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27 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Michael Flately Experience, 26 Oct 2011
This review is from: The Open Society and Its Enemies (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
I'll start with the positive aspects. For a philosopher, and one for whom English was a second language, Popper writes with great clarity and an engaging tone which makes this an easy read. During my tenure as a philosophy student I also found this book incredibly useful, because if there's one thing better than a well-written, inspirational work when studying the subject, it's a well-written work of extreme and untenable interpretations. The scope for criticism is huge, so I recommend reading it for academic purposes especially.

Given the context of writing during the Second World War, Popper's methods in the defence of liberalism are absolutely understandable. However, as a supposedly unbiased academic they are unforgivable. Like many others, he fails to appreciate the nuances of the Greek city-state system and the idea of the polis in the Republic, instead assuming that Plato can be taken at face value and translated directly into modern political terminology in a way that conveniently serves his purpose. The city-in-speech which Popper criticises, for example, was never intended to be a political guide for 'totalitarianism', it is abstracted from the unreasoned desires of eros, not from reason itself - I recommend the section on Plato in Leo Strauss' 'History of Political Philosophy' for a good explanation.

On Hegel, I can only assume that Popper knows how ridiculous his analysis is, as he clearly doesn't take the philosopher's work seriously at all. I feel I need only point out that he not only misquotes Hegel but uses 'quotations' that have subsequently been shown to be entire fabrications (by the sources, not Popper himself) to make my point. Hegel is never mentioned in Mein Kampf and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Popper had never read a single piece of his work in its entirety. It is possibly the most overblown and criminal misrepresentation of one philosopher by another ever put to paper. I suggest Peter Singer or David James as more even-handed commentators if you're looking for an introduction to the great German. The final section of the book is a criticism of Stalinism masquerading as a criticism Marxism, as such there's little to disagree with except his attribution of these views to Marx. I suggest simply reading Marx himself to appreciate the huge over-emphasis Popper places on his comments on 'historicism'. Though its importance in 20th century political philosophy cannot be denied, this work has dated badly because its biased view is now so out of context. This is not to say that Nazism and Stalinism did not warrant such a polemic, of course, but hell will surely freeze over before I buy into the explanation that Plato was responsible for them.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Dec 2011 03:23:58 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Dec 2011 03:28:47 GMT
telis says:
I am quite sure you definitely don't know what Schopenhauer wrote on Hegel and you are likely impressed by the "Weltgeist" of Hegel, who did not know what he wrote about and he wrote about what he did not know of. Don't forget: Hegel did rape the wonderful german language. I say there are three terrible things regarding literature/philosophy: to read Keats in German, Goethe in English and Hegel in German.

Posted on 21 Dec 2011 00:49:05 GMT
Lark says:
Best review of Popper's writing I've read, very fair and even handed. Probably more fair than Popper deserves. Good review. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 21:31:37 GMT
I am warry of being over complimentary of Hegel, I certainly don't enjoy reading him in English and have no plans to attempt it in German. I do like the balance of deontology and consequentialism in his ethics, but I definitely don't hold him in the same regard as, say, Kant, and didn't intend to give that impression. What I deplore, however, is bitterness or fear posing as objective academia, something of which Schopenhauer, while a fine philosopher, was as equally guilty of as Popper; I have indeed read some of his comments, in full knowledge of the fact that Hegel was responsible for the unpopularity of Schopenhauer's lectures during his brief time at the University of Berlin due to a timetabling clash. He didn't take it well....

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2012 21:36:33 GMT
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2012 14:10:50 BDT
GT BOX says:
Fantastic review !Well reasoned,balanced and passionate, without falling into Vitriol.

Posted on 6 Mar 2013 09:03:31 GMT
Well put Michael. Thanks for your comment.
I am trying to read "The Poverty of Historicism" right now and i find myself turning to reviews like yours to get a bananced context of Popper and his work which seems to be unquestioningly accepted today.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2013 20:53:30 BDT
Unquestioningly accepted? By whom?
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