Eric Voegelin's Contribution to Contemporary Political Theory Author(s): Dante Germino Source: The Review of Politics, Vol. 26, No.

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Eric Voegelin's Contributionto Contemporary Political Theory
Dante Germino OME fifty years ago, Douglas Ainslie wrote of Benedetto

Croce*: "I can lay no claim to having discoveredan America,
but I do claim to have discovered a Columbus."l Eric Voegelin, today at the height of his career as a political philosopher, scarcely needs to be discovered; he is regarded as a Columbus in the realms of the spirit by many concerned with the theoretical analysis of politics.2 But in the political science profession he has been more often ignored or systematically misunderstood than read for what he has to teach. Among those according an indifferent or hostile reception to Voegelin are many who, bewailing the recent "decline" of political theory, might have been expected to welcome the appearance of a thinker meticulously pointing the way to the recovery of political theory as a tradition of inquiry. The basic reasons for this curious reception will be alluded to in the course of this essay. The major objective, however, is to isolate the key elements in Voegelin's political theory and to give some indication of his general position in contemporary political science. Hopefully, the result will be to further the understanding of his work and the appreciation of his achievement.3 * The greater part of this research was completed during a leave of absence made possible by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and Wellesley College.

1Introduction to Croce's Aesthetic (London, 1909), p. xv. 2 Indeed, at the 1960 convention of the American Political Science Association, a panel was set aside for the discussion of his magnum opus, Order and History. This is a rare distinction for a living political philosopher. 3 The present time is a propitious one to evaluate Voegelin's contribution to contemporary political theory because, although the fourth and fifth volumes of Order and History are as yet unpublished, the main themes of his analysis have been expounded and the Voegelinian corpus has now attained considerable proportions. His published writings include ten books and at least fifty-five articles and essays. A complete bibliography of his works is in the Voegelin Festschrift (March, 1962). The writer has also been able to consult two hitherto unpublished writings of Professor Voegelin, available at the Institut fuer Politischen Wissenschaften at the University of Munich. One is a mimeographed copy of a lecture which he delivered at Munich and Notre Dame in 1961 entitled "Debate and Existence." The other is the typescript-of a small treatise entitled The Nature of Law. In addition, during the 1961 summer term at

378

" as an experiential science of right order in the soul and in society.. in the Comtean or logical positivist fashion. and history. utopia. Today. The "Experience of Existence" The starting-pointof Voegelin's explorationsis the empirical fact of the human person in his awareness of the finiteness of his existence. It is essential to recognize that Voegelin conceives of political but theory not as an ideology. it would be well to preface an exposition of those propositionswith a discussion of Voegelin's highly creative analysis of the structure of experience itself.he a experiences world of existentsof which he is a part. for the first time in centuries. "politics" proper. Intellect is the instrumentof self-interpretation much as as it is a part of the structureinterpreted. These advances presupposea recovery of the achievements of the Platonic-Aristotelianepisteme. This "experience"is multi-dimensionalin nature and incapable of being contracted. The object of the critical reflection induced by the activity of theoria is episteme politike. I am most indebted to him for these courtesies. Moreover. . in discoveringhimself in his limitation as part in a field of existents. Existence acquires its Munich I had the opportunity to hold a number of valuable conversations with Professor Voegelin and to hear his lectures and seminar presentations. Since human experience is the control for the propositions elucidated in the course of his theoretical analyses. By virtue of the noetic structureof his existence . or political science. political "science" and political "theory" are inseparably bound together. Man discovershis existenceas illuminatedfrom within by Intellect or Nous. .. a fully developed political science is impossible.but an existentamong others. Such an inventory can be organized under three headings: ethics.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 379 To Voegelin. to the single plane of physical sensation.the materialsare available and the intellectual climate is suitable for great advances in the theoretical analysis of politics. man discovershimself as being not a world unto himself. a period which has witnessed the triumph of fallacious gnostic symbolizations. When political science is fully developed. . Without an ontologically grounded theory of politics. or scientific "methodology.it will contain a comprehensive inventory of all the relevant problems. . he discovershimself as not being the maker of this field of existents or of any part of it. nearly lost during the period since 1500.

so that the 4 Voegelin. but is the necessary presupposition of. In reflecting upon his finiteness and mortality.. for at the center of his existence man is a mysteryto himself. a cognitio fidei. a knowledge of faith. Voegelin distinguishesbetween four functions of the nous: (1) the "illumination" of the transitorynature of human existence.4 In discoursing upon the structure of existence. . p. and (4) the rational elaboration of the experienceand its components.. unpublished lecture on "Debate and Existence. including himself. Above all.380 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS poignant meaning through the experience of not being selfgeneratedbut having its origin outsideitself.That origin and end will not be found by ranging over the field of existing things but must be traced to a "something"beyond that field. 17. that the universe was fashioned by the word of God. Voegelin employs the term "faith" precisely in the New Testament sense as expounded in Hebrews 11: "Faith gives substance to our hopes. for man in the limitations of his existential situation can only reason from that which is known by immediate experience to that which lies beyond. in Augustinian terms. man is led to an awarenessof the transcendentalground of all existing things. (2) the apprehension of "transcendence" of an ultimate ground of all existing things.5 It is of particular importance that Voegelin's description of the second phase of the cognitive activity of the nous be properly understood. (3) the formation of an "idea" of the structure of existence ("ideation"). The knowledge of transcendence is. The cognitive illumination of the structure of existence makes it transparentto him that existing things could not be the origin and end of themselves. such experience and is in its essence "unknowable." p. uncertain. and makes By faith we perceive us certain of realities we do not see. Voegelin has gone to considerablelengths to emphasize that valid philosophizing about politics must rest upon an adequate symbolization respecting the "something" that constitutes the ground of being. to discourseupon the transcendental ground as if it were an object located in the stream of immanent experience must be recognized as a fundamental impropriety. 5Ibid. 13." Such knowledge is inevitably fragmentary. and intangible. All "knowledge" of the ground of being is analogical in character.

