Have you wondered what Plato was all about or had trouble reading through his lengthy works Get this wonderful book where an outstanding author does the hard work for you, then lays out the gist of Plato s thoughts in clear, easily and quickly readable prose.Behind our societies lie influential ideas, philosophies about the best way to organize humanity In a few cases, the general public might be able to associate a person with an idea Marx and communism, Jefferson and American democracy but for the most part the philosophers whose thoughts deeply impact the way things are remain unknown Too many think of philosophy as irrelevant to daily life the verbose and complex musings of pointy headed intellectuals that have no impact Nothing could be further from the truth Neo conservatism and neo liberalism are philosophies that have driven America into a ditch, yet few citizens would be able to say anything about what these two philosophies are about, who the proponents have been or how the philosophies came to be Ideas drive civilization The only reason this is not clear to us is that we are concerned with the details of getting on with our lives We re all deeply embedded in ideas made real whose lifetimes far exceed that of a human being It s easy to have no perspective as we live out life under one system and know no other Things appear the way they are with no alternative This is a problem If you don t know how something works, how can you begin to fix it If you can t fix it, it deteriorates until tyranny and then revolution follow, bringing a new idea in on a tide of blood Democracy in particular is a work always in progress A democracy where the citizenry drops out, loses interest, becomes cynical, hands over power to the powerful who are than willing to take it But I am speaking of current events To the book.The ancient Greeks are acknowledged to be the founders of Western thought, the thought that comes down through history to the present day in America and Europe, and they put democracy into practice One of these ancient Greeks, Socrates d 399 BCE , is a name most of us have heard as well as that of his pupil, Plato, and of Plato s pupil, Aristotle, who tutored Alexander the Great Plato, the founder of the first academy and a prolific writer, left his thoughts well documented Our knowledge of Socrates comes mostly from Plato, who often in his writings put words into the mouth of Socrates in addition to detailing the Socratic method Plato has never been far from the thoughts of the powerful in the Western world ever since.Karl Popper writes his book this one is part one of two to warn us of the danger in Plato s thoughts, so widely venerated over the ages, as they are a prescription for totalitarianism, the enemy of the open society The open society is one where individuals are free to determine their lives and to make their own decisions The closed society is one where individual life is important only in how it contributes to the strength of the state The closed society dictates to the individual a life with an assigned status and function.Plato wrote at a time when Athens, a democracy, had recently been defeated by totalitarian Sparta in the 30 year Peloponnesian Wars At this time of anxiety and insecurity, Plato, a sympathizer and admirer of Sparta, lays out a prescription for the ideal state in his Republic a work founded on the desire for stability and a fear of change Plato, a pessimist, believed that there were perfect Ideas and Forms, that, once put into use could not help but degenerate from the originals He seeks to hold back this degeneration as much as possible by the creation of a state that rejects change, demands adherence to order above all things, and forbids novelty which can only hasten decay Popper, drawing evidence from all of Plato s work, makes the case that the good of the state is what Plato considers to be justice Humanity is to be divided up into the rulers, the guardians and the masses including slaves that are to stay in their places through the generations, all serving to maintain the stability of the state with no chance of moving from one class to another Eugenics is to be used to keep the human stock from deteriorating Lies to the public by the rulers are perfectly ok in the service of maintaining a national myth to rally around.With thorough analysis and frequent quotes, Popper indicts Plato in his own words, stripping away the fog of veneration to reveal the harsh ideal that laid the foundation for the kind of thinking exemplified by that of Hitler s National Socialism At the heart of Popper s work is his rejection of what he calls historicism, the idea that there is a historical tide in human events that dictates the future, that we are all floating on a sea of inevitable societal change that will take one form and then another heedless of the individuals that make up the mass, that there is a fate, a destiny to societies Popper sees this as mythological nonsense, but immensely influential and quickly embraced by those thinkers who long for a structure underlying human existence, a meaning, a reason that makes sense of history and that allows prophecy.I have long known of Popper as he is widely admired and quoted but never could get hold of his work Public libraries don t have his books and only a nearby university library did Thanks to I found used copies of The Open Society and Its Enemies for a pittance What I have been missing Volume II moves on from Plato to deal with Hegel and Marx to do the same with them taking apart their grand designs to show the danger within He mentions in volume II that to avoid a huge book on historicism through the ages he skipped over the long period between Plato and Hegel I wish he hadn t because I would eagerly read it. This is one of the most important books written in the 20th century, taken with its second volume a searching analysis of the modes of thinking of development that takes in Plato, Hegel, and Marx The best edition is this one, that keeps detailed analysis in wee tiny print in appendices but be sure to get the full Monty as much of this is fascinating.People have tried to defend Plato against Popper s savage attack on his political theories, but it s pretty hard really Plato was politically very conservative, a defender of autocracy and worse in real life and a theorist of its defence Because of his defence of Socrates he seems to be a defender of freedom, but this really isn t so the implied criticism in Plato s defence of Socrates was of democracy, not the right of free speech Popper made it clear that outside the arena of politics he admired Plato, and so do I The Symposium is a great dialogue that awakens our sense of what it is to love and if Plato s idea that we should love the idea than another human being opens the doors to later tyrrany it does , it is nonetheless a beautiful work But the politics ugh, and Popper does a demolition job that was long overdue. An incredible work on Plato yielding one of the most important interpretations of his philosophy of all time We tend to idealize the great Athenian philosopher but Karl Popper, a philosopher of science, sets the record straight with this scathing indictment of his philosophy and its cruel implications Plato, necessarily was an enemy of democracy due to his best friend and tutor Socrates having been democratically elected to be executed He fought through his philosophy to restrain such a system from existing and established classes which are akin to the Feudal System of the Middle Ages He was certainly an enemy of the Open Society, who believed it just to have classes remain where they are Here is Karl Popper s lasting quote What we want is to moralize politics and not politicize morals Karl Popper. Popper s anti Platonist tract is slander from start to finish the book that inspired Ronald Levinson to write a 645 page rebuttal In Defense of Plato In much of Popper s writing he is a fitting follower of Sextus Empiricus, but here, in a perhaps understandable post Hitler and post Stalin rage, he descends to dogmatic fiction For example, on the very first page Popper counter poses two quotes, one from Pericles that Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it to a passage from the Republic that says to his leader he shall direct his eye and follow him faithfully The second passage that he is quoting comes from a reference to military discipline, but Popper quotes it as if it were a general recommendation for political organization It gets not much better from here. Popper Was Born In To A Viennese Family Of Jewish Origin He Taught In Austria Until , When He Emigrated To New Zealand In Anticipation Of The Nazi Annexation Of Austria The Following Year, And He Settled In England In Before The Annexation, Popper Had Written Mainly About The Philosophy Of Science, But From Until The End Of The Second World War He Focused His Energies On Political Philosophy, Seeking To Diagnose The Intellectual Origins Of German And Soviet Totalitarianism The Open Society And Its Enemies Was The Result In The Book, Popper Condemned Plato, Marx, And Hegel As Holists And Historicists A Holist, According To Popper, Believes That Individuals Are Formed Entirely By Their Social Groups Historicists Believe That Social Groups Evolve According To Internal Principles That It Is The Intellectual S Task To Uncover Popper, By Contrast, Held That Social Affairs Are Unpredictable, And Argued Vehemently Against Social Engineering He Also Sought To Shift The Focus Of Political Philosophy Away From Questions About Who Ought To Rule Toward Questions About How To Minimize The Damage Done By The Powerful The Book Was An Immediate Sensation, And Though It Has Long Been Criticized For Its Portrayals Of Plato, Marx, And Hegel It Has Remained A Landmark On The Left And Right Alike For Its Defense Of Freedom And The Spirit Of Critical Inquiry The edition of this book put out by Princeton University appears in two volumes This review covers the first volume only, titled Plato The Open Society and Its Enemies ranks as one of the greatest and most influential works of political philosophy of the twentieth century Published right as Italy, Germany, and Russia were learning the lessons of what Popper will go on in this book to call a closed society, most people today remember him for philosophical work of a very different kind, mostly in and around what we call the philosophy of science Today he remains best known for his assertion that scientific theories should be falsifiable, i.e., they should be able to be proven wrong by certain observations, or else they are not scientific.Popper tries to take the same principles that he utilizes to talk about scientific methodology and the process of induction and apply them to human endeavors This first volume is devoted almost entirely to Popper s conception of historicism and why he thinks it s so dangerous Then it moves into an extended attack on Plato s political philosophy as found in the Republic, a text that lays out in detail one of the first enunciated political philosophies we have.Historicism, which Popper wants to invalidate in all of its forms, is the idea that, like scientific laws, there are historical and social laws laws that we can discern which govern the behavior of people, governments, and societies Plato spends part of the Republic trying to show that the unchanging nature of the State is what allows for political philosophy Popper makes the clear and convincing argument that, than anything else, the thing that