Meeting Index

Eric Voegelin Society Meeting 2000

THE EXPERIENCE OF TIME AND PLACE: A VOEGELINIAN PERSPECTIVE

Copyright 2000 Jack D. Elliott

I. Introduction

I address herewith the interlinked roles of the landscape and history in human experience and symbolization. To my knowledge neither Voegelin nor his many interpreters, with the exception of Brendan Purcell, have given much attention to this ubiquitous dimension of human experience, and it is ubiquitous because the landscape is a ubiquitous component of our everyday experience.2 I attempt to highlight the nature of landscape symbolism and use Voegelin's work, particularly regarding the paradoxical structure of consciousness, to elucidate it. Furthermore, I will examine some aspects of the historic preservation movement, a collection of government agencies and non-profit organizations which have a substantial impact upon the way that historic places are perceived and interpreted today, through which the symbolism of the historic landscape is both promoted and deformed.

Given Eric Voegelin's emphasis on personal experience and anamnesis, perhaps I can be forgiven beginning this essay with a reminiscence. I was raised on the site of an extinct nineteenth century town--Palo Alto, Mississippi--where my family had resided since my great-great-grandfather founded it in 1846. There were however, no buildings remain from the old town, giving the ostensible impression that there was little temporal depth. However, as a small child I began to discover physical clues to a deeper past. In and around our yard, fragments of pottery and bricks, rusted nails, and other artifacts, recalled past activities in Palo Alto. Sunken roads running through our pasture marked the sites of old streets while depressions in the ground marked the sites of filled-in cisterns.

I eventually learned to collect a wide variety of facts--from the ground, from oral history, and from written records--and transform them into a history or story, if you will, of Palo Alto, which began with the founding, continued through the rise, then decline of the town, until the only continuing thread was the history of my family which culminated in me, the teller of the tale. This opened various questions, most notably the rather

1Brendan M. Purcell, "In Search of Newgrange: Long Night's Journey into Day," in Richard Kearney (ed.), The Irish Mind. Exploring Intellectual Traditions, (Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1985), pp. 39-55; also published as Chapter 2 of Brendan M. Purcell, "Newgrange after the Dawn of Humanity," in The Drama of Humanity Towards a Philosophy of Humanity in History," (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1996), pp. 56-74. paradoxical position of being both the teller of the story and part of the story at the same time. I also became aware of the role of my imagination in the whole process, and that the story was a collection of mental images of peoples and places, which all pointed me to times and dimensions beyond the everyday. As a result of this experience, particular places in the landscape, came to inchoately represent more than just a collection of dirt, buildings, and trees; here I learned of the power of places to evoke a dimension of mystery in the midst of the everyday.

In later years, my work in Israel aroused a sense of the symbolism inherent in ancient sites--tells and ruins--that went beyond the positivistic focus of archaeology. Furthermore, I began to see a relationship between the archaeological sites and the Holy Land shrines which only differed from archaeological sites by degree. The end result is that I began to see a continuity between the everyday places that we live in and the places that we regard as being sacred.

On November 4, 1987, I was examining the new arrivals shelf at the Mississippi State University Library when I stumbled across a volume entitled In Search of Order by one Eric Voegelin, a name that I had only briefly encountered in the works of sociologist Peter Berger. I daresay that few will disagree when I say that this book is probably not the best introduction to Voegelin. Indeed, being unfamiliar with his previous work and his terminology, I found much of it to be incomprehensible. However, there was something about it that rang true. I was immediately struck by the self-reference of the text, in which the writer through self-reference in the text recalled my experience of being both an actor in and the teller of the tale of Palo Alto.

Intuiting that there was something present in that slim volume, I set out to read Voegelin and his interpreters. With this and through continued reflection, it became increasingly apparent that my youthful interest in historic places had a linkage with the complex process associated with the emergence of symbolic and sacred places. It also seemed clear that there was also an integral relationship with fundamental issues pertaining to the mystery of "consciousness' and the structure of conscious within reality.

II. Cultural Landscape and Meaning

At this point we need to step back and examine the landscape, more specifically,
 the cultural landscape. The landscape, the physical form of the land in all of its complexity, within which we live is such an omnipresent aspect of life that it often fails to reach conscious awareness.

The term "landscape" is derived from the Dutch word for a "tract of land." It passed into English usage as a result of the Dutch mastery of a burgeoning landscape school of art during the sixteenth century, where it was interlinked with the notion of the artistic depiction of the land. Jumping further ahead to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries where under the influence of geographical and environmental studies the term was used by the German school of landschaftskunde to denote the complex human and natural phenomena that constitute the surface of the land.2 In this usage the term "natural landscape" referred to any landscape which, theoretically, had not been affected by humans, while "cultural landscape" referred to a landscape that had been created by both human and natural factors. In that we encounter virtually no land that is not a cultural landscape, this more specialized term is almost de facto synonymous with the more generic term "landscape." The landscape, as we know it, is at the interface of man and nature; it is, so to speak, "in-between" world and society.

Until recently the geographical study of the landscape tended to be empirical and positivistic and consequently denied its relationship to the artistic sensibility associated with the origin of the term. However, a phenomenological response eventually developed which stressed human perception and symbolization of the environment. This was perhaps in part due to the fact that landscape is not a discrete "thing" that can be readily defined. Because of the landscape's ubiquitous nature, its unboundedness, and its complexity, its understanding is not subject to concise definition and explanation. It is the product of various natural and human processes that leave their fossils or material residue as the constituents of the land, and reminders of that which has occurred before. These "fossils" include all of the components of the land, which have been produced from billions of years ago to seconds ago, and include geological formations, land forms, soil, plants, and a wide range of material culture from buried artifacts to buildings, roads, and cultivated fields.

The complex associations that the landscape recalls means that it has a powerful, multivalent symbolic quality, and through its integral relatedness to our personal experience and to society and history; this quality is quite neatly captured by geographer Philip Wagner who observed:

Environment at any instant is participation in a multitude of histories. Its chains of personal acquaintance afford direct connection to all ancestral and contemporary mankind.... any given environment of the moment is of a piece with the unbroken fabric of a life, and through it run the warp-and  woof strands of the perceiver's continuous existence and experience.3

All of this points to a complex interrelationship between consciousness and the landscape in which it exists. At the most basic level we interact within a mentally mapped landscape, those places and routes over which we pass everyday, forming much of the everyday world as we know it, the familiar landmarks separated by a continuum of myriad phenomena. Places like home, work place, church, the homes of friends and relatives, and other places are simultaneously physical forms and meanings. Indeed as geographer Peirce Lewis has stated
"all human landscape has cultural meaning,"4no matter how ordinary that landscape may be.

2 Preston E. James and Geoffrey J. Martin, All Possible Worlds: A History of Geographical Ideas, 21 ed. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1981), pp. 176-179.

3 Philip Wagner, Environments and Peoples (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1972), pp. 3-4.

Above and beyond the landscapes of our personal lives there are other layers of social meaning pertaining to the formation of communities. From his earliest work Voegelin stressed the role of the individual human in community formation, for communities are not discrete entities but are evoked through symbolizations which he early on referred to as political ideas. Largely of a verbal nature he later came to the understanding that there was a deeper stratum lying beneath that of verbal formalizations, about which he observed that "[o]ne could not handle under the title of "ideas" an Egyptian coronation ritual or the recitation of the Enuma Elish on occasion of Sumerian New Year festivals ." 5 The landscape, I would suggest, has provided a host of spatial symbols, that are not always easily translated into verbal formulations and hence are likely to be overlooked by exegesis.

There are two basic categories of such symbols that are never completely separate from each other. The first consists of actual places, components of the landscape that have acquired various meanings through personal and social experience. The second are images that are derived from symbolic places that gain something of a separate existence within social discourse.

The first category, actual places, includes to varying degrees almost any place that has some personal or social meaning, from the everyday personal landscape of home and workplace to the places that are associated with social identity to the places that symbolize the Transcendent. For example, political identities are defined in part upon their defined territorial domain, so that a particular land may become associated with nationalistic symbols. Symbolic centers, cities, capital buildings, and monuments, which are all landscape elements, can also play important roles in social definition. Furthermore, sacred places such as shrines, temples, graves, can play serve to define religious societies.

Given the complex meanings that places can acquire, mental images that are derived from these places can pass into social discourse bearing a wide variety of meaning. For example, images from travel--pilgrimage and odyssey--take on more universal meaning that applies to individual lives and the struggle for higher goals. Another example is Jerusalem, a very real place, which has passed from being the religious/political center of Israel/Judah to the image of the New Jerusalem, the symbol of human-divine rapprochement.

Although scholarly interests in phenomenological geography and related subjects have pointed out the complex dimensions of meaning inherent in the interaction between humans and the landscape, yet there has also been a tendency to treat this as only more "subjective" material for academic study. What it means to each of us as individuals in search of meaning is seldom mentioned.

4 Peirce F. Lewis, "Axioms for Reading the Landscape: Some Guides to the American Scene," in D. W. Meinig (ed.), The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 12.

5Eric Voegelin, Autobiographical Reflections (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), p. 63.

III. Voegelinian Insights

Having examined a range of examples in which elements of the landscape have been incorporated into meaning systems from everyday life to symbols of the transcendent, I can return to Voegelin. It was his work more than any other that best interpreted my own struggling questions regarding the interplay between consciousness and the landscape.

Ironically, it was that first book In Search of Order that held the key. In saying this I reiterate Lissy Voegelin's report that her husband had stated that this volume is "the key to all his other works."6 As Robert McMahon has recently emphasized, the key lies in the articulation of a theme which had underlain much of Voegelin's previous work, that is, the paradox of consciousness. The paradox of consciousness,7 of course, refers to the participatory role and self-referential nature of consciousness within reality in which one finds two inseparable structures of consciousness--intentionality and luminosity--copresent in all our experience.

With intentionality reality is apart from consciousness; the general model of structure of consciousness is the perception of a thing, that is, reality appears as objects or things. Consequently, the structure of reality that corresponds to intentionality is termed "thing-reality." 8 With luminosity, consciousness is part of the structure of reality termed "it-reality." Examples of luminosity are apprehensions of meaning, such as inspiration, insight, identity, and aesthetic arrest. Because intentionality and luminosity are inseparable, we experience reality as both things and as illuminations, having both an intentional "surface" of thingly reality with underlying depths of meaning. 9 Consequently, whereas the perceived object in its intentional aspect has become the model for the modern view of reality, it also has a luminous aspect, although the modern mind tends to forget this. One call readily see the value of this in terms of landscape symbolism in which the world of sensory phenomena that surround us, that dominate our perceived thing-reality, would simultaneously be suffused with luminous meaning.

6 (Lissy Voegelin, Foreword, in Eric Voegelin, In Search of Order (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press), p. xv. 7

7 Robert McMahon, "Eric Voegelin's Paradoxes of Consciousness and Participation," Review of Politics (1999), LXI, pp. 117-139. 

8 Voegelin, In Search of Order, p. 15.
9
McMahon, pp. 120-123.

As McMahon points out Voegelin's paradox of consciousness provides "a deeper appreciation of ordinary human experience." 10 With these insights into the paradox of consciousness one gains a better appreciation of the landscape and symbolism. Providing the ever-present backdrop of our lives, with its complex "chains of personal acquaintance" making it a "participation in a multitude of histories," to repeat Philip Wagner, the landscape both dominates the surface which is the perceived thing-reality, while simultaneously being suffused with luminous meaning. Voegelin further distinguishes his third dimension of conscious ness--reflective distance--previously referred to as "anamnesis" and "noetic" consciousness. This refers to the acts of self-reflection by means of which one becomes aware of the paradox of consciousness, of the interplay between intentionality and luminosity. It is by means of reflective distance that one can become aware of the tyranny of phenomenalism.11

As Voegelin emphasized the concrete experience, then a concrete example of a reflection on a landscape feature would be useful. An excellent example can be found in the reflections of physicist Niels Bohr on the occasion of his visit to Kronberg Castle in Denmark, the home of the historical Prince Hamlet:

Isn't it strange how this castle changes as soon as one imagines that Hamlet lived here? As scientists, we believe that a castle consists only of stones, and admire the way the architect puts them together. The stones, the green roof with its patina, the wood carvings in the church constitute the whole castle. None of this should be changed by the fact that Hamlet lived here, and yet it is changed completely. Suddenly the walls and the ramparts speak a different language.... Yet all we really know about Hamlet is that his name appears in a thirteenth-century chronicle.... But everyone knows the questions Shakespeare had him ask, the human depths he was made to reveal.... 12

Here we have a man who struggles with the intuition that there is more to the world than mere phenomena of thing-reality. From reflective distance, Bohr concisely articulates the phenomenal surface of the castle, that is its physical parameters, then moves on to the luminous depth which through association with Hamlet and universal question, causes the castle to "speak a different language."

