Monthly Archives: January 2020

The hedgehog and the fox

This follows Sir Isaiah Berlin in a series of
posts on Isaiah Berlin’s The hedgehog and the fox.
The first was Hedgehogs and foxes.

We were talking about Isaiah Berlin. As an undergraduate I had to get to grips with his thoughts on ‘Verification’ and ‘Empirical Propositions and Hypothetical Statements’, blissfully unaware that he had also written about foxes and hedgehogs. Continue reading

Sir Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin during the reception of the Erasmus Prize, Oct. 1983

Isaiah Berlin in 1983

Last time we mentioned The Hedgehog And The Fox, by Isaiah Berlin, a British philosopher and polymath who died in 1997. He was born in 1909 in Riga, which is now the capital of Latvia, but at the time was in Livonia, then part of the Russian Empire. When he was six his family moved to Petrograd (now St Petersburg), where he witnessed the 1917 revolutions. The family then moved to the UK in 1921. He went to Oxford, where he became a fellow of All Souls College in 1932. During World War II he worked for the British Diplomatic Service, including a spell at the British Embassy in Washington. In 1957 he was appointed Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford, and also knighted.

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Hedgehogs and foxes

European hedgehog

European hedgehog

Hedgehogs were fairly common in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up. Or at least they were in our corner of Hertfordshire, which we called either Watford or Bushey depending on how urban or rural we were feeling at the time. Now and again we found them shuffling in the woods or they would just appear in our garden and adopt us in exchange for a bread and milk diet.

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