For the sake of
(a Letter to The European Parliament)
The four most important pages of philosophy
(You will find my notes right after those pages, and a little essay on philosophy: model vs pile of notes. I hope they will help)
But at this time, in the same generation to which Thucydides belonged, there rose a new faith in reason, freedom and the brotherhood of all men-the new faith, and, as I believe, the only possible faith, of the open society.
This generation which marks a turning point in the history of mankind, I should like to call the Great Generation; it is the generation that lived in Athens just before, and during, the Peloponnesian war.27 There were great conservatives among them, like Sophocles, or Thucydides. There were men among them who represent the period of transition; who were wavering, like Euripides, or sceptical, like Aristophanes. But there was also the great leader of democracy, Pericles, who formulated the principle of equality before the law and of political individualism, and Herodotus, who was welcomed and hailed in Pericles' city as the author of a work that glorified these principles. Protagoras, a native of Abdera who became influential in Athens, and his countryman Democritus must also be counted among the Great Generation. They formulated the doctrine that human institutions of language, custom, and law are not of the magical character of taboos but man-made, not natural but conventional, insisting, at the same time, that we are responsible for them. Then there was the school of Gorgias-Alcidamas, Lycophron and Antisthenes, who developed the fundamental tenets of anti-slavery, of a rational protectionism, and of anti-nationalism, i.e. the creed of the universal empire of men. And there was, perhaps the greatest of all, Socrates, who taught the lesson that we must have faith in human reason, but at the same time beware of dogmatism; that we must keep away both from misology28, the distrust of theory and of reason, and from the magical attitude of those who make an idol of wisdom; who taught, in other words, that the spirit of science is criticism.
Since I have not so far said much about Pericles, and nothing at all about Democritus, I may use some of their own words in order to illustrate the new faith. First Democritus: 'Not out of fear but out of a feeling of what is right should we abstain from doing wrong ... Virtue is based, most of all, upon respecting the other man ... Every man is a little world of his own ... We ought to do our utmost to help those who have suffered injustice ... To be good means to do no wrong; and also, not to want to do wrong ... It is good deeds, not words, that count ... The poverty of a democracy is better than the prosperity which allegedly goes with aristocracy or monarchy, just as liberty is better than slavery ... The wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world.'
To him is due also that remark of a true scientist: 'I would rather find a single causal law than be the king of Persia!'29 In their humanitarian and universalistic emphasis some of these fragments of Democritus sound, although they are of earlier date, as if they were directed against Plato. The same impression is conveyed, only much more strongly, by Pericles' famous funeral oration, delivered at least half a century before the Republic was written. I have quoted two sentences from this oration in chapter 6, when discussing equalitarianism30, but a few passages may be quoted here more fully in order to give a clearer impression of its spirit. 'Our political system does not compete with institutions which are elsewhere in force. We do not copy our neighbours, but try to be an example. Our administration favours the many instead of the few: this is why it is called a democracy. The laws afford equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, but we do not ignore the claims of excellence. When a citizen distinguishes himself, then he will be called to serve the state, in preference to others, not as a matter of privilege, but as a reward of merit; and poverty is no bar ... The freedom we enjoy extends also to ordinary life; we are not suspicious of one another, and do not nag our neighbour if he chooses to go his own way ... But this freedom does not make us lawless. We are taught to respect the magistrates and the laws, and never to forget that we must protect the injured. And we are also taught to observe those unwritten laws whose sanction lies only in the universal feeling of what is right ...
'Our city is thrown open to the world; we never expel a foreigner ... We are free to live exactly as we please, and yet we are always ready to face any danger ... We love beauty without indulging in fancies, and although we try to improve our intellect, this does not weaken our will ... To admit one's poverty is no disgrace with us; but we consider it disgraceful not to make an effort to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect public affairs when attending to his private business ... We consider a man who takes no interest in the state not as harmless, but as useless; and although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it. We do not look upon discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of political action, but as an indispensable preliminary to acting wisely ... We believe that happiness is the fruit of freedom and freedom that of valour, and we do not shrink from the dangers of war ... To sum up, I claim that Athens is the School of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian grows up to develop a happy versatility, a readiness for emergencies, and self-reliance.'31
These words are not merely an eulogy on Athens; they express the true spirit of the Great Generation. They formulate the political programme of a great equalitarian individualist, of a democrat who well understands that democracy cannot be exhausted by the meaningless principle that 'the people should rule', but that it must be based on faith in reason, and on humanitarianism. At the same time, they are an expression of true patriotism, of just pride in a city which had made it its task to set an example; which became the school, not only of Hellas, but, as we know, of mankind, for millennia past and yet to come.
