Vogelin to Strauss (Re Popper on GWF Hegel)
"""""Dear Mr. Strauss....The opportunity to speak a few deeply felt words about Karl Popper to a kindred soul is too golden to endure a long delay. This Popper has been for years, not exactly a stone against which one stumbles, but a troublesome pebble that I must continually nudge from the path, in that he is constantly pushed upon me by people who insist that his work on the “open society and its enemies” is one of the social science masterpieces of our times. This insistence persuaded me to read the work even though I would otherwise not have touched it. You are quite right to say that it is a vocational duty to make ourselves familiar with the ideas of such a work when they lie in our field; I would hold out against this duty the other vocational duty, not to write and to publish such a work. In that Popper violated this elementary vocational duty and stole several hours of my lifetime, which I devoted in fulfilling my vocational duty, I feel completely justified in saying without reservation that this book is impudent, dilettantish crap. Every single sentence is a scandal, but it is still possible to lift out a few main annoyances.
1. The expressions “closed [society]” and “open society” are taken from Bergson’s Deux Sources. Without explaining the difficulties that induced Bergson to create these concepts, Popper takes the terms because they sound good to him[he] comments in passing that in Bergson they had a “religious” meaning, but that he will use the concept of the open society closer to Graham Walas’s “great society” or that of Walter Lippmann. Perhaps I am oversensitive about such things, but I do not believe that respectable philosophers such as Bergson develop their concepts for the sole purpose that the coffeehouse scum might have something to botch. There also arises the relevant problem: if Bergson’s theory of open society is philosphically and historically tenable (which I in fact believe), then Popper’s idea of the open society is ideological rubbish . . .
2. The impertinent disregard for the achievements in his particular problem area, which makes itself evident with respect to Bergson, runs through the whole work. When one reads the deliberations on Plato or Hegel, one has the impression that Popper is quite unfamiliar with the literature on the subject–even though he occasionally cites an author. In some cases, as for example Hegel, I would believe that he has never seen a work like Rosenzweig’s Hegel and the State. In other cases, where he cites works without appearing to have perceived their contents, another factor is added:
3. Popper is philosophically so uncultured, so fully a primitive ideological brawler, that he is not able even approximately to reproduce correctly the contents of one page of Plato. Reading is of no use to him; he is too lacking in knowledge to understand what the author says. Through this emerge terrible things, as when he translates Hegel’s “Germanic world” as “German world” and draws conclusions from this mistranslation regarding Hegel’s German nationalist propaganda.
. . . Briefly and in sum: Popper’s book is a scandal without extenuating circumstances; in its intellectual attitude it is the typical product of a failed intellectual; spiritually one would have to use expressions like rascally, impertinent, loutish; in terms of technical competence, as a piece in the history of thought, it is dilettantish, and as a result is worthless.
It would not be suitable to show this letter to the unqualified. Where it concerns its factual contents, I would see it as a violation of the vocational duty you identified, to support this scandal through silence."""""""
Geschmeckt zu mir gut! Anything that scares 'Merican male nurses can't be all bad--and Hegel still frightens some in Uni-land (though they don't know Sein from ...Dasein).