10 Ibid., 123.
11 Glenn Hughes, Mystery and Myth in the Philosophy of Eric Voegelin (Columbia:
University of Missouri Press, 1993), pp. 36-37; Michael Morrissey, Consciousness and
Transcendence: The Theology of Eric Voegelin
(Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), p. 123.
12 This is Werner Heisenberg's rendering of Bohr's musings, as quoted in Ilya Prigogine, "Only an Illusion," The World of Physics, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), 11, p.
691.

IV. Historic Preservation: Substance into Phenomena

Landscape symbolism today is often associated with institutionalized activities known as "historic preservation," by virtue of their focus on the experience of historic places. The existence of these activities paradoxically represents a retreat from more positivistic history while at the same time representing something of a triumph of the same. The retreat derives from the fact that public history and historic preservation deal with history and historic places, not so much as an attempted mirror reflection of the world, but as a form of participation. The triumph of positivism is that those involved in these fields are still likely to deal with subjects of their concern as simply facts and things.

Members of the Eric Voegelin Society are already quite cognizant of the positivistic and scientistic reduction of reality to phenomena or thing-reality by modern thought. Of relevance herewith, a few decades ago J. H. Plumb heralded what he saw as the triumph of growing, positivistic historiography which was emancipating society from an exemplary past. For him, "industrial society, unlike the commercial, craft and agrarian societies which it replaces, does not need the past.... The new methods, new processes, new forms of living of scientific and industrial society have no sanction in the past and no roots in it." The past is now recalled only as "a matter of curiosity, of nostalgia, a sentimentality "13

However, geographer David Lowenthal persuasively disputed this conclusion. After examining the numerous and varied ways that twentieth century Western humanity participates in the past through historical reenactments, reading history books and historic novels, viewing television shows and movies with historic themes, and visits to historic sites, buildings, and ruins, he concludes that Plumb's observations are "dubious" because "the cult of nostalgia, the yearning for roots, the demand for heritage, the passion for preservation show that the spell of the past remains potent. Indeed, history can never bring about the death of the past, for every act we take, every plan we make, entail the past's more or less conscious re-evaluation, revision, and re-creation...."14

This observation is based upon the fact that history and place cannot be reduced to facts and things in a detached thing-reality. Proceeding from the depth of experience of history and place, organizations have developed devoted to preserving those places which convey a sense of participation in history. Many early efforts at preserving historic places were devoted to preserving the homes and places associated with national figures and events of national importance, which must often be seen in the light of the growth of nationalism.

More sustained efforts appear to have been as a response to sudden changes that disrupted historic places associated with community identity and community order. In


13J.H. Plumb, The Death of the Past (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin
Books, 1973) p. 14.
14 David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University
Press, 1985), 411-412.


their study of 120 years of preservation activities in Salzburg, Austria, geographer Lester Rowntree and anthropologist Margaret Conkey linked preservation to the symbolism of the cultural landscape which serves as "an explicit cosmology" and "the means whereby social identity and reality are created." They have suggested that preservation movements tend to arise when a society is in stress as a symbolization process whereby "landscape symbols are promoted to alleviate stress through creation of shared symbolic structures that validate, if not actually define, social claims to space and time." 15 Similarly, in her study of preservation in Charleston, South Carolina in 1920-1940, Robin Datel saw the beginnings of the movement as a symbolization process aimed at alleviating stress from social and economic change in whose face historic preservation offered Charlestonians "the reassurance of a familiar place"16

These efforts illustrate attempts at articulating a community's sense of order in the face of threats to that order. They also illustrate an awareness of the role of the landscape and its role in evoking a sense of community and the common good. One of the few to meditatively reflect upon the interplay of thing-reality and It-reality between landscape and community is Robert Archibald who in his well-named monograph--A Place to Remember--wrote that:

The community we create is founded in shared remembrance and grounded in place, especially those places that are conducive to the casual associations necessary for emergence of shared memory, common ground, and commitment to the common good. Places, memories, and stories are inextricably connected, and we cannot create a real community without these elements.17

The most sustained and wide-spread historic preservation activities in the United States have been a product of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, legislation that was precipitated by major demographic, social, and transportation changes and the consequent destruction of architectural fabric in traditional community centers. The greatest decline has been in those areas that have the most meaning for us as societies, that is the community centers where social and economic life converge. These centers range from villages to the central business and residential districts of urban areas.

The report that led to the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act, With Heritage So Rich, observed that the rapid changes had resulted in "a feeling of

15"Lester B. Rowntree and Margaret W. Conkey. "Symbolism and the Cultural Landscape."
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 70 (1980), pp. 459-474.

16 Robin Elisabeth Date], "Southern Regionalism and Historic Preservation in Charleston, South Carolina, 1920-1940," Journal of Historical Geography, Vol. 16 (1990), pp. 197-215; cf. Anne Buttimer, "Home, Reach, and the Sense of Place," in Anne Buttimer and David Seamon (eds.), The Human Experience of Space and Place (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980), pp. 166-187; Robin Elisabeth Datel, "Preservation and a Sense of Orientation for American Cities," The Geographical Review, Vol. 75: 125-141, 1985.

17 Robert R. Archibald, A Place to Remember: Using History to Build Community (Walnut Creek, California: Alta Mira Press, 1999), p. 24.

rootlessness combined with a longing for those landmarks of the past which give us a sense of stability and belonging." It furthermore noted that "If the preservation movement is to be successful, it must go beyond saving bricks and mortar .... It must attempt to give a sense of orientation to our society, using structures and objects of the past to establish values of time and place." 18

Furthermore, transcendent dimensions of historic landscapes are occasionally hinted at, usually in promotional literature, but little else. For example, a National Park Service brochure--"A Heritage So Rich"--informs us that: "Historic places help us understand who we are as well as the meaning of our accomplishments and shortcomings." Additionally, a recently released film on historic landscape preservation interprets historic places as being of value because they ask the questions: " Who are we? "ere do we come from? and, Where are we going?"

However, these questions are seldom discussed in preservationist literature or in dialogue among preservationists. As Peirce Lewis has argued: "in our enthusiasm for preservation .... we have spent far too much time acting, and too little time thinking about why we want to preserve old things." 19 It is evident that the motivation for the birth of historic preservation lies far deeper than a superficial desire to preserve antiquities and collect data, for it was born out of the experienced loss of order from the threat to places associated with public life. Indeed it was born out of an attempted reflective distance or noesis through which the relationship between community life and the implicit symbolism of the cultural landscape was articulated to an extent. Yet despite this there is, as Lewis points out, relatively little effort made at dealing with the foundational dimensions of the historic preservation movement.

Much of the problem arises from the lack of reflectiveness inherent in modem education which results in an inability to think about matters in terms of anything other than things, in this case, old things. In other words, the luminous depth has been absorbed into surface phenomena, where devoid of a noetic understanding, preservationists often focus upon preserving things largely for their own sake. Many times have I heard it said that something should be preserved simply because it is the oldest building, or a unique building, or because it is our heritage without regard for the complex interplay of meanings that we are invoking.

18Special Committee on Historic Preservation, United States Conference of Mayors. With Heritage So Rich (2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1983, originally published New York: Random House, 1966), p. 193. 

19Peirce F. Lewis, "The Future of the Past: Our Clouded Vision of Historic Preservation." Pioneer America, Vol. 7 (1975), 6; cf. Datel, "Preservation and a Sense of Orientation for American Cities," p. 141; Roderick S. French, "On Preserving America: Some Philosophical Observations," Preservation: Toward an Ethic in the 1980s, (Washington: The Preservation Press, 1980), pp. 182-192; William J. Murtagh, Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America (Pittstown, N.J.: The Main Street Press, 1988), p. 167; George Percy, "Preservation at a Crossroads." Historic Preservation Forum, Vol. 10, no. 3 (1996), pp. 30-35.


This lack of reflectiveness will probably come as no surprise. However, it constitutes the contradictory nature of historic preservation and public history, in that having somewhat naively discerned that there is greater depth to reality than things, and having institutionalized this insight, yet there is a widespread inability to reflect upon the issue, largely due to the academic training of practitioners, which has directed them to more technical and positivistic aspects of their work. The result is a reification of meaning, intentionality is confused with luminosity, substance is treated as though it is phenomena.

It is because of this confusion that Voegelin's third dimension of consciousness-reflective distance--could play an important role. By reflecting upon the range of the experience of place, historic preservationists could more adequately dealing with all of the dimensions of landscape symbolism in all of its depth and ambiguity. Thereby they could have a more flexible approach that would highlight potentials for the cultural landscape and preservation activities to contribute to the common good rather than being reduced to saving old things, a mindset that I refer to as "naive antiquarianism."

Furthermore, there is to varying degrees potential for transcendence in the symbolism of the landscape which I became aware of as a youth when the land around me pointed me toward the dimension of mystery. It is reflected in the wonder at the opening of new horizons by the experience of historic places and buildings; it was indeed a driving force in the struggle against social disorder that gave considerable impetus to preservation. However, this potential is lost, or suffocated, by a social milieu that loses sight of this dimension and deforms luminosity into intentionality.

Voegelin and Aristotle on Noesis

Copyright 2000 David D. Corey

 

Since the philosopher Eric Voegelin has come under criticism as of late for his use of politics to "stamp out manifestations of deformed consciousness," the time may be right to reflect on the motivations and limits of Voegelin's work.1The limits, in particular, are sometimes difficult to keep in view while Voegelin is expounding upon the totality of being, the myriad dimensions of human consciousness, and the nature of order in personal, social and historical existence. But in fact Voegelin's work is limited-more than his magisterial tone might suggest-to offering general insights into the structure of being as opposed to offering a specifically ethical or political science. That, at any rate, is what I hope to make clear in the pages that follow. And if I am right in this regard, a consequent fact will be that Voegelin stands unfairly accused if he is accused of using politics for much of anything at all; for while his investigation of the structure of being may supply grounds for a philosophical critique of various ideological programs, it certainly does not itself supply a starting point for political action. Another way of saying this is that Voegelin does not offer his readers a substantive ethical or political theory-one that, like Aristotle's, considers the question of human action in particular with an eye to being useful.2 Now to seasoned readers of Voegelin this limit to his work may seem obvious, but no one to my knowledge has bothered to discuss it in writing. And yet it is well worth clarifying, not only because an awareness of it is essential to understanding Voegelin's own philosophical project, but also because the very fact of this limit raises important questions about the possibility of relating Voegelin's insights to a more substantive ethical-political theory.


1 For this and other criticisms see Shadia B. Drury, "Augustinian Radical Transcendence: Source of Political Excess," Humanitas 12, no. 2 (1999): 27-45, especially p. 43.

  2 On the intended usefulness of Aristotle's ethics, see e.g. Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 11.2: "The purpose of the present study is not, as it is in other inquiries, the attainment of theoretical knowledge: we are not conducting this inquiry in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, else there would be no advantage in studying it. For that reason, it becomes necessary to examine the problem of actions, and to ask how they are to be performed. For, as we have said, the actions determine what kind of characteristics are developed" (translation Ostwald). Of course, it is questionable in what sense even Aristotle's ethical theorizing can be said to supply a starting point for action. As Stephen G. Salkever argues, theory is by nature abstract while sound actions and policies must account for present conditions; therefore theory would seem incapable of directly determining the actions or policies we should take. See Finding the Mean: Theory and Practice in Aristotelian Political Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), especially pp. 135-150. But, at the same time, Aristotle's ethical and political theorizing does seem to me to succeed in its goal of enlightening its audience with respect to actions in a way that Voegelin's theorizing does not.


There are numerous ways to bring the limits of Voegelin's work into clearer view, but I shall do so by comparing Voegelin's understanding of noesis to that of Aristotle. Noesis is a type of intellectual activity, a seeing or apperception performed by the cognitive faculty referred to by the ancients as nous. Noesis was considered by many ancient thinkers including both Plato and Aristotle to be the most god-like human activity and the cause of our consciousness of order.3 In Voegelin's work, nous and noesis are crucially important symbols, for Voegelin was interested in the problem of rediscovering and defending human order against the ever-increasing disorder of his age. Thus Voegelin adopted the notion of noesis from the ancients as a way of symbolizing the human experience of order. Noesis figures prominently in almost all areas of Voegelin's work from his theory of consciousness to his studies in history and his analyses of modem politics. And yet when compared to Aristotle's treatment of noesis, Voegelin's treatment appears distinctly limited. No one to my knowledge has pointed this out. But a careful comparison of Aristotle and Voegelin on the notion of noesis proves to be a valuable exercise indeed, for when the limits of Voegelinian noesis come into view, the limits of his political science in general come into view as well.4 Voegelin on Noesis

3Literature on noesis and nous in Plato and Aristotle. 

