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The Open Society and Its Enemies Paperback – Mar 20 2012
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'Some time ago a wise old man came to see me in Prague and I listened to him with admiration. Shortly afterwards I learned that this man had died. His name was Karl Popper'. - Vaclav Havel, from the Preface '!a work of first-class importance which ought to be widely read for its masterly criticism of the enemies of democracy, ancient and modern. ..The book is a vigorous and profound defence of democracy, timely, very interesting, and very well written.' - Bertrand Russell 'One of the great books of the century' - The Times '!a modern classic' The Independent 'Few philosophers!have combined such a vast width of knowledge with the capacity to produce important original ideas as he did.' - The Guardian '!a powerful and important book. Dr Popper writes with extreme clarity and vigour. His studies in Greek history and Greek thought have obviously been profound and original. Platonic exegesis will never be the same again. Nor, I think, will Marxist exegesis.' - Gilbert Ryle '! a brilliant polemic. ..It remains the best intellectual defence of liberal democracy against know-it-all totalitarianism.' - The Economist
About the Author
Sir Karl Popper was one of the foremost philosophers of the Twentieth century. Born in Vienna in 1902, Popper grew up in a city witnessing great intellectual ferment. His relationship with the philosophers and scientists led to his first book, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, published in 1934. On its publication in English in 1959 it was described by The New Scientist as ‘one of the most important documents of the twentieth century’. On the eve of World War Two Popper was forced to flee to New Zealand, where he took up a teaching post at Canterbury University College at Christchurch. It was there, reflecting on the tyranny sweeping through Eastern Europe, that he wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies, published in 1945. In 1946 Popper moved to the London School of Economics, where he taught until his retirement in 1969. This period saw the publication of The Poverty of Historicism, described by the Sunday Times as ‘probably the only book which will outlive this century’. He was knighted in 1965 and appointed Companion of Honour in 1982. He died in 1994.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the later half of the book, Popper examines the work of Hegel and Marx. Both National Socialism and Russian Communism were structured on Hegel and Marx`s ideas. In the case of Carl Marx, Popper deciphers a lot of information. He points out areas of disagreement, and as well agreeing with Marx on several points.
The whole idea of the book, is to point out the reasons behind a closed society. It is important for an open society, to understand how and why a totalitarian society exists. Popper is hoping these understandings, will help prevent an open society from descending into a despotic rule.
This should be required reading for all politicians in all countries. Putin et al would learn from it though I doubt he would apply it. Most American politicians could benefit too. A nice balance to J K Galbraith.
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His reflexions on the “falsifiability” of theories - a hallmark of genuine science - have been influential ever since and are easily misunderstood by the scientifically naive for being “anti-science”. Basically the term can be equated with “testable”. The reason why a negative outcome seems more conclusive is better understood by taking ino account that a positive outcome only confirms a facet of the scientific model of reality, which is never complete. You are probably approaching “truth” as long your theories are being “verified” but you are definitely on the wrong track whenever they are “falsified”. However, for those pursuing “truth” even that outcome is a gem of insight.
In his seminal work “The Open Society and Its Enemies” Karl Popper lays out, the philosophical origins of totalitarian ideas and hasn’t lost one iota of insightfulness. If you are tempted to think that Western “democracies” are further away from totalitarianism than the “People’s Republic of China” you might better think twice once you take into account the power of unelected oligarchs, most visible in the form of the contemporary “European Union”.
For a moment I was tempted to dispose of the book prematurely. The ideas of Plato seemed amateurish, arrogant and elitist to an extent that inevitably arose the question whether the problem was Plato himself or rather Popper’s elaborations.
However, it proved worthwhile to endure the initial drudgery and what remains is a deep disillusion with this “great” philosopher from antiquity. Still, disillusion is the end of an “illusion” and a such invaluable.
The reason why I bought this book in the first place was a debate with political agitators from the extreme-left, true minions of the “politically correct” cast and hard core “Alynskite” in the worst sense.
Ironically, the most extreme among them used to call on “Karl Popper” and his concept of falsification to routinely dismiss objections as if it was an argument in itself. Knowing only quotes from Karl Popper it was a mystery to me that apparent enemies of free thought could plead to K. Popper’s authority. I simply wanted wanted to "understand" this contradictory mindset and don’t get me wrong: Trying to understand a position is not to be confused with sharing it.
If you see Plato advocating totalitarian and elitist ideas in his writings, abusing Socrates as fictitious speaker against the Sophists you get a thorough insight into the character and integrity of this “master thinker” of antiquity.
The Sophists are obviously appreciated by Popper for their free and liberal thinking. Notably Protagoras and Gorgias are depicted as promoting an egalitarian humanism and being defenders of the athenian democracy. It is telling that in some people have denigrated Sophists, giving the term “sophistry" a derogatory twist.
Totalitarianism is still virulent in this world and the reason why it might escape your attention is that the same phenomena is rebranded and relabelled time and again. More often than not this is done consciously to obfuscate the truth on current political and religious affairs.
Popper elaborates extensively on the Hegel and his nefarious influence on German intellectual:
"Hegel Achieved the most miraculous things. A master logician, it what child's Play for his powerful dialectical methods to draw real physical rabbits out of Purely metaphysical silk-hats. Thus, starting from Plato's Timaeus and its number-mysticism, Hegel succeeded in 'proving' by Purely philosophical methods (114 years after Newton's Principia) did the planets must move According to Kepler's laws. He even accomplished1 the deduction of the actual position of the planets, thereby proving deed No Planet Could be situated between Mars and Jupiter (unfortunately, it had escaped his notice did search a planet had been discovered a few months Earlier). "
Popper’s writing style and thinking is clear and straightforward, which contributes greatly to the readability of the book. Moreover, unlike many of his colleagues from the pseudoscience faculties he also shows an impeccable understanding of scientific procedures.
Schopenhauer is quoted with the following word:
“Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before.”
K. Popper doesn’t spare Marxism:
“If it were my aim to write a history of the rise of totalitarianism, I should have to deal with Marxism first; for fascism grew partly out of the spiritual and political breakdown of Marxism. ”
“Social life is violent, Marxism insists, and the class war claims its victims every day. What really matters is the result, socialism. To achieve this result is the essential characteristic of the ‘social revolution’.”
As I said before - “totalitarianism” comes in many flavours and much is to be gained from understanding it nature than being detracted by categorising it along the lines of left, right, materialistic or religious.
A recurring theme is Popper's opposition to "historicism" - the idea that the fate of societes are determined and hence can be "prophesied" - and the importance of "historicism" on thinkers like Plato, Hegel, Marx as well as concepts such as "Psychologism" that ultimatly dependent on "historicism".
The review refers to the Kindle edition and is written by a non-native English speaker.
CONTROVERSIAL AND BRILLIANT
A MASTERPIECE OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
POPPER'S WORK ON PLATO HERE IS UNEQUALED
THIS WORK IS AN INTELLECTUAL PLEASURE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER