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Monday, March 12, 2012

Hedgehog Justice

I am pleased to announce that I have a new mentor.

Ronald Dworkin, Professor of Law and Philosophy, with accomplishments, honors, writings too numerous to mention here, has written his culminating opus:  Justice for Hedgehogs.  I am thankful to Pat Amer for introducing me to him.  

While the book is on order, I read Professor Dworkins summary of it and also in introduction to it at a symposium on it prior to publication and many other articles that he wrote.  I just sent off a letter to him with five points of conversation (and maybe conversion) and a personal note.  I wrote not to evaluate his work (I would never presume to do that), but to evaluate my own.  The five points were: definitions (ethics and morality), method (interpretive), principles (dual standards), ideal (original auction), and human nature. To which I think it all comes down.

On that latter I wrote:

In your efforts to avoid metaphysics and religious dogmatism, you say your dual principles portrayed by the imaginative auctions are substantive—not true by definition or by laws of nature.   Like Socrates, you ask your students to simply examine themselves to find them.  I agree.  

Yet, I think they are substantive because they derive from human nature as I think you do also.   You speak of the “test of conviction.”  You “appeal to Kant to say that you must accept that which makes these principles true for you is your humanity: the fact that you have a life to lead and death to face.”  I submit that that “humanity” is finally the foundation for your principles.  And it is in my reflection on and model for human existence, aided by many mentors, where I locate my theory of truth, good, justice, and unity.  “Dignity” is your formula. “Integrity” is mine. 

You want to avoid “scientism” in ethics as well as heed Hume’s value-from-fact warning and Moore’s “naturalistic fallacy,” as do I.  And here is where you will probably disagree with me and will perhaps set me straight: 

I think we can develop an elegant model for the structure of human existence that can be falsified using the latest in biology, evolutionary psychology, and neuroscience.  I also think that the structure of human existence is available implicitly and universally in every conscious human act; and that as a dynamic, developing, multi-tension structure is a “fact” that gives rise to an “ought.” 

I also argue that moral truth and physical truth are not separate but part of our progressive, though fallible, achievement of reality.  Therefore our ethics and our physics are dimensions of one great human enterprise, executed in community through imaginative formation of ideas refined and affirmed through experience.  I argue that the holy grail of a grand unified field theory has an ethical dimension.  I push therefore not just for a unity in value, but a unity in truth as well.

Am I looking in vain for a non-existent Archimedes fulcrum?

Would you say that I am on a fool’s errand?

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