Intellectuals Classified as Hedgehogs or Foxes
   There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog's one defence. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general. For 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, organising 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, for some psychological or physiological cause, related by no moral or aesthetic principle. . . . 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, Nietsche, Ibsen, [and] Proust are, in varying degrees hedgehogs; Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Molie`re, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, [and] Joyce are foxes. (Berlin, 1953, pp. 1-2; Archilochus, 1971, frag. 201)

Historical dictionary of quotations in cognitive science. . 2015.

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