The Hedgehog and the Fox

The Hedgehog and the Fox

One of my favorite public intellectuals (if you can have a favorite) has been the late Sir Isaiah Berlin, whose family barely escaped the Russian Revolution, and emigrated to England.  Berlin took to his new home and language like a duck to water and eventually became an Oxford don.   He wrote a famous essay called “The Hedgehog and the Fox” in which he divides philosophers into two types, “hedgehogs” (who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea) and “foxes” (who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea).  For example, Karl Marx would be a hedgehog and Shakespeare would be a fox.  Berlin uses this dichotomy to discuss Tolstoy’s view of history, and places him astride the two camps.  This could make an interesting parlor game.  Is your favorite thinker a hedgehog, or a fox?  What are you?   

If you’re interested, check out Berlin’s “Russian Thinkers” in which his famous essay appears.  


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