4Work on Voegelin on noesis 


During his attempts in the 1930s and 1940s to shed interpretive light upon the mass political movements of communism, fascism, national socialism and racism, Voegelin came to realize not only that "the center of a philosophy of politics had to be a theory of consciousness," but also that the theories of consciousness supplied by the dominant paradigms of modem sociology were not up to the task. When in the course of my readings in the history of ideas I had to raise the question why important thinkers like Comte or Marx refuse to apperceive what they apperceive quite well-why they expressly prohibit anybody to ask questions concerning the sectors of reality they have excluded from their personal horizon-why they want to imprison themselves in their restricted horizon and to dogmatize their prison reality as a universal truth-and why they want to lock up all mankind in the prison of their making-my formidable school equipment did not provide an answer, though obviously an answer was needed if one wanted to understand the mass movements that threatened, and still threaten, to engulf Western civilization in their political prison culture.5 It was clear to Voegelin at this time that the ideological mass movements, as well as the academic paradigms of interpretation, had in some way reduced or deformed the horizons of human consciousness. What was needed was a fuller account of consciousness, the nascent form of which Voegelin had already begun to discern in himself Voegelin's effort to clarify and to properly articulate his own "larger horizon" of consciousness would thus inevitably lead him to the ancient philosophers, for in their own attempt to articulate the right order of the soul and of society against the disorder of their own age, they created language symbols "by far surpassing in exactness and luminosity" modem symbols of consciousness.' Two such symbols, the central ones for Voegelin's purposes, were nous and noesis.

5 Eric Voegelin, "Remembrance of Things Past," in Anamnesis, ed. and trans. Gerhart Niemeyer (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978), pp. 3-4. 4

As symbols for the divine-human encounter, the terms nous and noesis date back at least to the pre-Socratics Parmenides and Anaxagoras. In his investigations into their thought, Voegelin found that each thinker emphasized different aspects of noetic experience. In Parmenides, Voegelin writes, nous refers to "man's faculty of ascending to the vision of being" in contrast to logos, which refers to "the faculty of analyzing the content of the vision."' Parmenides thus emphasizes the epistemological side of noesis-the human side as opposed to the divine; but the engendering experience was nevertheless so intense for him, according to Voegelin, that it led to the fusion of nous and being, of noein and einai, into one true reality. In Anaxagoras, on the other hand, nous refers not so much to a faculty of the mind as to the divine source of intelligible order in the cosmos. Anaxagoras thus places the accent upon the ontological rather than the epistemological side of the experience. Voegelin's emphasis of the subtle differences between the Parmenidean and Anaxagorean formulations of nous serves both to supply a sense of the development of the concept as well as to set the stage for the more holistic Platonic-Aristotelian account: "the experiences of intellectual apperception and of intelligible structure to be apperceived ... were ready now to merge in the discovery of the human psyche as the sensorium of the divine action [cause or source] and at the same time as the site of its formative manifestation. "8 Voegelin's treatment of nous in Plato and Aristotle tends to emphasize similarities

6 Ibid. p. 5.
7
Eric Voegelin, "Reason: the Classic Experience," in Anamnesis, pp. 94-5. Ibid. 5
8 Ibid


much more than differences: both thinkers understand nous to be at once human and divine, a faculty of reason and the divine ground of all being with the power to pull or attract the intellect (periagoge, helkein). But Voegelin does stress one important difference between the two thinkers: the mode of expressing noetic experience in Plato is on the one hand allegorical-one thinks of the allegory of the cave where "the prisoner is moved by the unknown force to turn around (periagoge) and to begin his ascent to the light"9-and on the other hand mytho-historical-Plato "developed in the Laws a triadic symbolism of history in which the ages of Kronos and Zeus were now to be followed by the age of the Third God-the Nous."10 Aristotle, on the other hand, according to Voegelin, employs a mode of expression "in the process of detaching itself from the symbolism of myth."11And while Voegelin seems to have some reservations about this break, he also recognizes that the Aristotelian vocabulary is more complete and technically precise. Voegelin's description of noesis in his essay "The Consciousness of the Ground" is worth quoting at some length not only to demonstrate Voegelin's preference for the technical vocabulary of Aristotle, but also to reveal precisely what Voegelin took classical noesis to entail. Noetic interpretations arise when consciousness, on whatever occasion, seeks to become explicit to itself... Since the prototype of such an exegesis, the classical one, was essentially successful, the present attempt can relate to it.... In the experience and language of Aristotle man finds himself in a condition of

9 Ibid. p. 94 (emphasis mine).
10 Ibid. p. 90. CE Eric Voegelin, Order and History, vol 3, Plato and Aristotle (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1957), pp. 238-9 and 253-7.
11 Eric Voegelin, "The Consciousness of the Ground," in Anamnesis, p. 149.

ignorance (agnoia, amathia) with regard to the ground of order (action, arche) of his existence.... The restless search (zetesis) for the ground of all being is divided into two components: the desire or grasping (oregesthai) for the goal and the knowledge (noein). Similarly, the goal (telos) itself is divided into the components of desire (orekton) and the known (noeton). Since the search is not a blind desire but rather contains the component of insight, we may characterize it as knowing questioning and questioning knowledge.12 The Greek terms are drawn mostly from Aristotle's Metaphysics XII.7-9 (cf. Ethics X.7-8), and suggest that for Voegelin and Aristotle alike noesis could be described as a quest for the ground of existence, undertaken in the always-present, guiding light of the divine. Noesis is thus essentially a mystical interaction with the divine source of order, performed through our divine-most faculty, resulting in a personal vision for the inquirer into the nature of order on both a human and a cosmic scale. The significance of the classical discovery of noesis for Voegelin's own anthropological-political analysis cannot be overstated. As he puts it the New Science of Politics:

The opening of the soul was an epochal event in the history of mankind because, with the differentiation of the soul as the sensoriurn of transcendence, the critical, theoretical standards for the interpretation of human existence in society, as well as the source of their authority, came into view. When the soul opened toward transcendent reality, it found a source of order superior in rank to the established order of society as well as a truth in critical opposition to the truth at which

12 Ibid. pp. 148-9. Cf Eric Voegelin, "Anxiety and Reason," in The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, ed. Thomas A. Hollweck and Paul Caringella, vol. 28 What is History and Other Late Unpublished Writings (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), pp. 99-110. 7

society had arrived through the symbolism of its self-interpretation.13 Classical noetic analysis was important to Voegelin precisely because it supplied a way of experiencing and talking about that "broader horizon" of consciousness Voegelin knew to be his own. And it was also important for Voegelin in political terms, for he saw his own position as a philosopher in the midst of social disorder as closely analogous to that of Plato and Aristotle.14 Thus the potential benefits of recovering the classical noetic analysis were twofold: on the one hand, noetic analysis offered experiential insights into the order of reality along with highly differentiated language symbols to describe both the process and the results of the search for order; and on the other hand, these insights pointed out a way of diagnosing and ultimately of resisting phenomena of social disorder."

Aristotle on Noesis

But here is the difficulty: when Voegelin describes "Platonic-Aristotelian" noesis as a divine-human encounter through which the structure of being is apprehended, he draws from only certain passages of Aristotle that are Platonic and mystical in nature, passages such as Metaphysics XII.7-9 and Ethics X.7-8. But there are other passages of Aristotle that present noesis quite differently, and the question is not at all obvious how these other passages are to be reconciled with the ones from which Voegelin draws. 16

13Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), p. 156. 

14See "Reason: the Classic Experience," pp. 91 and 113. It should be noted that Voegelin thought his own noetic analysis of the structure of being went further than that of the ancients in attending to the spheres not only of man and society, but of history as well. See Eric Voegelin, "About the Function of Noesis," in Anamnesis, pp. 206-213. This development is not important, however, for the argument of this paper. " 

15On the point of resistance, Voegelin expressly agrees with Plato that the proper response to social disorder is not revolution, violent action, or compulsion, but persuasion (pace Shadia Drury). See "Reason the Classic Experience," pp. 90-9 1. 16 

16On the general problem of reconciling Aristotle's mystical and non-mystical passages, see the provocative comments of Martha C. Nussbaum in her Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 373-377.

Among the chief differences are that in the texts Voegelin does not cite, Aristotle (1) explains the way noesis works in far greater detail, (2) discusses its dependence upon sense perception without mentioning its connection to the divine, and (3) emphasizes its role in supplying a starting point for the sciences. If it turns out that these passages cannot be convincingly reconciled with the others, it may be the case that Voegelin has presented us with a one-sided, primarily Platonic, understanding of noesis-his extensive use of Aristotelian terms notwithstanding. Let us examine the passages.

In Posterior Analytics II. 19, Aristotle describes noesis as a process of induction (epagoge) from particulars to universals.17 All animals, he says, have a capacity of sense perception (aisthesis), but in some animals the thing that is perceived persists in the memory (mneme), while in others it does not. In animals for whom perception persists in the memory, repeated memories of the same thing give rise to an experience (empeiria). But at this point something strange has occurred, for while the memories are numerically many, the "experience" is of a single universal (katholou)--not ten different experiences of ten different people, for example, but a unified experience of "man". And this is what Aristotle attributes to nous. Nous is simply a state (hexis) of the mind that arrives at a universal from the sense perception of particulars.

Aristotle illustrates the process in the Posterior Analytics with the famous metaphor of an army in retreat:

Universals arise from sense perception, just as, when a retreat has occurred in
battle, if one man halts so does another, and then another, until the original position is restored. The soul is so constituted that it is capable of the same

17 Aristotle's emphasis on induction from particulars is meant to counter the theory of concept formation in Plato's Meno 8 1 a-86c, which presents our knowledge of universals as innate and dependent upon the transmigration of the soul.

process As soon as one individual percept has "come to a halt" in the soul, this is the first beginning of the presence there of a universal (because although it is the particular we perceive, the act of the perception involves the universal, e.g. "man" not "a man Callias.") Then other "halts" occur among these <proximate
universals>, until the indivisible genera or <ultimate> universals are established. 18 Let us take an example of our own. If we imagine that we have never before seen a tree, our first exposure to one through sense perception would pose something of a problem. We would see it, but we would not know what it is. What we would be lacking is the "experience," which is to say the awareness of the universal of which the thing before us
is an instance. The process by which we acquire such awareness is noesis (another word for induction) and the faculty by which we acquire it is nous. Nous, then, is our faculty of attending to the universals that unite particular instances before us, whether these are trees, ethical actions, mathematical equations, or features of human consciousness, and it is dependent upon repeated sense perceptions mixed with memory.
The significance of this description becomes clearer when Aristotle contrasts nous
with other intellectual faculties such as episteme ("science") and phronesis ("practical
wisdom") in Nicomachean Ethics VI.2-8. Episteme is a faculty by which we know things
to be demonstrably true; it is a faculty used for all sciences that proceed by syllogism. 19

18 Aristotle Posterior Analytics, trans. Hugh Tredennick (Cambridge, Mass: Loeb Classical Library, 1976), 10002-W.  

19See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics VD. Aristotle restricts the meaning of episteme in the Ethics to its most precise sense-conclusions reached by demonstration concerning things that are imperishable, exist of necessity and cannot be otherwise (one thinks of the conclusions reached by math and logic). But Aristotle often uses episteme in a less restricted sense to refer to deductions reached in the realm of changeable things such as plants, animals, souls and even individual and political actions. For the purposes of this paper, I am using episteme in the less restrictive sense. For an admirably clear and helpful discussion of episteme and nous in Aristotle's Ethics, see C.D.C. Reeve, Practices ofReason: Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1992). 1 am not, however, persuaded by Reeve's unorthodox argument that Aristotle understood ethics and politics to be pure sciences in the most restrictive sense.

  Phronesis is a faculty for deliberating well about what is good and advantageous for oneself, and is the primary faculty used in ethical and political action.20But episteme and phronesis are nothing without nous, for they depend upon it for their beginning. As Aristotle sometimes formulates it: nous moves from what is "better known to us" (i.e. particulars) to what is "better known in itself' (i.e. universals), while episteme and phronesis take the road back from universals to particulars.21 In other words, nous establishes the universals or first principles (archai) from which scientific demonstrations and ethical deliberations proceed.