Pericles' speech is not only a programme. It is also a defence, and perhaps even an attack. It reads, as I have already hinted, like a direct attack on Plato. I do not doubt that it was directed, not only against the arrested tribalism of Sparta, but also against the totalitarian ring or 'link' at home; against the movement for the paternal state, the Athenian 'Society of the Friends of Laconia' (as Th. Gomperz called them in 190232). The speech is the earliest33 and at the same time perhaps the strongest statement ever made in opposition to this kind of movement. Its importance was felt by Plato, who caricatured Pericles' oration half a century later in the passages of the Republic34 in which he attacks democracy, as well as in that undisguised parody, the dialogue called Menexenus or the Funeral Oration35. But the friends of Laconia whom Pericles attacked retaliated long before Plato. Only five or six years after Pericles' oration, a pamphlet on the Constitution of Athens36 was published by an unknown author (possibly Critias), now usually called the 'Old Oligarch'. This ingenious pamphlet, the oldest extant treatise on political theory, is, at the same time, perhaps the oldest monument of the desertion of mankind by its intellectual leaders. It is a ruthless attack upon Athens, written no doubt by one of her best brains. Its central idea, an idea which became an article of faith with Thucydides and Plato, is the close connection between naval imperialism and democracy. And it tries to show that there can be no compromise in a conflict between two worlds37, the worlds of democracy and of oligarchy; that only the use of ruthless violence, of total measures, including the intervention of allies from outside (the Spartans), can put an end to the unholy rule of freedom. This remarkable pamphlet was to become the first of a practically infinite sequence of works on political philosophy which were to repeat more or less, openly or covertly, the same theme down to our own day. Unwilling and unable to help mankind along their difficult path into an unknown future which they have to create for themselves, some of the 'educated' tried to make them turn back into the past. Incapable of leading a new way, they could only make themselves leaders of the perennial revolt against freedom. It became the more necessary for them to assert their superiority by fighting against equality as they were (using Socratic language) misanthropists and misologists- incapable of that simple and ordinary generosity which inspires faith in men, and faith in human reason and freedom. Harsh as this judgement may sound, it is just, I fear, if it is applied to those intellectual leaders of the revolt against freedom who came after the Great Generation, and especially after Socrates. We can now try to see them against the background of our historical interpretation.
The rise of philosophy itself can be interpreted, I think, as a response to the breakdown of the closed society and its magical beliefs. It is an attempt to replace the lost magical faith by a rational faith; it modifies the tradition of passing on a theory or a myth by founding a new tradition-the tradition of challenging theories and myths and of critically discussing them38. (A significant point is that this attempt coincides with the spread of the so-called Orphic sects whose members tried to replace the lost feeling of unity by a new mystical religion.) The earliest philosophers, the three great Ionians and Pythagoras, were probably quite unaware of the stimulus to which they were reacting. They were the representatives as well as the unconscious antagonists of a social revolution. The very fact that they founded schools or sects or orders, i.e. new social institutions or rather concrete groups with a common life and common functions, and modelled largely after those of an idealized tribe, proves that they were reformers in the social field, and therefore, that they were reacting to certain social needs. That they reacted to these needs and to their own sense of drift, not by imitating Hesiod in inventing a historicist myth of destiny and decay39, but by inventing the tradition of criticism and discussion, and with it the art of thinking rationally, is one of the inexplicable facts which stand at the beginning of our civilization. But even these rationalists reacted to the loss of the unity of tribalism in a largely emotional way. Their reasoning gives expression to their feeling of drift, to the strain of a development which was about to create our individualistic civilization. One of the oldest expressions of this strain goes back to Anaximander40, the second of the Ionian philosophers. Individual existence appeared to him as hubris, as an impious act of injustice, as a wrongful act of usurpation, for which individuals must suffer, and do penance. The first to become conscious of the social revolution and the struggle of classes was Heraclitus. How he rationalized his feeling of drift by developing the first anti-democratic ideology and the first historicist philosophy of change and destiny, has been described in the second chapter of this book. Heraclitus was the first conscious enemy of the open society.
Nearly all these early thinkers were labouring under a tragic and desperate strain41. The only exception is perhaps the monotheist Xenophanes42, who carried his burden courageously. We cannot blame them for their hostility towards the new developments in the way in which we may, to some extent, blame their successors. The new faith of the open society, the faith in man, in equalitarian justice, and in human reason, was perhaps beginning to take shape, but it was not yet formulated.
