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The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato 5 Revised Edition

48 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691019680
ISBN-10: 0691019681
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Editorial Reviews


'One of the great books of the century' - Alan Ryan, The Times

'Few philosophershave combined such a vast width of knowledge with the capacity to produce important original ideas as he did.' - Anthony Quinton, The Guardian

'This is a work of great interest and significance, stimulating and suggestive throughout. Dr Popper's virtues are manifold. He has a great fertility of ideas. Almost every sentence gives us something to think about.' - G.C. Field, Philosophy --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Karl Popper (1902-1994). Philosopher, born in Vienna. One of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 5 Revised edition (February 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691019681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691019680
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 157 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on August 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a paperback in two volumes: volume I subtitled "Plato", and volume II subtitled "Hegel and Marx". Each volume has a table of contents, text, addenda, truly awe-inspiring endnotes, an index of names, and of subjects. This is a review of BOTH volumes.
"If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive is belittle them. ...we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men may make great mistakes..." (from the intro to the 1943 edition)
Karl Popper was fighting the war in his own way. He saw what was essentially the same in Stalin and Hitler: a monstrous confidence. They may have drawn on different philosophies of the state, but it came to the same thing in the end: wholesale murder as a tool of social engineering.
But WWII is over, and we won. Moreover, the Soviet Union has collapsed, and we won again. So what is the fuss? Relax: Marxism is dead, Platonism sounds quaint, and who the hell is Hegel, anyway?
But don't rest easy just yet, free-market man! Every four years we seem to reaffirm our need for a philosopher-king. And while the historicist faith is now all tarted-up with computers, networking, and the Fable of the Bees and re-christened "emergent order", it still leaves us feeling smug and moral in doing nothing but tending our own gardens.
Popper is pithy throughout, but I only started noting things (this time around) at the penultimate chapter of the work, 24:
"... the fight against suffering must be considered a duty, while the right to care for the happiness of others must be considered a privilege confined to the close circle of their friends."(vII, p237)
[on language, and the aim of rationalism] "...
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90 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Toby Joyce on September 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I think the title of this review is a true description of this book, but I urge you to judge for yourself. My only regret is that I did not read it many years ago when my head was turned by the siren calls of what Popper calls 'tribalism'. Even then I heard about it and had it pooh-poohed as 'old hat' by 'advanced' thinkers (self-styled!). Often misinterpreted as an attack on Plato, Marx and Hegel, it is in reality a stirring defense of democracy and liberalism, written at democracy's darkest hour. Now that Marxism has collapsed, Popper in an interview given before his death called for us now to look for the 'roads not taken', admitting that embattled western liberalism became, to a certain extent, an unquestioned dogma like its opponents. A good place to start that search is with Popper's greatest book.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Etienne RP on August 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
When confronted with the rise of totalitarianism and the destruction of all that he held dear, Poper felt a single, overwhelming urge: to return to the Greeks, to the dawn of our civilization, so as to understand the root of the evil and to offer a practical way out of bestiality. His search was motivated by the insight that "this civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth--the transition from the tribal or 'closed society', with its submission to magical forces, to the 'open society', which sets free the critical powers of man."

Heraclitus set the stage with his claim that "the cosmos, at best, is like a rubbish heap scattered at random." If "everything is in flux" and "you cannot step twice into the same river", then at least we can try to discover the historical or evolutionary laws which will enable us to prophesy the destiny of man.

Plato's claim to greatness is to have discovered such a law: that "all social change is corruption or decay or degeneration," and that the only way to break this cycle of decay is to arrest development and return to the Golden Age, where no change occurs. His belief in perfect and unchanging things, the Platonic Ideas from which all things originate, finds its expression in all fields of inquiry: be it social justice, nature and convention, wisdom and truth, or goodness and beauty.

Behind these lofty ideals, Popper uncovers a discomforting truth: Plato envisioned the ideal Greek polity as a totalitarian nightmare, where the 'race of the guardians' had to be kept pure from any miscegenation and where the role of the rulers was to breed the human cattle according to some esoteric formula (the 'Platonic Number', a number determining the True Period of the human race).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on May 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This work is by now a most considerable classic whatever one's conclusions, multiple perhaps, about its many theses, and by any standard a compelling study, must read. Becoming well-known after World War II almost as an apologia of liberalism, its roots are in the thirties when the young socialist Popper sees the consequences in action of misapplied theories. Among its many sides, apart from its great argument about historicism, as seen also in The Poverty of Historicism,the work is notable for its sketch of the curious evolution of democracy in world history, and the development of its argument in a discussion of the birth of Greek Democracy. Its discussion of the Great Generation highlights one of the most crucial moments in world history, when democratic freedom struggled to be born. One problem with the argument here is that the opposite of an open society is,indeed, a closed one, but a tribal society is wrongfully typified as such. Popper fails to see that it is more than the transition from tribalism that is involved. It is not the antithesis with tribalism, but the 'openness' of the still semi-tribal yet cosmopolitan Greeks compared with 'closed' societies like the Assyrian or Persian empires. From this period springs Popper's critique of Plato, for which Popper is notorious among some, hero to others. Plato in the philosophic tradition deserved this correction, though not always the rebukes Popper gives him. One of the curiosities of this work is the limitation of its own successful argument, in the sense that its implied rejection of universal history is belied in the very history of democracy that it portrays. Why did democracy appear when it did, and why did it fail to survive?Read more ›
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