Justice and Elegance for Hedgehogs - In Life, Law, and Literature

41 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2010

See all articles by Linda C. McClain

Linda C. McClain

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: April 23, 2010


At a time when value pluralism and even value polarization seem to be undeniable facts of contemporary life, Ronald Dworkin unrepentantly defends the unity of value. His point of departure is the Greek poet Archilochus’s saying, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” made famous in liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox. In his forthcoming book, Justice for Hedgehogs, Dworkin argues for the integration of ethics, personal morality, and political morality and contends that law is a branch of political morality that in turn is a branch of morality, broadly understood. My article compares Dworkin’s book with the best-selling novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (described as a philosophical fable). I argue that certain features of these two works Dworkin’s book make it fruitful to read them in tandem and that the comparison may be serendipitous, but is not arbitrary. Dworkin’s frequent turn to literature and to literary interpretation as germane to his project might warrant description of Justice for Hedgehogs as a work in “law and literature.” By this, I refer to two aspects of the law and literature methodology: (1) a focus on interpretation as a common task in law and literature; and (2) a focus on narrative. In contrast to Dworkin’s previous concentration on developing an account of interpretation in law and political morality, Justice for Hedgehogs has greater ambitions: it theorizes about common features of the interpretive process across many different fields, and also puts interpretation at the heart of how people answer fundamental questions about what it means to live well and how we should treat each other. The broad scope and ambition of Dworkin’s book push it beyond the category of a conventional work of jurisprudence and invite assessments that step outside the four corners of conventional legal scholarship. This comparison of Dworkin’s book with Barbery’s novel is in that spirit.

Keywords: Ronald Dworkin, Muriel Barbery, hedgehog, pluralism, interpretation, law and literature, justice, values, narrative

JEL Classification: K19, K39, K49

Suggested Citation

McClain, Linda C., Justice and Elegance for Hedgehogs - In Life, Law, and Literature (April 23, 2010). Boston University Law Review, Vol. 90, p. 863, 2010; Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 10-08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1595000

Linda C. McClain (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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