Doing Philosophy in a Better Environment


[The work] of criticism and reorientation, while being a general preoccupation of political philosophers in our time, has assumed a wide variety of forms according to the variety of conditions that occasion the inquiry. It has at present the general character of movements from different starting points converging toward a common goal rather than of final achievement.

One cause of diversification, to be mentioned only in passing, is the advantage possessed by the sciences that are closer to the classic and Christian sources of critical theory than others. Political scientists proper are laboring under the handicap of being narrowly bound, by their subject matter as well as by the symbols in use, to the theoretical situation that must be overcome; and some of the most effective work is done, as a consequence, by classical philologists, medievalists, philosophers, and theologians.

A second cause of diversification is provided by the differences of social and institutional stability in the several national states. Where the national institutions do not enjoy the authority that comes with age; where the class structure is in turmoil owing to defeat, inflation, and unemployment; and where the immanentist creed movements have made such inroads on the cohesion of national society that the movement rather than the nation has become the society that organizes itself politically, as is the case in Germany; there a science of principles will develop, and especially of philosophical anthropology, to the neglect of an analysis of institutions—although the philosopher will be at a loss what to do with his knowledge in an environment that seethes with ideological enthusiasm, has no use for reason, and hates the dianoetic excellences.

Where institutions have absorbed the political experience and wisdom of centuries; where they have proved, without a break of continuity, adaptable to the political articulation of new social groups; where the immanentist creeds have not seriously disrupted the civilizational tradition, as is the case in England; there the analysis will start from the treasure of institutions, working its way cautiously toward principles in order not to lose anything of the truth that has accumulated in an organization functioning so well for so long—even at the risk of leaving principles in a penumbra where they remain indistinguishable from the state of England.

CW VOL 11,
The Oxford Political Philosophers , p 27.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

VOEGELIN MAIN PAGE

NEXT QUOTATION