The Hedgehog Effect?
July 13, 2009 8:35 PM   Subscribe

What is the "Hedgehog Effect?" in the context of publishing (or possibly philosophy)?
posted by notbuddha to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
Perhaps you mean Isiah Berlin's essay (.pdf) on the Hedgehog and the Fox? Some quotes and links on the subject. I admire foxes more, and flatter myself that I tend that way, though it's probably presumptuous to judge one's own performance.
posted by Diablevert at 9:13 PM on July 13, 2009

Never heard of it, and I'm finding nothing authoritative either. The phrase googles up a lot of stuff referring to the image of a rolled up or prickly hedgehog (such as a military or architectural formation, or occasionally a chart), and some references to the tenacity of a hedgehog as a model for leadership or business acumen, but it's mostly used descriptively, not idiomatically. If this usage exists, other than idiosyncratically, it has not yet migrated to the Googlesphere.
posted by dhartung at 9:17 PM on July 13, 2009

From this blog post:
It seems to me that many works in the history of early-modern philosophy suffer from the what I hereby dub ``the hedgehog effect''; that is, they treat historical actors as if those actors were systematic thinkers, although they really weren’t. Put poetically, they make foxes into hedgehogs.

... which seems to be an offshoot of a metaphor about foxes and hedgehogs:

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing," the Greek poet Archilochus once said. [...] Generally, the theoretical sciences with their penchant for generalization are hedgehogs; the historical sciences with their emphasis on particulars are foxes.

I don't know how it relates to publishing though.
posted by jschu at 9:17 PM on July 13, 2009

Perhaps you're thinking of the "Hedgehog's Dilemma."
posted by wfrgms at 9:48 PM on July 13, 2009

Another hedgehog related idiomatic concept would be the Hedgehog's Dilema, but again that has nothing to do with publishing.
posted by CheshireCat at 9:59 PM on July 13, 2009

If it is indeed that blog post that's the source of the query, than it's definitely Berlin. The quote itself is ancient, but Berlin's application of it to thinkers and artists in the essay is a well-known trope in philosophy.

From the essay: "Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog’s one defence. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general. For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system, less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel – a single, universal, organising principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance – and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related to no moral or aesthetic principle."

Berlin himself gives these examples:

Hedgehogs: Dante, Plato, Lucretius, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Proust

Foxes: Shakespeare, Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Molie`re, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce

The blog post is suggesting that many scholars, in looking back at the history of philosophy, are too inclined to turn foxes into hedgehogs by cherrypicking particular ideas and suggesting that these concepts marked the philosopher's whole system of thought, e.g. he argues that Descartes would seem at first blush to be a classic hedgehog but if you look at the breadth of his work you see his ideas develop and change quite a bit, sometimes contradicting each other, which is rather foxy.
posted by Diablevert at 11:07 PM on July 13, 2009

I agree its probably Berlin related. But I remembered then I remembered the decision hedgehog: the most incomprehensible paper that Ben Goldacre has ever read.
posted by munchbunch at 7:21 AM on July 14, 2009

that link should be this
posted by munchbunch at 7:22 AM on July 14, 2009

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