strong stance against scientism and its particular reductivism. Dworking also rejects the tendency, common to critics of scientism and to people who use various forms of interpretive theory, to call for a return to God or to theology. This is an unabashedly secular book. Dworkin writes with a concern for understanding life in its shortness and mortality, faced with full knowledge of impending death. By living life with ideals and in the search for truth, Dworkin concludes. "We write a subscript to our motality. We make our lives tiny diamonds in the cosmic sands." (p. 423)

Dworkin's book is itself the work of a lifetime of thought and commitment to a project. It is impressive in its scope, its argument, its erudition, and its love for the life of the mind and of culture. It offers a challenge to the reader at whatever stage of his or her life to rethink projects and priorites. The book deserves and will undoubtedly receive sustained study and attention.

Robin Friedman
74 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Justice for Dworkin 9 Jan. 2011
By Hande Z - Published on Amazon.com
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. Indeed, Dworkin invites responses in a specially created website: www justiceforhedgehogs net (I have used a space instead of a period otherwise, for some strange reason, the website name does not appear on the review). There have already been comments and criticisms: See Michael Smith: 2009 Boston Law Review vol 90 p.509 (commenting on the draft manuscript). Nonetheless, "Justice for Hedgehogs", like most of Dworkin's books, is an elegant, charming, and provocative intellectual work.
47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you've ever bothered thinking about your moral philosophy, read this book! 21 Feb. 2011
By Enne - Published on Amazon.com
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Axiological Courage 5 July 2012
By Barry N. Bishop - Published on Amazon.com
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. 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." (p. 17)

Part One argues for this independence and challenges various forms of skepticism both from outside as well as from within the realm of values study. 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. " . . . interpretation knits values together. 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." (p.101) He is unapologetic about the necessity of a certain circularity in the interpretation of values, a circularity which is not restricted to philosophy but also is at the foundation of politics and law. (Later in the book he considers and defends such matters as judicial review.) Parts Three and Four are discussions of ethics and morality respectively. "I emphasize here . . . the distinction between ethics, which is the study of how to live well, and morality, which is the study of how we must treat other people." (p. 13) Part Five explicates the implications of this values theory for politics and law. 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.e. the unity of values also means the unity of our evaluative and interpretive understanding of ourselves and others in the cooperative project of living well. 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. 67, relating to external skepticism) because, apparently, these realms rather define who we are in a positive sense, and they also may be the locus of our freedom to be and become who we are. 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. This book does indeed bring justice to what many of us have known intuitively all our lives, and it does so without being beholden to any particular religious tradition or metaphysics. It should be read by all who think seriously about values.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A courageous effort to offer ethics answers for thinking people 23 Aug. 2011
By florkow - Published on Amazon.com
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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