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Ignorance and Ideology in an Open Society


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#1    coberst

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 10:14 AM

Ignorance and Ideology in an Open Society

Karl Popper argues, in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies, that all ideology shares a common characteristic; a belief in infallibility.

The concept Popper illustrates in this book sounds much like the concept of a liberal democracy but his concept is more epistemological than political. It is based upon our imperfect comprehension of reality more than our structure of society.  Such infallibility is an impossibility, which leads such ideological practitioners to use force to substantiate their views and such repression brings about a closed society.


Popper proposed that the open society is constructed on the recognition that our comprehension of reality is not perfect—there is realty beyond our comprehension and our will cannot compensate for that lack of comprehension. Even though the will of the power structure can manipulate the opinions of the citizens sooner or later reality will defeat the will. Truth does matter and success will not always override truth—truth being reality.

The Old Testament is an example of a tribal society and thus a closed society; the New Testament is an example of universal morality determined by universal recognition of human rights, which results in an open society.

George Soros “was born in Budapest, Hungary on August 12, 1930. He survived the Nazi occupation of Budapest and left communist Hungary in 1947 for England, where he graduated from the London School of Economics (LSE). While a student at LSE, Soros became familiar with the work of the philosopher Karl Popper, who had a profound influence on his thinking and later on his professional and philanthropic activities… In 1956, Soros moved to the United States, where he began to accumulate a large fortune through an international investment fund he founded and managed… Soros has been active as a philanthropist since 1979.”

Philosopher, tycoon, philanthropist, author, and international political activist George Soros says in his book The Age of Fallibility that “An open society accepts our fallibility; a closed society denies it.”

Soros declares that America is an open society that does not comprehend or abide by its principles.
He argues that the principles of an open society are not a product of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment projected a reality that was in many ways separate from reason, and it was reason’s job to discover reality. In this view of reality, wherein reason had an independence from reality, reality could know absolute truth. “For instance, the theory of perfect competition was based on the assumption of perfect knowledge.”

Enlightenment was an age of hope in which reality was a virgin territory waiting to be discovered by reason. “The scope for reason seemed unlimited”. Reason has discovered a great deal and one very important truth is that there is no absolute truth; humans are fallible.

Although America is an open society, Americans do not comprehend why it is so and thus many contradictions result. Our government was formed on the principle of divided powers and not on the recognition of fallibility. In fact, the Declaration states a conceived absolute truth, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” The preamble of the Declaration of Independence is based upon natural rights while the text is based upon universal human rights.

An open society is constructed on the understanding that there is no absolute truth; there is a reality beyond our knowledge and that reality will contradict our will at times. America has often pursued success without regard for truth. Truth is easily manipulated or power often overrides truth as a result we often have little concern for truth. Soros calls this a feel-good society wherein society is unwilling to confront unpleasant realities.


An important consideration is that the people must believe in the value of an open society for that type of society to succeeds and flourish. In an open society ‘truth matters’; when the people become accustomed to the prevalence of power or ideology determining actions that society soon gives up the commitment to truth.

A feel-good society is not committed to truth and is soon deprived of the essence of an open society. When this principle is lost so might the open society. “Intellectual honesty and integrity are the values that America needs to rediscover if it is to recover.”

Americans seek entertainment rather than understanding. In an open society business seeks to give the citizens what they want provided that fits within the profit motive upon which business is constructed. Often business must step in to guide public desires to fit business interests. In our society the media, wherein the critical faculty generally lay, tends to provide the people what they clamor for, thus the societies critical faculty is steadily diminished and so the bulwark of an open society.





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