The greatest contribution to this faith was to be made by Socrates, who died for it. Socrates was not a leader of Athenian democracy, like Pericles, or a theorist of the open society, like Protagoras. He was, rather, a critic of Athens and of her democratic institutions, and in this he may have borne a superficial resemblance to some of the leaders of the reaction against the open society. But there is no need for a man who criticizes democracy and democratic institutions to be their enemy, although both the democrats he criticizes, and the totalitarians who hope to profit from any disunion in the democratic camp, are likely to brand him as such. There is a fundamental difference between a democratic and a totalitarian criticism of democracy. Socrates' criticism was a democratic one, and indeed of the kind that is the very life of democracy. (Democrats who do not see the difference between a friendly and a hostile criticism of democracy are themselves imbued with the totalitarian spirit. Totalitarianism, of course, cannot consider any criticism as friendly, since every criticism of such an authority must challenge the principle of authority itself.)
I have already mentioned some aspects of Socrates' teaching: his intellectualism, i.e. his equalitarian theory of human reason as a universal medium of communication; his stress on intellectual honesty and self-criticism; his equalitarian theory of justice, and his doctrine that it is better to be a victim of injustice than to inflict it upon others. I think it is this last doctrine which can help us best to understand the core of his teaching, his creed of individualism, his belief in the human individual as an end in himself.
The closed society, and with it its creed that the tribe is everything and the individual nothing, had broken down. Individual initiative and self-assertion had become a fact. Interest in the human individual as individual, and not only as tribal hero and saviour, had been aroused43. But a philosophy which makes man the centre of its interest began only with Protagoras. And the belief that there is nothing more important in our life than other individual men, the appeal to men to respect one another and themselves, appears to be due to Socrates.
Burnet has stressed44 that it was Socrates who created the conception of the soul, a conception which had such an immense influence upon our civilization. I believe that there is much in this view, although I feel that its formulation may be misleading, especially the use of the term 'soul'; for Socrates seems to have kept away from metaphysical theories as much as he could. His appeal was a moral appeal, and his theory of individuality (or of the 'soul', if this word is preferred) is, I think, a moral and not a metaphysical doctrine. He was fighting, with the help of this doctrine, as always, against self-satisfaction and complacency. He demanded that individualism should not be merely the dissolution of tribalism, but that the individual should prove worthy of his liberation. This is why he insisted that man is not merely a piece of flesh-a body. There is more in man, a divine spark, reason; and a love of truth, of kindness, humaneness, a love of beauty and of goodness. It is these that make a man's life worth while. But if I am not merely a 'body', what am I, then? You are, first of all, intelligence, was Socrates' reply. It is your reason that makes you human; that enables you to be more than a mere bundle of desires and wishes; that makes you a self-sufficient individual and entitles you to claim that you are an end in yourself. Socrates' saying 'care for your souls' is largely an appeal for intellectual honesty, just as the saying 'know thyself is used by him to remind us of our intellectual limitations.
Sir Karl Popper, "The open society and its enemies", volume I: The Spell of Plato, Chapter 10. (1943)
1) Could reason, freedom, and brotherhood be a new faith replacing older religions? No, because you need a model of the world and human nature, and those must transcend your own being and you should be ready to sacrifice everything for it. A value system or an ethic is also needed to judge those who are your friends and those who are your enemies.
2) Reason implies the existence of a unique reality. Relativism is not compatible with reason. Also, reason applies to the individual, not a collective. Freedom is directly related to the individual. He needs to be free of thinking and of meeting to build his judgment and to share. Brotherwood is the necessary collective ingredient to the individual as a core element of society. Popper's choice is coherent and very similar to the french with the exception of equality which he replaced by reason. Equality does not go along with individualism. Equality is a man-made law, while natural laws exist and imply human nature and therefore natural differences between humans. Equality will always hurt itself against those differences. You can tend to equality, but it cannot be an axiom to build a society because it should never be put in a place where it could oppose natural laws, human nature, reality, truth, impartiality, intellectual honesty...
More about reason: I don't want to enter into a detailed discussion about reason and the enlightenment, but I can tell you this. A large part, if not a majority of the enlightened who advocate for reason have an understanding of it that has nothing to do with a way to communicate with reality in order to assess the quality or truthfulness of an idea or hypothesis. They believe in the ghost in the machine - that the mind remains untouched by evolution. They see in reason a tool able to reprogram the brain. In the same way, they see science not as a method to gather, test, and organize knowledge but as a religion (a tool) to control the people.
