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The Open Society and Its Enemies by KarlPopper, ISBN 0691019681 (alternate, search).

An incredibly profound book that starts out to defend the open society as we know it (see OthernessMeme). In order to do that, Popper debunks the great philosophers that have tried to teach the opposite, starting with Plato. Plato argued in TheRepublic for a PhilosopherKing, wise, benign, well educated, controlling a city state controlled by a warrior caste. No plays and no fooling around to corrupt the feeble minded. This, Popper says, cannot be anybody's wish. Life would be miserable. And there is no improvement possible, as all but the king's closest live in humble sheep-like stupidity.

Next are Heidegger and Hegel. Both were magicians with words, wordy magicians, profound, deep. By constant redefinition of words, texts emerged that no sane person could understand. For an example, see Hegel's Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline, ISBN 0826403409 (alternate, search). (Sadly, Schopenhauer who taught at the same university as Hegel, had much less success.) Anyway, Heidegger and Hegel are debunked by Popper.

Hegel was also a defender of historicity, the theory that society advances through stages, finally reaching some state of perfection. This theory is debunked as well, including Karl Marx and his idea of society advancing through stages from capitalism through socialism to communism.

In the last part of the book, Popper examines the problems and the solutions available:

What emerges is the Open Society.

John Dewey was another crusading anti-historicist. Compare his take on Marx in FreedomAndCulture?: "Marxism is 'dated' in the matter of its claims to be peculiarly scientific. For just as necessity and the search for a single all-comprehensive law was typical of the intellectual atmosphere of the forties of the last century, so probability and pluralism are the characteristics of the present state of science."

Where Dewey and Popper diverge, in the view of Richard Rorty (one of Dewey's modern-day descendants), is in Popper's attempt to draw a sharp distinction "between fact and value, and between science on the one hand, and ideology, metaphysics and religion on the other. These were distinctions which both [William] James and Dewey did their best to blur." --LynHeadley

IMO, saying that Heidegger (I haven't read Hegel) can be "debunked" in favour of a scientific approach is like saying that atoms can be debunked in favour of molecules. Either you take his fundamental analysis of modern thinking into account in what you do, or you ignore it. To debunk it entirely (or even reasonably), you'd have to either a) show why the very basis of it is the wrong starting point for Philosophy (which you can't really do without that some other some other basis is the right one), or b) by buying into that basis, and showing specifically why Heidegger's approach is wrong within it. That would probably take a few books on it's own. Nothing wrong with ignoring anyone, but saying that one has "debunked" Heidegger as an excuse for ignoring him is a bit dishonest, I think. --DruOjaJay

I haven't read this book, but the criticism of TheRepublic sounds like a straw man to me. Plato did advocate for an oligarchy, but the main point I got was that politics should be governed by logic and reason. Plato was certainly not an advocate of blindly following authority. Popper's view of Plato was probably too distorted by the rise of fascism. -- JoeHendrix?

Read Popper and you will find that he didn't take things lightly (my German paperback version of the OpenSociety is 900+ pages). Read Plato and you will find hardly anything that makes sense from a modern democratic viewpoint. By the way, I don't know any philosopher who doesn't refer to logic - the problem is that each one defines his own way of logic. -- HelmutLeitner



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