Now the question is how are we to relate nous in these passages to the so-called "Platonic-Aristotelian" nous we find in Voegelin? It is a difficult question to answer because the sources seem so different in spirit. But, in a sense, we might say they are similar. For nous functions in both cases as a faculty through which we apprehend the order of reality. When, in Voegelin, nous is said to apprehend the internal structure of consciousness and the divine ground of being, it is certainly apprehending the order of reality; and likewise when, in Posterior Analytics, it is said to apprehend universals from sense perception it is apprehending the order of reality as well-for universals are the means by which the world of particulars makes sense to us; universals bring order to particulars. The problem remains, of course, that Aristotle does not associate nous with "the divine" in the Posterior Analytics as he does elsewhere and as Voegelin is wont to do; but something is clearly going on in the Posterior Analytics that cannot be fully explained in terms of sense perception and memory. How, after all, does a universal take a stand in our mind? Sense perception and memory are of particulars; repeated sense perceptions and memories are still of particulars. So, whence our experience of the universal? We are indeed tempted to view nous as an act of participation with the divine, even if Aristotle sometimes fails to mention it.22

But why does Aristotle not mention the divine in the passages discussed above, and why does he place so much emphasis upon sense perception and the formative role nous plays in science and ethics? The answer, I believe, is that there are two distinct uses to which the universalizing powers of nous can be put: one that necessarily casts attention upon the divine, and another that casts attention more locally upon episteme and phronesis. Unfortunately, we run into a problem of terminology at this point, so for the purpose of clarity let me differentiate these two uses of noesis with the adjectives "theological" and "scientific-practical." I hope it will become clear what I have in mind .23

Scientific-practical noesis is the exercise of nous with an eye to engaging in various sciences, ethics and politics. In this mode, nous does its universalizing work upon all sorts of puzzling pluralities from trees and animals to human actions and constitutions, attaining for the inquirer various universals from which deductions and deliberations can proceed. But this use of noesis is at once complete and incomplete. It is complete in terms of the sciences it makes possible. Sciences proceed from noetic

20See Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics VI.5, especially 1139b33. 

21In the case of phronesis, the particular that is reached is an action. Aristotle realizes of course that we do not always employ reason in right action (we sometimes rely on luck or chance), but when we do we make use of reason, we employ a kind of loose syllogism often termed (though not by Aristotle) a "practical syllogism" in order to connect our universal knowledge as best we can to particular circumstances and actions. 

22 Aristotle's failure to mention the divine on certain occasions appears to have frustrated Voegelin. See, especially, his discussion of Aristotelian phronesis in "What is Right by Nature?," in Anamnesis, pp. 65-66. 11 23There is no perfect adjective to describe the noesis of Ethics X and Metaphysics X11, where the nous essentially performs noesis on its own content and arrives thereby at a sense of the divine. I have chosen the term "theological" after rejecting two alternatives which Voegelin would certainly not have liked: metaphysical and ontological. I derive support for the term "theological" from Voegelin's late essay "Anxiety and Reason," pp. 106-7. 12


universals, and thus once these universals are attained, they invite the inquirer to arrest his noetic quest and to reap the rich harvest of deductions. But this use of noesis is also incomplete-and this is where theological noesis comes in. It is incomplete insofar as the inquirer is still confronted with a plurality of objects, now a plurality of noetic universals and of derivative sciences, the common element and interrelationship of which are yet unknown. The very fact of this plurality calls for a re-engagement of the nous, only this time upon the noetic universals themselves.24 Now the purpose of this re-engagement is clearly not to improve the sciences, for these were engaged at a lower level of noetic insight; its purpose is to push noetic insight to the point of unity, allowing the common element or ground of all noetic insights to take its stand in our mind. Its purpose is to attain a vision of the internal structure of noetic order itself by pursuing it to its highest, most unified source.

These two modes of noesis cannot be simply collapsed into one. The reason is that they direct us to different and mutually incompatible sorts of activity and thus, ultimately, to different ends. To seek the universal of a certain tree or man or action is to seek something only one step removed from sense perception and to seek it for a specific purpose; when that universal is discerned, we turn immediately to the work of science-the work of understanding and explaining particulars in terms of the universal. The ultimate end, therefore, of scientific-practical noesis is an understanding of particulars, whether these are particular trees in the case of biology, particular actions one

24See especially Aristotle Metaphysics XII.7, 1072bl5ff. The language I use to describe the two different modes of noesis owes a debt to Michael Oakeshott, On Human Conduct (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 11, who speaks in similar terms of the theorists' engagement to be perpetually en voyage. It is worth noting, however, that Oakeshott differs from Aristotle and Voegelin in removing all sense of a telos or divine ground as the ultimate goal of the search. For him, "theorizing has revealed itself as an unconditional adventure in which every achievement of understanding is an invitation to investigate itself and where the reports a theorist makes to himself are interim triumphs of temerity over scruple." 

should take in the case of ethics, or particular policies one should adopt in the case of politics.25 But the ultimate end of theological noesis is different. For it is not an understanding of particulars we seek when we engage in the quest for the ground of all universals, but rather insight into the ultimate universal. Nor will such insight shed light on the particulars of sense. 

This last point is precisely the point that Aristotle makes in Ethics 1.6, where he addresses the irrelevance of the Platonic "form of the good" to the science of ethics. Perhaps one may think that ... by treating the absolute Good as a pattern, we shall gain a better knowledge of what things are good for us, and once we know that, we can achieve them. This argument has, no doubt, some plausibility; however, it does not tally with the procedure of the sciences. For while all the sciences aim at some good and seek to fulfill it, they leave the knowledge of the absolute good out of consideration. Yet if this knowledge were such a great help, it would make no sense that all the craftsmen are ignorant of it and do not even attempt to seek it.26

 Ethics is the science of deliberating well about particular human actions, and such deliberation indeed depends upon a noetic universal." But the universal in question is not the universal of all universals, nor would that assist us in ethical deliberations. The universal in question is the common element shared by all human actions thought to be good, and this common element or universal is the propensity of certain types of action to promote human happiness.28 Thus the first principle of ethics is not the ground of being, nor is an investigation into the ground of being a contribution to the science of ethics.

25 See note 19.
26 Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Martin Ostwald (Englewood Cliffs: Library of Liberal Arts, 1962),
1096b35-1097a8. All following quotations from the Ethics use the Ostwald translation.
27For a more detailed account of the way noesis supplies the first principle of ethics see ibid. 1143a35-b5.
28It should be stressed here that Aristotelian ethics, though similar in structure to the other sciences in
reasoning upward noetically to a first principle (arche) and then downward deductively to particulars, is different from other sciences on account of its imprecision. Thus it may well tell us what general types of action are worthy of pursuit, but it cannot tell us precisely what to do on any given occasion; such knowledge would always involve consideration of particular circumstances. 

The point of citing the passages above is to show that Aristotle recognizes the potential of using noesis in two ways. Like Plato and like Voegelin, he recognizes the potential of using it to ascend to a vision of the divine ground of being, but he also recognizes the potential of using it to launch forays into the various fields of science from biology and zoology to ethics and politics. Voegelin, by contrast, views noesis strictly in the theological way. His noetic visions are of the sort that reaches to the very boundaries of human consciousness, to the universal of all universals, to the divine ground from which the structure of human consciousness and of reality becomes luminous.

Now if I am right to view Aristotelian noesis as functioning in two distinct ways and toward two distinct ends, then the question must be asked why Voegelin has appropriated the theological but not the scientific-practical experiences behind the symbol. Did Voegelin not recognize the scientific-practical use of noesis? Did he recognize it but reject it for some reason? Did Voegelin perhaps suppose (contra Aristotle) that meditation on the divine ground of being would supply the starting point for ethical-political deliberation? These are questions that cannot be easily answered, as far as I can tell, based on what Voegelin has written. One possibility is that Voegelin did recognize the scientific-practical use of noesis but simply thought that Aristotle had said what needed to be said regarding its formative function in ethical and political science. But the way that Voegelin writes about noesis seems to me to tell against this view. I have in mind Voegelin's commentary on a particular passage of Aristotle where the scientific-practical use of noesis comes up.

In Metaphysics Il.ii.9-10, Aristotle is in the process of showing that the causes of things cannot regress infinitely but must stop somewhere and, in order to demonstrate this, he turns his attention briefly to the so-called "final cause" (to hou heneka) of human action. The text reads as follows:
Further, the Final cause of a thing is an end [telos], and is such that it does not happen for the sake of something else, but all other things happen for its sake. So if there is to be a last term of this kind, the series will not be infinite [apeiron]; and if there is no such term, there will be no Final cause. Those who introduce
infinity do not realize that they are abolishing the nature of the Good [agathoul] (but no one would attempt to do anything if he were not likely to reach some limit [peras]); nor would there be any nous in things, for the man who has nous always acts for the sake of something, and this is a limit [peras], because the end is a
limit.29

What I take to be the "limit" of human action-that for the sake of which human action is undertaken-is not the Good in the most universal sense, but happiness. We can assume this because of what Aristotle says in Ethics 1.6 (above).30 Thus, Aristotle is in effect making an analogy here. He is illustrating a very general statement about the function of the Good as a limit for all things by reminding us of how the good functions in ethics. As far as the general function of the Good goes, the passage is in agreement with the Platonic outlook of Republic VI-VII: the Good supplies a limit (Peras, telos) for all things. But with respect to the particular example Aristotle chooses, that of human action, the good in question is not the Platonic Good-in-itself but the particularly human good of happiness. By the same token, the nous in man that constitutes knowledge of the end of human action is analogous to (perhaps even a part of) the nous in things more generally; but they are not identical. The passage is not problematic so long as we keep Aristotle's remarks from the Ethics in mind.

29 Aristotle Metaphysics, trans. Hugh Tredennick (Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1989), 994b9
16. 1 have chosen to simply leave "nous" in the Greek; Tredennick translates it as intelligence (a common
rendering).
30 See also Aristotle Ethics 1.12, 1 10lb32-1102a4: "For our present purposes, we may draw the conclusion
from the preceding argument that happiness is one of the goods that are worthy of honor and are final.
This again seems to be due to the fact that it is a starting point or fundamental principle, since for its sake
all of us do everything else. And the source and cause of all good things we consider as something worthy
of honor and divine."


But when Voegelin considers this passage in his essay "What is Nature?" he determines that "the passage stands in need of a discursive loosening-up to comprehend it fully."31 Unfortunately, I find Voegelin's "loosening" hopelessly unintelligible.32 However, the conclusions he reaches are for our purposes clear enough. Voegelin finds that the "nous" referred to in the passage is really "the openness of the questioning knowledge and the knowing questioning about the ground," and that the "limit" (Peras) referred to in the passage "really has nothing to do with chains of causation composed of phenomena in the world, but it has to do with the coming-to-be out of the ground of being, which does have its limit in that ground."33 In other words, Voegelin ultimately collapses the distinctions that Aristotle makes between the two types of nous and the two types of noetic limit.

31Eric Voegelin, "What is Nature?" in Anamnesis, p. 84.
32What Voegelin seems to want to do is to raise the question of the precise relationship between the limit of human action and the limit in the ground of being (or, in other words, the limit supplied by scientificpractical noesis and the one supplied by theological noesis). And although this is not a question that Aristotle himself raises at this point, it is a tremendously important one. Voegelin's answer (as best I can make it out) seems to go like this: there would appear to be two "limits" discovered by nous, one human and one divine; but to recognize this distinction is to beg the question of the relationship between the two; and the only way to understand their relationship is to have an understanding of the divine ground; but that would mean turning our attention to the divine (engaging in what we have called theological noesis); therefore, the very fact of the human limit necessitates theological noesis and the whole distinction between the human and divine limit ought to be dropped (see especially ibid. p. 86; and cf, Eric Voegelin, "What is Right by Nature," in Anamnesis p. 66). 11 33Voegelin, "What is Nature?" pp. 86-7. 17
  

But why would Voegelin do that if, as we postulated above, he not only recognized the scientific-practical use of noesis but also thought that Aristotle had said what needed to be said regarding its formative function in ethical and political science? There seem to me to be two possibilities: one is that Voegelin actually failed to recognize the distinction between scientific-practical and theological noesis; the second (and much more likely) is that Voegelin dismissed the distinction as somehow wrongheaded; but I have found no clear explanation in Voegelin's writing for such a dismissal. It is easy to see why Voegelin would have been drawn to the theological use of noesis: motivated by his desire to expose the ideological and philosophical reductionism of his age, he found in theological noesis not only a means of apprehending the horizon of reality but also a symbolization of reality's highest knowable. But it is hard to see why Voegelin would not also have been drawn to the scientific-practical use of noesis, for it would seem to be as relevant to the problems of ethical and political science in the twentieth century as the theological use of noesis was to a theory of consciousness. But let us set aside the question of why Voegelin was not concerned with scientific-practical noesis and ask instead what the consequences of this might be for Voegelin's ethical and political science.

                                   Implications for Voegelin's Ethical and Political Science

Does Voegelin, by not attending to the scientific-practical use of noesis, forfeit the ability to offer a substantive ethical and political science? The answer seems to be yes. For there would appear to be a sort of trade-off, which the philosopher Michael Oakeshott has described in the following way:

[T]he unconditional engagement of understanding must be arrested and inquiry must remain focused upon a this if any identity is to become intelligible in terms of its postulates. An investigation which denies or questions its own conditions surrenders its opportunity of achieving its own conditional perfection; the theorist who interrogates instead of using his theoretic equipment catches no fish.34 In other words, noesis can be used to order the objects of our experience and to present us with coherently unified fields for theoretical exploration; but in order to explore these fields, we must at least momentarily arrest the noetic quest. Not to arrest it means simply not to explore the fields. A noetic understanding of the totality of being, is not an understanding of ethics any more than it is an understanding of the life of the fern. These sorts of sciences require investigations of their own. 

