Sunday, 24 March 2019

Eric Voegelin: Philosopher of History

Eugene Webb’s book Eric Voegelin: Philosopher of History is divided into three parts:

“The first is theoretical; it seeks to elucidate Voegelin's philosophical principles and concepts and to explain how he developed them, both with reference to contemporary philosophical discourse and through the study of the history of thought. The second part briefly summarizes the main lines of Voegelin's study of history as he has interpreted it in the light of those theoretical principles. The third part focuses on the two themes most central to Voegelin's concern: the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of history.”

In his Introduction, Webb observes that "as a political philosopher, Voegelin defies classification according to the language of political struggle: he is not left, right, or center, but is engaged in the critical study of politics.” Webb goes on to note that there exists a similar difficulty in classifying Voegelin philosophically:

“he is not in any sense an ideological thinker. He does not present a system of ideas that could be labeled according to any of the traditional designations—such as "materialist," "idealist," “empiricist," "realist," and so on—and, what must be still more disconcerting to many, he does not even present a standard philosophical argument of the sort that leads the reader from premises to a conclusion through the force of formal logic.”

Here’s Webb’s initial description of Voegelin's philosophy of history:

“For Voegelin the philosophy of history is the analysis of human life in its historical dimension, that is, of human life as a process in which choices are made and in which, through the values that are served or not served, one may or may not live up to the calling of one's potential humanity. History is an enterprise, in other words, in which one may succeed or fail, and what the philosophy of history must offer is criteria by which that success or failure may be measured.”

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