In today’s world we are constantly flooded with information (real or fake) and it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern what is reliable and choose what to read, or watch, first. Il Circolo has the ambition to become one of your choices. ‘’The fox and hedgehog’’ is our brand new blog and you will find it on Il Circolo restyled website.
Why such a strange name? Well, marketing teaches us that strange names stick easier in people’s minds but the choice, here, has a deeper meaning.
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This fragment of a poem by the Greek poet Archilochus has baffled scholars for centuries. What does it mean?
Seventy years ago, Isaiah Berlin, a famous historian and philosopher, decided to elaborate a theory around this mysterious line and apply it, in his case, to Russian literature.
So, we have the hedgehog that ‘’knows one big thing’’. It can be applied to people that have one unitary vision of the world, a main guiding principle and see everything through that lens. They are consistent, and reliable but not very flexible in the light of change.
And then we have the fox that ‘’knows many things’’. Again, we can imagine another type of character, maybe less inflexible, open to new concepts and ideas, in other words able to adjust to a changing environment.
It was a creative theory, and it quickly developed into a psychological study and an intellectual game. Look around you, and you can certainly recognise hedgehogs and foxes in your colleagues and friends.
The fox and the hedgehog have also become stereotypes in the business world. It is better to employ a hedgehog that pursues, doggedly, one objective or a fox, able to deal with many things but, perhaps, does not excel in anything?
Probably, in business as in life, a mix of both is best. Il Circolo itself is a very good example: relentlessly hedgehog in their charity mission of collecting funds to help deserving students and flighty fox in their promotion of Italian culture in the UK. Culture holds, within itself, the concepts of curiosity, discovery, and experimentation. A fox attitude is the only way to try to follow what’s happening in an ever-developing world of art and culture.
Isaiah Berlin’s book of the same title was published in 1953 and was a great success. It was conceived as an essay on Tolstoy in which the author underlines the distinction between those people (foxes) who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things and those (hedgehogs) who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system. Berlin reached the conclusion that Tolstoy longed for a unitary vision, but ‘’his marvellous perception of people, things, and the moments of history was so acute that he could not stop himself from writing as he saw, felt, and understood. He was by nature a fox who wanted to be a hedgehog’’.
Our blog ‘The Fox and The Hedgehog’ is curated by Vincenzo Cappelluto.