Oakeshott's view of this matter squares well with the procedures we find employed by Aristotle.35 The intellectual activity that Aristotle terms theoria in Ethics book 10 involves noesis and is an essential and supremely excellent human activity, but it neither is, nor does it substitute for a science of ethics or politics. This is why, when Aristotle comes to talk about theoria in the Ethics, he cuts the discussion rather short, claiming that "a more detailed treatment lies beyond the scope of our present task."36 Similarly, theorizing about the structure of the human soul, while perhaps preliminary to the study of ethics and politics, does not exhaust or in any way substitute for these latter

34 Michael Oakeshott, On Human Conduct, 11. 

35My claim here is only that Oakeshott and Aristotle share a similar view of the autonomy of ethical and political inquiry from the study of metaphysics or "first things." When it comes to the substance of ethical and political science, however, Oakeshott and Aristotle disagree in important respects centering mostly on Oakeshott's rejection of the teleological approach set out by Aristotle in Ethics I and Politics 1. Thus, where Aristotle explains human action in terms of its ends (telos) and in terms of the function of the human life, Oakeshott explains human action in terms of its "postulates." See Michael Oakeshott, "Logos and Telos," in Rationalism and Politics and Other Essays, Timothy Fuller, ed. (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1991); on "postulates," see On Human Conduct, pp. 9-12. 

36 Ethics I I 78a 23. 19


sciences. For the study of the soul is essentially a biological investigation, even though the human soul transcends the souls of most other animals in possessing reason (in the most pregnant sense of the term). But the study of ethics and politics is something different still-it is to inquire not only into the human soul-and thus the distinctly human function-but also to ask what it would mean to be a human being in action .37 Thus, to employ noesis always in the theological manner and never to employ it in relation to human action is, if Aristotle and Oakeshott's view of the matter is correct, to forfeit the possibility of a science of ethics and politics. This would lead us to the following conclusion: Voegelin cannot offer a substantive ethical or political science based on noesis because he does not employ noesis in a manner that would establish the first principles of such a science.

However, this conclusion should be refined by at least two additional considerations. First, Voegelin may yet offer his readers a "substantive" ethical and political science even if he does not employ noesis toward this end. We should remember that scientific-practical noesis is only one among many methods of making sense of ethical deliberation and action. There is also revelation through divine vision or scripture, as well as "common sense."38 However, Voegelin does not to my knowledge offer a substantive political science based upon these modesof apprehension either. In fact, he understands revelation much like he understands noesis-as an expression of the tensional structure of existence supplying insight into the ground of being.

37 "Biological" in the Aristotelian sense. For an insightful discussion of the biological underpinnings of Aristotelian ethics and politics, see Stephen G. Salkever, Finding the Mean, pp. 137-142. On the distinction between studying the soul as an end in itself and studying ethics and politics, see Aristotle Ethics 1. 13: "The student of politics must obviously have some knowledge of the workings of the soul .... but he must do so with his own aim in view, and only to the extent that the objects of his inquiry demand: to go into it in greater detail would perhaps be more laborious than his purposes require." 

 38On the nature and limits of common sense, see Eric Voegelin "About the Function of Noesis" pp. 211 - 13; and cf. Eric Voegelin, On the Form of the.4merican Mind, trans. Ruth Hein, in The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, ed. Jurgen Gebhardt and Barry Cooper, vol. I (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995), pp. 29 ff. 

Secondly, while the use that Voegelin actually makes of noesis may not tell us what types of actions and policies are ethical, it may yet lead us to rule some out, at least indirectly. In the appendix to his essay "Reason: the Classic Experience," Voegelin presents the classical insights into the structure of consciousness on a grid. On the vertical axis, he places the hierarchical levels of being experienced in the human psyche: inorganic nature, vegetative nature, animal nature, passions, reason and divine nous. On the horizontal axis, he places the widening contexts of human consciousness in person, society, and history.39 The directional flow of order in the diagram is important. On the vertical axis, order flows upward in a "foundational" way (one cannot have divine insights without an inorganic and vegetative nature as a foundation), but at the same time order flows downward in a "formative" way (the divine "informs" reason; reason "informs" the passions, and so on). On the horizontal axis, by contrast, order flows only in the foundational way from person through society to history. Now with these noetic insights in view, Voegelin articulates three fundamental principles "to be considered in any study of human affairs .41 The "principle of completeness" tells us not to view any single sector of the grid autonomously, neglecting the entire context.41The "principle of formation and foundation" tells us not to reverse or otherwise distort the directional order. And the "principle of metaxy reality tells us not to immanentize the experiences of a

39Voegelin, "Reason: the Classic Experience," in Anamnesis, pp. 112, 113-115. The noetic differentiation of man's historical consciousness is Voegelin's own addition to the classical analysis.

 40 Ibid. p. 113. 

41 I do see possible grounds for a Voegelinian critique of Aristotle here: in isolating the human good in his study of ethics, and in seeking the noetic first principles of ethics without reference to the divine ground, Aristotle violates Voegelin's "principle of completeness". One line in Voegelin's "What is Nature" even hints at Voegelin's having intended such a criticism: "Aristotle's idea of man as an immanently formed thing having its fulfillment in a this-worldly happiness is something definitely influenced by [reduced to?] the model of an organism." (See "What is Nature?" p. 84.) But if Voegelin intended to make such a critique of Aristotle, it is muted, to say the least. 21

 Beyond by viewing divine perfection as something either in us or attainable in society or history. As these principles make clear, there is a certain applicability of theological-noetic insights to politics, but it is a merely negative one. Theological-noetic insights supply an "instrument of critique" by reference to which the fallacies and reductionisms of the ideologists become clear .42 Thus, insofar as actions and policies are motivated by systems of ideas, Voegelin's insights have political importance of the first order. Voegelin's philosophy may not tell the Nazi soldier how to act, but it will tell him in no uncertain terms that his political motivations are fallacious.

  Conclusion

But an "instrument of critique" is not the same thing as a substantive ethical and political science, one that tells us not only about the structure of reality, but also about the types of actions and policies are most likely to prove satisfying for us over the long term. Nor does Voegelin give us reason to reject such a science. And it is precisely in these considerations that I see the limitations of Voegelin's political science mentioned at the outset of this essay. By grounding his science in the mode of noesis that we have called "theological" and by neglecting the mode we have called "scientific-practical", Voegelin forfeits the ability to offer the kind of ethical and political science we find in Aristotle-one that explains or illuminates human actions and policies with an eye to being useful. This does not mean, of course, that Voegelin's writings have no use for the problems of twentieth-century political life-they do indeed, as we have just seen-but it does mean that their use is more limited than is often realized; and it also means, among other things, that Voegelin cannot be fairly accused of using politics to stamp out manifestations of deformed consciousness.

42 Ibid. p. 113; cf. p. 115 22

VOEGELIN AND ARISTOTLE WHAT IS NOETIC SCIENCE?

Copyright 2000 Thomas J. McPartland


Political science is a late bloomer in the history of human consciousness, and it rarely blossoms at that. it can arise only when certain technological, economic, and civilizational conditions allow for the flourishing of a theoretical culture -- as in the case of ancient Hellas - and, Voegelin notes, it need arise only when the predominant myths of the political cosmion have lost their magic and enchantment - as, for example, during the great crisis of the Peloponnesian War.
1 But there are also decidedly philosophical and spiritual conditions for the emergence of political science. For political science is nothing less than the articulation of the roots of the order of the polity, and these roots are precisely the dynamics for the very search for order itself2 The search is a reflective, self transcending process of openness to transcendence. Explicit identification of the source of order, moreover, takes its poignancy from an acute experience of disorder in the surrounding society, placing authentic political science in critical contention with the prevailing interpretations of social order.3


1. Political Science and- Noetic Science


Such is Voegelin's understanding of political science and of what the originators of political science, Plato and Aristotle, meant by that enterprise. Political science therefore has as its foundation a reflective awareness of the normative structure of human existence. This structure is "noetic consciousness,"4 and its reflective awareness - which gives rise to theoretical culture - is the "noetic differentiation of consciousness." Thus, for Voegelin, political science is based upon, if not virtually equivalent to, noetic science.


1Eric Voegelin. History of Political Ideas, vol. 1, Hellenism Rome, and Early Christianity, ed. Athanasios Mouklakis, vol. 19 of Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), pp. 228-23 3.

2 Eric Voegelin, Order and History, 5 vols. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956-1987), L Introduction.

3 Ibid., I. xiv, M. 62-63, V, 13-14. 4 1 Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis, trans. Gerhart Niemeyer (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978), p. 89-, Published Essays, 1966-1985, pp. 45-46, 265, 371-3 74.

4Order and History.,II,III,V,chap.1;Eric Voegelin. Published Essays, 1966-1985,vol. 12 of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. ed. Ellis Sandoz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 1990), chap. 10; What is History? And Other Unpublished Writings. vol. 28 of the Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. ed Thomas A- Hollweck and Paul Caringella (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1990), chap. 5.

Indeed he suggests that we can substitute for "political science" - with its modem positivist and ideological connotations - the term "noetic interpreation" 5 If by "science" Voegelin means the more inclusive sense of the German Wissenschaft, which embraces more than modem natural science, then "noetic science" is simply the explication of the normative structure of human existence: that is, noetic science is the explication of the self-transcending process of cognitive, moral, and spiritual inquiry."6 Whenever the self-interpretation that is constitutive of the polity seeks to interpret its own intelligibility, norms, and ground, whenever we have such a critical interpretation of the self-interpretation of society, we have an attempt at "noetic exegesis."7

2. Voegelin and Aristotle

There is a peculiar quality to noetic science. We have used such terms as "reflection," "explication," and "exegesis" to describe the way noetic; science formulates meaning. Since the subject matter of noetic science is the normative structure of human existence, the subject matter is not a distant object that can be known either by logical deduction or by simple empirical observation. One must participate in the structure of existence in order to know it. The participation has a double dimension to it, for the structure of existence is itself a participation in transcendence. And, furthermore, since the structure of existence is a dynamic, normative process of self-transcending openness to the horizon of transcendence, its reality cannot be adequately captured in a conceptual system or the type of definitions that refer to objects in the external world. So Voegelin concludes

5Anamnesis. p. 146.

6 On Voegelin and Wissenschaft, see Manfred Henningsen. "Introduction" to Eric Voegelin. Modernity without Restraint: The Political Religions. The View Science of Politics, and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, vol. 5 of the Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000). p. 10.

7 Ibid., P. 148.

that the language of noetic science is that of 'linguistic indices," which explicate the "movement of
participation" in "nonobjective reality."8

If, however, this is what we take to be noetic science, we must consider whether this kind of science could possibly be what Aristotle means by science (episteme) and reason (nous).

Voegelin indeed claims that noetic science, as he conceives of it, is consonant with the basic direction and impetus of Aristotle's thought. Aristotle, he argues, portrays the dynamics of noetic; consciousness in a complex of symbols, ranging from those expressing human self-transcending unrest (''wonder"as the source of all science, the "desire to know" as a drive all humans share by nature, and the correlative "flight from ignorance") to those identifying the divine transcendent ground of unrest (the-pure act of nous)9 Aristotle, according to Voegelin, highlights the participatory nature of noetic consciousness in his treatment of the activity of nous as the process of immortalizing C-Making noetic life divine compared to human life) and in his insistence that the goals of political life are excellences which can be known only by the person who possesses them, the spoudaios.10

But a commonplace reading of various Aristotelian texts on episteme and nous would conclude that episteme is exclusively a matter of demonstrative knowledge and that nous, by total contrast, is an intuition of the indemonstrable principles of demonstration. In addition, many interpreters would presuppose that indemonstrable principles are foundational propositions upon which all definitions must be grounded. The connection of episteme and nous would seem to be an elusive one. If episteme is exclusively an ordered set of propositions, then how can there be a noetic science of the type Voegelin proposes? Would not such an Aristotelian science fall into the trap of

8 Ibid,,chap. 9.
9 Ibid, pp. 91-97.
10
Order and History, U1, 30 1.

what Voegelin would consider a propositionalist fallacy? Not only would this putative Aristotelian
science fail to do justice to the participatory nature of noetic consciousness but it would make a
retrieval of interiority highly problematic. Reinforcing this tendency is a traditionalist interpretation,
held by Ross among others, that would see Aristotle's account of the origin of universals as that of
a somewhat mechanical process from sense perception to memory to repeated experiences. 11 Would
not noetic science, for Aristotle, be an oxymoron?

