Liberal Responsibility: A Comment on 'Justice for Hedgehogs'

13 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2010


This paper, written for a symposium on Ronald Dworkin’s Justice for Hedgehogs, comments on that book’s attempt to ground liberal egalitarian political principles in the idea that each person bears a responsibility to live well. Taking at face value the book’s claim that living well is a genuine obligation, it argues that this obligation is – to borrow Kent Greenawalt’s usage – too rich and too thin. It is too rich because it entails the condemnation of many ordinary lives as failures and is in this sense illiberal and inegalitarian. It is too thin because its emphasis on the ethical responsibility of individuals to live well seems to entail an impoverished account of the moral duties one owes to others. These criticisms notwithstanding, Hedgehogs is to be credited for inviting liberal egalitarians to develop a distinctive account of ethical and moral responsibility that is responsive to contemporary conservative claims that liberals do not take responsibility seriously.

Keywords: Authenticity, Conservatives, Dignity, Duty, Dworkin, Egalitarianism, Equality, Ethics, Existentialism, Justice for Hedgehogs, Liberalism, Locke, Responsibility, Virtue

Suggested Citation

Goldberg, John C. P., Liberal Responsibility: A Comment on 'Justice for Hedgehogs'. Boston University Law Review, Vol. 90, 2010. Available at SSRN:

John C. P. Goldberg (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Areeda 232
1545 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2086 (Phone)

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