The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

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Synopsis

"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." This ancient Greek aphorism, preserved in a fragment from the poet Archilochus, describes the central thesis of Isaiah Berlin's masterly essay on Leo Tolstoy and the philosophy of history, the subject of the epilogue to War and Peace. Although there have been many interpretations of the adage, Berlin uses it to mark a fundamental distinction between human beings who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things and those who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system. Applied to Tolstoy, the saying illuminates a paradox that helps explain his philosophy of history: Tolstoy was a fox, but believed in being a hedgehog. One of Berlin's most celebrated works, this extraordinary essay offers profound insights about Tolstoy, historical understanding, and human psychology.

This new edition features a revised text that supplants all previous versions, English translations of the many passages in foreign languages, a new foreword in which Berlin biographer Michael Ignatieff explains the enduring appeal of Berlin's essay, and a new appendix that provides rich context, including excerpts from reviews and Berlin's letters, as well as a startling new interpretation of Archilochus's epigram.

 

About Isaiah Berlin

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Isaiah Berlin was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was renowned as an essayist and as the author of many books, among them "Karl Marx, Four Essays on Liberty, Russian Thinkers, The Sense of Reality, The Proper Study of Mankind", and, from Princeton, "Concepts and Categories", "Personal Impressions", "The Crooked Timber of Humanity", "The Hedgehog and the Fox", "The Roots of Romanticism", "The Power of Ideas", and "Three Critics of the Enlightenment". Henry Hardy, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is one of Isaiah Berlin's literary trustees. He has edited several other volumes by Berlin and is currently preparing Berlin's letters and remaining unpublished writings for publication.
 
Published June 2, 2013 by Princeton University Press. 125 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Hedgehog and the Fox

The New York Review of Books

We suggested some qualifications of Berlin’s views, but even if our qualifications are overlooked or rejected, we believe that he is best interpreted as holding, at most, that there are some ways of knowing some realities and alternative ones for knowing other aspects of other realities, and not ...

Sep 25 1980 | Read Full Review of The Hedgehog and the Fox

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