The Fox and the Hedgehog


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A one-hour plus lecture that aims to introduce Isaiah Berlin's "foxes and hedgehogs" framework to Chinese ESL students.

First, the origins of the terms are explained, then the students are shown several classical examples of the two archetypes, and finally the students are asked to apply the concepts of foxes and hedgehogs to Chinese history and in their own lives.

The target student is intermediate and above. Terminology is kept simple, especially the personality section based on Philip Tetlock (2005).

Published in: Education
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  • I expected to see Xi Jinping in there after Deng Xiaoping :)
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The Fox and the Hedgehog

  1. 1. THE FOX AND THE HEDGEHOGA lecture on human thought and nature.
  2. 2. The fox knows many things,but the hedgehog knows onebig thing.—Archilochus, c. 650 B.C.
  3. 3. OUR CASTThe fox. The hedgehog.
  4. 4. STARTER QUESTIONS What do Chinese think of foxes? Is a fox considered a“good” animal? How do Westerners think of foxes? What is a hedgehog? What is the “one big thing” it knows? What does the quote tell us about people? Are there any similar idioms in Chinese?
  6. 6. LEO TOLSTOYb. 1828 d. 1910Russian author.What do you know abouthim?
  7. 7. SIR ISAIAH BERLINb. 1909 d. 1997Born in Russia, moved toBritain in 1921.One of the greatphilosophers of the 20thcentury.
  8. 8. BERLIN ON TOLSTOY Analyzed Tolstoy in apopular essay in 1953 basedon Archilochus What was Tolstoy? • Many talents, like a fox • Believed we should be hedgehogs!
  9. 9. FOXES VS. HEDGEHOGS According to Berlin, • Foxes are interested in “seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves, without, consciously or unconsciously, seeking to fit them into [a] unitary inner vision.” • Hedgehogs have a “central vision, one system less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel – a single, universal, organizing principle….” A difference in thinking style more than in belief
  10. 10. A COGNITIVE STYLE Hedgehogs are more likely to shape the world; most “Great Men”of history were hedgehogs Foxes, according to Tetlock (2005), are better at prediction;hedgehogs ignore data that don’t fit Foxes “data mine” the work of the best hedgehogs Dividing thinkers into “foxes” and “hedgehogs” is an “intellectualgame” we can play
  12. 12. RULES OF THE GAME An “intellectual game” like a personality test Reflects two kinds of thinkers • Foxes are open-minded, pragmatic, and often change their minds. • Hedgehogs are conservative, passionate, and connect everything to a single idea. We play the game by sorting people into foxes andhedgehogs
  13. 13. PLATOHedgehog.
  14. 14. ARISTOTLE Fox.
  15. 15. DA VINCI Fox.
  16. 16. MICHELANGELO Hedgehog.
  17. 17. SHAKESPEARE Fox.
  18. 18. WASHINGTON Hedgehog.
  19. 19. FRANKLIN Fox.
  20. 20. MARXHedgehog.
  21. 21. HITLERHedgehog.
  22. 22. CHURCHILL Hedgehog.
  23. 23. EINSTEIN Hedgehog.
  24. 24. GATES Fox.
  25. 25. JOBSHedgehog.
  26. 26. RECENT US PRESIDENTS FOXES HEDGEHOGS Barack Obama  George W. Bush Bill Clinton  Ronald Reagan George H.W. Bush  Jimmy Carter
  28. 28. OUR GAME We’ll look at figures from Chinese history and literature Are they hedgehogs or foxes? Why?
  29. 29. CONFUCIUS
  30. 30. LAOZI
  31. 31. SIMA QIAN
  32. 32. ZHUGE LIANG
  33. 33. CAO CAO
  34. 34. WU ZETIAN
  35. 35. NURHACI
  36. 36. QIANLONG
  37. 37. CIXI
  38. 38. DR. SUN
  40. 40. LU XUN
  41. 41. MAO
  42. 42. ZHOU
  43. 43. DENG
  44. 44. ZHANG YIMOU
  45. 45. JACK MA
  46. 46. I, HEDGEHOG (OR I, FOX?)
  47. 47. A QUIZ Let’s look at our own way of thinking Get out a piece of paper To begin, decide if you think you or a fox or a hedgehog • If a fox, +7 points • If a hedgehog, -7 points
  48. 48. QUESTION ONE Scholars are more likely to exaggerate the complexity of theworld than to underestimate the world’s complexity. Subtract 3 points if you say YES Add 3 points if you say NO
  49. 49. QUESTION TWO We can now successfully create simple and correctexplanations of politics. Subtract 5 points if you say YES Add 5 points if you say NO
  50. 50. QUESTION THREE I think politics is more unpredictable than predictable. Add 4 points if you say YES Subtract 4 points if you say NO
  51. 51. QUESTION FOUR More problems are caused by giving up good ideas tooquickly than by sticking with bad ideas too long. Subtract 5 points if you say YES Add 5 points if you say NO
  52. 52. QUESTION FIVE Having clear rules and order at work is essential for success. Subtract 2 points if you say YES Add 2 points if you say NO
  53. 53. QUESTION SIX I always listen to different opinions, even if I have alreadymade a decision. Add 5 points if you say YES Subtract 5 points if you say NO
  54. 54. QUESTION SEVEN I dislike questions that can be answered in many differentways. Subtract 6 points if you say YES Add 6 points if you say NO
  55. 55. QUESTION EIGHT I usually make important decisions quickly and confidently. Subtract 4 points if you say YES Add 4 points if you say NO
  56. 56. QUESTION NINE When people have an argument, I can see the good points(and bad points) on both sides. Add 5 points if you say YES Subtract 5 points if you say NO
  57. 57. QUESTION TEN I hate listening to people who can’t make up their mind. Subtract 3 points if you say YES Add 3 points if you say NO
  58. 58. QUESTION ELEVEN I enjoy being around people who have different opinionsfrom me. Add 4 points if you say YES Subtract 4 points if you say NO
  59. 59. QUESTION TWELVE When trying to solve a problem I often see so many optionsthat it is confusing. Add 1 point if you say YES Subtract 1 point if you say NO
  60. 60. SCORINGAdd up your pointsYour score can be anywhere from +54 to -54 • The more negative score, the more you are a hedgehog • The more positive score, the more you are a fox No “pure foxes” or “pure hedgehogs” Do you agree with your result? Why/why not?
  61. 61. Thanks for listening!ANY QUESTIONS?