We are therefore faced with the question whether Voegelin had read too much of his own position into Aristotle. Behind this question, however, is a much more fundamental hermeneutical issue. Can an interpreter ever "read" Aristotle's meaning by some kind of simple perception of the text? The Hermeneutics of the Empty Head, the interpretive model favored, for example, in positivist circles, would locate a textual meaning "out there" to be looked at 'in here."12 In fact, if interpreters have minds, their horizons will always come into play in their interpretations, and their horizons will include, explicitly or implicitly, philosophical assumptions - even in the case of pure philologists. But the richer, the more insightful, the horizon of the interpreter the richer, the more insightful, the interpretation.

The Aristotelian corpus indeed poses special hermeneutical difficulties. Aristotle did not write systematic treatises. He employed terms in different senses for different occasions. Perhaps, as Jaeger suggests, they were something like school logoi, intended for reading out loud, for partial memorization, and for discussion.13 Whatever the nature of the texts, their philosophical content

11Citations in Patrick Byme, Analysis and Science in Aristotle (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), p. 173, n. 27.

12Bernard Lonergan, Method in 7heology (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972), p. 157.

13Werner Jaeger, Studien zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Metaphysik des Aristoleles (Berlin: Weidmann, 1912), pp. 138-148, cited approvingly by Joseph Owens, 7he Doctrine of Being in Aristotelian Metaphysics, 2nd ed. (Toronto: The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1963), p. 75, and by W. D. Ross, Aristotle's Metaphysics, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1924), 1, xiv, n. 1.

demands philosophical insight on the part of the interpreter. The only relevant question is which
philosophical perspectives will be most successful in entering Aristotle's philosophical horizon: That
of Voegelin? That of conceptualists (for whom science equals a set of propositions)? Or that of
empiricists? It is interesting to note that both of the latter perspectives have frequently been adopted
by philologists, reflecting the contemporary climate of opinion.

It is the burden of this paper to show how a series of plausible interpretations of episeme and nous vindicate Voegelin's assertions about Aristotelian noetic science. It will be helpful, first, to trace briefly how in the pre-Aristotelian tradition the terms nous and 1heoros had religious and existential resonances. Our main focus will then be on the possibilities that episteme is not restricted to demonstrations and that it is intimately tied to the activity, potentialities, and habits of nous. In so doing we can shed fight on how nous could simultaneously be the principle of the principles of episteme, the dynamism of human inquiry, the norm of human existence, the participation in the divine, and the basis of authentic political life. We can also discern how, in one respect, nous transcends episteme but how, in another respect, it exhibits the rudimentary features of episteme.

3. Nous and Theoros: the Historical Context

Aristotle certainly coined words to fit his philosophical needs and distinctions. And yet he did not five in an historical vacuum. The terms nous and theoros - used extensively by Aristotle - had traditional meanings that conveyed a decidedly existential theme of a participatory movement of human quest and of divine presence.

As Douglas Frame has demonstrated, the root of nous was tied to myths of the sacred cycle of the sun god, who sojourned and struggled in the dark underworld each night; it originally conveyed the idea of a return home from death and darkness to fight and consciousness.14 The dramatic imagery of nous pervaded the story of Odysseus, "the wanderer," who "saw the town lands and learned the minds of many distant men."15 Odysseus in his return home to Ithaca had to contend with the forces of darkness; the cave of the infamous Cyclops (from which his nous extricated him); the cave of the seductive Calypso; the cavernous bay of the Laistrygones, where "the course of night and day lie close together"; and the region of the fog-bound Kimmerians, over whom "a glum night is spread."16 He had to encounter fabulous creatures whose very names echoed the myth of the cycle of the sun; the Cyclops, Circe, and Calypso. These themes were conspicuously present at the opening
of Parmenides great poem: he was carried on the renowned road of the goddess "who leads the man
who knows through every town"; there, leaving the "abode of the night" and far "from the beaten
track of men," he was granted the vision of being through the exercise of his nous. 17 We should also
recall the most famous allusion to the original meaning of nous in Plato's allegory of the cave."18

We likewise find the theme of a sacred journey -- the search for meaning and the quest for value -- in the word theoros. The original Greek meaning of theorist referred to a person sent on a sacred mission to oracles or to religious festivals, such as the Olympic games. " The theorist was to question and to transmit faithfully a divine message; he had to venture forth, searching along the road,

14 Douglass Frame, The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978).

15 Tran& Robert Fitzgerald, The Odyssey of Homer (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Co., 196 1).

16Trans. Richmond Lattimore, The Odyssey of Homer (New York: Harper and Row, 196 1).

17Parmenides, B 1. tram. G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 266.

18Plato, Republic, 514-517d

19 Gadarner, Truth and -Method (New York. Seabury Press, 19 75), p. I 11. Bernd Jager, "Theorizing, Journeying, Dwelling," in Duquesne Stuides in Phenomenological Psychology: Volume H. ed. Amedo Giorg4 Constance Fisher. and Edward L. Murray (Pittsburg: Duquesne University Press. 1975), pp. 235-260; John Navone. The Jesus Story: Our Life as Storv in Christ (Collegeville. Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1979), pp. 103-109; H. Koller, "Theoros und Theoria." in Glotta~ Zeitschrift fur Griechische und Lateinische Sprache 36 (1958).

in order to hear the voice of God. The theorion according to the poet, Pindar, was the place where
theorists competed in the games as official participating delegates; they were simultaneously
spectators and participants on their journey, not disengaged Cartesian observers.20 Thus the theorists
traversed beyond the pale of the everyday to the "festive and awesome realm of the divine," guarding,
along the way, against uncritical acceptance of the dominant values of their native surroundings, but
eventually to return, transformed, to the home country, where the journey began.21 For Plato in his
Laws, the theoroi were to embark upon a course of inquiry to inspect the doings of the outside world,
most especially to visit divinely inspired men, only to come back to the native polis to share the
spectacle.22 Out of this religious background emerged the Greek idea of reason; gradually theoria
came to be associated with travel inspired by the desire to know, as in the visits of Solon; and
eventually it referred to the experience and knowledge acquired while traveling.23

We can postulate that no less for Aristotle than for his predecessor Plato the use of the terms nous and theoros expressed experience of an irruption of divine reality on the road of inquiry. And when we examine very carefully strategic meanings of episteme and nous in Aristotle's writings, we find confirmation of this postulate.

4. Episteme and Nous

Aristotle is a philosopher whose overriding insights come as a result of making incisive and powerful distinctions. He handles, for example, Parmenides' problem of motion by distinguishing between potential being and actual being. He solves numerous quandaries of the pre-Socratic nature philosophers by diftbrentiating four causes. So we must pay attention to the distinctions he brings to bear in his treatment of episteme and nous.

20Gadamer, Truth and Method, p. I 11; Koffer. "Theoros und Theoria," cited by Jager, "Theorizing," p. 236. Jager, ibid., p. 235, following Koller, "Theoros und Theoria," p. 284, suggests that the origin of theoros may "echo" a combination of theo and eros. One of the roots of theorion and theoros is theaomm, meaning "to look on. gaze at, view behold"; a second root, more specific to the motif of religious ambassador, is a combination of theos and ora (care); see Henry George Liddel and Robert Scott..4 Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed rev. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), s.v. "theaomai"and "theoros."

21Jager. "Theorizing," pp. 239-240; Navone. The Jesus Story. p. 105.

22Jager, "Theorizing,", pp. 237-23 M

23 Ibid., P. 237; Navone. The Jesus Story. p. 104.

In particular, as Patrick Byrne notes, we must pay attention to distinctions of act, potency, and habits.24 This should not be surprising since nous is "rational sour' and, according to Aristotle, there are three kinds of things in the soul: pathe, dunameis, and hexeis.25 Pathe, literally "passions" and frequently translated as "emotions," are not restricted to emotions but seem to include sensations, memories, and various kinds of thoughts.26 The pathe are endurings or receivings of the potential of motion, change, or movement. If we recall Aristotle's definition of motion (kinesis) as the "fulfillment of potency as potency," then we can say that the pathe are really motions or acts. 27Dunameis, on the other hand, are the potentialities of the soul relative to the acts. Finally, hexeis, as recurrent activities of the potentialities, are habits. Let us then elucidate Aristotle's conceptions of episteme and nous by applying these distinctions

4.1 Cognitive Habits.

The strongest argument for restricting episteme to demonstrations seems to be found in a passage from the Posterior Analytics where Aristotle claim that there can be no episteme of the first principles of demonstration since these principles cannot themselves be demonstrated.' If science cannot demonstrate the undemonstrable principles of demonstration, then it must be an intelligence other than science, namely, nous, that can grasp those principles

24Bvrne. Analysis and Science in Aristotle. chap. 7. The following analysis relies heavily on his arguments. 

25Nicomachean Ethics. 112 1105b2O.

26On Interpretation. I 16a4-9.
27 Physics, III. 1 20la.28-29.
28Posterior Analytics, II .19 100b5-17.

But the contrast between epsteme and nous in this passage is not an absolute one. Rather it is a contrast between episteme and nous precisely as "cognitive habits" (hai peri ten dianoian hexeis).'29 The habit of episteme is the studied ability to work on a certain range of facts, to employ proofs about the facts, and to master sets of related proofs all pertaining to a unified field of inquiry. Episteme, in this sense, is the skill,
familiarity, and ease of one capable of drawing together interconnected demonstrations of reasoned
fact. One has at one's disposal for example, theorems that one retains in the background of one's
horizon, present habitually rather than actively. This habit of episteme, is not, however, an isolated
one, but, on the one hand, is grounded in lower habits that it both incorporates and subsumes and,
on the other hand, is, in turn , incorporated and subsumed by a still higher habit. The lower habits
that ground episteme are memory and "experience" (empeira).30 Memory is the drawing together
recurrently of sense perceptions. Empeira is the habitual association of memories of sense perception. Far from arguing for some mechanical model of universals as derived from sensations Aristotle is presenting the emergence of higher habits of the soul from lower habits.31 Just as empeira is a higher habit than memory since the person of "experience" can grasp a single connection, a logos, among different memories, making such a person of "experience" one capable of good judgments, so episteme is a higher habit of empeira. For episteme grasps the reason why of the connection. The person of experience, for example, may use various mathematical techniques, but the person of episteme, the mathematician, formulates precisely the operations and rules involved in the techniques. Without empeira there could be no material basis for episteme, but episteme transcends that basis.

29 Ibid . II. 19 100b5-6.
30 Ibid, II.19 99b38-100A9:Metaphysics, I.1 980B26-981a12
31 ByRNe, Analysis and Science
in Aristotle. pp. 171-178.

So, too, nous as habit transcends episteme as habit. Nous as habit is the studied ability to penetrate
beyond the demonstrations of episteme to the pre-conceptual, pre-propositional intelligibility of the
reason why. Without the habitual familiarity with the sciences there would be no material basis for
nous as habit, but nous goes beyond episteme by grasping the undemonstrable principles.

We notice here that Aristotle's approach is to postulate dynamically interrelated sets of habits, ranging in ascending order from memories of sense perceptions, to empeira, to episteme, to nous. They give us a glimpse of the structure of human existence, an existence whose locus is the physical world but whose reach goes beyond increasingly into the nonmaterial realm: from the physical connections of memory, to the intelligible connections of empeira, to the reason why of the intelligible connections in episteme, to the reason why of the reason why in nous. But we must consider further distinctions of episteme and nous to witness an even further opening of the structure of human existence. 

4.2 Cognitive Acts

We have thus far dealt with Aristotle's treatment of episteme and nous as distinct but functionally related habits in his effort to differentiate scientific demonstrations from the undemonstrable principles of demonstrations. How, then, are we to take Aristotle's seemingly paradoxical, if not contradictory, assertions that not all episteme is demonstrable and that there is an epistemic grasp of immediate principles?32

The paradox, and contradiction, disappears if we interpret episteme in this context as act.33 For a cognitive act to be episternic it can meet either of two requirements: (1) it can know the cause


32Postvior Analytics, I.33 72B19-24,88b38. 

33See Bvrne, Analysis and Science in Aristotle, pp. 179-18 1.

of a fact and that it could not be otherwise; and (2) it can be the answer to the scientific question, What is it?"34 A clear example of such an epistemic act would be knowing a scientific demonstration, for a demonstration entails knowing that a fact is, knowing that it could not be otherwise, and knowing what it is. The knowing what it is (to ti estin) provides the middle term of a syllogism but its not itself ultimately the result of deduction; it is a pre-conceptual insight into a formal cause. While the insight plays off of images, it is not reducible to images, percepts, or sensations. Here Aristotle extends the meaning of science beyond an ordered set of propositions and rejects the reduction of scientific meaning to sense experiences, thereby avoiding both conceptualism and radical empiricism.

