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Petr Hampl examines the concept of an “open society” as he contrasts the societal acceptance of truth with the ongoing challenge of discerning objective facts from prevailing subjective beliefs.

Russia is by its very nature so aggressive that it threatens the entire world. Global warming will soon destroy life on earth if carbon neutrality is not achieved in the European Union. Migration from culturally completely different regions is a benefit and an enrichment, and does not pose a serious risk to the domestic population. The female brain is not different from the male brain; the differences between men and women are largely due to discrimination. Education by a homosexual group is beneficial to children. These are the “universally accepted” truths of our time that must not be contradicted.

… we should interpret current events as a return to pre-Enlightenment and pre-rational times rather than as extreme modernity.

Typically, these are not pure facts, but a mixture of facts and attitudes. For example, the theory that the Soviet Union started World War II contains some facts (a treaty was signed), but also an evaluation. Until recently, this was consistently separated within rational discussion. If one denied that a non-aggression pact was signed between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, one would pay the price in loss of prestige. But it was free to discuss whether this could be considered the start of the Second World War. But the current holders of the correct view are unable to distinguish between facts and evaluation. That is why we also hear that “misinformation can be a true statement.” We hear this from experts who have significant influence on the current Czech government, which is made up of Soros groups.

How much the Western world has changed can be illustrated by comparing two court cases. In 1925, there was the so-called “monkey case” in the USA, where a high school teacher was accused of lecturing children on Darwin’s theory of evolution, even though regulations forbade it. The teacher’s lawyers called a number of witnesses, took a lot of evidence and tried to convince the jury that Darwin’s theory was true. In 2023, Josef Skála, a Czech historian, was accused of challenging the majority-accepted version of a World War II event, the so-called Katyn massacre. Skala’s lawyer also called witnesses (history professors) and prepared a number of pieces of evidence. But the Czech court did not admit them. The Prague judge expressed the belief that a historian should respect the prevailing interpretations of events and that attempts to challenge those interpretations are a criminal offence. How enormously things have changed!

That is why I argue in the soon-to-be-published Human Rights anthology that we should interpret current events as a return to pre-Enlightenment and pre-rational times rather than as extreme modernity.

More Fighting against Misinformation?

Either way, one would expect that in such a situation, wise people would call for pluralism and for a diversity of views. That they would call for different groups and social classes to be able to formulate competing viewpoints. But sometimes it is just the opposite. For example, I often hear from my friends – conservative Catholics – that the problem of our time is relativity. They say that we have little insistence on the one true truth.

In recent weeks, this has been heard in the reactions to my book Breached Enclosure, or rather to the second volume, which is so far only in Czech. The book is about the clash between Western civilisation and Islam and the mechanisms that determine the direction of development of Western societies. However, there are questions behind all deeper thinking. How do we know that this is the case? How can we come to the right knowledge? I, too, ask such questions and consider them to be absolutely fundamental.

But I do not think that our time is too relativistic and that anything can be demanded. Try demanding that homosexual intercourse with a person under 21 be a criminal offence. Try demanding the nationalization of the assets of multinational corporations. Try describing the benefits of friendship with Russia. You’ll quickly discover that you don’t live in an age of ideological or moral relativism.

Of course, I understand the temptation. Pushing for the one truth is wrong now, but when we are in power then we will push for the right values and the right views. How wonderful that will be! But it should chill one a little to know that there has never (!) been a period in European history when the right single truth has been enforced. All attempts to do so have without exception ended in disaster. That is also why the heralds of a return to the one right truth mostly tend towards a vague mystique, in the realm of suggestion and impression-making. You will not find with them any theory whose truth can be tested.

Without Censorship and without Reason?

It is easy to reject censorship, except for temporary restrictions on some extremely dangerous things. But it is not easy to achieve that without getting lost in the flood of dreams, subjective ideas, superstitions, true information and all sorts of lies. This is what paralyses the anti-globalist opposition today and prevents positive change. The opposition is incapable of action not because it is divided, but because it is confused. And with every attempt at unification, this confusion grows. It is no coincidence at all that when various despots want to stifle opposition, they spout conspiracy theories. This has been well documented since at least the late 19th century.

On the one hand, it is clear that truth or falsity is not a matter of agreement or opinion. Yes, we can agree on the view that the Russian army is running out of ammunition, but that view will not be very valid on the battlefield.

