Read The Open Society and Its Enemies: Volume II: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath by Karl Popper Free Online
Book Title: The Open Society and Its Enemies: Volume II: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath|
The author of the book: Karl Popper
Date of issue: March 31st 1968
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 8.56 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.3
ISBN 13: 9780415051347
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This is the second volume of Popper's work that warns of the great influence of thinkers who were no friends of the open society, a society in which the rights of the individual are valued over the glory of the state.
In volume one, Popper uses Plato's writings, quoted extensively, to indict Plato very effectively as an advocate of totalitarianism. In this volume, it is Hegel and Marx that are up on charges of abandoning reason for historicism, Popper's term for a mythological belief that there is a force directing the course of societies that dictates their fate and, by extension, allows prophecy about what societies will come.
Historicism defeats effort. Why should you and I do anything when the lessons of the past dictate an inevitable future, for better or worse? The future will be inevitably worse, part of the predictable degeneration from the original ideal thought Plato, a pessimist, while Hegel and Marx, optimists, thought improvement was the rule.
Hegel is all but entirely dismissed by Popper as a pretentious windbag writing difficult if not unintelligible prose about a world spirit moving through the ages coming to fruition in the the glorious Prussian monarchy by which Hegel was employed to philosophize for the state. For him, there is no higher calling for the individual than to be of service to the state.
Marx, on the other hand, is given a significant amount of credit by Popper for being a very observant, insightful analyst of capitalism as it had developed up to the time at which Marx wrote his magnum opus, Capital (1867). Where Marx falls down, Popper writes, is in his prediction of the inevitable demise of capitalism at the feet of the proletariat (the working people) and his far too simplistic view of society as composed of only two classes, the workers and the bourgeoisie (the employers/capitalists). This mystical view of the future turned out to be wrong. The most obvious reason for the error is that Marx could not foresee the power of labor, through democracy, to impose restrictions on capitalism, taming it for a while.
Popper's reasoning here, written in 1962, fails to see the power of capitalism to come roaring back in our time to essentially dismantle all of the reforms (and the unions) that restrained it, doing so through the corruption of democracy by unrestricted campaign funding that empowers the corporate lobbies. But this doesn't detract from Popper's argument, he would never claim to be able to predict the future.
As powerful as volume 1 was in explaining the writing of Plato for the layman, volume 2 is even more powerful in explaining the voluminous writing of Marx, not in detail but in the fundamental ideas that Marx was attempting to relate to his readers. Thanks to Popper, I have never understood the basis of Marx' work as well as I do now, nor the atmosphere of the time in which Marx wrote that so forcefully directed his thoughts.
This book is well worth reading for two reasons.
The first is that Popper demonstrates the power of reason in the careful way he writes and the distance he goes to provide evidence for his thinking. This work is most of all a defense of reason. Popper is adamant that for reason to work, ideas must be able to contend for approval. Argument is vital. Advance comes only out of disputes that are resolved on evidence, concerning society this means the evidence found from "piecemeal engineering" where society is exposed to change in one small area at a time and the result is seen to be beneficial or not. Never will some grand plan for a new society work because it can never account for the many errors in detail and the internal contradictions that will defeat it. In the face of unavoidable problems with a grand plan, it will end up imposed no matter what, meaning heads will roll to take care of opposition (see the French Revolution). This is exactly the opposite of a just society that values the individual.
The second reason to read this book is to get a solid grip on Marx, a man Popper feels was a humanitarian at heart, honestly eager to advance the cause of the virtually helpless multitudes of the mid 19th century. Though Marx was a believer in reason he was unable to hold to it, falling victim to a view of inevitable social change in a specific way that would follow his prophesy. That prophesy, thoroughly discredited by events since his time, has unfortunately led most to make the error of dismissing his work entirely.
As for Popper's writing, a high school student would have no trouble following the logic and just might learn the power of logic in the process.
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Read information about the authorSir Karl Raimund Popper, FRS, rose from a modest background as an assistant cabinet maker and school teacher to become one of the most influential theorists and leading philosophers. Popper commanded international audiences and conversation with him was an intellectual adventure—even if a little rough—animated by a myriad of philosophical problems. He contributed to a field of thought encompassing (among others) political theory, quantum mechanics, logic, scientific method and evolutionary theory.
Popper challenged some of the ruling orthodoxies of philosophy: logical positivism, Marxism, determinism and linguistic philosophy. He argued that there are no subject matters but only problems and our desire to solve them. He said that scientific theories cannot be verified but only tentatively refuted, and that the best philosophy is about profound problems, not word meanings. Isaiah Berlin rightly said that Popper produced one of the most devastating refutations of Marxism. Through his ideas Popper promoted a critical ethos, a world in which the give and take of debate is highly esteemed in the precept that we are all infinitely ignorant, that we differ only in the little bits of knowledge that we do have, and that with some co-operative effort we may get nearer to the truth.
Nearly every first-year philosophy student knows that Popper regarded his solutions to the problems of induction and the demarcation of science from pseudo-science as his greatest contributions. He is less known for the problems of verisimilitude, of probability (a life-long love of his), and of the relationship between the mind and body.
Popper was a Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the British Academy, and Membre de I'Institute de France. He was an Honorary member of the Harvard Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Economics, King's College London, and of Darwin College Cambridge. He was awarded prizes and honours throughout the world, including the Austrian Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold, the Lippincott Award of the American Political Science Association, and the Sonning Prize for merit in work which had furthered European civilization.
Karl Popper was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965 and invested by her with the Insignia of a Companion of Honour in 1982.
(edited from http://www.tkpw.net/intro_popper/intr...)