The meaning of science is extended still further, however, when episteme is applied to the type of cognitive act that grasps immediate principles. Knowing an immediate principle is to know that it is, what it is (formal cause), and that it cannot be other than it is (also formal cause). To know the principle of non-contradiction, for example, is precisely to know that it is, what it is, and that it cannot be other than it is. This kind of knowing thus meets the two criteria for an epistemic act adumbrated above. The startling conclusion, then, is that episteme can grasp indemonstrable principles. Is this not to say than such an act of episteme is also an act of nous and that therefore nous, in this sense, is science? And can we not, by extension, likewise call the epistemic act that grasps the middle term as noetic? Indeed Aristotle is quite unmistakable in identifying nous as the act of cognition (to noetikon) that grasps (noiei) the forms in the images.35 Noetic consciousness therefore is inherently scientific consciousness.

34 Postvior Analytics. 1.1 71b9-12, !!.18923-25, 

35De Anima, III . 7 43 W.

4.3 Principle of Science

Nous is also the principle of science. Here we can turn to another set of distinctions Aristotle makes about nous, one involving its potentialities. Aristotle differentiates two kinds of noetic potencies, namely, to use the terms of Scholastic commentators, active potency and passive potency. Active nous has the potential "to make all things" (to panta poiein).36 This nous poetikos, as scholars have frequently called it, is a cause of the nous receiving intelligible forms.37 Nous poetikas makes (poiei) thinking as a kind of habit (hos hexis fis) just as fight makes potential colors into actual colors.38 The nous, conversely, is able to receive the intelligible forms because it, as passive nous, has the potency "to become all things" (to panta gignesthai).39 The nature of active nous, as Aristotle muses, is a "baffling problem." 40Is active nous my nous as well as your nous? Is it the Divine Nous? Is it, as immaterial, immortal?

While these questions have generated controversy among Aristotelian philosophers for two millennia, we can focus on one area for a degree of clarity. When we recall that nous grasps the forms in the images, we may be lead to ask, What moves nous to grasp forms in the images? While the answer could be the Divine Nous, an equally compelling answer, if we are to follow Byrne, and one not at all incompatible with the former, is that the mover is wonderment.41 It is wonderment - it is the process of inquiry, or, as Lear puts it, the desire to understand - that transforms and perfects

36 lbid., III.5 430al4-15.

37 W. K- C. Guthrie. A History of Greek Philosophy. 6 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 198 1). VI, 315. n. 1.

38De Anima, III.5 430al4ff.

39 Ibid.. III.4 429b20-31, III.5 430al5.

40 Generation of.4nimals. 11.3 736b5-8.

41Bvrne. Analysis and Science in Aristotle. pp. 167-169: that the Divine Nous is the mover of creative intelligence is the thesis of Jonathan Lear. Aristotle: the Desire to Understand (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

images to move nous to receive intelligible forms. The relation of nous to reality, then, is not one of
passive perception but rather one of active engagement. Mind is not, for Aristotle, a mirror of nature.
Nous is able "to make and become all things" because the horizon of wonderment is an expansive,
sel-transcending horizon correlative to the unrestrictedness of the desire to know that is embedded
in human nature.42 Nous itself is also the norm of scientific inquiry and thus its inherent principle.
Nous, as wonderment, sets the criteria for the asking of scientific questions; nous, as passive potential,
sets the criteria for the answering of scientific questions and hence the criteria of scientific
propositions and scientific demonstrations.43 This means that the standard for what makes episteme
episteme is the luminosity of nous.

4.4 Nous as E
pisteme

To be sure, if episteme were solely demonstrative, then noetic science might be an oxymoron. The gap between the indemonstrable nous and demonstrable episteme would be a chasm. For how could the undemonstrable shed fight on the demonstrable? Conversely, how could there be a demonstration of the undemonstrable? And, furthermore, how could the demonstrable demonstrate itself? And the undemonstrable explain itself? But in the face of these apparent quandaries we have the luminosity of nous as the measure of science. The quandaries arise from the horizon of conceptualism, which demands that the essence of science be an ordered set of propositions. Wonder, on the contrary, is the source of science, and wonderment causes the reception of intelligible forms.

Moreover, noetic inquiry about episteme bears the hallmarks of episteme in its proper and

42 Metaphyics, I. I 98W2.
43Byme, Analysis and Science in Aristotle. p. 187.

extended meaning. For nous affirms that episteme - both as epistemic acts that grasp forms and as
habits of demonstration - is a fact and that it cannot be otherwise than it is; and nous inquires about
what it is. More remarkable and startling is the sense in which noetic inquiry about nous likewise
bears the hallmarks of episteme. Nous is a fact; it cannot be otherwise than it is; and inquiry about
it asks what it is.. Noetic discourse about episteme and nous surely follows the same cognitive and
logical laws that govern episteme, for the source is the same: nous.

4.5 The Self-Luminosity of Nous

And yet we must not lose sight of the absolutely unique status of nous in the structure of human existence. We can consider nous again in terms of Aristotle's threefold distinction of potentialities, habits, and acts. As potentiality it is dynamic; as habit it is self-transcending; as act it is divine-like perfection. All these characteristics are interconnected as part of a unity.

The active potency of wonderment is a moving principle of intelligence and discovery. It is always greater than the propositions that it generates and the habits that it nourishes. Its fluid character makes it elusive, and its creative power renders it "baffling." We can postulate that the spirit of wonder is the self-transcending transformative mover of the aforementioned series o habits: from memories of sense perception, to the empeira of the person of judgment and good sense, to the procedures of the practiced scientist.

We can now add specific noetic habits to the series. Indeed a person familiar with a range of sciences can inquire about what is science itself This kind of inquiry would go beyond raising questions about the principles of any given science to pose questions about the principles of episteme itself And here we encounter an incredible eruption of cognitive energy. We certainly have a nous of episteme. Still, if nous grasps the undemonstrable principles and if nous is the principle of science, then nous grasps itself Nous of episteme leads by its own dynamic necessity to nous of nous, According to Aristotle, the nous, as immaterial, can be the object of thought.44 This self-luminosity of nous sparks a new level of habits beyond that associated with nous of episteme. This is the habit of sophia, which, concerned with the highest things, reflects upon both episteme and nous of episteme to understand nous as pure act. Whereas episteme and nous grasp intelligible forms in
images, sophia reflects on the intelligible forms already grasped by episteme and nous. It seeks the
highest principles, those most unchanging, intelligible, and universal, viz., the subject matter of
metaphysics.

The activity of theoria is correlated with the habit of sophia, and, accordingly, Aristotle considers theoria the most perfect and self-sufficient human activity.45 In theoria the dynamics of nous attains its loffiest manifestation. As all acts of nous, theoria is "pure act" (energeia), but theoria is energeia in its most perfect form, not tainted by potentiality.46 This leads us to the highest thing and highest principle that theoria can contemplate: nous itself. neoria grasps that the ultimate cause of cosmic order is the unmoved mover. Nature is a mirror of mind.47 But the unmoved mover is nous thinking itself Theoria, then, is nous contemplating nous thinking nous. This is indeed the summit of Aristotle's investigation, where all major paths converge, whether in his Metaphyics, his Physics,
or his Nicomachean Ethics. In the former two works Aristotle depicts the most perfect life, the life of the divine, as noesis understanding noesis. 48 Still, every human act of nous shares in the divine life, albeit momentarily.49 This is precisely why the ultimate horizon of human existence, including
political existence, is defined by self-transcending openness to the divine ground.

44De Anima. 1H.4 430a2-5.
45 Nicomachean Ethics. X7 1177a18- I MO.
46
Elizabeth Murray Morelli," Aristotle's Theory Transposed (paper presented at the Lonergan Philosophical Society), p. 7.
47 Lear, Aristotle. pp. 306-307.
48
Metaphysics.XII,7 1072a19-B30. XII.9 1074bl5-1075al1.
49 Ibid., XII.7 1072b26;Nicomachean Ethics, X7 1177b30-1178a8

4.6 Nous and Phronesis

Although less perfect than the theoretical life, the ethical life and the political fife, too, share in the activity of nous. Practical intelligence (phronesis) is an act of nous. It is less perfect than theoria because its objects - whether the individual choices of goods that would foster the well-being (eudaimonia) of the individual or the legislative arrangements that would promote human flourishing (arete) within the polis - are less unchanging, intelligible, and universal.50 We need not dwell on the obvious: how contingency, flux, and particularity pervade the human world. So political science will be science to a much lesser degree than such a discipline as geometry. To a large extent the analytical side of political science, amid a plethora of contingent circumstances, adjusts means to ends, The ends are the excellences of human nature. The meaning of excellence (arete) is to "function well," and to "function well" as a human being is to realize the potentialities of human nature.51But what is human nature? Human nature, like every nature, is an "internal principle of change and rest."52What is this specifical1y human principle? The answer is the process of cognitive, moral, and spiritual inquiry, with its own built in norms, a process of incarnate beings who can nonetheless participate -precariously -- in the fife of the Divine Nous53 The principle, in short, is noetic consciousness. Noetic science therefore by explicating the structure of human existence provides political science with the goals of political endeavor. The "single science" of government, which aims to determine which government is best, must determine what is the best human life. 54 The best human life, of
course, is the fife of nous, and the perfection of nous is theoria. But theoria needs phronesis since
practical wisdom, including political wisdom (which frames legislation), is the precondition for
engaging in theoria. 55

Noetic science in asking the question what is nous is asking about the dynamic principle of human nature. Nous, with its acts, potentialities, and habits, is the self-transcending normative principle of change and rest in human life. While the contemplative fife seeks knowledge for its own sake, employs scientific demonstrations, and focuses on the universal and the necessary, and while the practical fife seeks action, employs the "practical syllogism," and focuses on the particular and the contingent, these differences should not obscure the fact that they both share what is highest in human life. They both participate in the self-transcending normative process of questioning, which ranges from involvement with the images of physical things to the self-luminosity of the pure act of nous. They both share in noetic consciousness. All the virtues, both theoretical and practical, are inherently interrelated.56 This means that in authentic political life - a kind of phronesis that Aristotle calls the virtue of political wisdom - that which is best and divine in us is actualized. 57 The subject matter of political science therefore concerns the participation of human nous in the activity of the Divine Nous.

50 Nicomachean Ethics, V1.8 114lb23-24.
51 Ibid., 1.7,1097b23-1098a19. 
52Physics. II. I 195b2l-22.53 

53Bernard J. F. Lonergan. A Third Collection. ed. Frederick E. Crowe (New York Paulist Press. 1985) . p

54Politics, IV. 1 12M22-23, ViA 1323bl5-16.

55 Nicomachean Ethics, VI. 13 1144b I 7-1145a6.
56Ibid, VI. 13 1144b32-1145a6.

57Hans Georg GadAmer, 77te Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy, trans P Christopher Smith (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1986), pp. 174-176.

5. Limits of Aristotle's Analysis

If we can extrapolate this core of noetic science from the writings of Aristotle with some
plausibility, we nevertheless should not be surprised that it has been muddled, overlooked, or even
denied by commentators and philosophers. Aristotle, however, has himself contributed to the
confusion.

Aristotle first develops terminology applicable to the most generic discipline possible: that which deals with being as being. From the Metaphysics he then can gather terms for his investigation of being as changing, his Physics. From both the Metaphysics and the Physics he can employ terms in his study of being as self-changing, his De Anima. This hierarchy of disciplines causes problems when he reaches the specifics of the human situation. When he examines, for example, nous, he is examining a principle of rational self-change, but the categories of metaphysics, physics, and psychology cannot do strict justice to the nuances of noetic consciousness.58 The faculty psychology Aristotle relies upon differentiates souls by potencies, potencies by acts, acts by objects, and objects by either efficient or final cause.59 This approach will strain any attempt to explore such "elusive" aspects of noetic consciousness as self-transcendence, interiority, and spiritual presence. And the language of faculty psychology might not be very suggestive of an "exegesis' of "nonobjective reality." It can easily tempt one to look at nous as part of a system or as a theoretical object "out there." This temptation will become more acute if one interprets episteme as an ordered set of propositions. Voegelin notes how Aristotle's use of such categories from his metaphysics and physics as matter and form hampers his investigation of political topics (for example, constitutional order) and contributes to a "derailment" of his political philosophy.60


58 Bernard Lonergm, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas. vol. 2 of Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, ed. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert NL Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1997), pp. 2-5.

