Meeting Index

Eric Voegelin Society Meeting 2000

MODERNITY AND THE STUDY OF POLITICS

Copyright 2000 Jene M. Porter


I am delighted to be on a panel to discuss the excellent work of Professor Cooper and the topic of the foundations (plural) of modem political science. What can Voegelin contribute?

One brief introductory confession is in order to explain my perspective. While in graduate school in another discipline, I read the New Science of Politics and the first three volumes of Order and History. Indeed, they were the principal reasons for shifting after the MA to political science. However, I quit following the literature on Voegelin after graduate school because it appeared to me that he was being used as part of an academic ideological skirmish. I later found that this irritated him immeasurably. Some years later I was given the fourth volume to read while on sabbatical; it was an exciting experience. Bill Havard then told me to read the more recent articles. I was hooked again.

One of the reasons I was struck by the last stage in Voegelin's philosophical evolution was that there now seemed the possibility for open discussions with other thinkers. It seemed to me then, and now, that a discussion on the foundations of political science will not progress very far through a ritualistic chanting, for example, of "philosophical anthropology" and "ontology." Regrettably, such phrases only persuade the persuaded. My own area of interest was a branch of analytical philosophy, and I thought that I could see an extraordinary opportunity for a true discussion and perhaps some improvement in shoring up the foundations of political science through Voegelin's philosophy of consciousness. Since a full discussion by Professor Cooper of this final stage in Voegelin philosophic developments will occur in the second volume of Cooper's study, our panel will have to be reconvened. Given the quality of the first volume, we are in for another treat.

Let me begin with an old joke and an observation. First the joke: In a large dark warehouse, a man is slowly walking around a floor lamp. At the other end of the warehouse, another man enter, sees the fellow and shouts: "What are you doing?" The answer back: "I am looking for something." The fellow shouts back: "Is that where you lost it?" "Don't know," replies the other man, "but it is where the light is." Second,, the observation. Every year I offer my students a bottle of French champagne if they can find one article in the APSR, the Journal of Politics, Polity, Political Studies, the Australian Journal of Political Science, etc., that even hints at the possibility of a collapse of the USSR. The lamentable truth is that there are such articles in poetry journals, history journals, and yea verily, sociology journals. The articles on the USSR in traditional political science journals discuss the usual array of topics about institutions and processes: bureaucracy, voting, provincial and central government relationships, decisionmakers, stake-holders, etc. The connection between the old joke and this observation - to belabour the obvious - it that the lamp of political science, i.e., our various conceptual frameworks, may well have trapped us into recognizing only a small part of political reality. We are comfortable where the lamp is and indeed can pursue quite successful careers where the lamp is. Key features of political reality however may well have shifted. It is the possibility of a shift that I want to examine. After that, I will turn to the question "What can Voegelin contribute?"

The barebones of political reality are these: 1. Homo sapiens live in groups; 2. Decisions have to be made for their continuing existence; 3. Those decisions are made often without complete information or where complete information is not even possible, and, as a consequence, a group of decision-makers is set aside for this task; 4. These decisions are implemented often by force over other homo sapiens - let us not forget that we are one of those species whose members routinely kill one another; 5. A process of persuasion - usually institutionalized - is used to persuade the group that the decisions are to be followed. Finally, these five key features of political reality are embedded in an historically dynamic field: thus, as has happened in the past, various dimensions of political reality may shift requiring yet again new approaches. I suspect that the fifth feature in political reality - a process of persuasion - will be the point where Voegelin's contribution will be the most noticeable and valuable.

There are real shifts that have occurred in political reality: city-states, to empire, to nation-states, to global alliances and institutions, both public and private. There are also various recognizable shifts, big and small, often noted in the history of political philosophy: pre-Socratics to Plato and Aristotle; Plato-Aristotle to the Renaissance and Modernity; Modernity to what? "What" is indeed the question. In the twentieth century there have been detectable shifts in political reality, both in actual institutions and processes and in political philosophy. The paper is structured to illustrate those shifts and to show Voegelin's potential contributions. Section One very briefly examines Plato's and Aristotle's original views of political philosophy and science; Section Two outlines the dramatic transition to modernity and contemporary political science; Section Three will delineate the shifts in modernity, both politically and philosophically; Section Four ventures to describe Voegelin's contributions to the foundations of political science; finally, Section Five will conclude with an evaluation and some points of criticisms.

I. Authority - Plato and Aristotle

For Plato and Aristotle, the founders of political science as well as of political philosophy, the central orientating-issue was always the nature of authority. This is clear in the case of Plato, but, I would also argue, it is the case with Aristotle as well. For example, his famous typology of six kinds of regimes, three just and three unjust, are divided in effect by his philosophic work on the nature of authority. Also, the Nichomachean Ethics is clearly designed to be the introduction to what we now call The Politics. Indeed, the political books of The Politics - books 4, 5, and 6 - are themselves guided by the orientating theme of the nature of authority.

The questions of legitimacy and sovereignty, which dominate modem concerns, are for Plato and Aristotle almost always subsumed by the overwhelming importance they place on authority. That there was a question of authority - and indeed a special kind of authority - was their discovery, and it set their agenda. It is understandable for students within modernity to be puzzled and to ask practical and "real" political questions about how the Republic comes into existence; who votes; what is the institutional framework; and so on. For Plato and Aristotle reaching some understanding on the nature of authority, on the other hand, was the means for studying political institutions and political processes. A graph of their political science would show a true foundation:

LEGITIMACY:GOVERNMENT PERSUADES AND PEOPLE ACCREDIT

Government

Persuades                                                             Accredit

People

Source of Authority

Aristotle describes the myriad kinds of oligarchies and democracies - which bore students to distraction - from the standpoint of how authority can be implemented and nourished given this type of society, with this type of dominant character, and with this kind of economic system, etc. Institutions and processes were decidedly of secondary importance to Plato and Aristotle. It would strike them as plain stupid to use a discussion of institutions and processes as a way of addressing questions of authority. That would be upside-down and backwards. They would be puzzled if not contemptuous, as is Voegelin, of modem political science since Hobbes.

II. Modernity

Hundreds of books have been written on the mix of factors that lead to and constitute the close of the middle ages and the eruption of the Renaissance and Modernity. Most political philosophers would recognize Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Bodin - a few would also note Luther - as thinkers who both articulated the changes in political reality and instigated further changes in political reality and in the study of politics. Within the historical context of the rising nations of Italy, Germany, France, and England these formative thinkers perceived the reality of power, and they explained and justified temporal authority or the state with arguments which distinguished them from the medieval and classical ages. In the main, they saw politics as the realm of force, selfishness, and domination, but they also held that the state or temporal authority could provide peace and order. It was necessary for them to explain and understand power, for it appeared to have a pattern and development that could not be understood by simply discussing religious and philosophic sources of authority. Each of these political thinkers saw this task as a new one; each wrote in the language of their people rather than in just Latin; each made the claim that he was an originator. The shift to modernity had occurred.


It would be bold and stupid to try and characterize modernity in a short paper. But, I'll do it anyway with respect to the study of politics and particularly to the dominant school in the West, liberalism. There are four great themes that characterize and continue to permeate Western liberal thought. First, there is a new understanding of science, emanating from the Renaissance and characterized by the reductive model for explanations, by new scientific methods, and by a claim of real knowledge and certainty. Second, there develops an extraordinary confidence in humanity's capacity to know and even to master nature, society, and the self. Third, the problems of politics are not simply to be mitigated, but they are to be permanently solved. Fourth, the autonomous individual, rather than society, is assumed to be the starting point for constructing a political system that would provide the grounds for legitimating and justifying a political system.

First, the new science provides an essential break with the medieval world. Descartes and Hobbes came to be founders of liberal rationalism, and Locke joins them as a founder. They were all well aware that a revolutionary shift had occurred. Two features were particularly significant: the reductive model and the search for certainty. Knowledge was achieved by reducing complex matters to their constituting parts. The reductive model is central to the new natural and social sciences, to use modem terminology. The new methods, whether they emphasized the rational approach of Descartes and Hobbes or the observation and experiment approach of Locke, were designed to provide "real" knowledge, and this new science with its knowledge was gleefully contrasted with the so-called "science" of Aristotle and the schoolmen.1

Second, through the new science, its methods, and the resulting knowledge, our reason frees us from the bonds of the past and of custom so that we can both understand better nature, society and ourselves and exercise a far greater control and even mastery over nature, society, and ourselves. An extraordinary mood of confidence and power permeates the works of Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke. We can shape and control the future. Recall the famous boast of Descartes that we can "make ourselves, as it were, the lords and masters of nature. "2 Hobbes introduction to the Leviathan reflects this mood: human knowledge and power are parallel with God's. Locke, less dramatically perhaps, also has the same extraordinarily confident attitude toward the future, once we apply the new epistemology and its methods: "We are born with faculties and powers capable almost of any thing, such at least as would carry us farther than can easily be imagined: but it is only the exercise of those powers."3 which gives us ability and skill in any thing, and leads us towards perfection." With these faculties and power, claims Locke in the Essay, we can advance "Man's Progress" and attain a
''profitable Knowledge."4

Descartes', Hobbes's, and Locke's confident claims about attaining "real" knowledge through the new science - whether the stress is on geometry, logic, or experiment and observation - applies to human nature as well as to society and physical reality. Both Hobbes and Locke, we should remember, advocate a true science of morality. Locke concludes his recommendation on educating the young with these words: "Teach him to get a Mastery over his Inclinations, and submit his Appetite to Reason."5 There is a possible control and mastery over ourselves far greater than that sought by the early Calvinist and Puritan theologians with their schemes of self-imposed rules and regulations for a righteous life.

