Though this final book is not the most accessible of Stephen Jay Gould's meditations on science and culture, it is a complex and revealing look at one of the late paleontologist's great passions: the unity of human endeavour. The titular hedgehog and fox refer to the classic dichotomy of persistence opposed to agility of thought, which Gould uses as a backbone in comparing, contrasting and balancing science and the humanities. Unlike many scientists, he does not consider humanities (nor religion) to be inferior to his discipline.
Drawing liberally from Renaissance and Scientific Revolution sources, Gould shows that the perceived differences in the two cultures are mostly false. Readers of EO Wilson's Consilience will find many similarities here, though Gould emphatically rejects Wilson's conclusion that reductionism is an appropriate way to unite the two cultures and offers examples of when such an approach might fail.
If we discover that a majority of human cultures have favored infanticide under certain conditions, and that such a practice arose for good Darwinian reasons, shall we then claim that we have resolved the question of the rightness of such a practice with a "yea"?
This volume is presented by its editor almost unchanged from the manuscript Gould had finished shortly before his death. The result is a book with such unedited detail that its dense blend of history and philosophy is at times overwhelmingly difficult. Nevertheless, Gould's deeply held conviction that human understanding comes from every one of our cultural efforts shines through. --Therese Littleton, Amazon.com
About the Author
Stephen Jay Gould was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and professor of geology at Harvard and the curator for invertebrate palaeontology in the university's Museum of Comparative Zoology. He died in May 2002.