Voegelin on Popper: “impudent, dilettantish crap”

Ah, the wonderful things you can find on the internet just by following links.  I started by reading this article on The Brussels Journal, an excellent article in itself on how leftist bias in the Anglo-American world drove–and continues to drive–hostility towards the German resistance to Hitler (so much so that a memo from the British Foreign Office actually claimed that it was better that Hitler prevailed).  Following one of the links on this page, I eventually got to this letter from Eric Voegelin to Leo Strauss concerning Karl Popper’s influential but utterly meritless The Open Society and its Enemies.  I was happy to find that Voegelin, one of my intellectual heroes, had the same opinion of Popper’s work that I have.  An excerpt:

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.

Those who have become familiar with Voegelin’s academic prose will appreciate how deliciously out of character it seems for him to describe something as simply “crap”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: