June 4, 2009


Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 19: History of Political Ideas, Volume I: Hellenism, Rome, and Early Christianity edited with an introduction by Athanasios Moulakis (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1997) ("What we call political ideas are, in a well-consolidated period, the ideas of those who walk in the light, or at the best of those who have a chance to raise their heads sufficiently high to make their voices heard. The thoughts and attitudes of the vast silent masses are almost unknown." Id. at 70. Of course, in this day of the Internet, blogs, social networks, twittering, etc., it is understandable that many of the vast mass gain the false impression that they, if not everyone, has a 'heard' voice and that there is no longer silent masses. This is not so. If nothing else, the sheer volume of Internet traffic in these arenas creates so much (what economists call) noise that individuals and most groups do not register as more than a barely audible whisper (if being kind) and an annoying buzz (if being honest). The old saw remains true: There are only [fill in a relatively small number, say 400] people in the world who matter. What are the chance of you, me, or anyone we know being one of the four hundred? Taken individually, we are insignificant and what we think or say has little, if any, political weight.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 20: History of Political Ideas, Volume II: The Middle Ages to Aquinas edited with an introduction by Peter von Sivers (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1997) ("In the work of Siger [de Brabant, a thirteenth-century philosopher] we find the sentence: 'you shall wake, study, and read that out of the remaining doubt you are driven to further studying and reading, for life without letters (vivere sine litteris) is death and the grave of the vulgar.' " Id. at 190-191.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 21: History of Political Ideas, Volume III: The Later Middle Ages edited with an introduction by David Walsh (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) ("There is no guarantee whatsoever that the introduction of a constitution in a country will produce constitutional government; it may just as well produce a revolutionary shambles. Freedom of speech, for instance, is considered an essential of constitutionality; and it is appropriate, indeed, as an instrument of government when the society is firmly integrated, for in that case it will produce the conditions for understanding governmental policies that we call consent, while its abuse will be unimportant because social resistance against it is strong enough to prevent disrupting effects. If a society is less well integrated, freedom of speech may produce not public opinion, pressure on the government, and consent--which is its purpose as an instrument--but a degeneration of the society into a wilderness of distrust, disloyalties, and revolutionary chaos, as we have seen it do in the period preceding the fall of France and, with still more disastrous effects, in the marvelously constitutional Weimar Republic." Id. at 145. Query: Is early twenty-first-century America a 'firmly integrated society'? Or, are we degenerating into "a wilderness of distrust, disloyalties, and revolutionary chaos"?).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 22: History of Political Ideas, Volume IV: Renaissance and Reformation edited with an introduction by David L. Morse and William M. Thompson (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) (On Erasmus: "One must say of him what must be said of so many intellectuals after him: that he was fundamentally right in his emotional revolt but totally wrong in his intellectual response." Id. at 96-97. On Thomas More: "The work of More is the first evocation of a people who set themselves as the standard of mankind. Again, More is not the cause of the sequel in pragmatic history; but , again, here we get the first glimpse of an international and intercivilizational field of politics on which everyone has an ideal like the Utopians and feels entitled to lay down the principles of justice for everyone else, with the ensuing rationality of warfare in the service of the ideal. In the Utopia we can observe in formation a complex of sentiments and ideas that in the following centuries became a decisive factor in Western history, and this seems to be its true historical importance, The actual atrocities of Western colonial imperialism, of National Socialism, and of Communism mark the end of a curve, of which the beginning is morked by the playful atrocity of the humanistic intellectual." Id. at 130. One wonder what Voegelin would said about those American intellectuals known as the Neoconservatives. Have not the neoconservatives set themselves as the standard for America, and for mankind? Has neoconservatism not let to significant missteps on the part of the United States in international politics? Perhaps, like Erasmus, neoconservatives were fundamentally right in their emotional revolt totally wrong in their intellectual response.