The Prohibition of Philosophical Questioning


Society resists the therapeutic activity of science. Because not only the validity of the opinions is called into question but also the truth of the human attitudes expressed in the opinions, because the effort in behalf of truth is directed at the untruth of existence in particular men, the intellectual debate is intensified beyond the point of analysis and argument to that of existential struggle for and against truth—struggle that can be waged on every level of human existence, from spiritual persuasion, peitho in the Platonic sense, to psychological propaganda, to even physical attack and destruction.

Today, under the pressure of totalitarian terror, we are perhaps inclined to think primarily of the physical forms of opposition. But they are not the most successful. The opposition becomes truly radical and dangerous only when philosophical questioning is itself called into question, when doxa takes on the appearance of philosophy, when it arrogates to itself the name of science and prohibits science as nonscience. Only if this prohibition can be made socially effective will the point have been reached where ratio can no longer operate as a remedy for spiritual disorder. Hellenic civilization never came to this: Philosophizing could be mortally dangerous, but philosophy, especially political science, flourished. Never did it occur to a Greek to prohibit analytical inquiry as such.

The frame of reference of political science has changed considerably in the more than two thousand years since its founding.The broadening of temporal and spatial horizons has yielded to comparative analysis enormous amounts of material that were unknown in antiquity. And the appearance of Christianity in history, with the resulting tension between reason and revelation, has profoundly affected the difficulties of philosophizing.

The Platonic-Aristotelian paradigm of the best polis cannot provide an answer for the great questions of our time—either for the organizational problems of industrial society or for the spiritual problems of the struggle between Christianity and ideology. But the basic situation of political science, which I have briefly outlined here, has, except in one respect, not changed at all.

Today, just as two thousand years ago, politike episteme deals with questions that concern everyone and that everyone asks. Although different opinions are current in society today, its subject matter has not changed. Its method is still scientific analysis. And the prerequisite of analysis is still the perception of the order of being unto its origin in transcendent being, in particular, the loving openness of the soul to its transcendent ground of order.

Only in one respect has the situation of political science changed. As indicated, there has emerged a phenomenon unknown to antiquity that permeates our modern societies so completely that its ubiquity scarcely leaves us any room to see it at all: the prohibition of questioning. This is not a matter of resistance to analysis—that existed in antiquity as well. It does not involve those who cling to opinions by reason of tradition or emotion, or those who engage in debate in a naïve confidence in the rightness of their opinions and who take the offensive only when analysis unnerves them.

Rather, we are confronted here with persons who know that, and why, their opinions cannot stand up under critical analysis and who therefore make the prohibition of the examination of their premises part of their dogma. This position of a conscious, deliberate, and painstakingly elaborated obstruction of ratio constitutes the new phenomenon.

CW VOL 5,
Science, Politics and Gnosticism
Ch 2  Science, Politics and Gnosticism,
§ I pp 260-261.

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