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July 17, 2008

The Hedgehog and the Fox

Isaiah Berlin on Archilochus' claim that the fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.* Following Berlin's interpretation, the Flea is most definitely crazy like a fox. If, admittedly, an underachieving fox by comparison with the following.

...there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel-a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance-and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way...
...
The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes; and without insisting on a rigid classification, we may, without too much fear of contradiction, say that, in this sense, Dante belongs to the first category, Shakespeare to the second; Plato, Lucretius, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Proust are, in varying degrees, hedgehogs; Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzak, Joyce are foxes.

* With apologies to the blog where I saw this somewhat gnomic aphorism the other day; I have forgotten quite where it was.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 17, 2008 07:27 AM