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Popper’s open society and Nietzsche’s existentialist social engineering: A comparison

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This thesis aims to stage a productive dialogue between the existentialist philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 -1900) and the socio-scientific philosophy of Karl Popper (1902-1994). I intend to define Popper's open society by presenting his political philosophy as deriving from his philosophy of science. The open society is characterized as a society free from tyranny, tribalism and the type of ideologies which may restrict the individual from making their own decisions. To ensure this Popper advocates what he calls ‘piecemeal social engineering’ – a process attempting to dismiss historical doctrines enforced by those thinkers he calls "historicists" including those he refers to as "enemies” of the open society, namely Plato, Hegel and Marx. I believe Popper's open society invites ‘piecemeal social engineering’ as an alternative to the social engineering of the enemies of the open society. His philosophy of social science enables Popper's social engineering philosophy to become combined with the existentialism of Friedrich Nietzsche, which together may empower the open society to gradually become more open than before.
A similar type of social engineering can be found in Nietzsche's philosophy, in particular in his aphoristic work, where he rejects what he perceives as ‘polemical’, such as the development and endurance of nihilism. Nietzsche presents nihilism as both socially constructed (namely from the Judeo-Christian view of morality) and as a meta-social fact. He advocates an existentialist philosophy which persuades the individual to overcome those elements of life which may foster the destruction of the individual's own values and freedom bestowed by her own existence. The context of Nietzsche's fragmental philosophy I find it to be purporting towards a social engineering which is existentialist by nature. Eventually, it will become apparent in this thesis how the structural correlations between Popper's piecemeal social engineering and Nietzsche's existentialist social engineering enable their productive dialogue and a resulting improved account.
To test the strengths of the improved account following from the dialogue I stage between Nietzsche and Popper, I am going to present their philosophies in the context of the current debates on the politics of identity. I am going to do so in order to see how Nietzsche’s and Popper's philosophies can be applied in a practical context, and how they may complement each-other in that context. The success will be measured by how much these philosophies can support and enhance progressivism within the identity politics of the open society.

Publication Date Mar 1, 2020


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