8 The New Science of Politics (Chicago. the vital component of transcendence will be left out of the calculations of reason in its attempt to illuminate the structure of existence to the fullest extent possible within the limited capabilities of the nous. my article. August. which is to say. p. As Voegelin has expressed the matter in his important paper "Debate and Existence": "The logical operationsof Intellect qua Reason will arrive at widely different results if Reason has cut loose from the condicio humana. p. for a discussion of the two approaches." Faith is the fragile bond which keeps reason tied to this condition. the assertion of Jean Meynaud that Voegelin writes from a "purely doctrinal" and "confessional" viewpoint is an absurdity. Experienceof the ground of being through faith is what Voegelin calls the premier Erfahrung: it is the experience which must precede all theorizingabout the human condition. Cf. Reason must build on faith if its symbolic constructions are adequately to represent the real structure of existence. Without the prior experience of faith. Introduction a la science politique (Paris. the experience of faith is to prepare the way for the work of reason. 122. are the necessarycomplementsof each other. far from being antithetical. This will result in a falsificationof the symbolic picture the theory . although sometimes possessingan internal "rational" coherence are actually the repudiation of a rational 7 In a profound sense. and that faith and reason."6 Let it be remembered at once that for Voegelin faith is a property of the nous. These speculations. 1959. 1959). to reality. . 6 Hebrews 11:1-3 (New English Bible).7 It is by the "tenuous bond of faith" that we apprehend the "world-transcendent God" that is the origin and end of all existing things. 11. XXI.8 To experience through faith the transcendentalground is the conditio sine qua non for the valid operation of human reason in its articulationof the structureof existence. "Two Types of Recent Christian Political Thought. 1952). or intellect." Journal of Politics. The rejection of the fragile bond and the pursuit of massivelypossessive "knowledge"based on an illusionarysimplificationof human existence through the incorporationof the transcendentalground within the stream of immanent existence have produced the imaginative gnostic ideological speculations of the modem era.which reason produces. In this connection. In no sense can Voegelin properly be termed a Barthian fideist. and faith that does not issue in rational knowledge (that is. Voegelin transcends both the "fideist" and "rationalist" positions in contemporary Protestant and Catholic political thought. in philosophy) is inadequate.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 381 visible came forth from the invisible.

and I doubt that one can properly speak of a 'system' before Descartes." Actually." Philosophische Rundschau. and "Religions-ersatz. of being born and bound to die. With such men it is impossible to have rational philosophic communication. I(1953/54). of being creatures of a day as the poets call man." a systematic construction of a Spinoza or a Hegel derives its propositions from axioms.9 They renounce existence in uncertain truth for existence in certain untruth.. The "system" is founded on the illusion that all realms of being are susceptible to being compressed to the point where they can be fully grasped and conceptualized by the finite human mind. but note especially the interesting articles "Philosophie der Politik in Oxford. 7."Wort und Wahrheit. systems "are a modem invention. or pretend to be ignorant.10 In its enclosed conversation with itself. 10Voegelin's attack on "systems" and system-building in philosophy runs through all his writings. XV(1960). . 23. moving in the "tension between reason and faith. ff. of the basic experience of existence." They proclaim an illusory self-salvation and self-perfection for man within history. for "edifices of reason enacted on the experiential basis of existence in truth" are "useless in a meeting with edifices of reason erected on a different experiential basis. of dissatisfaction with the state experienced as imperfect. of possible fulfillment in a state beyond this world. of apprehension of a perfection that is not of this world but is a privilege of the gods. which teaches that 9"Debate and Existence. System-constructors are ignorant. Voegelin is to be counted among that group of contemporary philosophers (including thinkers like Alois Dempf and Hans Urs von Balthasar) who seek to expose the defects of system-building in modem philosophy. writes Voegelin." p. ff." Whereas a work like the Thomistic Summa Theologica employs analogical reasoning in discoursing upon the transcendental ground and remains open and necessarily incomplete. The thinkers of the second reality reject the experience of finiteness and creatureliness in our existence. The term "system" is often used today to refer to any orderly body of philosophical speculation and one hears of Thomistic and Aristotelian "systems. 55." In metaphysics.382 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS science of politics because they are grounded on an imagined "second reality. it becomes further and further removed from the reality which it is supposed to be explicating.

therefore. For there can be no doubt that to Voegelin an episteme politike is possible."'l Voegelin is a philosophical realist rather than a nominalist. p. He could possibly have retreated into Pyrrhonic (and Oakeshottian) skepticism. or conceptualistin that he holds that existential reality possessesa structure. independentof human thinking and willing. The philosopher must aspire to attune his thinking to that reality (or.Another measure of Voegelin's achievement is that he has pushed far beyond this tenable but ultimately inadequate position and has driven himself to explicate the vital distinction between illegitimate (because illusionary) gnosis and valid episteme regarding the conditio humana. and it may be said that the Munich philosopher has sought to follow Bergson in fashioning a metaphysics which passes "from reality to concepts and no longer from concepts to reality. Introduction to Metaphysics (New York.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 383 there are ultimate realms of being which escape our systemsaltogether and that at the center of being the source of all that is remains unknowable in its essence." Episteme Politike Given Voegelin's emphasis upon the inevitable limitations of human knowledge. or constitution. one might be led to think that he would attempt no scientific political theory at all. and his Xenophanesian concern about the improprietyof unseemly symbolization in the realms of metaphysics. One of the few modem thinkers to whom Voegelin always refers with admiration is Bergson. ." In this sense. Bergson. and that its objective is to articulate propositions that tell us as much as can be known about the right order 1Henri Bergson explained that such a metaphysics is difficult to achieve because the "normal" tendency of human thought is to be guided by a practical rather than a theoretical orientation. Voegelin is the supreme "empiricist."although it is the entirety of human experience and not some arbitrarilyabstractedsegment of it that he takes for his field of "observation. thought naturally seeks to come to reality via preconceived concepts rather than to derive its concepts from reality. 40. more precisely. but content himself with admonitions to opinionated ideologists and Wittgenstein-likeintimations of inexpressible mysteries. 1912). to recognize his thought as participatingin the noetic structure of existence) rather than attempt to force reality to conform to his concepts or "ideas. idealist. his scorn for system-building.

