Saturday, April 21, 2007

Foxy butterfly chaser: a mini-meme

Natasha Mitchell was talking to the charming Jerome Kagan on All in the Mind on Radio National this afternoon. They were discussing childhood development and temperament, and at one point Kagan said this:

'Remember Isaiah Berlin talked about, there are 'foxes' and 'hedgehogs'. Foxes know a little bit about a lot of things and hedgehogs know a lot about just one or two things. Well similarly there are two kinds of scientists, then there's those who fit in neither group. But group one are hunters, they had a very strong need to discover an unambiguous fact, this is a permanently true fact, and I call them hunters because that's like you go out, you're going to get a moose and that trophy is put up on the wall and there it is - forever.

... Then there are butterfly chasers. Butterfly chasers fall in love with a certain aspect of nature, they know that all facts are transient, science is always changing but they're in love with this aspect of nature. And they want to find out something about it, even if it's a brief glimpse. So they're in a forest, they're looking for a particular butterfly and if they find it and can see it for 30 seconds, that's enough for them.'

So, what are ya?


steve said...

PC, this reminds me of the difference between a GP and a Specialist in the medical field. One knows less and less about more and more while the other knows more and more about less and less.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Depressing, but true.

TimT said...

The wise old owl sat on an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard:
Why aren't we more like that wise old bird?

The sly old fox, he talked for years
To anyone with open ears:
The more he talked, the more he knew:
And some of it was even true!

I'd say 'fox'. I'm interested in everything and anything, and can still spend just as many happy hours with the Fortean Times as well as the New Scientist.

Bernice said...

Butterfly chaser.

Ampersand Duck said...

Yeah, butterfly chaser, definitely. And I am too.

shula said...

Butterfly chaser, through and through.

elsewhere said...

Oh, I'm a fox definitely, or I wouldn't have ended up where I am.

I've come across this dichotomy before in a travelling metaphor -- I can't think of the name of the categories, but the breakdown is whether you seek to do a city in detail or rush round a country, trying to see as much as possible.

TimT said...

I've been trying to remember a wonderful quote by Chesterton about the difference between country and city; something about streets in the city leading to definite places, while streets in the country didn't. (That's vague, but it's the best I can do at the moment). Any suggestions, anyone?

JahTeh said...

I'd have to say butterfly and I like nothing better than to find some fact in New Scientist that sends me off in a new direction.

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Mindy said...

I'd like to think I was a butterfly chaser, but deep down I suspect I am really an anally retentive fox, perhaps with butterfly rising.

tigtog said...

I flip between fox and butterfly chaser most days. I have a couple of subjects that I've hedgehogged though.

Zoe said...

Ohh! Pretty butterfly!

suzoz said...

I don't feel as if I'm either.
I don't know what that says about me.