ΩԸƽˮʹ罭ϣ
et revelabitur quasi aqua iudicium et iustitia quasi torrens fortis



۹Ŵоvoegelin ۹Ž֮
On Classical Studies
This is an outline of Eric Voegelin's essay On Classical Studies, which can be found
in:
Modern Age, XVII (Winter 1973)
Modern Age: The First Twenty-Five Years (1988)
The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 12: Published Essays 1966-1985 (1990)
The contents of the table listing disagreements between classic philosophy and
modern opinion is a large quote from the essay, reformatted.
Your comments and corrections are always welcome: please e-mail Bill McClain.
Return to the Eric Voegelin Study Page.
A reflection on the purposes and prospects of classical studies.
The original definition as "the study of man's nature as it has become manifest in
the Greeks" is no longer accepted because of:
the fragmentation of science through specialization
the deculturation of Western society
The loss is not seen as a catastrophe because in the current "climate of opinion"
the nature of man is not of interest. It has even become an object of hatred because
man's nature has proved resistant to change by those motivated by the will to power.
And yet, man's nature is real and there is always a struggle against the climate of
opinion (the "age") which in the light of reason becomes a pathological deformation
of experience. Classical studies are considered objectionable because they
inevitably lead to investigation of human nature.
Some of the disagreements between the classic "philosophy as the science of the
nature of man" and the modern climate of opinion:

Classic

There is a nature of man, a definite structure of existence that puts limits on
perfectibility.
Philosophy is the endeavor to advance from opinion (doxa) about the order of man and
society to science (episteme); the philosopher is not a philodoxer.
Society is man written large.
Man exists in erotic tension toward the divine ground.
Man is disturbed by the question of the ground; by nature he is a questioner
(aphorein) and seeker (zetein) for the whence, the where to, and the why of his
existence; he will raise the question: Why is there something rather than nothing?
The feeling of existential unrest, the desire to know, the feeling of being moved to
question, the questioning and seeking itself, the direction of the questioning
toward the ground that moves to be sought, the recognition of the divine ground as
the mover, are the experiential complex, the pathos, in which the reality of divine-
human participation (metalepsis) becomes luminous. The exploration of the metaleptic
reality, of the Platonic metaxy, as well as the articulation of the exploratory
action through language symbols, in Plato's case of his Myths, are the central
concern of the philosopher's efforts.
Education is the art of periagoge, of turning around (Plato).
The process in which metaleptic reality becomes conscious and noetically articulate
is the process in which the nature of man becomes luminous to itself as the life of
reason. Man is the zoon noun echon.
Through the life of reason (bios theoretikos) man realizes his freedom.


Modern
The nature of man can be changed, either through historical evolution or through
revolutionary action, so that a perfect realm of freedom can be established in
history
No science in such matters is possible, only opinion; everybody is entitled to his
opinions; we have a pluralist society.
Man is society written small.
He doesn't; for I don't; and I'm the measure of man.
Such questions are otiose (Comte); don't ask them, be a socialist man (Marx);
questions to which the sciences of world-immanent things can give no answer are
senseless, they are Scheinprobleme (neopositivism).
The modern responses to this central issue change with the "climate of opinion".
In Locke the metaleptic reality and its noetic analysis is transformed into the
acceptance of certain "common opinions" which still bear an intelligible relation to
the experience from which they derive. The reduction of reality to opinion, however,
is not deliberate; Locke is already so deeply involved in the climate of opinion
that his awareness for the destruction of philosophy through the transition from
episteme to doxa is dulled. Cf. Willey's presentation of the Lockean case. [Basil
Willey, Background studies, beginning in 1934].
Hegel, on the contrary, is acutely aware of what he is doing when he replaces the
metaleptic reality of Plato and Aristotle by his state of alienation as the
experiential basis for the construction of his speculative system. He makes it
explicitly his program to overcome philosophy by the dialectics of a self-reflective
alienated consciousness.
In the twentieth century, the "climate of opinion" has advanced to the tactics of
the "silent treatment". In a case like Sartre's, metaleptic reality is simply
ignored. Existence has the character of meaningless facticit; its endowment with
meaning is left to the free choice of man. The choice of a meaning for existence
falls with preference on the opinion of totalitarian regimes who engage in mass-
murder, like the Stalinist; the preference has been elaborated with particular care
by Merleau-Ponty. The tactics of the "silent treatment", especially employed after
the Second World War by the "liberation rabble", however, make it difficult to
decide in individual cases whether the counterposition to metaleptic reality is
deliberate, or whether the libido dominandi is running amok in a climate of opinion
that is taken for granted, without questioning, as its ultimate reality. On the
whole, I have the impression that the consciousness of a counterposition is
distinctly less alive than it still was at the time of Hegel. Philosophical
illiteracy has progressed so far that the experiential core of philosophizing has
disappeared below the horizon and is not even recognized as such when it appears in
philosophers like Bergson. The deculturation process has eclipsed it so thoroughly
by opinion that sometimes one hesitates to speak even of indifference to
it.Education is the art of adjusting people so solidly to the climate of opinion
prevalent at the time that they feel no "desire to know". Education is the art of
preventing people from acquiring the knowledge that would enable them to articulate
the questions of existence. Education is the art of pressuring young people into a
state of alienation that will result in either quiet despair or aggressive militancy.
Reason is instrumental reason. There is no such thing as a noetic rationality of man.
Plato and Aristotle were fascists. The life of reason is a fascist enterprise.


The international student revolt revealed cracks in the established climate of
opinion, "but one should not expect the life of reason to emerge from the
confrontation of two vacua".
More important are the advances of the historical sciences which form a a sort of
underground resistance. Since critical analysis of the current "age" is not allowed,
they are refugees into the past.
The question is whether scientists in these advancing historical sciences will ever
go beyond description of certain phenomena and ask whether the phenomena are true.
If the historical sciences lead to restoration of the life of reason, classical
studies will have an important role. Greek philosophy made human nature intelligible
and developed the symbols for its self-interpretation.
In the following two areas, no major advance of science is possible without recourse
to, and resumption of, Greek philosophy:
theoretical exploration of the mountains of data collected by modern historical
science
exploration of existential deformation (for example, "alienation") and its varieties .