1 For the relation between Descartes and Locke, see Schouls, Reasoned Freedom: John Locke and Enlightenment, pp. 27-3 7 and The Imposition of Method: A Study of Descartes and Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).

2 Discourse on Method, Part 6, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, 3 Vols., trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), Vol. I, p. 143.

3 The Conduct of Understanding, section 4 in The Locke Reader, ed. John W. Yolton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), pp. 173-74.

4 Bk. IV, xii, 12.

5 John W. Yolton and Jean S. Yolton, eds., John Locke: Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1989), paragraph 200.

Third, Hobbes and Locke both address political reality as a set of problems to be solved. With their philosophic stance, it is first necessary to be clear about the fundamental nature of political reality. What are the key constituting ingredients of political life? Hobbes finds the great drive for self-preservation and the passions plus a calculating self-interest as chief factors. Locke finds natural equality and liberty plus the great rights. In both cases, the method is to go behind culture and civilization and to discover the original, natural, and basic parts that will form the whole. These thinkers provide solutions to politics. The urbane pessimism of the ancients does not survive because Hobbes and Locke confidently assert that there is a solution, supported by science and knowledge. For them the problem of achieving order with legitimacy and other traditional problems are solvable.

Fourth, the autonomous individual becomes the focus for creating a political system and for evaluating its claim to legitimacy, and the epistemologies of Hobbes and Locke support the model of the autonomous and free individual. It is the individual's own capacities that provide knowledge. In fact, one must not rely upon the authority of the Church, state, or tradition. Thus, there is an epistemic autonomy supporting political autonomy for the individual. Hobbes's Leviathan is replete with witty and snide comments aimed at debunking the authorities of his time and emphasizing that each person can rely on his or her own capacity to reason. Locke, although more judicious with his comments, does the same. In the Essay, Locke calls on humans to think for themselves and employ their own reason. 6 With revolutionary fervour he calls for an individual."7 to "dare Shake the foundation of all his past Thoughts and Actions. The individual's capacity to reason, guided by the epistemology of the Essay and the power of freedom to decide and act, make it possible for humans to create a political system irrespective of custom and tradition. The prerequisite for an individual to enter a political compact is to become a "Master of himself, and his own Life."8 As one scholar of Locke writes, "men begin to feel that the whole world is new for everyone and we are all absolutely free of what has gone before."9 The autonomous individual as a knower and maker is primary; a society is derivative. Rights thus take precedence over duties, just as the individual is prior to society: individuals have become the base particles that compose society and government. 10


6 Bk. I., iii, 23.

7 Bk. I., iii, 25.

8 IIT. 172.

9 Laslett, Two Treatises of Government, "Introduction," p. 97.

10 Charles Taylor has written an influential article explaining and criticizing this perspective: "Atomism," in Philosophy and the Human Sciences, Vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 187-2 10. The preceding two pages were adapted from John Hallowell and Jene M. Porter, Political Philosophy" The Search for Humanity and Order (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1997), 407- 10.

It is not surprising to find political science - increasingly as modernity gained momentum - turning to questions of the institutions and processes that would guarantee legitimacy. I should add that the debate between rights and utilitarian liberalism is within this common framework. Even Rousseau and Marx, who break with liberalism, share much of modernity's agenda. The shift from ancients to modems could be characterized as one in which the great question becomes finding the proper institutions and processes. The matter of authority would be solved as a consequence. In a reversal of the earlier period, authority has now been subsumed by legitimacy and sovereignty. Indeed, the graph should now be turned upside down.

In sum, the dynamics of legitimacy - the two way arrows - became the centre of interest. Having the correct institutional framework - be it that of Hobbes, Locke, or Mill - would provide legitimacy for a regime; moreover, the accrediting would be reduced to a simple recognition of self-evident features such as pain and pleasure or some economic interest or a class interest or a combination. Most political science classes have happily explored this area. It is where the lamp is.

III. Shift in Modernity

However, I think that there are clear signs of yet another major shift in the way that we see political reality both philosophically and politically. To take political philosophy first, each of the four features of modernity are clearly under attack: faith that the reductive model of science could provide certainty, faith in reason to free us from the bonds of custom, the view of reality as a set of potentially solveable problems, the epistemic autonomy that served to support political autonomy. Over time, the erosion of the philosophical authority of these four features will also alter what we consider to be significant features of politics. As a result more attention will be spent on the "accrediting" role of legitimacy and on authority. (It is here that I believe Voegelin's contribution can be the most valuable). Take the first feature of modernity - the reductive model of science. Its philosophical authority has been badly eroded. The consequence is this: By altering what counts as an explanation, we now recognize as pertinent features of
human action much that was previously either debunked or ignored - such as the reasons articulated by political actors. As trust in "scientific" reasoning underlies all of them, each of the other items characterizing modernity is similarly under attack, and, as I said, this will affect our conceptual frameworks for understanding political reality. In short, we will need more and better lamps, and Voegelin provides some.

In addition to philosophical signs of shifts, there are also signs politically of a major shift. Let me give two brief illustrations of changes in political reality, seldom noted in political science and then only vaguely alluded to. First, political participation is normally explained in textbooks by examining political parties and voter registration and turnouts. That is where the lamp is! Woe and lamentations are the normal conclusions when the figures are produced. Yet the most striking feature of the last half of the twentieth century in large democracies has been the extraordinary growth in political activity by citizens. Far more people are now involved in political activity in a generic sense, than ever before in democratic history. It is just that the activity is not within parties nor can it be seen in voter's statistics. Wrong lamp in the wrong place! Remember the warehouse! Citizens are organized in functional and causal groups with their own financial support and newspapers. Moreover, for good or ill, this part of the political process is effective in public policy formation and in legitimizing a political system.

A second illustration: if you ask students in Canada - including upper division ones - to list major public policies inaugurated over the last decade or so, they would list NAFTA, Grain Stabilization, GST, Charlottetown, Meech Lake, non-smoking regulations and practices, environmental policies, gun control. However, the average student has only the vaguest idea of how these policies were created and who were the chief political actors. Some will note that MPs are no longer important. Ironically, they know most about the ones that failed - Charlottetown and Meech Lake. The very institutions and processes that they are most accustomed to studying were the ones that were strikingly out of touch. But that is where the lamp was so that is what they know.

A shift has occurred, in short, in the dynamic field of political reality requiring new concepts and approaches. While it is true that the traditional institutions and processes of government are more than just the final bestowers of an imprimatur, nevertheless, they have become less and less the channels, the expressions, and legitimizers for political reality.

Are political scientists as out of touch with the new dimensions of political reality within Western political systems as they were with the new political dimensions which culminated in the collapse of the USSR? Some political scientists are, and they remain very comfortable with the old lamp.

IV. Voegelin's Contribution

Voegelin's major contribution to the foundations of modem political science is through adding his voice to those who are also working at the task of reconstituting our understanding of political reality. Simply put, the task is to reverse once more the graph. Rather than institutions and processes conditioning - and thus serving as the basis for explaining - human thought and behavior, the source of authority would under gird and ultimately provide explanation both of human thoughts and actions and of the operation of institutions and processes.

Professor Cooper states: "The primary political problem for the political science of Schelling and of Voegelin is not the internal organization of the regime but the relation of the power-state to the community substance."11 For Voegelin, Cooper concludes, "the foundations of modem political science ... are constituted by related complex of materials." These are the great thinkers and "the configurations of empirical political history." 12 Specifically, the great thinkers provide the path for understanding philosophic anthropology, sources of authority and, more broadly, the spiritual dimension. It is in this first complex of materials that meaning and significance are found. The second complex of materials, empirical political history, introduces for study the nation-state and democracy. I will look at each of these two "complex of materials" to see what Voegelin can contribute.

It is with respect to the first complex of materials where Voegelin's contribution is clearly the more profound. To reiterate, the contribution requires working in concert with others. Philosophic Lone Rangers will not work, even if nurtured by tenure, grants, and separate institutions. Indeed, such infrastructure support for a philosophic approach can actually hinder the possibility of a contribution by unwittingly building a walled and self-contained city of philosophy.

The great thinkers who provide the entrance to philosophic anthropology and the spiritual dimension have often been ignored or dismissed in modernity. In part, this is a consequence of the epistemological features of modernity discussed in Section Three. Voegelin, along with many others, has written extensively about the transition to modernity. By showing the inadequacies of the epistemological presuppositions in modernity, it becomes possible to reintroduce the great thinkers of the past and the spiritual dimension. In this regard, I propose to compare, briefly, Charles Taylor and Voegelin to illustrate the potential for philosophic kinship. 13


11 Barry Cooper, Eric Voegelin and the Foundations of Modern Political Science (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 407.

12 Ibid, 434.

13 Michael Walsh in his perceptive introduction to Voegelin's The History of Political Ideas: The Later Middle Ages (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1999), has also noted the similarity with Taylor. One of the many strengths of Professor Cooper's fine study is that he does indicate when Voegelin's interpretations fit with works of other scholars.

Both Voegelin and Taylor are acutely aware of the transition to modernity and indeed have made contributions to understanding this transition. Their resulting common critical assessment of modernity is worth some reflection. I will later criticize Voegelin's argument in some respects. At this point I want merely to explore three areas of similarity between Voegelin's and Taylor's analyses: first, the epistemological and methodological constraints they perceived in modernity - to which I will devote some attention; second, the renewal of interest in the history of philosophy exemplified by their thought - which I will only briefly discuss; and third, the recognition of transcendence and consciousness in their philosophies - which may well provide the most fruitful area for identifying a philosophic kinship between Voegelin and Taylor.

