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Sunday, March 8, 2020

Plato and His Enemies

It's impossible to visualize western philosophy without the towering figure of Plato, but there are three twentieth-century philosophers—Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper, and Ayn Rand—who have tried to destroy Plato by depicting him as the formidable enemy of reason and liberty. Russell attacks Plato in his A History of Western Philosophy, but he does not build a thorough case—that is something that Karl Popper does. In his The Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper indicts Plato as the father of modern totalitarianism. It is likely that Ayn Rand picked up her notion of Plato from her reading of Russell and Popper; she targets Plato in her essay, “For The New Intellectual,” which has her describing Platonism as “a monument to the Witch Doctor’s metaphysics”. The interesting thing is that Russell, Popper, and Rand were opposed to Marxism, but only in politics and economics, never in the domain of culture. I think that it's their cultural Marxism that made them describe Plato as an arch-fiend while ignoring his great philosophical achievements. (Plato is generally admired by the thinkers of the cultural right and hated by the cultural left.)

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