3) In Athens, the times before the Peloponnese war, was a time where many concepts of modern life were invented. I do not support all of them, but I support the fight against misology (the hate of logic and reason). Further in his book Popper adds misanthropy (the hate for the human species). Today that misanthropy still exists and humans are compared to a plague, but misandry (the hate of men) has been added, perhaps because men are the bearer of logic and reason. Unfortunately for civilization misology, misanthropy and misandry work well together. Another important observation is that the Athenians clearly identify and separate laws that are natural from laws that are man-made. This is an extremely important achievement, that no other cultures have naturally realized. This account, partially for why I called the western civilization the second generation of civilization. The whole Asian block has kept the belief in magical thinking alive. Athenians had the most respect toward laws and lived by them, that's why Socrates died, he could escape but he preferred to die by the laws of the city-state. Athenians were reluctant to create new man-made laws, and during the fifth century (BC), less than ten laws were created. The concept of natural laws exists in western laws and comes from that period. Regarding the concept of equality before the laws, back then it was valid because men managed the city in every aspect. It was equality between men. When we extended that concept to women we did a terrible mistake because we hadn't a model of human nature that could tell us if it was adapted to do so. To consider them equal before the laws imply to consider their nature the same, and it's not. The Athenians and the Romans later, who took much from the Greek society, did not have a model of human nature, that could answer that question neither. That's what Christianity provided us with, a model of human nature with explicit differences between men and women. Whether we agree or not with it doesn't change the fact that they have ones, while the westerners who oppose Christianity have none in that regard (note). One last comment for that paragraph is the observation that the spirit of science is criticism. I agree with Popper but it can't be a purpose in itself. The end goal of criticism is to make a judgment and to state what's right and wrong. Behind this hide the fundamental concept of being able to be wrong. This is Socrate's teaching. If you can be wrong, then you don't know everything and you don't know the future. This opposes concepts like historicism which consists to see laws in society that tell us its end goals. If you're a supporter of historicism then you're a prophet. Plato is the man who initiated historicism, revived much later by Hegel, Marx, and all schools of collectivism. From the book "The open society and its enemies", the title "the spell of Plato" of Volume 1 and the title "the false prophets" of volume 2 as much to do with historicism. About criticism and science. Collectivists use against the civilized the most powerful tools they have developed. Like many who defended true science and the rigorous scientific thinking that goes with it, I was thrown to my face the now classical argument "Science is a religion". No wonder, they see it as a religion because they are interested to use religion as a means to control the population. They don't believe in its predictive capabilities and even less in its ability to find truths, they just see its power. What they do, is to imitate science thinking and methodology, but it's just an act as R. Feynmann explained, and for which he coined the expression "Cargo Cult Science" (Caltech speech 1965). They also use the concept of "criticism" to imitate reason-based thinking, but with the aim to destroy everything built by the civilized. They never apply to themselves that concept of criticism. We need to be more precise in the description of the properties of the concepts we use, to avoid being used against us. Criticism implies that you can be wrong, which the collectivists never acknowledge, and that there are universal truths that serve as a common point of reference. Collectivists do not have the same point of reference, if at all, and they certainly do not recognize universal truths. Regarding science, there is, of course, the idea that its domain of inquiries is universal (there is no African or feminine science), but something more important characterizes science, it does not care about labels and language if far away from its preoccupation and that's good. Science is not in the business to give a name to things but to describe the properties of things, and this implies that it is more concerned with the things themselves.
Note: (before you read what is below, I have observed that the level to which you are prepared to consider to differentiate laws for women and men equal the level of accepting that men and women should have different roles in society, in the spirit to achieve a common goal which is the building of civilization). What differences in nature exist between men and women that the law should take into consideration? The way women's violence is exercised is more psychological than physical, but it can be particularly destructive for a person and society. What we consider a crime should not be the same for men and women. Regarding sentences, is the restriction of liberty as effective for women as men? It doesn't look that way. And there is the question of being able to acknowledge your responsibility, and women play a very different game when it comes to that notion. Is our society even capable to make any difference in laws application? I've come to the conclusion that's not the case and designed my next-generation civilization to answer that question.
4) Democritus' quote is important because it is linked to the universalism of wisdom. I want to insist because it might sound like the brotherhood of all men, or proletarians, but it is the opposite. The brotherhood is created because there are universals (truth, wisdom,....) INDEPENDENT from us, which do not need us to exist. This is the brotherhood of the individual that something above us exists (the universal), which transcends our differences and links all of us. The brotherhood of the collectivists is created by killing all of those who are not like them. The individualists follow natural laws, that's what makes them civilized. The collectivists follow man-made laws, that's why they continue to be primitives. Democritus also mentions rightly that liberty opposes slavery. This is a lesson we learned the hard way, again. Liberty and slavery determine the way society is defined and what link the twos is fear. Fear makes you a slave, and to control your fear makes you a free man. A third idea is a question about how to drive your life regarding the good and the evil. His answer is correct, to avoid doing wrongs is of the utmost importance. This is a question that is today referred to as the "Blackstone formulation", which fundamentally asks if we should focus on preserving the innocents (the good) or condemning them (chasing the bad) to be sure to get the bad guy. The civilized and the collectivists give opposite answers. The collectivists believe in the noble savage, therefore they are good people by definition and the bad is necessarily the product of bad people. To eradicate the bad you have to eradicate the bad people. This implies a group conception of good and evil which is in perfect tune with the tribal root of collectivism. For the civilized, each individual is at the same time good and evil (duality of human nature). The eradication of evilness is not an option unless you consider everyone guilty (see the historical Blackstone's formulation). To transform society into prison is not an interesting project and our ancestors did understand this. Their solution, which is the best, is to focus on the good. From a game theory perspective, the "everyone is guilty" does not allow efficient cooperation between the people, and it will produce a dysfunctional society while focusing on the good allow cooperation, even to maximize its efficiency because you base it on trust. Christianity introduces an important concept which is redemption/forgiveness. It allows to reinitiate cooperation and avoid falling into the infinite rétialiation against individuals. There is a flaw in collectivists' thinking. Their strategy is entirely based on the idea that if you eradicate the group of bad people then it will be heaven on Earth. If the vision of the civilized is right, that good and evil are in each of us, then every newborn can become a bad person that the collective will have to hunt, which means that the eradication will never end. Collectivists refuse to face that reality and yet it did happen in history and it is about to repeat itself in the 21sd century. With collectivism, the killing never ceases while truly convinced to do the moral thing.
5) Regarding Pericles' speech. It was given during a ritual to honor every year those who died in wars. The particularity of that speech is that Pericles took the opportunity to remind the value of Athens, it is a political statement and has become a historical text. Its content is breathtakingly modern. The full speech can easily be found on the internet and is not that long. I want to stress that the law in question is essentially natural laws, they respect reality and oppose our actual relation to laws, which tend to try to produce a reality out of nowhere. A missing element, of that speech, is the deep respect the Athenians had for the Gods and it was the lack of belief in the Gods for which Socrates was accused and sentenced to death. The individual is at the center of the speech, while respectful of the laws and obligation to defend the city. Back then, each Greek city was a state by its own - own laws, own culture. The concept of meritocracy is already there and transcends equal justice. This opposes the modern, and collectivist notion of equality of outcome for which the "excellence" of someone cannot be taken into consideration. Pericles insists on freedom several times, but he also insists on the need for courage which goes along with the control of one's fears. We can see in our 21st century, how the loss of our liberties goes hand in hand with our lack of courage. We are taken by fear which controls every one of our actions and thoughts.
6) K. Popper explains that Pericles reminds us that democracy cannot be reduced to the ruling of the people, but must first be defined by a set of values and concepts that transcend ourselves and on which everything is built. In my next generation of civilization, I explain that every society is a gathering of individuals who agree to follow a set of values and rules. Ultimately it will create a super-order, an invisible hand will produce an order from all of this, like religion does, like the whole mechanism of the Athenian society did (I know that you have no idea what super-orders are, I just want you to attract your attention. I explain it fully in other texts I wrote). K. Popper gives a political context to the speech, It's a reminder of the foundations of Athens against those who oppose it. So there was a political battle inside Athens which took a tragic turn when the oligarchy decided to betray the people by siding with Sparta during the Peloponnese war. For K. Popper, that war crystallized a moment in human history. The fight between the tribal way of life with its magical thinking and rejection of natural laws, and the civilized way of life based on reason, the individual, truth, and liberty. A war between the closed and open. Socrates was condemned by the thirty tyrants who took over the city after the war. K. Popper also insisted and this is a particularity of his thesis that Plato was a man of the close society and opposed Pericles' program of society. He explained why that new way of thinking was opposed by Plato and most of the Oligarchy - because they were unable to provide a vision of the future, they settled for the past and with it enter a revolt against reason and freedom. In other words, in a reason and liberty-based world, the elite is at the same level as all the together. Only in the tribal way does an elite cast exist that we call today Alpha and the people are the herd, or cattle (also described by a master/slave relation but it didn't make any reference to tribalism, that's why I personally prefer the idea of an Alpha/Herd relation).
7) K. Popper makes a clear distinction amongst the thinkers of that old times which is marked by the Peloponnese war. He calls them, the "great generation", they are the philosophers who produced the tools necessary to the foundation of a world of reason and liberty. But this has elicited an infinite number of reactions against the loss of the tribe and its sense of belonging - "the unity of tribalism". All the collectivist movements since the 18th century are simply an expression of that loss and a desperate attempt to go back to it, from the french revolution to American Wokism.