In the first area of analysis, the critique of modernity's epistemological and methodological premises, Taylor employs such categories as instrumental reason, disengaged subject, and naturalism. These, of course, are not concepts Voegelin commonly uses when he tackles this topic in 7he New Science of Politics or "The Origins of Scientism." Nevertheless, there is a striking congruence of thought between their approaches.

Taylor summarizes four key principles of "scientific" or naturalistic study which are "obstacles" to an adequate study of the self and to philosophical enquiry:


1 The object of study is to be taken "absolutely," that is, not in its meaning for us or any other subject, but as it is on its own ( "objectively ").

2.The object is what it is independent of any descriptions or interpretations offered of it by any subjects.

3. The object can in principle be captured in explicit description.

4. The object can in principle be described without reference to its surroundings. 14


14 Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self.- The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 33-4.


These principles form the foundation for the oft-lamented reductionist model of human experience, thought, and action. In one of his first writings Taylor describes the consequence of this model:

This theory of experience has turned out to be an embarrassment for everyone, and in recent times this same basic objectivist orientation rather expresses itself in the perspective of a reductive explanation of human action and experience in physiological and ultimately in physical and chemical terms. In this way we shall be able to treat man, like everything else, as an object among other objects, characterizing him purely in terms of properties which are independent of his experience - in this case, his selfexperience; and treat the lived experience of, for example, sensation as epiphenomenom, or perhaps as a misdescription of what is really a brain-state. 15

The above four statements characterizing the scientific approach, in short, are inappropriate for the human sciences. 16 (Polanyi and others would also argue that these features have become inappropriate for the natural sciences.) Taylor disputes each of these four features. Humans cannot be studied as "absolute" objects independent of a person's self-interpretation: "What I am as a self, my identity, is essentially defined by the way things have significance for me." As Taylor further states: "We are not selves in the way that we are organisms, or we don't have selves in the way we have hearts and livers."17 Not only is a study of human self not identical with a study of a chair but the language required for the study works differently in two respects. Language cannot ever fully capture in an explicit description a self, and such language is not independent of a language community.

The language we have come to accept articulates the issues of the good for us. But we cannot have fully articulated what we are taking as given, what we are simply counting with, in using this language....But articulation can by its very nature never be completed. We clarify one language with another, which in turn can be further unpacked, and so on. Wittgenstein has made this point familiar.


15 Charles Taylor, Human Agency and Language: Philosophical Papers, Vol. I (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1985), 47.

16 Taylor cites both Wittgenstein and Polyani in developing his position: Sources. 460, 514, 592 fn. 27.

17 Taylor, Sources, 34.


A language only exists and is maintained within a language community....

My self-definition is understood as an answer to the question Who am 1. And this question finds its original sense in the interchange of speakers. I define who I am by defining where I speak from, in the family tree, in social space, in the geography of social statuses and functions, in my intimate relations to the ones I love, and also crucially in the space of moral and spiritual orientation within which my most important defining relations are lived out.18

This picture of the "obstacles" to an adequate study of the self and to philosophical enquiry in general is consistent with Voegelin's critique of scientism. Voegelin's language differs from Taylor's but substantively there is little difference between their arguments. To recall briefly Voegelin's argument: the mathematized sciences have become the model for all realms of study; what cannot be placed within the confines of this model is held to be irrelevant or illusory; reality becomes defined by the axioms of mathematized science; and so on. Both would agree that it is necessary to clear away these epistemological constraints or obstacles for philosophy to flourish. Voegelin would surely agree with Taylor's call for the "retrieval of the lived experience or creative activity underlying our awareness of the world, which [has] been occluded or denatures bu the regnant mechanistic construal."19

As a concomitant of the clearing away of the epistemology of modernity Taylor has developed - in the footsteps of Wittgenstein and others - a philosophy of language similar to Voegelin's. We have seen that for Taylor humans are in part constituted by language through our self-interpretations and that these self-interpretations are inescapably part of our language community. It is vital to note that Taylor explicitly criticizes those who stop at this point. His criticism of Habermas, as one instance, is precisely because of Habermas's failure to go beyond the social exchange in language. Habermas treats language as if an exposing of its internal structure were sufficient. In contrast, Taylor argues that a striking feature of language is its transcendental dimension. This can be seen in the remarkable capacity humans have of exercising reflective detachment and independence, which Taylor sees (but Habermas, for instance, does not) as an inherent feature of our language. Socrates, the prophets, and psalmists "stood out against the almost unanimous obloquy of their communities." As Taylor further explains: "They are still in a web, but the one they define themselves by is no longer the given historical community. It is the saving remnant, or the community of like-minded souls, or the company of philosophers, or the small group of wise men in the mass of fools, as the Stoics saw it, or the close circle of friends that played such a role in Epicurean thought."20

18 Taylor, Sources, 34-5.

19 Taylor, Sources, 460.

20 Taylor, Sources, 37. Taylor's views clearly remove him from the ordinary language camp of analytical philosophy which he himself has called "arid." As quoted in Michael Ignatieff, "Of Human Interest," Saturday Night (December, 1985), 65.

The transcendental dimension is also detectable in the theistic grounding of the goods humans seek. What Habermas and others do not accredit is "the search for moral sources outside the subject through languages which resonate within him or her,, the grasping of an order which is inescapably indexed to a personal vision ."21  There is always "the danger of a regression to subjectivism," he add, but with integrity the task is possible.

We can never fully articulate "the search for moral sources" from "the grasping of an order." In a language strikingly reminiscent of Voegelin, Taylor sets forth the human context:

That description and experience are bound together in this constitutive relation admits of casual influence in both directions: it can sometimes allow us to alter experience by coming to fresh insight; but more fumdamentally it circumscribes insight through the deeply embedded shape of experience for US.22

This echoes Voegelin's much quoted statement: "Man exists in this metaxy, in the tension 'between god and man.' Any construction of man as a world-immanent entity will destroy the meaning of existence, because it deprives man of his specific humanity."23

The need for a renewal of the history of philosophy is a second area of similarity between Voegelin and Taylor. With the critical destruction of the epistemological and methodological "obstacles" of modernity, both the philosophy of history and the history of philosophy become pertinent again. After all, the history of science is of little value to a practicing chemist, except in the idiosyncratic senses of satisfying an archaeological interest or of providing an emblematic identity of being on the side of the enlightenment against the forces of darkness. Similarly, logical positivism had an identical effect: the history of philosophy might be of an archaeological interest but not of much importance otherwise, and its emblematic identity was best shed. With the break in philosophy mainly engineered by Wittgenstein, however, logical positivism and its variants have lost their persuasive power.

21 Taylor, Sources, 5 10.

22 Taylor, Human Agency and Language, 37.

23 Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis, trans. and ed. Gerhart Niemeyer (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978), 104.

Voegelin's position on the philosophy of history and the history of philosophy is too well known to need summarizing, but let me briefly note some of Taylor's contributions. Taylor has revisited the historical figures in philosophy, i.e. Voegelin's great thinkers, not only to achieve some perspicuity about our own time but to understand better the traditional topics in political philosophy.

The Source of the Self- the Making of the Modern Identity is a conceivable project because the historical figures of philosophy have helped to form our identity or, in Taylor's phrase, provided us with often clashing moral horizons. Philosophers of the past were not dealing with illusions or merely subjective recommendations. Indeed, there are questions commonly addressed by philosophers in history that have shaped our identity: what it is to be a human agent, a person, or a self; what kind of life is worth living; what can provide respect, a full life, and dignity to a human; why it is inescapable for humans to
have a moral horizon or framework; and so on.24 Through these thinkers, and within the wider economic-political culture, the modem identity has been molded. In sum, for Taylor the history of philosophy is necessary for perceiving the sources of the modem self, let alone addressing the various tensions within our identity and within modernity itself. Are not Taylor's views compatible with Voegelin? In one of Cooper's formulations of Voegelin's conception of political science, he states that relating the "comprehensive past of humanity to the meaningful present surely remained the task of Voegelinian political science."25

Taylor's approach is clearly not a "philosophy of history" in any traditional textbook sense. He does not present a reductionist model whether it has economics or sociobiology as its base; nor does he describe history as a script in a conversation among philosophers. The very idea of history's having an intelligible historical pattern with a directional momentum is as alien to him as it is to the Voegelin of volume IV. What would be common between Taylor and Voegelin is the view that philosophy cannot fully articulate and grasp "the moral horizon" for humanity. Where Voegelin uses "symbol-concept" to show the openness of language and the quest for understanding and meaning, Taylor uses "designative-expressive." Michael P. Morrissey has succinctly states Voegelin's view of the philosopher's purpose as follows: "The therapeutic recovery of the engendering experiences, made transparent by the meditative exegesis of their symbols in their original emergence, must become the critical task of philosophy today."26 This captures, I believe, Taylor's efforts in writing The Sources of the Self and his view of the task for contemporary philosophy.

24 Taylor, Sources, 3, 14,15, 21. All of this is not to deny that Taylor's interpretation of Hegel or of Plato, as examples, will differ with Voegelin. A comparison would be fruitful.

25 Cooper, 327.

26 Michael P. Morrissey, Consciousness and Transcendence: the Theological of Eric Voegelin (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 122.


The philosophies of language and of history depend upon, and are broadened by, the larger view of what Voegelin calls consciousness. This is the third area of similarity I want to discuss and the one, as I mentioned, which has the greatest potential for philosophic kinship. Consciousness is a category that Taylor refuses to use because of is awkward philosophical heritage of subject object and, one suspects, because of its inevitable reliance on a geological-like layering of concepts.

