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January 24, 2021

Be a fox, not a hedgehog

One interesting idea in Matthew Syed’s Sunday Times piece on how social media sound bite culture is destroying nuance in complex debates:

In a wise essay in 1953, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin contrasted two types of thinker: the hedgehog and the fox. The hedgehog has one big idea. It reduces everything to this one idea. Everything else is filtered out. The fox, conversely, has lots of ideas. It likes to see the broader context, how concepts fit together, and is anxious to bring more information to light.

Berlin’s point — although he made it subtly — is that it is psychologically easier to be a hedgehog, but to understand a complex world, it pays to be a fox.

We need more foxes.