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 23: History of Political Ideas, Volume V: Religion and The Rise of Modernity edited with an introduction by James L. Wiser (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) ("The English development received its specific color through the prevailing higher degree of centralization of the state. . . . Parliament had become an institution of considerable representative prestige, and the early rationalization of the legal system had favored the growth of a lawyers' class with a social weight of its own on the national scale. . . . The supremacy of the king in the Church of England made the crown responsible for the semi-Protestantism that could not satisfy the Calvinist dissenters and for the extension of royal prerogative in temporal matters, encroaching on the domain of the lawyers. These were the tendencies that crystallized in the seventeenth century in the peculiarly English alliance of lawyers and dissenters against the crown and determined the structure of the English Revolution." "Beyond the more immediate political effect, however, the alignment had far-reaching consequences for English intellectual history, consequences that affect the structure of Western politics to this day. For the association of legal and religious struggles has fostered the English and, with ever greater intenseness, the American habit of injecting legal categories into conflicts of ideas and historical forces. It is the habit--which grates so much on the nerves of the rest of the world--of treating such clashes as legal issues and, consequently, branding the opponent in a historical conflict as "aggressor" or "criminal," "outlawing" his ideas, and burdening him with the "guilt" of the disturbance. . . . Since the habit, like all bad habits, can easily be acquired by others, and since, in fact, the Soviet government in turn defined as "aggressor" anybody who was at war with the Soviet Union, it seems that any future war will be a war between criminals." Id. at 27-28. On La Boetie: "And quite realistically he also understands that the tyrant will not favor studies that are apt to arouse critical consciousness in the student. The few who think will be effectively isolated if the tyrant preserves a low general level of literacy among the subjects. Without public discussion, the few will not event know each other. Thus, the tyrant destroys the liberty 'to act, to talk, and as it were even to think; for the few will be locked up in their phantasies.' " Id. at 36. On Calvinism and hicktowns: "The reform movement is essentially a town movement; and it could unfold its possibilities much better under the conditions of town life than under those of a large, populous, territorial realm. The Swiss towns, and later the New England settlements, have become the great instances of Calvinist discipline, not because the Swiss or New Englanders were more religious than other people, but because medieval town life, with small communities on a small territory, was conducive to close supervision of the people and enforcement of discipline. Petty snooping, petty rules of conduct, and their enforcement were features of medieval town life without Calvin--just as today hicktowns are hells of supervision by interested neighbors. . . . Only the peculiarly terroristic atmosphere of a small town permits the tight control of the people that the Reformers intended; in large territories like France the attempt at its realization will provoke the resistance of a more widely differentiated population. . . . Id. at 49-50. In a footnote, Voegelin makes this observation: "Small-town situations, however, can be created through improvement of communications in large territories and through dependence of large populations on centrally controlled institutions. Technological "progress" with its effect of tightening controls over large territories and populations has produced in modern nations a hicktown atmosphere without which the rise and maintenance of terroristic regimes would hardly be possible." Id. at 50, fn. 21. I don't think anyone has yet explored or articulated the hicktown potential of aspects of the Internet, tracking of website visits, social networking, global positioning systems, etc. Yes, the Internet facilitates communication and the flow of information, but it is not without a downside. Might we be on the eve nightmare? Hicktown meets Orwell's 1984. "We have discussed the earlier forms of antiphilosophism in Eramus, Luther, and Calvin. By the time of Hooker, among the English disciplinarians, antiphilosophism had become a point of honor. Fanatical scripturalism made it impermissible to discuss problems of faith and politics in other than biblical terms. To quote Aristotle, the patres, or the scholastics was an attack on true religion; any attempt at systematic thinking was proof that the author relied more on reason than on the word of God. To be philosophically ignorant was the mark or the right-minded citizen; to be philosophically educated was not only heretical but bordered on treason and called for governmental action. This interesting trend . . . was checked due to the resistance of Hooker; but it has remained a powerful component, nevertheless, in English, and even more so in American, public life. Philosophical illiteracy is still considered something like a civic duty, even in broad sectors of the academic world; and concern with philosophical problems still makes a man suspect. . . . The point deserves special attention because this Puritan heritage has become one of the fatal handicaps in American democratic leadership of Western civilization and of the world at large. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make the treasure of democratic ideas appealing to the educated classes outside the Anglo-Saxon area unless it is conceptually linked with the tradition of Western philosophical thought and, thus, can be made intelligible for people who live in this tradition." Id. at 92. ).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 24: History of Political Ideas, Volume VI: Revolution and The New Science edited with an introduction by Barry Cooper (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) (On the speaking "metaphorically of the cancerous growth of the rational-utilitarian segment on modern civilization": "We must recognize the atmosphere of power in which the advancement of science moves, because there are certain peculiarities incidental to the process that otherwise would appear as sheer lunacy. The source of these apparent lunacies is the utilitarian rationality of science. The idea of power through science has a rational core. If we have knowledge of causal relations we can form means-end relations, and if we have the means we can achieve the end. Hence, knowledge in this sense is eminently useful. This rational, utilitarian core in itself is of necessity to be found in all human existence, both personal and social. Utilitarian rationality determines a segment of life in primitive as well as in high civilizations, and in itself is not the specific determinant of any particular society. Under the impact of the modern advancement of science, however, this core has acquired the characteristics of a cancerous growth. The rational-utilitarian segment is expanding in our civilization so strongly that the social realization of other values is noticeably weakened. This expansion is carried by the mass creed that the utilitarian dominion over nature through science should and will become the exclusive preoccupation of man as well as the exclusive determinant for the structure of society. In the nineteenth century this idea of utilitarian exclusiveness crystallized in the belief that the domination of man over man would ultimately be replaced by the dominion of man over nature, and that the government of men will be replaced by the administration of things. At this point we have to be beware of the error into which critics of the totalitarian movements have fallen so frequently: the error that an idea is politically unimportant because philosophically it is stark nonsense. The idea that structure and problems of human existence can be superseded in historical society by the utilitarian segment of existence is certainly and plainly nonsense. It is equivalent to the idea that the nature of man can be abolished without abolishing man, or that spiritual order can be removed from existence without disordering existence. Any attempt at its realization can lead nowhere but to the self-destruction of a society. Nevertheless, the fact that the idea is nonsensical has not in the least prevented its becoming the inspiration of the strongest political movement of our age. Here we can see in the raw the fascination of power that exudes from the new science: it is so overwhelming that it eclipses an awareness of the elementary problems of human existence. Science becomes an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man." Id. at 208-209. This was written before the invention of the Internet, and before the Internet and being always connected became idols. The twenty-first century is beginning to evidence of the emergence of new creatures, what I heard as aptly labeled as 'posthumans'. Creatures who, though encased in human form, are completely incapable of being disconnected to their electronic gadgets and Internet connections for more that three minutes and, as a consequence, are incapable of unmediated (i.e., non-electronic) interaction with humans.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 25: History of Political Ideas, Volume VII: The New Order and Last Orientation edited with an introduction by Jurgen Gebhardt and Thomas A. Hollweck (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1999).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 26: History of Political Ideas, Volume VIII: Crisis and The Apocalypse of Man edited with an introduction by David Walsh (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1999) ("The insight into the spiritual process that occurs in Helvetius will shed some light on the significance of genetic, sensualist psychology, as well as on the complex of philosophical assumption attached to it, for the political evolution of Western society. The tenacity of faith in this complex of ideas is certainly not caused by its merits as an adequate interpretation of man and society. The inadequacy of a pleasure-pain psychology, the poverty of utilitarian ethics, the impossibility of explaining moral phenomena by the pursuit of happiness, the uselessness of the greatest happiness of the greatest number as a principle of social ethics--all these have been demonstrated over and over again in a voluminous literature. Nevertheless, even today this complex of ideas holds a fascination for a not inconsiderable number of persons. This fascination will be more intelligible if we see the complex of sensualism, utilitarianism, and so on, not as a set of verifiable propositions but as the dogma of a religion of socially immanent salvation. Enlightened utilitarianism is the first in the series of totalitarian, sectarian movements, later followed by Positivism, Communism, and National Socialism." Id. at 63. And what are the totalitarian, sectarian movements of the early twenty-first century?).