Yet, there are many places where Voegelin's and Taylor's thought coincide. To the ear of Voegelinians, Taylor's formulations may at first seem odd - although no odder, I assure you, than Voegelin sounds to Taylor. For example, Taylor has described his search as "the exploration of order through personal resonance."27 It would be as inaccurate to call this subjective as it would to so label Voegelin's search. The inward turn is necessary for many reasons: one cannot find solace in some intelligible pattern of history nor in some other "touchable" external source. As Taylor explains his position:

We are now in an age in which a publicly accessible cosmic order of meanings is an impossibility. The only way we can explore the order in which we are set with an aim to defining moral sources is through this part of personal resonance. This is true not only of epiphanic art but of other efforts, in philosophy, in criticism, which attempt the same search....1 have throughout sought language to clarify the issues, and I have found this in images of profound personal resonance like 'epiphany,' 6moral sources,1 'disengagement,' 'empowering,' and others. 28

Without use of such Voegelinian categories as the beginning and beyond,
consciousness, thing-reality, and It-reality, Taylor is constructing a position similar to Voegelin. Taylor uses the poet Rilke for illustration:

27 Taylor, Sources, 511.

28 Taylor, Sources, 512.

To read ... Rilke is to get an articulation of our farther, stronger intuitions, of the way the world is not simply an ensemble of objects for our use, but makes a further claim on us. Rilke expresses this claim in images of 'praising' and 'making inward,' which seem to lay a demand of attention, or careful scrutiny, of respect for what is there. And this demand, though connected with what we are as language beings, is not simply one of self-fulfillment. It emanates from the world. It is hard to be clear in this domain, just because we are deep into a language of personal resonance. But something extremely important to us is being articulated here through whatever groping and fragmentary one-sidedness. To declare this whole kind
of thinking without object is to incur a huge self-inflicted wound.29

Taylor's careful and sensitive description is clearly similar in nature to Voegelin's position. Listen to Voegelin's extraordinary interpretation of Genesis:

The authors of Genesis I, we prefer to assume, were human beings of the same kinds as we are; they had to face the same kind of reality, with the same kind of consciousness, as we do; and when, in their pursuit of truth, they put down their words on whatever material, they had to raise, and to cope with, the same questions we confront when we put down our words. In the situation created by the question: what is that kind of reality where the spoken word evokes the structures of which it speaks? They had to find the language symbols that would adequately express the experience and
structure of what I have called It-reality.30

Not to belabour the point, but in both positions consciousness is the locus; reality is not a plurality of objects; languages does not work as a mirror or a labeling device; and, most importantly, there is a depth to which we respond without being able either to control it or to fully articulate it.31

It is more difficult with the second complex of materials - empirical political history, its institutions and processes - to find allies with whom Voegelin can join. Voegelin's writings on totalitarianism might be cited as one area where there are clear allies, and his own contribution has been original and significant. But even here it is less the institutions and processes that he has examined than it is the experiential origins, the meaning, and significance for Western civilization. It has been his analysis of experiences and symbols that were his concerns and that provided his insights.

29 Taylor, Sources, 513.

30 Eric Voegelin, Order and History: In Search of Order, vol. V (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), 19.

31 A fuller treatment of the relationship between analytical philosophy, Taylor, and Voegelin can be found in Porter, "Voegelin and Analytical Philosophy," paper to the APSA conference, September, 1995.


The internal operation of democracy and its various institutions and processes have all been altered in this century, and new institutions and processes have appeared. The very idea of a nation-state and its sovereignty, once the bedrock of modem political science, is problematic. The growth of international organizations and alliances, public and private, have also altered international relations. In this new shift in empirical political reality, which equals in impact the shift from the middle ages and its institutions and practices to the nation-state system, the standard concepts in political science will all need to be re-examined: citizenship, statesmanship, common good, community, legitimacy, justice, and so on. When Plato and Aristotle discussed these concepts, they knew that the life of the polis was in crisis and that a return to that form of political life was not possible. Yet, although both clearly knew about empires, there was no attempt to redefine these political concepts. The political science of Aristotle - the cataloguing of constitutions, oligarchies, democracies, etc. - is of little value in understanding an empire. Still, the political philosophy of Plato and Aristotle continued to direct our attention to the permanent questions: How should one live? What is the source of right? How can power be made legitimate? Their having addressed such questions constitutes the major contribution of Plato and Aristotle to our political existence. I suspect that Voegelin's contribution is a similar one.


V. Evaluation and Criticism

There is a sense in which it is premature to present an evaluation of Voegelin's contribution to the foundations of modem political science. This first volume of Cooper's two volume study primarily focuses on the early writings and the eight volume History of Political Ideas. Cooper rightly refers to the History as Voegelin's "war effort." With the rise of ideological mass movements, the use of terror, the war, and the collapse of European culture and political systems, it is probably predictable to find an unrelenting criticism of modernity, and sometimes plain anger erupts in his treatment of a thinker. One should also add that Voegelin wrote at a time in which scholarship in the history of political thought ranged from George Sabine to Arnold Brecht. (This reminds me of Dorothy Parker's quit upon witnessing Katherine Hepburn's first theatrical performance. Says Dorothy: "Hepburn's emotional range was from A to B.") All in all, this was not a time that lent itself to a benign or serene philosophic response.

There are two areas in Voegelin's thought which hinder his potential contribution to modem political science: (A) his understanding of modernity and (B) the philosophy of consciousness. Voegelin has of course written original and insightful treatments of both areas, but each has a dimension which hampers his contribution to the foundations of political science.

A. Understanding of Modernity

Voegelin's treatment of the civilizational schism ending the medieval synthesis and leading to the transition to modernity can be found in volumes III, IV, V of The History of Political Ideas. He provides a complicated narrative weaving together political events, spiritual movements, theology, and philosophy. It would be difficult to imagine a treatment that better captures the meaning and significance of the transition to modernity. It is cultural history in the deepest and fullest sense. Yet, it seems to me that his story of modernity is not adequate with respect to the new understandings of reason and of political institutions that developed during the transition to modernity.

In discussing reason, Voegelin too quickly refers to scientism, nominalism, phenomenalism, and the like. The weight of his discussion is on the splitting of faith and reason and on the narrowing of the role of reason to little more than mathematizing externalities. Voegelin's excessive, in my view, praise of Bodin in volume V of the History is instructive. While Copernicus' cosmogony is belittled by Bodin as having no significance, Bodin's conception of the cosmos as a spiritual-political hierarchy is extolled by Voegelin. 32 Both Bodin and Voegelin are wrong, but not simply in the scientific sense that Galileo, Kepler, and Newton eventually proved Copernicus to be right. Bodin and Voegelin are wrong because they misconceived the nature of reason. Copernicus argued that his theory was true about reality; it had elegance and beauty; and, above all, its very truth meant that it could reveal more about nature. To have a conception of reason not bound by earth echoes Plato: our home is the universe which we inhabit through reason. (The Platonic monk, Novarum, taught his pupil Copernicus well.) Is it any wonder that Copernicus speaks in an ecstatic voice of his vision? Here was a discovery that truly shook the foundations. 33Why is this not an example of an insight, of a differentiated consciousness, of a leap in being--all phrases of Voegelin? Reason was dramatically better understood than it had been. Locke and many others could still feel the excitement some two centuries later. Such an experience cannot be dismissed as simply a power-trip by anemic souls. Their view of themselves and their relationship with reality was changed. Any narrative of the transition to modernity must take cognizance of this development of reason; a philosophical anthropology must also do so. In discussing political institutions as they have evolved in modernity, Voegelin also has to discuss the state of political science as a discipline. With some justification, he speaks disparagingly of the political science which arose from modernity. He characterizes it as having three parts: an understanding of human nature that is derived from the Renaissance; an understanding of political systems that is composed of nation-states; an understanding of political theory as bound by the cultural parochialism of the English-speaking world. In short, the almost nonexistence of philosophical anthropology in this conception of political science helps to explain the pathetic state of the discipline in the mid-fifties. In an attempt to enrich the study of politics, Voegelin states in many different ways that a separation of political ideas from reality is not possible. There is an interpenetration of ideas and institutions that constitute nations and political history. The critique of contemporary political science in The New Science of Politics is well known as is his criticism of the substanceless Oxford political philosophers. He is justified to criticize the "nominalistic taxonomies" purporting to be scientific studies of political reality.

32 Cooper, 244.
33 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Crditical Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 142-153.


Great thinkers, as Voegelin said, are one of the pillars of a proper political science. The great liberal thinkers of English political thought--Hobbes, Locke, Mill--are less than impressive in Voegelin's eyes. Mill's significance barely ranks above a footnote. Hobbes comes out the best. He at least had seen the need to suppress the Puritans and the Presbyterians, and he was brutally frank about human competitiveness, self-interest, and cupidity. Hobbes's problem, as Voegelin once said, is that he thought that he had said it all, which, I might add, is precisely what Hobbes did not claim. Voegelin also had little respect for "the smirk of Locke's political philosophy, which knows only rights of property and no social obligations. 34

All of these views of Voegelin's on contemporary political science and his criticism of the English "great thinkers" will no doubt strike many as quite sound. Nevertheless, for reasons I will not argue here, I believe that his views are sufficiently skewed that he has not seen clearly three features of Western political thought and practice, especially as found in the English speaking world: the role of society, the nature of political activity, and the connections with the stream of Western civilization, from the ancient Greeks to Christendom to the present.

