GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

December 31, 2013

What does Hedgehog know?

Filed under: GA — Q @ 11:33 am

I understand that there is a spy movie in which one of the spies is codenamed “Hedgehog” and his fellow spies ask, “what does Hedgehog know?” If anyone knows the movie, please share the title with us.

I have a printed copy of the Anthropoetics motto webpage on my office door: “The fox knows many things, the hedgehog, one big thing,” with a photo of a cute European hedgehog.


Visitors often ask about the motto: what does it mean? What is the “one big thing?” Depending on who is asking, and what mood I’m in, I might say something about the ancient Greek origin of the saying and Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay on it, or something about Generative Anthropology, or I might just try to say something funny. When people ask what the hedgehog knows, I’m tempted to say, “the deferral of violence through representation,” but that phrase doesn’t have any meaning for most people, so I usually say something about Generative Anthropology’s focus on the origin of the language. The importance of asking that question is, in one sense, what hedgehog knows.

In my view, the fox is superficial, obsessively collecting details without understanding the larger meaning. The hedgehog is not necessarily a “big picture” thinker, but he knows one thing for sure, he stays with that one thing, and he builds on it slowly to construct something more lasting.

The relationship between the fox and the hedgehog is an interesting issue. The hedgehog, of course, by simply curling up into a ball is able to defeat the fox in all his cunning. But many people don’t see that the hedgehog is really any better or smarter than the fox. And the hedgehog certainly can’t afford to ignore all the data that has been so cunningly collected by the fox. So I think the best answer to the question, “what does hedgehog know?” is “one thing more than the fox.” In other words, the hedgehog knows everything the fox knows, but he puts a foundation or cornerstone under it, so that it all coheres into a meaningful whole.


  1. What’s more our hedgehog appears to be CARRYING on its topside a whole heap of those very inchoate details no foxy thing worth its weight in frivolous fur can afford to comprehend.. our hedgepig would appear in fact to be pricking against the k(L)icks in every way, and when he rolls into a ball he is that learnedmind (landmine)with whose explosively explanatory power every mentality that comes in contact must thenceforth attempt to do business, for at least one decent moment of their lives… hahaha, i am only good, it seems, for yet another debauched drenching in metaphor….

    Comment by Lightweed — January 2, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

  2. (i meant of course to say “..decently pricked moment )

    Comment by Lightweed — January 2, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

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