which constitute the topoi of the Platonic-Aristotelian episteme politike. The constructiveaspect of Voegelin's work consists of an attempt to elaborate. or. In contrastto the "micro-cosmological" principle enunciated in the Egyptian and Babylonian symbolizations. In Iis unrivalledcritical exegesisof Plato in the third volume of Order and History. the principles of order in human social existence. the macro-anthropological principle describes society as the reflection of the order of the psyche in the ruling character type. Voegelin's political theory may be most suitably discussed under three headings: ethics. Voegelin calls this teaching about human nature by the name of "philosophicalanthropology. better.384 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS of the psyche and of society. Knowledge respecting the different types of societies and their relative worth can be attained only through a knowledge of the different human types and their ranking on a scale of excellence. politics. Part of that knowledge. will be a knowledge of the limits of knowledge. there is no substitute for reading him in extenso.of the phantasy permeating all speculationson politics society which assume that existence is something other than it is and that a realm of perfect equality. freedom. a knowledge of the distinction between the knowable and the unknowable. because any genuinely theoreticalanalysisof politics must rest upon a carefullyenunciated doctrine of human nature. Much of Voegelin's work in the area of philosophical an- . (1) Philosophical Anthropology As was previously stated. Included in this category is the understanding invaluablefor a science of right orderin political . Voegelin gives an account of Plato's discovery (intimated but not fully articulated in Heraclitus) of the "macroanthropological" principle. indeed the most significant part. which held society to be a miniature analogue of cosmic rhythms." thropology has been devoted to the recovery of the classical of theorizingrespectingthe interpenetration society and psyche. We begin with ethics. What follows will be only an inadequate summary of his positive political theory. As with all thinkers of the first rank. after the manner of the classical political theorists. and human fulfillment is obtainable within time by virtue of the proper manipulation of the institutionalenvironment. and history.

most fully developed) man. The representativeexemplar is given the name "philosopher"by Plato. etc.12 Voegelin accepts in its essentialsthe portrait of the spoudaios 12 The term "philosopher" has been and continues to be so ridiculously misused that the Aristotelian word may be preferable. Nixon's "philosophy" of labor-management relations. (3) the best man (the spoudaios) is the man who measureshimself by the highest that is within him. but all of them are referred to as philosophers. Philosophical anthropology enables us to arrive at a scale of character. as his measure. or the ground of being. [Thus] we call philosophers precisely those persons to whom Plato as a philosopher was in opposition. is an expression of what Maritain has termed theocentric. . .). etc. humanism. as opposed to anthropocentric. (2) the best society (ariste politeia) will reflect in its institutional order the pattern of order in the psyche of the best man. Voegelin's philosophical anthropology. two contemporary colaborers with Voegelin in the vineyards of philosophical anthropology)." Order and History (Baton Rouge. embarrassing. Plato formulated the symbol "philosopher" (or lover of wisdom) in contradistinction to "philodoxer" (or lover of opinion): "We have philosophers in English but no philodoxers. because we have an abundance of philodoxers in reality. As Voegelin points out. Readers of James Reston's column in the New York Times will notice the frequent abuse of the terms philosopher and philosophical (thus we have a "philosophical" question at a Presidential news conference. The loss is . and (4) only because he measures himself by the measure of all being does the best man have authority to claim himself as the measure of the best society.the type of man who has come closestto actualizing his distinctively human potentialities . beginning with the "representativeexemplar" of the human species. . . 1957). III.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 385 A sound philosophicalanthropologywill teach us that (1) the character of a given society is the reflection of the psyches of its ruling elite. which can be most accurately translated as the "ripe" or "mature" (that is. ."Man is seen to be essentially a "theomorph" (to employ a term also used by Alois Dempf and Romano Guardini. Aristotle calls him the spoudaios. derived from the Platonic-Aristotelian teaching. he will live the life of reason in attunement with the divine measure.. if he achieves his maximal developmentas a human being.and proceeding downward to the most degenerate and antihuman types such as the gangsterswho made up the ruling elite of the Nazi regime. 65. . The Protagoreanmaxim that "man is the measure of all things" is subjected to the crucial qualification "provided that he takes God.

The spoudaios is the man who has his priorities right. A. .for the bios theoretikos"will not be lived in our merely human capacity but in virtue of something divine within us.as it inevitably 13Ethics (J. K. to that extent will its activity be superior to that life of the intellect is the best and pleasantest for man. who pursues as the highest good that which is really the highest good and not a good which is only instrumental for the attainment of some further good (and is therefore inherently insufficient). Strauss has made a brilliant and effective contribution to the recoveryof the insights of the Platonic-Aristotelian philosophicalanthropologyin our time. and so far as this divine particle is superiorto man's composite nature. . but the life of reason is the highest life for man. Bk. conclude that the sketched by Aristotle (principally in Books I. his inability to transcend anthropocentrichumanism even after exposing its disastrous results at the hands of key modern thinkersmars his splendid inof terpretations Plato and Aristotleand undermines. True eudaimonia can come only from the bios theoretikos. "God is the measure of all things. In some respects. Such a life is oriented towards following "the highest thing within us". IV. or power. or honor."l3 The theocentric humanism of both Plato and Aristotle. Yet. Not the life spent in the pursuit of wealth.). Such a life is the fulfillment of the capacities and powers which are most distinctively human and which mark man off from the rest of creation. . and X of the Nichomachean Ethics). . man discoversthe theomorphicelement in his constitution. as if it were possible to turn Aristotle into some kind of contemporarysecular intellectual who separatesreason from the experienceof transcendence. . which can be summarized in Plato's dictum in the Laws. We . in leading the life of reason. . X." has been rediscovered by Voegelin in resistance to basic misinterpretations certain classical scholars. because the intellect [nous] more than anything else is the man. 7. The significanceof such misinterpretations present-daypolitical for theory can be grasped when one examines Leo Strauss'swritings. Thomas trans. The bios theoretikosis the highest life for man because it is the most self-sufficient and (therefore) godlike activity for human beings to pursue.the life of reason devoted to the contemplation of the order of being.386 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS of the other forms of excellence. by Particularly has the theocentric element in the Aristotelian anthropology been ignored by certain writers.

