Book Reviews. Elena Malec on Popper’s Open Society and its enemies.
The historicism Popper debates and confronts in „The Open Society and its enemies” is rather a future that is perceived as finite.Popper never even sketches the open society but reading his book one can infer that he is against any Weltanschauung that has a race, a class destined to inherit the earth. This is what he calls historicism and irrationality. At least this is what he sees as the closed society. He never elaborates on the open society but I assume is in his spirit to describe it as an open structure. Here is my definition of structure.
A structure is a dialectical organization, assembly of relationships of entities in a more or less complex unity.
This definition of structure is applied here to human civilizations and cultures; human societies as structures.
The dialectical organizations of relationships of entities (the Structure) of a human society follows the pattern of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.Thus structures can be open or closed, infinite or finite.
As a dialectical structure the open society deals with thesis, antithesis, synthesis in the realm of science as science is the new ethos of the 21 century and beyond.By reaching the 21 century we enter our future and this future as it belongs to science is infinite, as scientific knowledge of Universe or Universes is infinite.
My personal observation is that what we witness today is the challenge of institutions that have been traditionally associated with the closed society: state, institutionalized religion(church, temple, mosque), education, family, army, political party.These institutions are under attack as the closed society moves to break free and mankind tends to emancipate from a status of subordination to power physical or/and spiritual. This conflict cannot be solved by either consolidating or eliminating institutions but rather by changing their character from mandatory to optional.
The sense or the meaning of history of mankind(which Popper denies) from the first civilizations and cultures to the present day is the approximation to an ideal of freedom. By freedom here I understand moral choice.
The moral choice is the choice of moral individuals providing that society has to deal with immorality or amorality not by coercion or conversion but by education. In this respect education stands not for coercion or conversion but rather information and formation in the most democratic way possible. Education is understood here as setting free the creative potential of man and not subordinating him to power either physical or/and spiritual.
In chapter 24 of the „Open society and its enemies”, called „Oracular Philosopy and the revolt against reason”, Popper finds that moral choice is a matter of adopting a rationalist or a irrationalist attitude. He elaborates in detail his understanding of rationality and irrationality, giving a full description of uncritical rationality and critical rationality and for that matter of irrationality with rich examples. While I am in favor of the moral choice as the expresion of our freedom, I also consider that this is not an either or situation and we can make more than one choice given the fact that man as an individual and a species is never 100% rational or irrational but rather both so to speak. So there is human reason and also irrationality in mankind, man being a paradoxical nature, body and soul.
The argument I bring in favor of my opinion is actually revealed as a contradiction of Popper discussion of creativity.
„Leaving aside the lower aspects of human nature, we may look to one of its highest, to the fact that man can be creative. It is the small creative minority of men who really matter, the men who create works of art or of thought, and who founded religions or states; these few exceptional individuals allow us to glimpse into the real greatness of man. But although these leaders of mankind know how to make use of reason for their purposes, they are never men of reason. Their roots lie deeper. Creativeness is an entirely irrational, a mystical faculty…”
The contradiction lies in the fact while Popper considers Marx a rationalist, at the same time he accuses him of historicism and historicism of irrationality. Put in Popper terms Marx can be seen as a rationalist but as a great man, his creativity is irrational.
A few words about creativity and the great men.
When Popper wrote „The Open society and its enemies” in exile during World War II, only one country was socialist, The Soviet Union. The full benefits of educating larger populations of illiterate peasants or workers in the afterwar socialist regimes of Eastern Europe and China were still to come. The advancement of science and technology of the socialist bloc was not full blown; literacy of large masses educated to become engineers, mathematicians, astronomers, physicists, researchers in different fields did not yet became as evident so to speak as in the `60s and `70s.The creative potential of masses has been freed from the ignorance of the backward societies that entered socialism. Russia, China and Eastern Europe showed the industrialized world that they could create, research and produce not only material progress.
The colapse of the socialist societies furthered the creativity and the internet made possible a rapid and planetary dissimination of creativity as well as unleashing new comunities to the creation of art and of thought. Creativity today does not stay with great men. Anybody who has an interest and the time to dedicate to this interest or passion can create in most cultures and societies of our day.And this creativity doesn’t necessary have to be irrational to be accepted as great. This creativity is not exclusive but inclusive in its excellency. Creativity is not a given gift of a few but the expression of freedom of men as individuals and social beings.