most threatens Plato s ability to create the perfect society is that old Heraclitean bugbear change Plato sees change as the biggest threat to the State apparatus As long as he can keep the Guardian line those who rule and oversee the Republic pure, then the laws will never change, and because human nature and the Platonic forms never change, Plato can successfully claim that he has unlocked the key to constructing the perfect society.What, then, is the open or closed society To give a short answer, the open society looks something very much like a liberal democracy and the values that we usually associate with that form of government The slightly Popperian answer The open society is one in which institutions allow for the pragmatic, piecemeal redress of social and cultural problems, with the key words here being pragmatic and piecemeal The closed society is than just one that lacks these important institutions It lacks them because of the attempted imposition of a totalitarian vision of government For Popper, this totalitarianism usually comes in the form of either historicism or utopianism Instead of slowly, rationally fixing the problems of society as they arise as we would in an open society , a closed society will put forward a timeless, unchanging dictum which must be respected at all costs Marxist historicism, of course, claims that the superstructure of society and culture always rests upon a particular economic base Plato s historicism involves preserving the present function and composition of the State at all costs, no matter what that might mean for the people in society.What is the problem with historicism Why are Marx and Plato so wrong to operate with these guiding assumptions in mind Going back to Popperian scientific methodology, they are completely unfalsifiable that the highest Good is the State, or that a particular economic base always causes a certain kind of cultural superstructure are statements that one might subscribe to, but that one cannot ever illustrate to be wrong When attempts to rectify social ills legislation, for example are written with these unfalsifiable assertions in mind, what results is dogmatic social engineering instead of the pragmatic, piecemeal practice that we are forced to make by virtue of being creatures prone to mistakes When you know that you have the answer to human nature as Plato and Marx would have claimed that they did your answers to social problems tend to be circumscribed, narrow, and extreme protect the Guardians at all costs, separate children from their parents at birth and raise them in a communitarian setting, censure all mimetic arts for Plato , foment a proletarian revolution for Marx Writ large, this part of the text is largely about the limits of human reason and our frequent unwillingness to accept those limits Human understanding of reality is always wholly circumscribed, partial, and fragmented To make things even worse, we often find ourselves for reasons of intellectual laziness, political propaganda, or simple the failure of imagination imagining that we have found The Answer To All Human Problems It is when this happens that, according to Popper, that slow small steps of social progress give way to the wayward pursuit of credulous dogmatism Whether or not you agree with its conclusions, there is a lot to make The Open Society and Its Enemies admirable It was written at a time in history much the Anglophone philosophical world was much interested in writing about the epistemic foundations of mathematics than according addressing real world concerns Anything that couldn t be put under a logical microscope was seen as suspect, including ethics or political philosophy Ironically, it was Popper s compatriot Ludwig Wittgenstein who was largely responsible for philosophy s dismissive attitudes toward these subjects Rarely has a philosopher so keenly and intelligently brought their own body of work to contemporaneous world problems, let alone to have that work become an indispensable classic in its field.A review of Popper s second volume, The High Tide of Prophecy Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath is forthcoming. This is a thorough repudiation of Plato s political and moral philosophy Although I am definitely not any sort of historian or authority on the nature of Plato s philosophy, Popper is convincing enough to make me really question the idealization of Plato he so often mentions.My criticisms are not of Popper s treatment of Plato, but of some of his other contentions on the subject of individualism collectivism and ethics Popper himself creates a table in which individualism is opposed to collectivism, and egoism is opposed to altruism He specifically notes, correctly, that this creates four combinations of possible societies using these terms And he also notes, correctly, that an individualistic society can be altruistic while not egoistic, and that a collectivist society can be egoistic while not altruistic However, since he seems to be firmly opposed to collectivist societies, it seems strange that he doesn t mention at all societies that can be collectivist and altruistic I hope that this will be addressed in Volume II.As to ethics, he suggests replacing the typical utilitarian doctrine of maximizing happiness with minimizing suffering I tend to agree with Popper here That being said, he continues onto a particularly lengthy exposition on the demerits of scientism in ethics That is, he attacks the notion of using scientific methodology too acutely in ethics and emphasizes the impossibility of drawing conclusions about values from facts There is some truth in both of these claims, but the extent to which these practices must not be applied to ethics has been drawn into question by, among