the basis of his claim to speak with philosophical authority. even to the point of labelling him as a type of "Fascist" ideologue. especiallyWalterBerns. with authoritative approval resting with the men whose character has been formed by a classical education. Strauss skirts "dangerously close to a moralism which depends simply on approval or disapproval."The Method and Results of PoliticalAnthroArchivfuer Rechts-und XLVII (1961)."14 Strauss demonstrates that he knows what the spoudaios is and that he seeks to emulate it. which ignores the decisive Platonic qualification to the teaching that man is the measure. the claim to authority by the philosophos-spoudaios is a spiritual claim and has nothing to do with the direction of a mass movement for the forcible seizure of power in society. and we may expect the attacks from certain quarters to continue. must." Sozialphilosophie.ERIC VOEGELIN'S CONTRIBUTION 387 15Note the review of Order and History by Moses Hadas in the Journal of the History of Ideas. pologyin America. but of course we'll call it something else. at 413.Justice. and one remembers a remark attributed to a notable patron of the institution which Professor Voegelin serves [at the time. Some of Strauss'sfollowerscontinue to make the same error. Harvard. In the first place. The philosopher performs the function of representing the transcendent truth to society.Cf. to the degree that the existential power representatives heed him. As one who has spent several years studying Fascism. and the First Amendment (BatonRouge. One of the enormous difficulties besetting rational communication among scholars at the present time is that many people cannot recognize a philosopher when they see one. he was on the faculty of Louisiana State University]: 'Sure. we'll have fascism in this country." Voegelin's philosophical anthropology has been attacked on the grounds of its supposedly antidemocratic and "elitist" nature. As another political scientist has appropriately pointed out.Freedom. but his anthropocentrism prevents him from adequately explaining the grounds of the claim by the spoudaios to be the "measure of everything. 1958). then to that degree will his teaching have pragmatic effect on the operation of the society's public institu14William C. XIX(1958). . through his particular brand of anthropocentric humanism.' Leap in being?" Karl Jaspers also turns into a fascist in the course of the Hadas review. 395-415. 444. let me assure Professor Hadas that Voegelin's philosophy and Fascist ideology have nothing whatsoever in common. The review contains the following charming sentence: "One wonders whether the 'institution that wishes to remain unnamed' which Professor Voegelin thanks for material aid in each of his Prefaces was aware of the nature of his work.15 But such criticisms totally miss the point of both the Voegelinian and the Platonic-Aristotelian teaching.

But indirectly "the differentiation of the life of the soul in a great number of men in a community may have the effect of changing the mores. wealth. No man is excluded on the basis of physical characteristics. 17 As if there can be any science of politics without a theory of elites! It is not that we shall have either an elite theory or no elite theory.388 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS tions. can do nothing directly to change society to conform to the new truth. And. as an empirical fact. They are aware of the limitations of political action and act in their decisions on the basis of what Weber called the "ethics of responsibility" (Verantwortungsethik). Voegelin recognizes the existence of a wide second stratum in the character elite. nonetheless possess orthe doxa. As with Plato."16 Another point which needs to be made against those who cry "elitism"17 is that the ranks of the spoudaioi are open to any man who will form his life in accordance with reason. His task is not to take existential power in society but to labor for the "spiritual ordering of a disordered world. . while they do not consciously and primarily pursue the life of reason. the majority of men do so excommunicate themselves. They are perfectly free not to heed him. but any man may exclude himself from the character elite. II. composed of men who. 283. and sound "common sense. who will open his soul towards the transcendental ground. social status. who know the good but imperfectly and could not give an adequate rational defense of it if pressed to do so by ideological adversaries (these men are customarily philosophically inarticulate) make up the majority of the governing class of any well-ordered society. They have absorbed the Machiavellian wisdom that it is the highest irrationality in politics to act out of the supposedly pure motives 16 Order and History. the question is whether we shall have a philosophically sound or an ideologically debased elite theory. in its discovery of participation in the nous as the criterion of man's essential humanity. No man is excluded." These individuals. and ultimately the institutions of a society. of sound habits and a practical turn of mind. and the like." Philosophy. in which event he will continue his work of critically elaborating the truth about the right order in society until or unless forced to cease doing so. or true opinion. The philosopher is no dux arousing the forces of civilizational pride for an immanent perfection of society. because the hierarchy of purposes for individual action has changed.

I. if it becomes socially predominant. 1951). or because conflict of obligations is difficult to resolve.19 As one moves down the characterscale.18 The psyches of these men are capable of being intimately touched by the philosopher's teaching. 2 Ibid. 440. for some keen insights into the thought of the much-maligned Florentine. their impact as members of the cultural elite who contribute to the intellectual formation of those who hold the reins of existential power will be greater than their numbers. or because "moral obtuseness and spiritual perversion" will produce false judgments. he recognizes the unlikelihood that the bios theoretikos . philosophers. approvingly or disapprovingly. for survival in the world. The "ordering spirit" must work through a "variety of character types. Voegelin's typology of the representative exemplar of the human species provides him with standards for the measurement of the existencesof those masses of men in contemporary society who being without any firm hierarchyof purposesflit aim18Cf. Hopefully. and insofar as he devotes himself to political education. Conscience in this sense is not infallible."21 Finally. 19The philosopher also labors to increase the ranks of those who devote themselves fully to the life of noetic reason . XIII (May. by which we judge. "the order of the spirit has to rely on a blind belief in the symbols of a creed more often than on the fides caritate formata . Voegelin has written of conscience: "Conscience . is apt to kill the order it is supposed to preserve. 20 Order and History..though such reliance. or acts."20 This means that. However. our conduct in the light of our rational moral knowledge. I.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 389 of conscience without giving proper regard to the foreseeable pragmatic consequences of one's actions. . Here we encounter the rank and file in a society who lack leadershipqualities themselves but whose instinct for order leads them to reject demagogic appeals by counter-elites bent upon wreaking disorder in the society. can be defined as the act." and only exceptional persons can "translatethe order of the spirit into the practice of conduct without institutional support and pressure. . he labors to reach these men and hopes for the increase of their numbers and influence in society. 337." in the Review of Politics." It can err either because the facts of the matter requiring our action are not sufficiently known. In his unpublished treatise on The Nature of Law. one moves away from the freely formed psyche open to communion with the transcendental ground to the psyche which relies predominantly on habitual obedience and external formulae.of those who will become will be followed by more than a small minority in a technologically oriented civilization. Voegelin's article "Machiavelli's Prince: Background and Formation.

