Sunday, June 13, 2004

What do we mean by "hedgehog," anyway?


A hedgehog

We refer in our blog title to Isaiah Berlin, a 20th Century English philosopher who is famous for an essay he wrote called "The Hedgehog and The Fox." Berlin based the essay on the writings of the Greek poet Archilochus, who said: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

Here's how Books and Writers summarizes the Berlin essay:

In one of his most famous essays, "The Hedgehog and The Fox" (1953), Berlin focused on the tension between monist and pluralist visions of the world and
history, and drew the line between different authors and philosophers. As the Greek poet Archilochus said: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." The Hedgehog needs only one principle, that directs its life. . . . The Fox, pluralist, travels many roads, according to the idea that there can be different, equally valid but mutually incompatible concepts of how to live. . . .

So our interest in hedgehogs has nothing to do with their status as adorable furry small creatures. We'd just as soon be wolverines. We're talking about a state of mind here. Ronald Reagan was a hedgehog. He focused on a few big things: Win the Cold War, reduce the size of government, reduce taxes. Of course he had many other goals as well, but he kept his eye on the proverbial ball. Jimmy Carter, by contrast, was more of a fox; so was Michael Dukakis. Both were detail-oriented to a fault.

Turning to our most recent election, John Kerry was clearly a fox and George W. Bush is the living, breathing definition of a hedgehog. But this is not an ideological definition. Marx was a hedgehog; so were Darwin, Einstein, and Adam Smith.

If you want to read the entire Berlin essay (which is a classic in political philsophy) you can find it here. (Warning: This is a subscription service, so you won't get far before they hit you up for money.)

After we started our blog we learned of the book "Good to Great," by Jim Collins. He gives a terrific summary of what he calls "The Hedgehog Concept" here.

Also, if you want to know a few biological facts about hedgehogs, there is a nice summary here. Again, they are interesting little mammals but that's not why we named this blog after them.

So now you know why we call ourselves "aspiring hedgehogs."

But this is what the Hedgehog of this blog looks like:

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, April 18, 2005 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hedgehogs do a great service to those who love you: put the entire text of the essay "the fox and the hedgehog" on ur site.  

Posted by hilal ahmad

Friday, October 13, 2006 5:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so interesting to learn about, especialy the fact that an animal so nobel can represent something that happened in our country, truly not so long ago. 

Posted by megan Dargy

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 4:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that we might cultivate both aspects, that of the hedgehog withits focus on seeking, I suppose universal trends in history say, or that of the fox that looks at many things and tries to master many subjects.

Mario Rios Pinot

Saturday, March 01, 2008 6:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

Does your forehead have its own gravitational pull?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 4:49:00 AM  
Blogger The Kosher Hedgehog said...

Jacob, everyone's forehead; indeed, every object that has mass, generates its own gravitational pull. Does your forehead have mass?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Tyndale said...

tolerance... interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint. FOX ignorance.... the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc. HEDGEHOG. ignorance is the one true evil.

Thursday, December 25, 2008 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Abu Teddy said...

HedgeHog, I posted your Hezbollah Mexico post to my blog dedicated solely to following Hezbollah events starting in 2006 and resurected lately due to the increased trouble from that group.
Approprate links back to here.
http://hezbollahwar.blogspot.com/
You are doing a great job.
~Abu Teddy

Thursday, August 05, 2010 7:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I would have to absolutely disagree with how you interpret this essay. Calling Ronald Reagan or Einstein a hedgehog, they were absolutely foxes, both of those men had a diverse group of accomplishments and had many places where they gathered their knowledge. In the essay a fox is defined as those who"lead lives,
perform acts, and entertain ideas that are centrifugal
rather than centripetal, their thought is scattered or
diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the
essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for
what they are in themselves, without, consciously or
unconsciously, seeking."

Friday, August 23, 2013 1:01:00 PM  

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