While gentle with undergraduates as a rule, and typically a fairly generous grader, Voegelin was a scourge to slothful ignoramuses whoever he encountered them. He commented: “I have always had to explain to the students at the beginning of my seminars all my life: There is no such thing as a right to be stupid; there is no such thing as a right to be illiterate; there is no such thing as a right to be incompetent.”Sandoz summarizes Voegelin’s teaching style in these words:
Voegelin commanded the attention and respect of students, and he presented himself as someone who knew his business. He based on a solid conviction that classical Greek philosophy is the foundation of political science: The lecture materials were presented from this coherent starting point. Devotion to truth and desire to communicate it to students illumined every lecture and discussion, with the exploration of questions constantly reflecting the tension toward the divine ground of reality as the decisive context for exploring the human condition and political issues. A sense of openness to the horizon of reality, and refusal to truncate reality or go along with reductionist construct of any kind whatever, encouraged students to engage resourcefully in the examination of complicated materials as partners in the discussion—rather than as mere spectators absorbing indifferent information. This, in turn, encouraged students sympathetically to involve their own common sense, intellectual, and faith experiences in understanding demanding material in personal reflective consciousness, implicitly somewhat on the pattern of the Socratic “Look and see if this is not the case”—i.e., by validating the analytical discourse through personal understanding and questioning.I think the theoretical analysis of politics that Voegelin offers in his book The New Science of Politics is really impressive.