unparalleled disorders and world crises of the twentieth century. VI (May. it is not a projection of an individual's "value preferences. Such a sketch is an illustration of scientific principles and is derived from a sound philosophical anthropology.22These people. the Crisis and the War. Under the terms of the macro-anthropological principle enunciated by Plato in the Republic. by virtue of a sound philosophical anthropology. society is the "soul writ large". and unprincipled powerseekers who pander to their impulses. political theory. deserve to be described as "nihilists. Above all. 227. the elaboration of "model projects" which serve as the basis for the evaluation of existing regimes. Voegelin credits Nietzsche with having made a proper empirical assessment of the nihilistic character of "massy" existence (while rejecting." because they demonstrate in their lives their personal nothingness. (2) The Good Society The second key element in Voegelin's political theory is the conceptual representationof the paradigmaticsociety. The model project of the paradigmatic regime provides in broad outline an indication of how a society organized around the spoudaios as its representative."The paradigmatic society is anchored in ontological reality: it is a picture 22 1944).390 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS lessly from one object of trivial satisfaction to another in search of the Benthamite god. opinionated ideologists. In "Nietzsche. II." Journal of Politics. They constitute the stratum from which have issued the enormous. together with the sophists." The sketch of the paradigmatic society is not an indulgence in axiological phantasy. it need scarcely be added. must resist the ideological pressure that in the name of "democracy"seeks to replace the spoudaios with the personal nothingness of the nihilistic mass man as a measure. Nietzsche's solution for "overcoming" the nihilism). It has nothing whatever to do with the so-called "ideal state" (a fundamental mistranslation of ariste politeia) or "utopia. "In Heraclitus the idea of an order of the soul begins to form which in Plato unfolds into the perennial principle of political science: that the right order of the soul through philosophy furnishes the standard for the right order of society."23An essential part of the work of the political philosopher is. from a knowledge of the nature of the good man one can arrive at a knowledge of the good society. in fact. 2s Order and History. pleasure. .dominant type would appear.

"26Thus. himself so frequently mislabelled a "utopian" thinker. III."25 In his discussion about the problem of providing a "model project" of the paradigmaticsociety valid for contemporaryconditions." Aristotle provides only the thinnest sketch of his model in Book VIII of the Politics. to cite an example of another con25Ibid. p. need not expect to find in the Voegelinian corpus an institutional representation along the lines of Maritain'sMan and the State. 24Ibid. 187.. in the Critias. II. The "weight" of the philosopher'swork lies "in the inquiry into the nature of true order" in the soul and in society. Utopia is to be defined as "the dream of achieving the perfect society through organizing men accordingto a blueprintinstead of formingthem in an educational process . he sets up a utopia in bad faith. while the Republic omits whole areas of law from considerationon groundsthat "anybodycan elaborate the legal projects if he has understood the essence of order and realized the order within his own life. Voegelin is careful to indicate that the actual model does have its validity. Voegelin is careful to warn political theorists against attempts to elaborate its structural features in too minute and detailed a manner. ."24 Utopia is the "black magic of politics" and Plato. however: it provides men with a definite standard in terms of which they may judge the relative deficiency of the actual society in which they live." rather than as a "rational blueprint" for an "ideal state.. have the character of secondary elaborationsand must not be taken as rules with autonomous validity. The Republic is to be understoodas an "intensecall for spiritual reform. One of Voegelin's most valuable contributions has been to demonstrate that the construction of utopias has nothing to do with scientific political theory.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 391 of how society would look if it were guided by the standards of the human type that is attuned to the order of being. it may be observed that in Plato's Laws the preamblestake up much more space than the actual laws. Given his strictures against excessive detailing of the good we society's characteristics. while more than a literary device. 209. 6 The Nature of Law. "the model projects... 82. speand the philosophicelaboracifically contrastsutopia-construction tion of the good society when.

in a highly significant but regrettably little-known paper delivered several years ago to a gathering of European intellectuals. Colloques de Rheinfelden (Paris.. and (2) it is organized in such a manner that the "life of reason becomes a soul force in the culture and political affairs of the society.392 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS temporary theorist of the good society." Historical circumstanceswill most likely make it necessary to compromisecertain principlesso that at least some measure of order may be injected into a particularexisting society. in the language of the cyclical theory of history. even if it were realized historically.) (2) The good society is not to be confused with eternal paradise on earth. ContemporaryAmerican "right-wing"intellectuals who attempt to use Voegelin as a cudgel with which to whip the welfare state would receive short shrift from him." For instance. Nevertheless. we have models of what Aristotlecalled the "best practicableregime. Aron. decay and disintegrate." To these postulates Voegelin adds two corollaries: (1) the good society is not a rigid. Voegelin nowhere insists on a specific scheme of property relations as mandatory for the good society." in R. Voegelin is neither left-wing nor right-wing because he is neither a publicist nor an ideologist.. Thus. a priori conception: "Its construction is extremely elastic and ought to vary with our empirical knowledge of the nature of man and society. pp. at this stage in the industrializationprocess. he must preoccupy himself with the problem of the "dilution of the paradigm. 44 ff. .27 Voegelin recognizes with Plato and Aristotle that there exist many degrees of embodiment of the paradigmatic society. Such a society rests on two postulates: (1) it is to be as large and prosperousas is necessaryto make possible the life of reason for the minority capable of leading it. 53-54. pp.in due time it would run its course. (Significantly. and that in addition to fabricatingmodels of the best regime. ed. 1960). "La societC industrielle a la recherche de la raison. He actually takes for granted that under conditions of industrializationa good deal of public ownership and extensive social services will exist and are necessary. some kind of participation in politics by the many who are not qualified to lead either in terms of their rationality or their energy or their capabilities in marshalling the allegiances of others will 27Voegelin." That the life of reason be "socially efficacious" is its only firm point.Voegelin did offer in brief form certain specific norms for the good society in our time.