First, one cannot but note that there are in his comments the continental European bemusement, if not contempt, for the non-philosophic English world, but this has mislead Voegelin as to what English political thinkers are actually doing and why. With the classic liberals--Hobbes, Locke, and Mill--society is a given; it is not to be made by thinkers and governments. Even Hobbes does not make a society. His worry is that without an indisputable place for settling conflicts, the society will be impossible to sustain. He only wants a minimal order, an arbitrator of conflicts; there are no positive duties mandated by Hobbes for the Leviathan. There is, for lack of a better phrase, a Protestant confidence that permeates the English political world. A central government is not required to operate a church, nor is one required to operate a society. Locke's description of the state of nature is the classic representation of this confidence. Government alone represents neither the nation-state nor the collective identity. The often maligned autonomous individual of classic liberalism lives within a stable, solid, sustaining society. In sum, Voegelin has not fully understood the meaning and significance of the thought of the English political philosophers nor has he fully grasped the realities of their society.

34 History, vol. V, 91.


Second, political activity within such a society is strikingly nonintellectual. Michael Oakeshott and Bernard Crick have explained at length the nature of political activity. (It may be that Crick's association of Aristotle with political activity needs some qualifications. The tradition of political activity certainly did not exist in Aristotle's turbulent world.) The activity of politics is an art and is nurtured by a tradition within a stable society. The continental philosophers concern about creating a society and the insistence on the relationship between ideas and institutions seem curiously intellectual, arid, and beside the point. In an analogy that delights generation of university students, Crick explains that the activity of politics is like making love--it requires long practice. The comfortable parochialism, which so irritated Voegelin, may well represent long practice. In such a context, it is possible that the so-called "nominalistic taxonomies" may well reflect actual political activity. My worry is that a shift has taken place within the political system and that, as a consequence, political activity has seeped into other areas, and, just as Voegelin often urged, we need to examine the actual facts. Still the problem is that Voegelin did not quite perceive the nonintellectual but philosophically sound tradition of politics in the English speaking world.

Third, by misunderstanding the role of society and the nature of political activity in the English world Voegelin could not give proper credit to their meaning and significance. The practices and traditions of the politics found in Western liberalism and the plurality of institutions within the society and political system embody Western civilization from the ancient Greeks through Christendom to the present.

B. Philosophy of Consciousness

Serious questions about Voegelin's philosophy of consciousness will need to be addressed in a full length study. These questions should be analytic and philosophic rather than primarily theological. The area most in need of study and where there is the greatest need for amendments is epistemology. John Ranieri has recently asked the question: "While rejecting the positivist claim that knowing is only valid when modeled on the method of the natural sciences, did he not tacitly accept the positivist account of what it is that constitutes knowing in the natural sciences?" 35This is correct. In fact, the question points to a deeper problem which needs to be studied. Voegelin continuously resorts to a mode of analysis and a use of language which is at dissonance with his ontology, particularly his claims about the metaxy. As one brief example, the category of consciousness as luminous is problematic in many ways. Consciousness as luminous purportedly is free of the hypostatization of experience by being luminous: i.e., direct and immediate, unmediated, privileged, and therefore undistorted. This is a remarkable set of descriptors, identical with the claims originally made for sense data from Hobbes and Locke, to Logical Positivism and its mutations. Instead of the mechanical-like body as the authenticating receptor for knowing, we now have luminous consciousness. His use of the word symbol reflects the same kind of problems. In contrast to mere concepts, symbols do reflect the originating experience and as such have the authenticating power to persuade and illuminate. But there are no such privileged words by which consciousness and reality are linked; there are only usages within a context. To cite Voegelin's remarks on the reflection and the metaxy as immunizations from such criticism is not sufficient. Voegelin's epistemology is not adequate to his task of addressing political reality in a new way.
36

In addition to epistemological considerations, one other area particularly needs to be addressed: the relationship between pragmatic political history and Voegelin's theory of consciousness. Again, there is a tendency to use dichotomous language where one set of categories is set off from another, just as we saw "luminous" and "symbolic" work with respect to "concepts "' and "empirical knowledge." It is a brilliant insight to view history as a history of theophany and to break with volumes one to three in Order and History. Serious questions can still be asked: How can society embody the life of reason? What is the relationship and how is it constituted between consciousness as luminous and pragmatic history ?37

35 Eric Voegelin and the Good Society, 3 1.

36 Porter, "A Philosophy of History as a Philosophy of Consciousness." Denver Quarterly 10 (1975): 96-104; "From the Other Shore: Eric Voegelin's Philosophy of History and Consciousness," Marxist Perspective (Summer 1980): 152-169; John Ranieri, Eric Voegelin and the Good Society, 8, 27-33, 127-36. Ranieri makes some useful suggestions for amending Voegelin's position.


Let me conclude with a brief recitation of the contribution Voegelin provides to the theory of consciousness and to the mind-body literature. The significance and meaning of consciousness for human social and historical existence have been Voegelin's unmatched endowment for the end of modernity. It is immensely fruitful to conceive of humanity as participating in the process of reality, as understanding within the metaxy, and as pursuing the Question. At the level of pertinence and significance, Voegelin would have a great deal in common with those thinkers who stress human powers to seek and to understand. For example, he would surely agree with Martha Nussbaum's characterization for the questing consciousness: "We are all of us, insofar as we interact morally and politically, fanciful projectors, makers of and believers in fiction and metaphors."38 In a similar vein, Wittgenstein's famous phrase, "to imagine a language is to imagine a form of life," is often laboriously and lugubriously explained as an injunction to relate language with a context in order to achieve meaning. The explication, rather, should be aimed at the verb 'to imagine.' Such again is the power of questing consciousness. In the worlds of Prospero:

... like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve. And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind: We are such stuff As dreams are made of, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.39

Such is the context for human existence; searching for meaning and significance is what humans do with consciousness, and the quest opens all reality to our reverent participation and exploration.40

We can all look forward to Professor Cooper's second volume.

37 John Ranieri has suggested that there is a striking Kantian legacy in Voegelin. To the degree that this should be true, Voegelin's break in volume four would have to be recast as a mere shift. This would be a matter of deep regret, in my opinion, since I prefer to think of Voegelin as a true postmodern in the sense of the second Whitehead or Wittgenstein.

38 Martha Nussbaum, Poetic Justice (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 140.

39 The Tempest, Act IV.

40 An attempt at a fuller treatment of the philosophy of consciousness can be found in my paper, "Searle,
Voegelin, and Consciousness," given at the APSA Convention, 1997.

ERIC VOEGELIN, "COMMON SENSE" AND CENTRAL EUROPE

Copyright 2000 Martin Palous

An elementary fact in the history of thought is the emergence of philosophical schools around prominent thinkers. The disciples of a Master strived to preserve his work for the future, to carry through his basic intention and to continue in the implementation of the task pursued, but unattained by him in his lifetime. Nevertheless, there is another elementary fact in the history of thought: such schools did not last usually more than one generation. After some time the most talented disciples started seeing through the limitations of the standpoint from which their teacher approached philosophical problems and realized the unattainability of the tasks he had set for himself. At a certain moment in time they came to the conclusion that it was not possible to continue on the road marked out by him and that they were finding themselves at a new crossroads where they had to take new decisions, to unveil the open questions and issues behind all the answers the Master's philosophical "teaching" contained. By paradox, this moment of destruction of the teacher's legacy, however, does not necessarily mean its absolute end, its retreat from the human world and its fall into oblivion. On the contrary, it is exactly here where we can find the key to his potential immortality and this is the third elementary fact in the history of thought. Only when overcome and problematized, when - to use a figure of speech - struck from the heavens to the earth, does the philosopher gain his place in the dialogue engaged in by great, "immortal" thinkers across the borders of civilizations and centuries.

To guess at this point of time what place in the overall spiritual context of the now ending twentieth century will belong to Eric Voegelin (1901-1984), whether it will be namely he who will be given the credit for the fundamental shift in the sphere of political -thinking - as his disciples and followers seem to believe - would in my opinion be somewhat precipitous. At the same time, however, let it be stated that it is their merit that the open-ended process of Voegelin's possible immortalization has started. Voegelin is undoubtedly one of those contemporary thinkers who probably against their will and in spite of their own warning that philosophy will not allow itself to be closed into any systematic philosophical teaching - did create a kind of philosophical school. During his academic career in the United States and later in Germany Voegelin influenced decisively a significant group of philosophers, theologians, political scientists, cultural anthropologists, etc. - now finding themselves on the summit of their professional careers - who are convinced that the principal task of their own work is to keep Voegelin's philosophical legacy alive. They publish collected works of Eric Voegelin, organize Voegelin conferences and write studies or even whole monographs on him. They founded the Eric Voegelin Society, which holds since 1988 (?) annual meetings as a part of the annual conventions of the American Political Sciences Association.

All this demonstrates more than clearly that Voegelin was indeed an exceptionally successful and influential teacher and that his legacy represents a very powerful inspiration. In the course of years a global network of Voegelinians has been created, a chain of people as if united by a single philosophical will, sharing Voegelin's fundamental conviction that it is still Plato, Aristotle and other classical thinkers who should teach us what is (and what is not) philosophy; and that it is philosophy in this classical sense that remains the moment of contemporary European crisis as the single most important weapon to be used "in defense of civilization". The aim which these contemporary Platonists (a kind of Platonic Academia operating in the post-modern environment of today's globalizing world) strive for, seems to be guided by a single intention: to initiate a Renaissance of classical political thought, to rediscover the liberating power of Platonic "ideas", to retrieve the dimension of philosophical dialogue for our current political discourse.