59 DeAnima. M4 415al4-20: Lonergan, Verbum. pp. 4-5.

60 Order and History, III, 333-335.


Another barrier Aristotle erects to an ample treatment of noetic consciousness is his identification of being with substance.61 This may be rooted, as Voegelin argues, in Aristotle's "immanentizing" tendency, the propensity to divinize the eternal recurrence of cosmic order, the positing of a transcendent, completely immaterial unmoved mover notwithstanding. 62 In any event, the distinction of essence and existence, such as Aquinas, for example, makes, would seem to provide metaphysical categories better suited to addressing the participatory nature of noetic consciousness.63 Aquinas equates being with to-be (esse). Only divine transcendence is pure to-be; all other beings exist by participation in pure to-be. Aquinas' metaphysics, of course, was still attached to an Aristotelian faculty psychology, so that his philosophy could not fully exploit his metaphysical distinction of essence and existence to explore human interiority.64

Whatever the limits of Aristotle's analysis of noetic consciousness, noetic science does pervade the Aristotelian corpus, and to recognize it is not to read into Aristotle's text some idiosyncratic philosophical position. The contemporary task is rather to appropriate the insights of Aristotle about noetic consciousness and in appropriating the insights to develop his ideas so as to transcend his limitations.

Since the time of Aristotle Christian pneumatic consciousness has radically emphasized both divine transcendence of the cosmos and human participation in divine presence; the recent study of comparative religion has indicated parallels in other religious traditions; Aquinas, Schelling, and Kierkegaard have differentiated essence and existence; the Scientific Revolution has discovered a universe that is no longer a cosmos of eternal recurrence; phenomenology has replaced faculty
psychology; and historical consciousness has expanded the theological and political horizons. In fight
of these developments the task today is to transpose Aristotle's noetic science into a philosophy of
consciousness. And this, of course, is what Voegelin has attempted to do, moved by the spirit of
wonderment in the face of the disorder of his time.

61 Etienne Gawn, Being and Some Philosophers. 2nd ed. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies1952), chap. 2..
62
Order and History, III 307-310, 362-366.

63 David B. Burrell. Knowing the Unknowable God.- Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 1986.
64Lonergan. Verbum, "Introductiom"

6. Noetic Science as Philosophy of Consciousness

The foundation of political science, for Voegelin is neither a set of propositions nor a set of observations about objects in the external world. It is the concrete consciousness of a concrete person. Or rather it is the concrete consciousness of a concrete person under certain concrete, existential conditions.65 For human consciousness ordinarily exhibits intentionality - which Voegelin defines as awareness of objects in the spatial field, as befitting the embodied nature of human consciousness.66 But human consciousness can also exhibit luminosity when the concrete consciousness is of a concrete person engaging in the concrete process of questioning.67 The more radical and open the questioning - the more it questions about the meaning of human life, the more it searches for the ground of human existence - the more self-reflective can the luminosity be. Luminosity is therefore an inherently participatory act. It is, moreover, a participatory act that is experienced as a theophanic event at the intersection of time and the timeless.68 The horizon of luminosity is the horizon of an incarnate inquirer in search of the transcendent ground of existence. 69 This horizon, according to Voegelin, using the materials of the phenomenology of comparative religion, is that of the Greek mystic philosophers, including Aristotle, but it equally embraces the spiritual quests expressed, in more differentiated fashion, in the writings of the Israelite prophets, the Gospels, and the Pauline Epistles and, in less differentiated fashion, in the Upanishads, the teachings of the Buddha, the Amon hymns, and Babylonian incantations.70 Voegelin's philosophy of
consciousness explores noetic consciousness directly without the cage of a faculty psychology pr the
intrusion of metaphysical categories. Informed by phenomenology and modern existentialist concerns
it is also quite consonant with Aquinas-focus on being as the act of existing.

65 Anamnesis, chap. 11.

66 Order and History, V, 14-16.

67 Ibid

68 Anamnesis, chap. 7; Published Essays 1966.-1985. chaps. 3. 7.

69See Glenn Hughes, Mystery and Myth in the Philosophy of Eric Voegelin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993), chap. 2.

 70Order and History, I 85-87, chap. 13,. IV, chap. 5, 316-330- Published Essays 1966-1985, chap. 7, p. 294.

The philosophy of consciousness is the foundation of political science because the participatory consciousness of questioning is the source of order in both personal existence and the fife of the polity. To ignore the normative status of noetic consciousness, including its spiritual dimensions, is to ignore the most substantial element of political existence. Indeed when political science, and intellectual culture as a whole, ignores, distorts, or denies noetic consciousness, then it is an active accomplice to the cumulative cycle of decline. Since, in Voegelin's view, this is, in fact, what modem political science and modern intellectual culture have done, it is incumbent upon him, as a genuine political scientist, above all else, to restore noetic science under the unpropitious historical conditions of the modem situation.

This supreme task of restoration should not, however, lead us to conclude that Voegelin does not appreciate the more "earthly" features of political existence. He commends the proemium of the Institutes of Justinian for dividing authority into three facets: power, reason, and spirit.71 


71 Eric Voegelin, Me Nature of Law and Related Legal Writings. vol. 27 of Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, ed. Robert Anthony Pascal, James Lee Babui, and John William Corrington (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 199 1 X pp. 70-71; Hider and the Germans, tram. Defley Clemens and Brendan Purcell, vol. 31 of77te Collected Works o Enc Voegelin (Columbia: Unviersity of Missouri Press~ 1999), pp. 79-80: Thomas L McPardand, Authenticity and Transcendence: Lonergan and Voegelin an Political Authority (paper presented at Lonergan Philosophical Society, Sam Clara University, October 29, 1999), pp. 50-75.

Power concerns internal order and defense against external enemies. If a polity has the authority rooted in power, it has articulated itself as an agent that can act in history, and it, accordingly, has "existential representation," an institutional embodiment of its capacity for action.72 Articulation and representation have technological, economic, social, and cultural preconditions. Here it is quite appropriate to examine the polity in terms of efficient cause. It is precisely this manner that Aristotle conducts empirical investigations to shed light on how to avoid "revolutions' and how to promote the stability of a regime by considering such factors as the form of government and the degree of participation of citizens. Voegelin, too, is acutely aware of the authority of power. Indeed he praises the insight of such "realist" thinkers as Machiavelli and Hobbes into the exigencies of power and admires their avoidance of moralizing cliches.73Not surprisingly, Voegelin is totally conversant in his writings with the major political trends throughout history from the Mesopotamian city-states to the Cold War. He traces in great detail, for example, the articulation of the English polity in the Late Middle Ages, arguing that its parliamentary style of representation was based upon historical accidents. 74 He shows in a book-length study that, by contrast, his own Austria after World War One has no adequate political articulation. 75 As a result, Voegelin insists, its appropriate constitution is an authoritarian one. To impose democratic self-rule would be to foster the collapse of the incipient political society and would succumb to utopian formalism, if not utopian fancy.

72 New Science of Politics, chap. 1; Eric Voegelin, History of Political Ideas, vol. 3, 7he Late Middle Ages, ed. David Walsh, vol. 21 of Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia- University of Missouri Press, 1"8), pp. 145-154. 

73 Eric Voegelin, History of Political Ideas, vol. 4, Renaissance and Reformation, ed. David L. Morse and
William M. Thompson, vol. 22 of 7he Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia University of Missouri Press.1998), chap. 1; History of Political Ideas, vol. 5, Religion and the Rise of Modernity, ed. James L. Wiser, vol. 23 of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia University of Missouri Press, 1998),248;,History of Political ideas  vol. 7, The New Order and Last Orientation, ed. Jorgen Gebhardt and T'homas A. Hollweck, vol. 25 of 77te Collected Works of Enc Voegelin (Columbia- University of Missouri Press, 1999), chap 1; history of Political Ideas. L 228;
The New Science of Politics, p. 217.

74 History of Political Ideas, 111. chap. 19; The New Science of Politics, pp. 121-123.

75 Eric Voegelin, 7he Authoritarian State: An Essay on the Problem of the Austrian State, hans. Ruth Hein, vol. 4 of Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, ed. Gilbert Weiss and commentary by Erika Weinzierl (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999)


Voegelin's own focus on the authorities of reason and of spirit also avoids such a utopian deformation of reality. The norms of noetic consciousness are not abstractions that dwell in some noetic heaven. They are concretely operative in the process of history - or if concretely inoperative, there are dire historical consequences. Voegelin, inspired by Max Weber's lecture on "Science as a Vocation," pours vast erudition into his study of reason and spirit, an endeavor in which he attempts to incorporate the most recent historical scholarship.76 His monumental History of Political Ideas is not a conventional history of political ideas because it is a genuine history. It does not treat political ideas as freely floating abstractions or as reified doctrines. As mentioned above, political ideas, for Voegelin, are critical responses to historical crises in which the evocations of society have lost their luster. He locates intellectual and religious developments in their political contexts, and he displays remarkable insight and sensitivity in relating the political contexts to technological, demographic, economic, and social factors. Unlike most orthodox histories of medieval political ideas, for example, which skip from Augustine to Aquinas, Voegelin devotes considerable attention to the German Migrations.77 He relates the rise of millennialist sentiments to the expansion of urban

76 The abundant bibliographical materials in The History of Political Ideas and Order and history amply demonstrate this. But, to cue anecdotal evidence, when Voegelin visited the University of Washington to deliver a series of lectures this author, then a graduate student was asked to direct him to Professor Carol Thomas, an expert in Mycenaeann and Dark Age Greek history, since Voegelin wanted to keep up on the developments in this field Thomas' work has recently been published: Carol G. Thomas and Craig Conant Citadel to City-State:The Transformation of Greece 1200- 700 B. C E (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).

77 Eric Voegelin. History of Political Ideas, vol. 2, The Middle Ages to Aquinas, ed. Peter von Sivers, vol. 20 of 77ie Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), chap. 12, vol. 2, 77ze Middle Ages to Aquinas, ed. Peter von Sivers, vol. 20 of the Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press 1997), chap.2.

population in the High Middle Ages.78 He views the popularity of Luther's ideas as, in part, a
function of the printing press.79 He pinpoints the traumatic influence of Tamerlaine's conquests on
the political sensitivity of Renaissance political theorists.80 He sees the Enlightenment project of
establishing a new meaning of Western civilization as a response to a complex of such historical
factors as global exploration, commercial expansion, religious fragmentation, and nation-state
building.81

Voegelin's enterprise does justice to the full range of noetic consciousness, which car; well up from the unconscious, gain insight into images, and ultimately reflect on its own luminosity. His
approach is consonant with Aristotle's idea of human reality as a "synthetic nature," stretching from the apeironic depths, through inorganic nature, vegetable nature, animal nature, the passionate psyche, the noetic psyche, to the Divine Nous.82 All in all, he clearly follows the empirical bent of Aristotle (not to be confused with modem empiricism). This is illustrated not only by Voegelin's interest in and grasp of detail but in his quite Aristotelian procedure of relating means to ends in light of the details. Again, as a case in point, Voegelin's comprehensive rationale for an authoritarian Austrian constitution is based on his assessment of what in the concrete circumstances of Post-World War One Austria would best nurture by a kind of political education democratic habits. Voegelin, however, in one important respect expends the empirical range beyond that of Aristotle by addressing in a more explicit and thematic way the historical dimension of human existence.83

78 History of Political Ideas, IV, 150-15 1.

79 Ibid., pp. 218-220.

80 Ibid., pp. 43-55.

81 Eric Voegelin. History of Political Ideas, vol. 6, Revolution and the New Science, ed Barry Cooper. vol. 24 of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Columbia. University of Missouri Press, 1998), pp. 31-34.

82Anamnesis, p. 92; Published Essays 1966-1985, p. 268.

83 Ibid

But as dedicated as Voegelin is to empirical sobriety he never loses sight of the core philosophical issue in political science: authority is not exhausted by power but also must be reported in reason and in spirit. In addition to the polity's representation as a power on the field of history there is the polity's representation of transcendent truth through the evocations of reason and spirit.84 And when the entire texture of modem civilization has been to downgrade reason into merely instrumental reason and either to deny spirit or to fuse it diabolically into totalitarian revolutionary movements, then, as Voegelin's entire corpus attests, noetic science must proclaim the proper roles of reason and spirit in political existence. From the beginning of Voegelin's career we witness this calling. In opposition to his teacher, Hans Kelsen, whose positivistic formal theory of law investigated law in terms of the horizon in which it operated, Voegelin in the 1930's searched for the "existential experiences" that gave rise to the horizon. He urged a "transformation of the dogmatic system of natural right into an analysis of existential experiences that made regulation of certain institutions.... the inevitable component of any legal order.85 Voegelin's search for "existential experiences" led to his restoration of noetic science in the form of his philosophy of consciousness. And thus the prime task of Voegelin's philosophy of consciousness is the restoration of noetic consciousness as the central concern of political science in response to the disorder of the age.

84The New Science of Politics, chap. 2.

85 Eric Voegelin, Race and State, trans. Ruth Hein. vol. 2 of Collected Works of Enc Voegelin, ed. Klaus Vondung (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 1996), p. 4.