But on the other hand, it is also clear that in a lot of things we simply do not know what the truth is and we are not able to find out reliably. We are prone to mistakes as individuals and as whole societies. And all too often, we come to have absolute certainty about something that is in fact false. This, after all, is what we see every day. The “elite” point out some of the terrible lies spread by the “alternative.” The “Alternative” points out some of the terrible lies spread by the “elite”. Neither side is capable of admitting their own mental problems.

Killing Ideas, Killing People

And here we come to the Popperian response, the best yet to emerge in the history of Western civilization. Karl R. Popper proposes that we adopt some simple procedure on which everyone agrees, and by which all claims will be judged. What does not stand the test of this procedure will not be forbidden, but it will be considered somehow inferior. It will be a “mere” expression of subjective personal belief. This is what the term “open society” refers to – a society where a single criterion is used to judge ideas and propositions. He certainly wouldn’t favor open borders or 76 genders. However, he would demand that claims of guarded or unguarded borders be tested by the same procedure. Likewise, he would require that claims about two genders and 76 genders be tested under the same procedure.

Religion, then, should be given special status, according to Popper. Science, he said, should be separated from religion, which would benefit both sides.

… it is worth remembering that Auschwitz was not created by the progressivists, but by misguided conservatives yearning for the restoration of a pre-modern commonwealth (which never really existed).

Personally, I don’t have the slightest problem with this, because I know that two genders and guarded boundaries would easily pass any test. And if I’m proven wrong about something, I’d rather accept a painful change of mind than remain in error for the rest of my life.

It’s just that this is not a universal attitude. Many people are in love with their opinions. For many people, certain opinions are part of their identity. Many people are members of groups where group membership is confirmed by certain opinions. Thus, exploring truthfulness is threatening to them in a very personal way.

Popper advises us to overcome this attitude. If we don’t let ideas die, people will die instead, he says.

The Trap of Conceptual Realism

Many conservatives can’t respond to this because they don’t know. Because they are working with a method that is completely wrong. A philosopher sees the title of a book and starts thinking about what might be implied by the phrase “open society.” He adds insights from other books he has actually read. He adds his subjective experience and the opinions of his friends. And he arrives at a random subjective opinion that he declares to be the absolute truth. This is how Aristotle and Plato proceeded. So did St. Thomas Aquinas. So did Karl Marx. And many others. I don’t deny that we find some great ideas in them, but the problem with their method is that they were unable to distinguish truth from untruth. This is normal – every idea we have seems brilliant unless we have a clear external standard. In philosophy textbooks, this is called “realism.”

We can’t be angry at the old thinkers for this, just as we can’t mock the technological capabilities of the ancient Greeks. They simply lived in a different time, and we stand on their shoulders. On the other hand, this does not mean that we should throw away the knowledge we have gained and return to the Middle Ages, or even try to forcibly return an entire society there. In this context, it is worth remembering that Auschwitz was not created by the progressivists, but by misguided conservatives yearning for the restoration of a pre-modern commonwealth (which never really existed).

Where Is the Open-Mindedness?

In fact, Karl Popper never advocated what is now termed openness. And it probably never occurred to him that such ideas could be attributed to him. His contribution lies mainly (and essentially only) in replacing big words and big principles with simple procedures that anyone can apply. Anyone can take a Popperian procedure and check whether a political regime is democratic. Anyone can take a Popperian procedure and check if the proposition is rational.

“The laws of logic are universally valid and put everyone on the same level. That is why, according to Nietzsche, they are just a subterfuge by which the mob tries to gain the upper hand and humiliate the one who is actually superior to it. To follow one’s own instincts is noble; to follow logic is to yield to the mob.” That’s how John Carey put it in his book Intellectuals and the Masses. I’m afraid that’s the real crux of the problem. Where would we end up if every uneducated villager’s theory was judged by the same criteria as Aristotle’s? Where would we end up? A better world than the one we live in today.

“So when we hear our committed liberals invoke ‘openness’ and ‘critical insight,’ let us realize that this is mostly just a convenient ideological baton to wield against their opponents,” writes Czech Catholic philosopher Roman Cardal. I can’t help but hear no calls for openness and criticality from them in today’s mainstream. I hear dull dogmatism, mechanical repetition of maxims and mob mentality.

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Dr. Petr Hampl

Petr Hampl, PhD, is a Czech sociologist, author and the programme director of Jungmannova narodni akademie (an independent non-mainstream educational institution where professors pushed out of politically correct faculties teach). Nationalist. A proponent of rationality and modern science. Former vice-chairman of the Czech Bloc against Islamisation.

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