Nevertheless, time and tide waits for no man, first-generation Voegelinians have already reached their "acme", and one might pose the question of the further fate of their project. What will become with Voegelin's legacy in the long-term perspective, from the point of view of the dialogue of mankind across the borders of civilizations and centuries? I consider myself being definitely "Voegelin- positive", yet I think that in this regard the right approach to his legacy would be caution and prudent skepticism. Despite all the disciples' endeavour to disseminate the ideas of their Master, the "Voegelinian Revolution" in political thought, as announced in 1982 in a book of the same name by Ellis Sandoz (footnote), one of the most prominent American followers of Voegelin and today apparently the main guardian of the Voegelin legacy, seems yet to be completed. It is realistic and fair to admit that Voegelin's influence on the current political thought mainstream remains limited. This state is actually illustrated by texts on Voegelinian themes produced, presenting almost exclusively a positive, i.e accordant interpretation of Voegelin's teaching. The fact that Voegelin is still usually presented in the role of great guru and unrivaled Master in the matters of thought, demonstrates that the destructive, critical phase of work on his philosophical legacy - the true test of his actual greatness and key phase of the process of his "immortalization" - has not yet arisen, and if it has, then it is evidently still at a very timid, initial stage. Where the Voegelinian debate and research will be, let us say, thirty years from now? Can we imagine that? Will Voegelin be still recognized as a great, truly "revolutionary" philosopher of the period at the great turn of history as his immediate disciples believe? Or will this image be whittled by the passage of time and Voegelin will be remembered "only" as one of those educated Central Europeans, born at a tragic time, uprooted from their domestic environment, living their lives on the periphery of the big world, leaving behind only faded photographs, collected volumes of their works, and gradually disappearing traces of their personal struggles, which were heroic and that is why respectable, but did not make a real difference from the point of view of universal history of spirit?


II. Escaping from Central Europe

Let us depart from the known facts of his biography (footnote). Erich Hermann Wilhelm Voegelin was born on January 3, 1901 in Cologne in Germany. In 1910 his parents moved to Vienna. This is where Voegelin received his education - first at the Gymnasium and then at the University of Vienna where he studied political science at the Faculty of Law with Hans Kelsen. International events led to a radical change of the Viennese scene during the course of Voegelin's studies. At the time of the monarchy Vienna had a relatively liberal, cosmopolitan atmosphere of a world metropolis. The defeat in the war, however, resulted in the disintegration of the empire and in the emergence from its ruins in 1918 of a republic, albeit one lacking the free republican spirit. The liberalism typical for the Viennese imperial era was replaced by petit bourgeois narrow-mindedness and grievances over historical injustice. Instead of cosmopolitan tolerance typical of the "world of yesterday" of the former rulers of Central Europe (described
so persuasively from a Jewish perspective in Stefan Zweig's autobiography) there was the rise of small Austrian chauvinism, xenophobia, ideologically motivated encounters of antagonistic social classes and general spiritual decline and loss of direction. There were, of course, deeper reasons for this transformation; it was not merely the hangover of military defeat resulting in the retreat from the position of power, but also the omen of deep spiritual and social crisis which in the post-war period started engulfing the whole European continent, culminating in the assumption of power by totalitarian political movements and resulting in the second world war. It was namely this shift that framed Voegelin's political experience and the elementary existential point of departure of his philosophy.

The academic environment - and Voegelin moved around almost exclusively in that environment - was, of course, relatively more resistant to the general decline. Reading in his autobiographical reflections about the way in which he planned his academic training, all the names of the people who taught him, all the places where he studied and the different disciplines, one cannot but be amazed by all the possibilities which were available to a young scholar, by the quality of contemporary spiritual life, and by the criteria of university education in the Austria of those days, a country politically and spiritually in decline. Nevertheless, the "decline of the West" (Der Untergang des Abendlandes), as clearly implied in Voegelin's reflection, was felt not only as a political problem, but was becoming increasingly apparent in the intellectual milieu, too. Maybe that is one reason why Voegelin's intellectual striving was so inseparably linked with private seminars held within a circle of friends calling itself the Geistkreis. The group included, for instance, Alfred Schutz, with whom Voegelin exchanged a written discussion of Husserl's phenomenology, as well as a number of others whom Voegelin later met again in American exile. The Geistkrejs was nothing more than a group of young enthusiasts who discussed everything that aroused their inquisitive minds, yet the mere existence and mission of the group reflected the shifts occurring in the world of Austrian academia, inconspicuously at first, but later moving slowly the centre of authentic intellectual life into the private sphere, still free from any manipulation by the state. For instance, Voegelin's "circle" included also Jews, for whom the prospect of any kind of university career in Austria with its growing anti-semitic trends was becoming unattainable - since the war not a single Jew had been appointed to the University of Vienna as full professor - and for whom the combination of philosophical interests and practical activities (there were lawyers and economists among them), which allowed them to enjoy financial independence and thus made them also less vulnerable, became indispensable. Of course, not only they but all other members of the group felt intuitively that intellectual life, if it were to survive, had to obtain more personal forms that could not be offered by institutions. In order to be able to preserve their intellectual integrity and to meet their intellectual tasks, Voegelin and his friends needed, at the least, a certain supplement to the offer coming from existing university routine.

Such a relation to philosophy, and to the He of the spirit in general, apparent from his first steps on academic soil, is quite typical for Voegelin and characterizes his whole career as a thinker. "Why philosophize?" is a question posed in the title of one of the chapters of Voegelin's autobiographical reflections, to which he immediately gives a clear and direct answer: "To recapture reality" ! (footnote) What is at stake is not therefore primarily the acquisition of academic distinctions or status, but ourselves, our ability to understand again what is happening around us and to us, to be able to challenge the decline engulfing contemporary European society and with it dominant political thinking. Voegelin thus consciously upholds the classical Socratic tradition in philosophy - he does something quite uncommon in standard academic striving in the field of political philosophy, yet something that evidently brings him closer to similar Socratic thinkers of our times (including no doubt and of course the Czech Jan Patocka). Voegelin declares clearly the basis of his lifelong philosophical program: to regain access to classical philosophical questions that, in the Platonic manner, ask what is "good" (agathon); to involve philosophy in the struggle for openness of our minds (in the Socratic endeavour to achieve unity with oneself which cannot be achieved otherwise than by "care for the soul"); to present such an interpretation of the human situation and to formulate such a concept of human history that would correspond with the twentieth-century experience of mankind; to reflect on the current state of European civilization and, especially, to disclose the limitation and inadequacy of modem-age instrumental scientific rationality; to examine the spiritual pathology of the gnostic political movements active on the contemporary political scene and calling for the liberation of man from the burden of his past, which in their consequences, however, represent the most radical threat to human freedom.

That - and the student of Voegelin cannot fail to miss this point - is the reason why Voegelin approaches his philosophical task with such seriousness and existential urgency; why he assumes the role of someone who does not study the philosophical systems and thought of the past but engages in a dialogue with Plato, Aristotle and others as equals; why he often speaks in a voice reminiscent rather of Biblical prophets or Church reformers. It is namely this personal commitment, this absolute honesty of thinking, honesty drawing on the conviction that the matter at stake is not mere academic routine, but a struggle of life and death, the fight for one's own soul, that makes Voegelin a unique phenomenon on the spiritual map of today's world, that forms the source of his potential philosophical greatness, and that is also the reason why Voegelin has become - as mentioned earlier rather unwillingly - the founder of a school of philosophy.

As I already said, Voegelin received the core of his education from an impressive line of German and Austrian professors who introduced him to the world of European learning. A major influence in Voegelin s academic maturing was, however, his trip to the United States in 1924-1925. As a Laura Spellman Rockefeller Fellow, Voegelin was given his first opportunity to become acquainted with the American university environment and compare it with his hitherto European experience. The encounter with America became his destiny. This is where he encountered "common sense", which "spoiled" him, according to his own words, to such a degree that from that time onwards he was no longer able to exist non-problematically in Central Europe and within the framework of her venerable and cultivated philosophical traditions. Whereas the European discussion of political and social phenomena turned round in the vicious circle of contending philosophies and schools (mainly of neo- Kantian provenance) and de facto neglected the increasingly gloomy contemporary political situation, the American manner of political thinking was quite different. It did not lean primarily on one or another philosophical school and tradition but let itself be inspired by concrete political events, namely the foundation of the American republic, the adoption of its Constitution, which from that time onwards became the source of the "good He" of American citizens and whose further development and protection were generally perceived as the basic guarantee of freedom and human dignity. In brief, America presented itself to Voegelin as an amazing synthesis of the classical thought which he had striven in vain to restore in his Central European environment and of the best components of the Christian tradition which European Modernism, in his view, was also desperately lacking. The pragmatism of William James and John Dewey, the philosophy of George Santayana, Whitehead's lectures at Harvard University, and also solid American theory of law or American Government theory, consciously resigning on the attainment of heights of philosophy - all that has such a strong impact on Voegelin that he returns to Europe - to use his own expression - a changed man, unable to exist further in the increasingly restricted, increasingly narrowing, increasingly philosophically sterile European environment.

Voegelin's philosophical diagnosis of the crisis of European civilization in the twentieth century, turned him into an open, uncompromising critique of emerging totalitarian movements and especially of national-socialist policy. His prestige in this respect, however, placed him at the moment of the Austrian Anschluss in immediate jeopardy. If it was originally his conversion to Anglo-Saxon "common sense", what made Voegelin, to quote to his own words, "unfit for further existence in Central Europe", it was German Nazis with their project of Thousand Years Reich, that forced him to leave Vienna and to become an exile. In March 1938 he flees under rather dramatic circumstances to Switzerland, and from there after a short time he departs definitely for the United States.