others, Sam Harris in his book The Moral Landscape One may forgive Popper, however, because he was well aware of the horrors that came of a rigid adherence in applying the naturalistic often than not fallacy to society, ie social Darwinism.Oh, and as a final criticism, the notes are extensive, probably as long as the text proper considering the size of the font It s always appreciated when an author explains him or herself as thoroughly as possible, but I think Popper could have done a much better job at incorporating the ideas in the notes directly into the text It gets annoying have to flip back and forth between the text and the notes so often I still really enjoyed reading this work, and Popper s overall indictment of historicism is as convincing as ever I m looking forward to reading Volume II. This is an absolutely devastating critique of Plato, which is made all the impressive by the author and the reader openly acknowledging Plato s incredible intellectual powers Plato spotted one of the greatest problems in both politics and individual human life, that of our lack of permanence and lack of truly objective guideposts to direct our actions, and came up with an amazingly elegant solution to the problem Unfortunately, that solution is totalitarianism I ve read most of Plato s works Popper gives him a pretty fair reading The idea of Justice being the good of the city, with good being defined as the city being static rather than dynamic, is not even a controversial interpretation of what Plato is saying And yet, while a modern day Oceania sounds horrible to us, we look upon the Republic as a glorious achievement The goals of the two are the same maintain the ruling class The methods are the same keep the ruling class pure and small and free of desire of material gains, so that their only purpose in life is continuing the rule of their class The tools are not even that different assign people to their place in life, remove anyone questioning the system, and lies from a mystical leader are fine so long as it preserves the system Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is Popper s opinion that Plato s early Socrates largely reflects the historical Socrates, while in later dialogues Socrates begins saying things the real Socrates completely opposed I m convinced by Popper s argument Socrates would not be the Philosopher King Plato would, and he would undoubtedly ban Socrates from living in Callipolis A very good read Looking forward to the second volume Haven t read Hegel and only some Marx, but based on how reasonably Popper portrayed Plato s viewpoints, I m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Karl Popper is my great intellectual reference in life It is a pity that it is not as read and known as Marx Perhaps because the implications of his ideas do not give rise to so many passions.I took this book in a moment of intellectual disillusionment After reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I had to admit that we economists claim to have a knowledge of reality far inferior to what we actually have.Economic science is full of non falsifiable theories and consensuses built for ideological convenience None of these statements is easily accepted by my colleagues, but at one point in that year, I found myself seriously questioning my profession It was this intellectual uneasiness that brought me to this Popper book My intention was to answer the question what can science say about our life in society I think Popper s answer was what I expected not much Indeed, if we accept a liberal normative view that the ideal society is one in which individuals can exercise their individual freedoms and that these are limited only by the freedoms of others, the greatest intellectual challenge is to fight against those who espouse pseudo scientific visions that degenerate into processes of social engineering.In this first volume of the book, Popper says that the basis of historicist thinking the idea that it is possible to know history holistically and predict its long term development is in Plato Popper reconstructs the historical and political context in which Plato elaborated his ideas and identifies in the political opinions of the philosopher a strong normative load influenced by his social position.Popper s idea is that this historicist tradition took root in Western philosophy from the contribution of Plato and, later, through the works of Hegel and Marx, objects of volume II of the book. An essential book for the person who is looking for the roots of hatred of individualism, human intellect and human creativity Plato was the first in line to openly and intellectually declare war on the individual, his poisonous ideas in time fueled many dangerous ideologies including mainstream religions and K.Popper, being the knight defender of egalitarianism, freedom of thought and expression and individualism shows us, NO reveals us how Plato, so called hero of philosophy was actually a monster, who stole from Socrates and bastardized what he learned eventually turning them into weapons against people like Socrates, the gifted individuals Yes, we can see Plato had identified how a society works and how it is managed, he understood the nature of power and state Because he knew how, he also knew how to turn these bastions of civilization into dystopian prisons, weapons of individual destruction as opposed to mass destruction Any idea or ideology that holds the mass over the individual, any idea that seeks to silence the alternatives, any idea that bases itself on the power of the masses and proposes collectivist solutions IS AN IDEA OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION, it is cancer, and Plato was one of the flag bearers of this toxic mindset To hell with him.