Isaiah Berlin, a significant thinker and writer of the late 20th century, made an old idea popular as a way to distinguish different kinds of other thinkers. The Greek poet Archilochus offered the idea that ‘the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’
and Berlin makes good use of it.
(You might go to the wikipedia entry on ‘the hedgehog and the fox‘ for more information).
As many of you are embarking either on a new school year or getting ready for your IB exams, it might be useful to reflect on which of the two images more closely identifies your intellectual inclinations and what that might mean for the business at hand.
If you’re getting ready to sit the exams,the metaphor might shed some light on what mode of review suits you best, will yield the best results: can you plan on being able to select what you need to respond to exam questions from a whole and perhaps linear arrangement (or a cloud) or are you better with building your review around one central concept (or several)?
For those of you embarking on a new academic year, is it useful to think about how you can hold the materials for each course together with a strong center or whether you are better with a “clothesline” approach where you know where you can reel in what you need to write a paper or take a test?
Obviously, the metaphor limps somewhat, but it’s an idea to play with as you evolve your identity on the academic side of things.