III. In Defense of Civilization

Voegelin left Vienna with a clear intention: to get rid of his Central European past and to build a new home in America. This decision, however, was not only an act forced by the adverse political development on the "old continent", but had, as I said, distinct philosophical underpinnings. Emigration to the United States not only closed the first stage of Voegelin's career. The conscious adoption of the American political perspective produced a shift in Voegelin's academic orientation. After spending some time on the East Coast and in Midwest,

Voegelin settled in the American South, first in Alabama and then in Louisiana. For sixteen years he taught American students at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Among his topics one can find first the course of American Government, and later also the course of jurisprudence, which he conducted, as evidenced by Volume 27 of his collected works (footnote), in his own, i.e. philosophical way. But more than that: it was in this social environment that he began his extensive project aimed at fighting the looming decline of Western civilization; where he started to draft his version of the history of political ideas; where he began to formulate a new, non-dogmatic philosophy of history and to analyze the elementary problems of political order - always constituted within a concrete society and articulated with the help of the symbolism used by this society to express its always limited and always only partial understanding of the fundamental relation between Man and Being.

No matter how interesting it might be, it is not my intention to plunge now right into the depths of Voegelinian thought. The thing is that my theme in this article is primarily not the content, but rather the context within which Voegelin's philosophizing was taking place: the American brand of "common sense" having its point of departure in the American political experience. Why it was just the American "common sense" that alienated Voegelin not only from contemporary European politics, but also from a certain tradition of European political thought which became dominant in the last three centuries, i.e. in the modem period of European history? Why it was just in the United States of America - in a democratic republic of the "New World" which took upon herself more than once in the twentieth century the burden to stand up in defense of the whole Western civilization against totalitarian barbarity having its origin on the "old continent" - where Voegelin rediscovered the liberating power of classical, i.e. pre-modem political thought?

To answer these questions, let us look briefly at the way in which the problem of "common sense" is approached by one of the great figures of American "Pragmatism", William James. In his lectures of 1906-1907 (published in 1907 under the title Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking) (footnote) James elaborated the following distinctions and definitions:

"In practical talk, a man's common sense means his good judgment, his freedom from excentricity, his gumption, to use the vernacular word, In philosophy it means something entirely different, it means his use of certain intellectual forms or categories of thought". (footnote)

What these "intellectual forms" and "categories of thought" are, was specified a few lines earlier: by "common sense" James understood "our fundamental ways of thinking", discovered already by "exceedingly remote ancestors, which have been able to preserve themselves throughout the experience of all subsequent times". used till now and forming "one great stage of equilibrium in the human mind's development". (footnote)

As appears from James's writings, the fundamental philosophical question analyzed by him is the problem of noesis, the problem of knowledge and knowing: What does it mean to know something? What kind of relationship is established between "knower' and "things to be known"? What ontology ("theory of being", Aristotelian THEORIA PERI TES OUSIAS) is commensurate with the world in which man is able to live as a rational being (animal rationale, ZOON NOUN or LOGON ECHON)? Can the classical philosophers who for the first time formulated the great ontological questions and discovered the fundamental ideas of our Western thought, help us in our efforts to understand better our contemporary situation and improve our capacity to use our own "common sense"? According to James, there are two ways how the problem of noesis can be approached: one is monism, which corresponds to the perennial philosophical quest for world's unity. The other is represented by his own pragmatic approach which adopts, on the contrary, the hypothesis of noetic pluralism. In his lecture "The One and the Many" James says:

"The great monistic denkmittel for a hundred years past has been the notion of the one Knower. The many exist only as objects for his thought exist in his dream, as it were; and as he knows them, they have one purpose, form one system, tell one tale for him. This notion of an all enveloping noetic unity in things is the sublimest achievement of intellectualist philosophy. (footnote)

The hypothesis of the universe's "oneness", the hypothesis of one world consisting of things seen by an omniscient knower "as forming one single systematic fact", the hypothesis of the actual world being present to the senses of a human spectator always within the finite horizon of his mortality, but "complete eternally", has obviously not only ontological implications. Its discovery and conscious acceptance signal a genuine revolution in the historical process of human self- understanding. From this moment on, any theory of knowledge, any plausible answer to all concrete questions emerging from the fact that man is endowed with the capacity of reasoning - that he is able to distinguish in his own noetic activities between pure reason (dealing with matters of truth and untruth), ethical, i.e. practical reason (working primarily with the distinction between good and bad) and aesthetic reason (attributing the quality of beautiful and ugly to the things in the human world) - has no other choice but simply to take the "monistic" hypothesis into consideration. The "knowing" man must get rid of everything that does not comply with it. He has to leave, as if forced by its coercive power, his pre-critical past behind and to enter into a new universalistic era dominated and wholly permeated by his modem "science". In short: the necessary consequence of the "Copernican turn" made in European history by Immanuel Kant is the birth of the modem European spirit with its progressivist understanding of human history, the most important implication of which is the ontological degradation or even conscious denial of all human knowledge which previously was helping man to orientate himself in the world; the knowledge, which had accumulated in the course of centuries and was known as his "common sense .

The stance of pragmatic American philosophers must be seen as a gentle and thoughtful rejection not of the value of Kantian arguments, which were praised highly by William James, but of that absoluteness with which the monistic philosophy was presented. Against the ontological hypothesis which enthrones the one Knower "conceived either as an Absolute or as an Ultimate", the pragmatists raise "the counter hypothesis that the widest field of knowledge that ever was or will be still contains some ignorance Some bits of information always may escape": (footnote)

"This is the hypothesis of noetic pluralism, which monists consider so absurd. Since we are bound to treat it as respectfully as noetic monism, until the facts shall have tipped the beam, we find that our pragmatism, though originally nothing but method, has forced us to be friendly to the pluralistic view. It may be, that some parts of the world are connected so loosely with some other parts as to be strung along by nothing but the copula and. They might even come and go without those other parts suffering any internal change. This pluralistic view, of a world of additive constitution, is one that pragmatism is unable to rule out from serious consideration. But this view leads one to the farther hypothesis that the actual world, instead of being complete "eternally", as the monists assure us, may be eternally incomplete, and at all times subject to addition or liable to loss." (footnote)

When we adopt a pluralistic view of the world, several fundamental things will change. First of all we will lose from our sight the systematic, i.e. static conception of noesis, seen by the one omniscient knower, consisting of individual pieces, the validity of which has been "scientifically" tested and which are assembled into a coherent, i.e. non-contradictory whole. Instead of that we will tend to focus more on the problem of noesis as a process; on the dynamic aspects of the life of mind we are part of, in spite of our finite bodily existence. We will start discovering the temporal dimensions of the fundamentally human situation which was discovered first by Socrates and two generations later philosophically analyzed by Aristotle , who defined humans as those who do not possess the divine knowledge of the One Knower, but are always striving to escape their ignorance they are aware of, because "by nature (they) desire to know." (footnote)

"Our minds (or knowledge as it is stated previously in the text, remark by NT) thus grow in spots; and like grease spots, the spots spread. But we let them spread as little as possible: we keep unaltered as much of our old knowledge, many of our old prejudices and beliefs, as we can. We patch and tinker more than we renew. The novelty soaks in; it stains the ancient mass; but it is also tinged by what absorbs it. Our past apperceives and co-operates; and in the new equilibrium in which each step forward in the process of learning terminates, it happens relatively seldom that the new fact is added raw. More usually it is embedded cooked, as one might say, or stewed down in the sauce of the old."


This figurative description of the process within which the human knowledge is acquired, grows and is altered in the course of time, clearly implies an utterly different, much more positive attitude of "pragmatist" toward the "common sense", than was the position of monism. At the same time, pragmatism has an incomparably higher appreciation for the singular facts given in the immediate experience of individual human beings, living in the presence of the known past, but open towards the unknown future. In short: pragmatism as a noetic stance is much more embedded in the concreteness of human life than in the abstract generalities apprehended by those who subscribe to a "monistic" school of thought. It simply respects the fundamental fact of our noesis, that the bulk of our knowledge is inherited from our forbears, from our family or tribe, from the society, culture and civilization we were born into. At the same time, however, pragmatism is ready to test the truths we received from the past and we believe in, against the changing realities of our life, against all these challenges we are exposed to as free human beings, who had no choice but to act on their own, to use their own capacity of judgment and to make, at the right time, the right decisions.


In this regard, the distinction made by James between the use of "common sense" in practical talk - as man's "gumption" and good judgment - and in philosophy which understands by "common sense" the "use of certain intellectual forms and categories" inherited from the past - is not that great as it might look from his own distinctions and definitions. Pragmatists are indeed sincerely interested and want to explore what are "our _fundamental ways of thinking - "which have been able to preserve themselves throughout the experience of


all subsequent times
as customs or habits of thought, as our beliefs - because they are well aware that without these discoveries, sometimes of our "exceedingly remote ancestors our capacity of good judgment and good action would be seriously damaged or even utterly paralyzed. Truth as the supreme noetic category and "'good" as the basic orientation point of our practical life, come in the pragmatic perspective together again, bridging the gap between them and other "transcendentalia" (esse, verum, bonum, pulchrum), which opened in the Western civilization with the advent of the Modem Age.


"...Truth is one species of good, and not, as it is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and coordinated with it. The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good, in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons..

