I am reading Karl Popper’s “Open Society and Its Enemies” (1943), which is a critical examination of views on politics and history, and I am overwhelmed by his scholarship. Reading him, and checking on some of his sources, makes me realize how “unread” I am. I keep learning from authors like him, of various great books which were never mentioned in any list of “great books” which I am familiar with. So, I keep learning. But I also reflect on the following. Suppose Popper has — say — a “solution.” Who will read his book? What difference will it make, and to who? OK, so I read it, and write something about it, as here. Who will read me, and follow up by reading Popper? The circle of people who I will influence — in even a miniscule way — is very small.
There is a European term for the reading public, and it doesn’t mean someone who has mastered literacy and reads fiction, but a reader who has cultural and political interests. The term is “intelligentsia” and is broader than the term “intellectual.” So, there is this class of readers and writers who feed off each other. But, I think, the circle of this class is small and closed. I mean that the impact or influence of this class on the wider public is, practically speaking, near zero.