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The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History Paperback – January 28, 1993
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a HIGHLY readable book though probably only one that should be read after having read 'War and Peace'. In combination, the boring sections of 'War and Peace' and this book provide a pretty interesting dialogue and line of thought that can be comprehended by most anyone.....
This is a beautiful book and one that can be appreciated by tons the teeming multitudes and not just self-righteous undergraduates at small colleges in Massachusetts. Berlin is a very readable philosopher, which explains much of the reason WHY he is held in such esteem in the Anglo-American philosophical community....
Finally, who could ever say that this little tiny red book was worth neither the effort nor the expense. A must-buy.
What is interesting is that Berlin himself was fundamentally a fox in the world of ideas. He believed that there could be no one fundamental system explaining all. He not simply reveled in the variety of ideas, but he thought in terms of values that ' ideal ends' even within the individual's own thought are incompatible. That is that it is not simply a question of the ' variety of the world' which confounds the system - builder but the ' inherent contradictions ' within it , which cannot be resolved into any great single Platonic or Hegelian system.
A celebrator of the variety of life and existence Berlin saw that Tolstoy could represent and create such variety in the highest possible way while still somehow wishing he were able to unite it all into one.
Apparently there is 'no unified field theory' in the world of history or the history of ideas , either.
Tolstoy, according to Berlin, is a fox (whose talent is by the way in precisely being a fox), who is however convinced in the ways of the hedgehog. Tolstoy is at his greatest when he describes the subtle undertones of human existence, these barely perceptible little differences which makes living so full and colorful, range of emotions and feelings. He does not believe, however, that this is all that is, and insists on some ill-defined fundamental truth. This makes his writing wooden, unhistorical, and simplistic at times.
Berlin makes a perceptive observations on the interest of Tolstoy's in some of the figures of Counter-Enlightenment (such as Maestre and Vico). These proponents of the view of the world which denies all-pervasive powers of reductionist science and allocates the central place to a simple idea (e.g. Christian moral idea) are closer to Tolstoy; and from this point of view and interest Tolstoy's last "religious" period owes its inspiration.Read more ›
Berlin claims that there are two broad categories of thinkers: hedgehogs and foxes. Hedgehogs single-mindedly pursue one ideological goal and organize their thoughts in relation to it. Foxes are knowledgeable in a number of areas but do not specialize in any one.
The basic claim of Berlin's essay is that Tolstoy is a fox masquerading as a hedgehog. Tolstoy desperately wants to believe in a single thing, but is thwarted by his own personality. This dynamic profoundly affects Tolstoy's view of history. As a fox, he exposes past philosophies of history as the oversimplifications they are. They do not sufficiently take into account the complexity of every event and of every individual. However, Tolstoy is unable to produce the positive theory of history which he demands of himself (i.e. he is unable to make himself a hedgehog).
Berlin's essay is a very innovative and interesting interpretation of an aspect of Tolstoy's thought that is frequently dismissed. It is also a work of literary and philosophical criticism. Its tone is academic, and if Tolstoy's own digressions in WAR AND PEACE bore you, you may not want to pick this book up. Given the interest, though, this book is a thought-provoking complement to the work of this sometimes enigmatic Russian author.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a lovely surprise to receive this book with an original newspaper clipping on Isaiah Berlin. Thank you so much!Published 18 months ago by pollopicu
This book should be in every kindle and on every book shelf - I am continuing to share this book with others.Published on May 29, 2014 by S. W. Morris
One of the twentieth century's most incisive philosophers explores the psyche of one of the nineteenth century's most brilliant novelists. Read morePublished on February 3, 2014 by Andrew
From the superficial point of view one could view this essay as being about Tolstoy's (evolving) views of the world but, as is the case with superb historical/comparativist works,... Read morePublished on April 21, 2013 by kaioatey
"The fow knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big ting." Berlin's most influential essay. Highly recommended. Read morePublished on March 30, 2013 by polscistoic
Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) was a British social and political philosopher/theorist of Russian-Jewish origin, well-known as a historian of ideas. Read morePublished on February 22, 2013 by Steven H Propp
This is an extended essay, 95 pages in this copy. Sir Isaiah Berlin applies the conceit that human thinkers are either: `hedgehogs" - focused on single topics / world views, or... Read morePublished on December 24, 2012 by Phred
According to Isaiah Berlin's "The Hedgehog and the Fox", the meaning of the ancient Greek Archilochus' quote was to divide the world between people with two markedly different... Read morePublished on March 29, 2012 by Peter Monks
Berlin took up an idea from the Greek poet Archilocus, that the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog one big thing, and accordingly labeled as hedgehogs or foxes a parade of... Read morePublished on November 29, 2011 by Lost John