. . 78. Thus. [The theorist is not permitted to] take his position at an Archimedean point outside history.share. but the reverse cannot happen. it is societies.. with the unparalleled archaeologicaldiscoveriesand improvementsin the techniques of historical researchresulting in the enormous widening of the historical horizon. irrespective of their capacities for the life of reason.the owners of resourcesand the managers of aggregateson both the labor and the management side of the economy must have an important role in the political process. must at the same time be a theory of history. Theory is bound by history . the paradigm would have to be diluted to the point where it was transformedinto a "mixed constitution."29 Although at the center of Voegelin's analysis of politics is a philosophy of history.Similarly. For Voegelin.28 (3) Order and History Even had Voegelin done no more than recapturethe meaning and contemporaryrelevance of the classical episteme politike in the areas of ethics and politics. it is possible to arrange societies on a scale of excellence and one of the functions of political science is to survey the various types of existing societies and categorize them according to their relative worth vis-a-vis the paradigmatic model. pp." "The existence of man in political society is historical existence.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 393 be necessary. if it penetrates to principles. 1. . . his achievementwould have been monumental. Our philosopher calls for nothing less than a joining of a "theory of politics" with a "theory of history. A well-ordered society will produce a satisfactory form of government. along with the spoudaioi on the grounds of their virtue. that are primary. and a theory of politics. it should be understood that this philosophy of history. because of the vast extent of their power. in the selection and composition of the ruling governmental elite. however. As it is.. . 29 The New Science of Politics." in which the many on grounds of their number and the economic managerson the ground of their position would have a . has it become possible to develop adequately the historical side of the science of politics.hopefullynot decisive. not forms of government. Voegelin has shown that only in our time. he has gone decisively beyond the classical episteme in the field of history in the third field of investigationproper to a theory of politics conceived as a science of right order in human society. in contrast to the 28 As with individual character types.

is precluded by the identity of the knower with the partner. history has no eidos. I. for the part of being that calls itself man could be known fully only if the community of being and its drama in time were known as a whole. ." because the course of history as a whole is no object of experience."31 Gnostic thinkers from Joachim of Flora to Hegel and Marx who pretend to have captured for us the eidos of history have only succeeded in perpetrating a "swindle. however. of which existence is a part."32 "There is no eidos of history. 1959).30 A philosophy of history will not yield us special gnosis regarding the ultimate "meaning in history. I. Koesel Verlag. because the course of history extends into the unOrder and History.. for enlargement upon the theme of gnosticpolitical thinkersas "swindlers.394 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS gnostic historical constructions of a Hegel or a Marx." It rather reveals a mankind striving for its order of existence within the world while attuning itself with the truth of being beyond the world. 32 See Voegelin's inaugural lecture at Munich. and this essence depends on the whole. and gaining in the process not a substantially better order within the world but an increased understanding of the gulf that lies between immanent existence and the transcendent truth of being. profoundly disturbing. and ignorance of the whole precludes essential knowledge of the part. 31Ibid. He will shudder before the abysmal mystery of history as the instrument of divine revelation for ultimate purposes that are unknown equally to the men of all ages. Knowledge of the whole. Politik. will not offer a rounded picture of the final "meaning" of the historical pattern. und 30 Gnosis (Munich. 2. For Voegelin's philosophy of history is grounded on the experience of existence. which informs us that at the center of his existence man is unknown to himself and must remain so. . but "the light that falls over the past" only "deepens the darkness that surrounds the future. The contemporary historian is able to cast a ray of light from the present into the past. Wissenschaft." . Man's participation in being is the essence of his existence. for from the depths of this ultimate ignorance wells up the anxiety of existence. The situation with regard to the decisive core of human existence is . 129.

35 Order and History. accept Toynbee's insistence that civilizations. ."36 for societal institutions reflect the experiences of order which imbue them with a particular form.series of "civilizations. but rather seeks to put them in their proper light as constituting only one level of the political process: "The ultimate constants of history cannot be determined by forming type concepts of phenomenal regularities. Voegelin decisively rejects the portrayal in Spengler and the early Toynbee of history as an infinite . are the only "intelligible units of study. I. and this illusionary eidos is created by treating a symbol of faith [the eschaton of Christianity which points towards eventual transcendental fulfillment beyond time] as if it were a proposition concerning an object of immanent experience. It will teach the observer to go beyond the understanding of the "phenomenal regularities. that is at the dynamics of human nature that we call history. for historical regularities are no more than manifestations of the constants of human nature in their range of compactness and differentiation. 38 Ibid. or philosophy. 60. I. it will teach him what man is engaged in doing when he participates in the historical process. 63.ERIC VOEGELIN'S CONTRIBUTION 395 known future. I." He does.33 Although an adequately articulated theory.from the Babylonian and Egyptian cosmological to the Israelite historical. The form of a given society "results from the interpenetration of institutions and experiences of order. 120. he has a knowledge at this level of historical fact equalled only by Toynbee). 34Voegelin does not disparage knowledge of the phenomenal regularities in the sequence of historical events (indeed. as well as at the structural differentiation of the constant range of experiences. however. rather than nation-states." Order and History." Rather. and 33 The New Science of Politics." This position is in one way opposed to the "search for the phenomenally typical in the course of civilizations. For inevitably we must start with phenomenal regularities in order to arrive at the constants of human nature."35 At its deeper level.and ultimately senseless . The meaning of history. Greek philosophical. thus. 127.. p." to penetrate to the comprehension of history as the "inner form which constitutes a society."34 or the dimension of "objective time in which civilizations run their course. history appears as a succession of "symbolic forms" which various societies have elaborated in their attempts at self-interpretation. is an illusion. then. in the unfolding of the various symbolic forms of historical order . of history will yield man no secrets which his existential situation by its very nature bars him from attaining.