8) In his book, K. Popper explains the cause of the change that produced Athens, or the need for reason, freedom, and individualism. It's a set of tools to answer external constraints (external means here something on which humans have no power, that we can't escape), and the most important is population increase. However, he did not answer why we could answer that problem and the particular way it took. The Athenians were not only thinking differently from the Spartans, but very differently from the rest of the world, and yet, the world choose their way of thinking. Why? My answer is that we had already become cognitive creatures, relying on our cognition for our survival instead of our instincts. The Athenians were the first among us to acknowledge that change. To use our cognitive functions instead of our instinct is not a small change and we can go back because of this, we are no more instincts-driven beings, biologically speaking. Of course, those who call for the return of the tribe do not take this into account, but they have analyzed one thing correctly. The tribe can not handle a large population, therefore it's no wonder that they want a stiff decrease of Earth's population. There is something else, deep inside a kind of "thinking by the blood", what the tribalists hope for is purification so that everything that has chased the humans from the tribe will be washed. One more observation, Globalism, like communism and Nazism is a tribal idea, it is the coming of the reign of the last "one" tribe, if you're not part of them you shall not exist.
I've read thousands and thousands of pages of philosophy and I don't consider myself educated in philosophy. In fact, nobody can because of the way those pages are written.
First, each word, idea, and topic are treated as separate from all others but they shouldn't because it is the only way to establish a coherent system of knowledge. Philosophy resembles a pile of notes, no matter how true those notes are, it is just a pile. I would exchange that pile again any coherent system that links all those notes even if some are wrong because it provides a direction, and serve as beacons guiding our path. The tyrants of Athens are still here as if they had taken care that the pile would never become a system so that you have no direction. Without a direction how could you know that the one they impose on you is an illusion, a monstrosity and there is no reason they live that way? K. Popper proposes a model, an explanatory model to what happens to us, and that model has still a lot to teach us today. What is that model? K. Popper wrote a book about it, but the idea is simple. The problem that we face today is still the same that the Athenians faced 2400 years ago. We need to accept to leave the magical thinking behind and it's not going well. Magical thinking is the thinking that allows you to bypass natural laws. To acknowledge natural laws impose that your whole vision of the world change, but also the mental tools you use to get the perspective. Why should we leave behind the closed society and its tribal and magical thinking? Only if we accept the existence of natural laws can we build a society efficient enough to handle a much larger population. The demonstration of this goes with the individual, reason, and liberty for the open society while the closed society is collectivist and organized around taboos (what you have and not have the right to do, say and think).
Second, philosophy is defined to be a place of descriptions and not of explanations. Descriptions as in a collection of ideas without never to have to assess them, but if you want an explanation you have to. When K. Popper published "The open society and its enemies", he was the recipient of virulent attacks, in particular for the 10 first chapters about Plato. He did not critic Plato, he assessed the philosophy of Plato (sociology and politics) and his character with the consequence that those in support of Plato are in support of tyranny to handle the people (like a cattle), and in defense of an oligarchy to manage the city. He was aware of the risk has shown by the preface of the first edition:
"If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive is not, I hope, the wish to belittle them. It springs rather from my conviction that, if our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men may make great mistakes; and as the book tries to show, some of the greatest leaders of the past supported the perennial attack on freedom and reason. Their influence, too rarely challenged, continues to mislead those on whose defense civilization depends, and to divide them. The responsibility for this tragic and possibly fatal division becomes ours if we hesitate to be outspoken in our criticism of what admittedly is a part of our intellectual heritage. By our reluctance to criticize some of it, we may help to destroy it all."
When you assess, you make choices, and choices have consequences. Socrates was one of the last philosophers, in the sense that a true philosopher wants to be judged for what he thinks and he died for it and by it. It's not what a philosopher wants, just that he is ready for the consequences. When Ayn Rand wrote "ideas matter", that's what she meant. If the ideas you defend aren't more important than yourself, then you're not intellectually honest, you're just playing an act. To stay in a descriptive mode allow you to escape the assessment.
Third, there is a bit too much mysticism amongst the actual intellectual elite hidden behind the quest for meaning, purpose, spirituality, and God, a religious mysticism. There is also a philosophical mysticism, which calls for more intuition, irrationalism. Mysticism is a call for essentialism and opens a back door to the return of magical thinking, one that rejects natural laws. Today's mysticism, I'm afraid, has not much to do with the one of the middle age, but a way to escape difficult decisions and a refusal to accept that WE have allowed all of this. Not only the tyranny but also millions of people to think like a madman. Where does that come from? Reason and rationality have shown to be insufficient, particularly to oppose the return of tribalism. As F.A. Hayek put it, the most rational thing to do is to accept that rationality can not explain everything. The reconciliation with God seems inevitable, but mysticism, no matter its form (religious or philosophical) is not the answer. Reason and scientific thinking need to be kept. All to make all these work together is a fascinating question. Important topic.