What would be better for us to believe? This sounds very much like a definition of truth. It comes very near to saying what we ought to believe: and in that definition none of you would find any oddity. Ought we ever not to believe what is better for us to believe? And can we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and what is true for us, permanently apart? (footnote)


To sum up in the context of analysis: It is this shift from the "monistic" perspective, which has long dominated the modem European thought, to the point of view adopted by American pragmatism, that can heal, according to Voegelin, our contemporary spiritual disease. It is so because the move from monism towards pragmatism opens the door again to the classical political thought which can help to restore the impaired balance of the European political mind. From the pragmatic perspective, one can rediscover under the conditions of modernity the classical Socratic question asking about the human good and making humans to "put their life under test" (DIDONAI ELENCHON TOU BIOU) (footnote), in the words of Plato's Apology of Socrates, and to engage themselves in the "care for the soul" (TES PSYCHES EPIMELEIA) (footnote); one can recapture for contemporary use the meaning of the classical concept of politics as a form of life of free human beings, the meaning of the classical concept of law, the only ruler capable of making all citizens equal, the meaning and scope of natural rights which are
inalienable because they are not the product of human activity but have been established by God.

All this explains why "pragmatism" is a genuine American philosophy and why it is a pragmatic attitude that characterizes more than anything else the frame of American political mind . But more than that: It is my conviction that it was just the rediscovery and new "pragmatic" reading of Aristotle and of the other classical political philosophers by American "founding fathers", that served as one of the major spiritual inspirations for the American Revolution. (footnote) I cannot elaborate this thesis here and show in detail how much pragmatism reflects the daily American political realities, how much it corresponds to the very "soul" of American politics. I must limit myself here to the contention that it was nothing else but just this American "sour' - often uneducated and "primitive" from the point of view of sophisticated Europeans, or hidden underneath the colorful costume of American superficiality - that attracted Voegelin when he settled in the American South and was determined to launch a major philosophical counter-offensive against the spiritual bankruptcy suffered by the European civilization in the twentieth century, threatening to annihilate its fundamental values and political traditions.


Whereas the fundamental orientation of Voegelin's philosophy remained the same as in his Viennese period, the political circumstances of his work - Voegelin became an American citizen already in 1944 - dramatically changed. (The United States, according to Voegelin, was the only country which could save politically the threatened western civilization and whose reality at the same time offered a solution for that civilization's spiritual rebirth.) Whereas residence in crisis-stricken Central Europe called for an existence of a more Socratic type, life in America made him to adopt a Platonic perspective, trying to explore the phenomenon of the crises of European civilization in the full scope and with all ontological implications and to penetrate to the very heart of contemporary problems. In order to understand the blind alley where mankind was finding itself in the middle of the Twentieth century, and to help to cure that illness destroying the European spirit, Voegelin was ready to study the vast amount of material belonging to the discarded spiritual heritage - both European and non-European - using not only all the instruments he brought with him to America from his Central European past, but also
the American inspiration of "common sense" which served him as a beam of light in the Dark Times of the European civilization. Us task, however, was enormous. Not being designed as a regular academic project, but rather as an emergency operation in defense of civilization, it can evoke in the mind of a pessimist the memory of eternal punishment of mythical king Sysifos, or at least - in the mind of a more optimistically toned observer - one of the legendary heroic tasks of Heracles.


Relentlessly and earnestly, Voegelin tried to battle his way through the whole history of mankind, and finish his work on the new science of politics, on the new philosophy of history the central theme of which is the never-ending struggle within human society between the forces of order and disorder. What we see, however, when we examine the results of his efforts, is not the hero returning victorious from his battles, but an excellent, really profound philosopher whose results are endowed with power to generate insights. But alas, when they are built into an opus, they seem to be disintegrating in the author's hands. Voegelin returns humbly, again and again, to his point of departure and tries to embrace the accumulated material mastered with such unparalleled "bravura" into his grandiose thought- construction. Instead of the originally planned history of political ideas, he produces a study of the relation between history and order. But even this project he does not finish. The never-ending search for order (see the title of the short posthumously published fifth volume of Order and History) is increasingly invaded by the classical philosophical theme of preparation for death and meditation aimed beyond the sphere of ephemeral human affairs.


Nemo beatum did potest esse ante mortem. This Latin proverb - in fact originally formulated in Greek (footnote) - necessarily comes to mind when we are to explore the legacy left behind by Eric Voegelin. He died in 1984, i.e. sixteen years ago. Thanks to the enormous efforts of his disciples, we have now before us already a greater part of his philosophical work. And we can start balancing. With respect to what lies on our desk, would it be possible to claim that Voegelin succeeded in achieving his goal? Or, on the contrary, do we have to say that Voegelin was a great philosopher, had great plans, great ideas, but in the end, as all mortal beings aspiring to immortality, has failed?


IV. Return Home at the Beginning of a New Era?

The Second World War ended with the defeat of one of the arch-enemies of Western Civilization, and the United States, indeed, played the central role in it. However, the other enemy, Stalin's Soviet Union, came victorious after the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After a short period of illusions that the post-war international order could be built on democratic principles, the world was heading into the period of Cold War between the East and the West. in short: totalitarianism did not die in 1945. On the contrary, in its communist variety it was more alive than ever, claiming , even more aggressively, its "historical rights". The "defense of civilization" was still an urgent, and probably the most important task of contemporary philosophers.


After sixteen years in Baton Rouge , Voegelin accepted an invitation from Germany and, as an American citizen, moved back to Europe. Originally he considered that this would be the "permanent move", but it turned out that after spending ten years at the University of Munich , between 1958 and 1968, he returned, in early 1969, to the United States. During Voegelin's Munich period not only another generation of his students was formed, but he also took an active role in the German debate the major theme of which was still the problem of "denazification". However, no matter how strong and straightforward Voegelin's contributions to this debate were, (footnote) he kept careful distance from the contemporary trends in European political thought. He still considered America, with her political traditions and particularly her "common sense", to be the real home for his own intellectual projects and adventures. In spite of being back in Europe for most of the sixties, Voegelin never became a European philosopher again. In the last period of his life, he observed the European political processes from Stanford in California, where he was appointed as Henri Salvatori Distinguished Scholar in Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace and where he lived after his retirement. It is evident from his writings in this period that contemporary European politics was not at the center of Voegelin's attention; that his search for order in the human world was culminating rather in the milieu of ideas than in the midst of brute and often frustrating political realities.

Despite the fact that Voegelin's distance from his Central European origins in the name of "common sense" remained unchanged for the rest of his life, the principal thesis of my article is, that it is the success or failure of Voegelins return to Central Europe from his American exile, that might be one of the key questions in the debate concerning his philosophical "immortalization". In other words: it is nowhere else but there where one can find the proverbial Rhodos of Voegelin's philosophizing; it is there that his grandiose, truly "revolutionary" project of the "new science of politics" , his never-ending search for order in human society, should come back to earth and be tested against reality. I would like to conclude this text by two remarks illustrating my point and intending eventually to draw several implications for the future of Voegelinian studies.


First thing to look at in this context is the reception of Voegelin's thought in Central Europe still in the "old" era of communism, namely the way, how he could be, and actually was, read within the "paralel polis" of Central European dissidents. They themselves did their own spontaneous search for "the order of history" as it "emerges from the history of order", pressed by the conditions of their "Babylonian captivity". They certainly were not all philosophers and lacked Voegelin's vast education and his talent to grasp the subject of his study in its full breadth and depth. But what they understood, as if naturally in their existential situation, was the Socratic point of departure of philosophical "action", necessary to defend and to restore in their part of the world the crisis-stricken European civilization. The political thought of these times, the questions and debates stirred by them, certainly represent an important Central European legacy intrinsically connected with the core ideas of the Voegelinian project. If Voegelin decided to leave Central Europe, frustrated by the absence of Central European "common sense", at least small islands of this thought have always existed there, despite local legal and political traditions, despite the crisis of European civilization in the twentieth century, despite the totalitarian attack on the very "soul" of Central Europe after the Second World War. The dissidents were simply those who decided to stand up in defenSe of "common sense" and their struggle for human rights was simply confirming the basic conviction of Voegelin - that human nature, even under the pressure of totalitarianism, is unchangeable. In this context, it is important to mention that Voegelin had an important counterpart in Central Europe who shared
with him the fundamental conviction as far as the role of philosophy in the life of human society is concerned: The Czech philosopher Jan Patocka, who became, together with Vaclav Havel, one of the first spokepersons of Charter 77.

My second and final remark concerns the situation after the collapse of communism in 1989. If Voegelin's work could offer an i mportant inspiration to Central Europeans during the difficult years of communism, the symbolical return from his American Anabasis home to Central Europe, represents a task of great importance for the post-communist Central European political thought. The reason is, that its is , in my opinion, exactly the "common sense" that European politics needs at the beginning of a new era, that must be mobilized if all new challenges and questions which emerged in the sphere of European security, European integration, etc. are to be understood, addressed and resolved. What is at stake at this historical moment - at the moment when Europe definitely retreats from her hegemonic position in the history of mankind and the global human community becomes a political reality - is our ability to reconcile in our political thought both the American and European traditions. There is no doubt that it is Eric Voegelin who can serve here as a unique and maybe the key source of inspiration.


ATHANATOI THNETOI THNETOI ATHANATOI, ZONTES TON EKEINON THANATON, TON DE EKEINON BION TETHNEONTES. ("Mortals are immortals and immortals are mortals, the one living the others' death and dying the others' fife.") (footnote) This cryptic fragment of Heraclitus , one of the prae-socratic "classical" thinkers admired and often referred to by Voegelin, expresses befittingly the enigma of relations between the philosopher and the world he had to live in and to understand during the time allotted to him on the earth. Let us be satisfied with this formula, when we try to make a connection in this text between Voegelin's possible "return to Central Europe" and his also possible philosophical immortality.