having emerged from the sheol of cosmological servitude. have created a sequence of orders. or recessions from. in Israel and Hellas. is replaced as the analogue of social order by the unseen measure "that can be experienced only by a movement of the soul.396 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS Christianforms ."37 The decisive advance in man's struggle for an adequate symbolization regarding right order in society occurs in the transition from the "truth of cosmic-divine order to the differentiatedexperience of transcendent-divineorder. in China and in India. I." Thus. occurs. an adequate symbolization of truth concerning the order of being of which the order of society is a part. intelligibly connected with one another as advances toward."39 Although the anthropologicaltruth of Greek philosophy and the soteriological truth of Christianityare alike in their opposition to cosmological compactness." Voegelin's term for denoting this qualitative advance in the history of the spirit is "leap in being".. .. . ix. becomes for the first time "consciously historical." but the parallel occurrencesare "not of equal rank. 5. 38 Ibid. 39Ibid. the ordered cosmion.human personalityin its freedom of the spirit in existence under God appears.we discern that "the great societies . the various components of human existence are differentiated and given appropriatesymbolic referents. I. the leap in being "occurs in a plurality of parallel instances. involving what Bergson described as the "opening" of the soul to the transcendenttruth. ."38When the leap in being. II. "the Platonic-Aristotelian complex of experiences was enlarged by Christianity in a decisive 37 Ibid." We move from the mythological "compactness"of cosmological truth to the more "differentiated"symbolism of philosophy and religion. the internal order of the psyche rather than the external order of nature becomes the model "that will furnish symbols for ordering society analogicallyin its image. With Greek philosophy and the Christian religion. The movement from the early empires to Hellas and Israel and finally to Christianityis in theoreticalterms an advance from cosmological to anthropologicaland finally to soteriologicaltruth about the order of being. Human existence.. In the more differentiated symbolic forms the visible world. 4.

Christentum und Liberalismus (Munich." The soul reaches out to an "inviolably transcendent" God but is met by no "answering movement. of the amicitia in the Thomistic sense. ed. chiliastic creed bent on destroyingthe soul's openness towards transcendentaltruth in the name of the unrestrainedlibido dominandi of the gnostic elite. intelligibly fulfilled the adventitious movement of the spirit in the mystic philosophers. In its most radical forms. the relevant works of Hans Leisegang and Hans Jonas on the early history of this much-neglected intellectual phenomenon. reinfused with the Christian substance.42but they all have in common the fallacious attempt to transform the uncertaintiesand ambiguities of the experience of existence into the certainties of one-dimensional intramundane experience. Out of their anxiety regarding the structure of existence. pp. See his excellent discussion of the problems of defining liberalism in "Der Liberalismus und seine Geschichte. The gnostic elite claims to have the recipe for overcoming the 40 New Science of Politics. The revelation of this grace in history."40 of Voegelin's philosophy of history is his description of moder Western civilization as the expression of the "gnostic" symbolic form. elimination of the police state. of the grace which imposes a supernaturalform on the nature of man.. through the incarnation of the Logos in Christ." in Karl Forster.) and writes optimistically of the appearance of a revised liberalism.41 which becomes progressivelyimmanentized until it erupts in the totalitarian mass movements of our time. he displays a lively appreciation for the institutional achievements of moder liberalism (rule of law. 41 Cf. 13-42.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 397 point. p. 1960). Gnosticismis a stream of thought with pre-Christian roots. etc." Philosophy emphasizes the "human side of the orientation of the soul toward divinity. One of the most important - and controversial - aspects . Enormous and important differences exist between the various gnostic symbolisms that coexist in modernity. is the specific difference of Christian truth.The critical authority over the older truth of society which the soul had gained through its opening and its orientation toward the unseen measurewas now confirmedthroughthe revelation of the measure itself." "The experience of mutuality in the relation with God. 78. on the continent of Europe today. 42 Voegelin has been vigorously attacked by various writers for characterizing liberalism as a manifestation of gnosticism. gnosticism is a messianic. Actually. they create a "second reality" which gives more assuranceto them than the apprehensionof the ground of being by faith and analogical reasoning affords.

" illuminates for us the "modes of existence in untruth. In the myth of the cosmological societies reason and revelation had not differentiated themselves as sources of authority independent of the existential power structure. . philosophy has a "diagnosticand therapeutic" function."45These "experiences"cannot be ignored by the political theorist. 108. The growth of gnosticism to the point where it became the dominant symbolic form of the moder age marked a decisive theoretical regressionfrom the high-point reached by Greek philosophy and Christianity. 78. "This means concretely that theory is bound to move within the historical horizon of classic and 43 Voegelin states in Wissenschaft. Theory must be correlatedto the "maximal experientialdifferentiation" and this maximal differentiationwas achieved by Greek philosophy and Christianity." This "fusion of authorities"makes gnostic society a separate historical type because "deliberate fusion of differentiatedcomponentsis not the same as primordial compactness. But gnostic creedmovements such as Communism and National Socialism "attempt the ordering of society by fusing the normative authority into the authority of power. by creating a "new man" and a new order of being which will be a marvelous improvement over the old order. 1930) - to be inadequate because he New Science of Politics. as the "love of being through the love of divine Being as the source of its order. immanence and transcendence. The increase of phenomenal power over the external world rather than the interal ordering of the soul by the divine measure is regarded as the summum bonum by the gnostic creed-movements. Religionen (Stockholm. 44 The Nature of Law."44 For Voegelin as for Plato." And the substance of historywill be discoveredto consist "in the experiencesin which man gains the understandingof his humanity and together with it the understandingof its limits.398 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS gulf between essence and existence. but must be empirically examined and criticallyevaluated for the light which they shed upon his own search for the truth about order in human society. p. Philosophy. p.in Die Politischen 45 failed to take this fact sufficiently into account. Politik und Gnosis that he now holds his earlier analysis of totalitarian movements as political religions .43 The gnostic symbolic form is sui generis. This regression cannot be interpreted simply as a return to the earlier compactnessof the cosmological experience of order.