After the 17th century, after the time of Descartes, philosophy split into two branches, one scientific, the other literary. The split was already there when Galileo was condemned, he showed a way to think that repulse his accusers, the same way Newton's work repulsed Goethe. The literati are convinced, deep inside, that scientific thinking is unnatural and can't produce truths. The split reveals two ways to think about the world and the relation that humans have with that world. The split was silently initiated by the literary. C.P. Snow explains "I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups... At one pole we have the literary intellectuals, who incidentally while no one was looking took to referring to themselves as intellectuals as though there were no others... They still like to pretend that the traditional culture (non-scientific) is the whole of culture, as though the natural order didn't exist." The scientific never forced the literati to acknowledge the split and who initiated it. The split is about the loss of control of the quest for truth and knowledge, so the literati adopted several strategies to get it back and they shift from the quest for truths to the quest for power. It is the story of a war, and many battles, which is never told. A book wouldn't be enough to describe all that happened, but the most important consequences are the following.
1) They started using language and words to produce emotional truths. Philosophy and literature became a place to bewitch the readers. Kant already observed this and is quoted by K. Popper in the introduction of his book. Schopenhauer followed.
2) They promoted primitive beliefs (vitalism like with Bergson, animism is far more common) and instincts over human nature and reason. Today that strategy is represented by the promotion of Gaia, the blank slate, and the noble savage. It started with Rousseau and Goethe who helped to initiate the whole Romantic Movement.
3) They sided with the power elite, to access the power needed to get their revenge and retake control of knowledge and truth. In exchange, the power elite gets control over the people by bewitching them with words and stories about a false reality, which we call the matrix. They also ensure that the next generations of the elite will have the appropriate mentality, the one needed for an oligarchy. We often hear that intellectual collectivists are full of resentment. To side with the power elite was a way to transform that resentment into revenge.
4.a) The most important piece in the undoing of our civilization which is built on the individual, reason, and intellectual honesty (note), was the humanities. You have to remember, before the split, the humanities were the universities, and to learn to think included philosophy and science. After the split, the humanities was still the place to learn to think but the science part was erased. We all have been lured to think that there is only one way to think, but that's not true. We all have been educated to think emotionally, not by using our cognition. What does scientific thinking implies that literature thinking does not? You use reason, which means a feedback loop with reality to test if your thinking is compatible with experiments and data. This also implies the important teaching of Socrates, you can be wrong and you will have to acknowledge it explicitly (literature: your personal emotional knowledge can't be wrong because it will question your existence - I feel therefore I exist. You follow also the collective knowledge brought by the consensus, which can be wrong because of the laws of the majority). You create categories to organize your knowledge (literature: everything is more or less at the same level without real connections). You make assessments (Literature: don't dare ever to make any judgments). There are universal laws and knowledge (literature: relativism is the rule). The language and the words don't matter, only the properties of things and we focus on their description (literature: The increase of knowledge is linked to our capacity to better define our terms, the definition of words - the doctrine of definition)). One person can be right and all other wrongs, mathematical or physical experiment will tell (literature: the consensus ensure us of what is right or wrong, and human exchange is how we test knowledge - empiricism/blank slate).
4.b) The first true reality you have to accept is that there are two ways to think amongst humans, and as a rule, we have on one side the scientific thinking (Stem - physics) and on the other the literature (humanities - social sciences). Now the question is - did the split generate those two ways to think or is the split the result of those two ways? The latter is the right answer. The literary way of thinking was first formulated by Plato and called essentialism by K. Popper, and later by Aristotle who focuses on the doctrine of definition. When you hear someone tell you that we must define our terms to know what we are talking about then you have to deal with Essentialism. It is that common that people believe it's the way everyone thinks, they don't even question the possibility that another method could exist. It's heresy for them. It's false. The practical pitfalls of the essentialist method are to end with an infinite regression of definition, to fall into verbalism (verbalism = to become confused between the precision of a definition and the comprehension of the thing you try to define. More words do not equal more understanding), and to be deceived by writers that will use words to produce an emotional appeal to produce apparent truths (example: Hegel, Bergson, Foucault). A more insidious consequence that happens when you use essentialism is to trap yourself into the language which becomes the reality and all the knowledge there is to know. It is all the more insidious that the literati have made it taboo to discuss the existence of another way of thinking. When the discussion is still happening, they then portrait scientific thinking as mechanical or not human. This shows that they are not only trapped by the language but by emotional thinking which rejects entirely any thinking related to reason. To be exclusive is a signature of emotional thinking. As the philosopher, Leonard Peikoff puts it "it's not that the little Johnny can't think, but that he believes to feel is thinking".
The way thinking is taught in the Humanities is to establish an inner dialogue with your emotions and instincts, while science thinking is to establish an external dialogue with reality through reason.
