The Hedgehog and the Fox

The Hedgehog and the Fox

— From Safal Niveshak (link)

Hedgehogs survive by just performing one trick (rolling up in a ball), but doing it very, very well. However, it’s the only defence mechanism the hedgehog has, unlike fox. A fox has a number of survival tricks that allows it to evade predators.

Inspired by this observation, the Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin, in his essay titled “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” wrote –

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

In his essay, Berlin argues that writers and thinkers can be divided into two categories –

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.

Hedgehogs have a tendency that they torture the reality so that it fits their worldview. They are like the proverbial man with hammer who sees every problem like a nail.

Hedgehogs approach history and the current events with a deductive frame of mind. They have a certain framework and they try to absorb all the facts into that framework. Their modus operandi is to extend their favourite theory to as many different domains possible. They exude supreme confidence, a typical characteristic of all the experts.

Foxes acknowledge the fact that the universe is complicated and inherently unpredictable. They’re unsure about future because inside their head, they have myriad of contradicting insights coming from different disciplines. Doubting everything and thinking in terms of odds and probabilities is how they operate. They hold their beliefs loosely and change their mind as soon as the facts change.”

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