Isaiah Berlin’s “The Hedgehog and the Fox”

11 May 2016

Just finished this small book of #Isaiah_Berlin: The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History

Apparently this is his most famous and acclaimed book.

Here is the first chapter

It shows his complicated style which reflects necessarily the depth in his ideas and the wide range of his knowledge.

He divides writers into hedgehogs and foxes: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehogs knows one big thing.”

Of course this book is not about animals but about the world of ideas. The title captures a dichotomy between two attitudes writers have, towards the world and towards reality; one we can call it now pluralist and the other is centered around unity.

Isaiah Berlin apparently classifies himself as a fox.

I came to know about Isaiah Berlin from one of his most elegant critics, Ronald Dworkin. Dworkin indeed picked up the image in one of his latest books, Justice for Hedgehogs, and arguably suggested a comprehensive moral, legal, social and political theory – as a hedgehog would do.

I admit I always appreciated Ronald Dworkin’s academic work a lot. I – however – found the arguments of Berlin convincing.

I look forward to reading Dworkin’s book – so as I make peace with my mind, and decide which one to chose: the fox or the hedgehog?

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