4.c) Plato didn't "invent" Essentialism per se, he just formulated a way to think the world, which is vital to have, if we want to function in that world, but it's not the only one. It happens, and that's one of the results of K. Popper's research, that those who use essentialism (the emotional literature thinking) reject the existence of natural laws, and those who endorse science thinking endorse them. I will make only one more observation. The brain organization differs if you follow essentialism or scientific thinking to map the world, therefore it is, at least partially, linked to our biology. I want to make myself crystal clear, the difference in the way we think the world is due or can be solved by a maturation process. I have several arguments for my position but one will be enough for today. We are instinctive and cognitive beings. To cut yourself from cognition, to reject the use of reason is not natural. A raven or a dolphin does not reject their ability to solve complex problems which they do by cognition. To state that humans have to, or just can is absurd. If you do, you will malfunction, and insanity is the end of the road. The people who embrace reason, therefore cognition do not reject their instincts. They might want to have some control over them to make more room for cognition but not to suppress them. They are fully aware of our duality in thinking and decision-making. The essentialists do not have that awareness. Please note, that while their views are in opposition, they are not symmetrical - Essentialism rejects reason while Science Thinking puts cognition first and instinct second, it endorses both.
5.a) The literati elite in the 18th, take the stand that women are equal (by taking a stand I mean that they will promote that equality as true independently of any observation or theory that could show otherwise. Incidentally, it explains why they never endorse Darwin's theory). This is a false equivalency and the question that they try to escape by all means necessary is the question of human nature which includes the difference between men and women and its consequences, whatever they are. There are two main reasons to take the strategy of focusing on equality instead of differences. 1) They oppose the Christian religions which make a clear distinction between men and women. 2) They align with the power elite who consider women and men more or less equal since the end of the middle age era. Women of the aristocracy were and still are extremely influential, not restricted to political issues (social, economical, war...). The literati and the power elite have something in common, the rejection of natural laws. That's why the blank slate has been promoted in France during the revolution, and beyond the rejection of natural laws, there is also the rejection of the existence of human nature. This accounts for the difference between men and women, but also for the duality of human nature (good and evil). As T. Sowell explained, those who reject this duality endorse the Noble savage ideology, but you don't build the society, and its constitution the same way, depending on what you believe - the Noble savage or the duality of the nature of men. It is important to note again, that the duality is a founding concept of Christianity.
5.b) Around the 18th centuries questions related to the validity of the Christian model regarding reality and human nature, were strong enough to re-assess that model. Unfortunately, we didn't have the knowledge to do it properly. We will have to wait until the 21sd century with the Darwinian Theory of evolution and 160 years of researches to understand most of its implications for our understanding of reality and human nature. The power elite and the literati took advantage of the situation and impose a model based on the blank slate, noble savage, and the ghost in the machine, which are still believed by most intellectuals today. What this model hides, is their rejection of natural laws and the existence of a reality independent from us and that exists independently of any of our doing. The belief in man's made laws as the only laws is the source of social constructivism as the foundation of collectivist societies. They are all similar to the model advocated by Plato in his "Republic", and later by his student Aristotle in "Politics". Fundamentally it's oligarchy through tyranny and to consider people like cattle.
The university and with it the whole educational system has been destroyed to become a machine to program the minds of the people so that they will obey their tyrants and think collectively to be controlled and not individually. What happened to Athens with the split between Socrates and Plato's philosophy, happened to the university, and what happened to the university happened to the society. The academics had their chances to change the direction of the universities so that scientific thinking would have become the core of education with reason and freedom. Until the academics acknowledge the split and take the proper actions to rebuild the temple of knowledge and truth, there is nothing good to expect from them. By refusing to go to war, those who defend scientific thinking didn't avoid the war, they let the literati win the war. That's why all scientific departments didn't revolt when they were told to abandon reason and to use science as a religion, the matter was already settled. My accusation toward the academics is they never told the people about that lost war and the existence of two ways to think the world. It needs to become public. Why focus on the universities? Because the way you think the world defines the way the society will be built. This is taught at the universities and they educated the power elite and the teachers of the whole educational system. We come back to K. Popper and Socrates. There is a necessity to assess and to choose the best way to think the world. But they have already been made. Don't you see the insanity out there? Don't you hear the people chanting the end of the world, literally? Now is the time to change the course of our civilization to avoid its collapse.
Note: We have all been educated with the idea that Christian Scholars were whether of poor quality or intellectually dishonest. This is absolutely not the case, because they fear God, they believe that by being intellectually dishonest they would betray God (Galileo, Newton, and Descartes for example). The flesh and the mind are weak, so there are plenty of bad characters in our history and even inconsistency amongst the best, but the general direction for the intellectual elite, until the 18th century, was competencies and intellectual honesty, and Christian Scholars have a lot to do with this. We abandon the quest for truths when we abandon God, the Scripture, and religions.