Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies: Report from initial contact.

I have the habit of slogging through the front matter of books, and my edition has no fewer than three prefatory essays, not counting the preface and the introduction.  One point I found amusing: it seems his students liked to refer to the book as "The Open Society by One of its Enemies."  This is a reference to the fact that the author of a book on the essential need for open criticism was himself fiercely intolerant of it when the target was his own work.  Such is the nature of man and life.

Since I happen to be simultaneously reading Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy I thought it interesting to compare the chapters each devoted to Heraclitus.  I think that Karl Popper is somewhat limited by his polemical purpose (trying to establish a history of what he calls 'historicism', or seeing ineluctable outcomes in history), but my overall impression is that his prose is leaden, at best workmanlike.  By contrast, Russell is sparkling, sometimes discursive,  insightful, and frequently witty.

Of course I haven't gotten to the core of Popper's argument yet, and I doubt that I will find much to object to in it.

Popper's philosophical targets are Plato, Hegel, and Marx.  I know a only a very little about Plato and next to nothing about Hegel or Marx.  There are two Platos, it seems to me.  One describing what seems to be the historical Socrates and another devoted Plato's own ideas, but still ascribed to Socrates.  I like the former a lot more than the latter.

To be continued.


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