Storing. It requires laborious formation of character to become a spoudaios and so be able to verify in one's own experience the metaphysical propositions of the classical and Christian science.." 46Ibid. in the positivist scheme of things. in H.. there will occur a major upheaval in the research prioritiesand methods now pursued in the profession. p. Other dimensionsof experience. and therefore by people of the meanest capacities. Arendt. Strauss. made the judges of what constitutes the field of experience to which propositionsin political science must refer. are treated as "subjective"because they are not as universally shared and readily communicable as experiences on the level of physical sensation. along with such scholars as Maritain. the "people of the meanest capacities" rather than the spoudaioi are. Leo Strauss."But the only experienceaccepted as "objective" and therefore in the realm of science is that observableby the physical senses. apprehendedthrough the nous or eye of the mind instead of the eye of the physical body. ed. such as they are and for what they are worth. 326: "The new political science puts a of premium on observations which can be made with the utmost frequency. Here. of course. He should be interpreted as having led. Within the positivistic universe of discourse. a resistancemovement of major proportions against the positivist domination that has held sway in political science circles at least since the end of the nineteenth century. . and others. J. de Jouvenel. p.To the degree that the resistancemovementis successful. all propositions must be verifiedby "experience. but the vast majority of men are able without comparable effort to verify the propositionsof positivist political science. Essays on the Scientific Study Politics (New York."46 Voegelin and the Recovery of Political Theory Eric Voegelin's contribution to contemporarypolitical theory is to have made a philosophicallyprofound and superblycreative effort to restore the tradition of political theory as an experiential science of right order in our time. is the source of the difficultieswhich he has encounteredin obtaining a hearing from present-daypolitical scientists. Thus. To recede from the maximum of differentiation is theoretical retrogression.47 47 Cf. Thus it frequently culminates in observations made by people who are not intelligent about people who are not intelligent. 1962). 79.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 399 Greek experiences.

political theory is a body of sociologically conditioned. based on the total experience of the existing human person. Now. a very important "facet" or datum confronting the consciousness." models and the like.then anyone who conceives of political theory as an experientialscience of right order.4'00 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS The basic positivist dichotomy (running back to Comte but reiterated. Classical ethics always spoke of "the good" which is. and he will scarcely be noticed at all unless his influence becomes a causative ideational factor in the struggle of the political marketplace. "Theory. will be labelled an "ideologist. if all political theory is judged in terms of this fact-value dichotomy. Its argumentis not arbitrarybut derives its validity from the aggregate of experiencesto which it must permanentlyrefer for empiricalcontrol.in which event its task is to serve as the handmaiden of research into behavioral regularities on the phenomenal level by producing "ideal types. is not just any opining about human existence in society. not with "value judgments" which correspond with nothing else than the writer'sphantasiesrespectinghow he would prefer the world to be disorganized. p. Either.49 In a genuinely theoretical analysis of ethics and politics. it rather is an attempt at formulatingthe meaningof existenceby explicating the content of a definite class of experiences. 49 New Science of Politics. In sum."Voegelin has written."His claims to scientific status will be dismissedwith contempt. we are dealing with the realities of human existence in the various realms of being. Political theory elaborates "empirically and critically. only in more refined form. his work will be incapable of being understoodon its own terms. nonobjective "value-judgments" (which political science can study for causative effect on human behavior). by the neopositivistavantgarde of the Vienna Circle) between objective "fact" apprehended by sense-experience and epiphenomenal." 48 The term "value-judgment" did not come into the philosophical vocabulary until the late nineteenth century (with the neo-Kantians). 64. subjective "value"48means that political theory tends to be viewed in one of two ways. now accepted as dogma by probably the majority of Western political scientists. or it is essentiallymethodology. the problems of order which derive from philosophical anthropology as part of a general ontology. . if you please.

while Voegelin is to be counted in the ranks of those who combat the restriction of political theory to the role of methodologicalauxiliary to the "behavioral"social sciences. Fromm makes transcendence into a power for man "to transcend the role of the creature . with all men. 32). cannot be "transcended"." moreover. inevitably separated in the existential situation from the perfect fulfillment of his essence. 36). it is an inescapable aspect of the conditio humana. comparison of Voegelin's episteme with the utopian pseudo-scienceof a writer like Erich Fromm would reveal quite vividly the contrast between the two modes of thinking about political problems.50 Thus. Fromm argues in the manner of Fourier that by right social organization (the grouping of men into intimate "communities of work") we can end the disparities between rulers and ruled. It is too early to evaluate the success of the restorativemovement which Voegelin has helped to initiate. he embraces the possibility of man's self-redemption (p. Utopia is not yet dead in political theory. Where Voegelin portrays man as homo viator. 50 Ibid. . . The strength of the opposition currents remains massive."theory is "intelligible only to those in whom the explication will stir up parallel experiences as the empirical basis for testing the truth of theory. Where Voegelin refers to the experience of a possible perfection beyond time by grace." "free activity of the self" as the highest aim of life (spontaneity for what?). incapable of meditatively re-enacting the experience itself. 64-65. Where Voegelin speaks of transcendence as the symbol which indicates reality qualitatively distinct from intramundane being. The "role of the creature. 1955). . or pretendto feel. Fromm describes as a sign of "mental health" the "experience of the self as the subject and agent of one's powers" . and with nature under the condition of retaining one's sense of integrity and independence" (p." Theory has no argumentagainst those who feel. Where Voegelin recognizes the limits of politics. the analysis of fallacious symbolizations that have nothing to do with political reality but reflect only the author's dreamworld is one of the perennially important tasks of political theory. make man fully autonomous.ERIC VOEGELIN'SCONTRIBUTION 401 As an "explication of certain experiences. Fromm posits the "spontaneous. and so on. and the impossibility of creating an eternity in time. pp.51Indeed. To take only one possible example.that is. under no circumstancesis he to be viewed as advocating opening the door of political science to wild and uncontrolledutopian speculation.. but there are encouraging 51 Where Voegelin offers the life of reason in attunement with transcendent being as the paradigmatic existence. by becoming a 'creator' " (p. All page references in this note are to Fromm's The Sane Society (New York. Fromm holds out the promise of an illusionary end to "alienation" and the attainment of the "experience of union with another person. and efforts are being made to revive it as a legitimate enterprisein our discipline. 69).

402 THE REVIEW OF POLITICS signs that a new generation of political scientists will be more receptive to the new teaching than the one which presentlymans the positions of institutional power. Regardless of the social efficacy of his work." . Voegelin will be entitled to say with Richard Hooker: "Posteritymay know we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream.

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