In political philosophy and cultural studies, certain thinkers from the twentieth-century stand out for their reliance upon distinguishing between open and closed selfhood. It is a long-running theme throughout the history of western philosophy. Yet, I have encountered Eric Voegelin who writes on it in On the Form of the American Mind (1928), then Henri Bergson relies upon the open vs. closed societies analysis in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932). Finally, American philosopher 1948 Charles Morris penned the book The Open Self in 1948 mentioning neither Voegelin nor Bergson. Open selfhood has fallen into obscurity for many and the distinction has largely vanished from political and public discourse.

Are there any other sources--aside from Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), who was never cited by Morris in 1948 either--related to the questions, values, and issues of the open self versus the closed self? Do we find any more explicit examples throughout the philosophical literature?

1 Answer 1


You might be interested in Hilary Lawson's theory of closure:

"Closure can be understood as the imposition of fixity on openness. The closing of that which is open. […] Through closure there are things."

-Patrick Dillon, in 'An Epistemology of Presence and Reconceptualisation in Design Education'

So in this picture science is seen as pursuing closure, fixed concrete things with clearly specified relationships. Whereas art usually pursues openess, ambiguity, layered readings, interactions with multiple discourses, etc. Lawson was specifically trying to go beyond a postmodernist picture of an unlimitedly malleable and constructed self.

Which makes me think of CP Snow's The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. And the Analytic vs Continental split..

I feel the idea of a Growth-Mindset in education theory relates to choosing to construct a more open than closed self, to aid learning.

In psychology, the Ambiguity Tolerance/Intolerance axis can be related to open and closed personalities. Jonathan Haidt links this axis to political pursuasion and threat perception in his Moral Foundations Theory.


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