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Science, Politics, And Gnosticism Paperback – January 30, 2005
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Eric Voegelin taught for most of his career at Louisiana State University. In 1958 he returned to Europe to become the director of the Institute for Political Science at the University of Munich.
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Both are attempts to apply 'Aristotelian' methods to modern politics. The first explains the tension between science and society:
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, [...] to psychological propaganda, to even physical attack and destruction. [...] 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.
(Note that by 'science,' Voegelin means 'Wissenschaft,' or 'philosophy,' both the German and the Greek have broader connotations than physical and mathematical science.)
I thought the second essay, 'Ersatz Religion' was more interesting than the first. Voegelin seemed to be on firmer ground tracing the 'gnostic' desire for a 'Realm of the Spirit' back to Joachim of Flora than he did as a critic of Hegel and Nietzsche. But the whole book is short and thought-provoking.
American conservatives, who still sometimes mention the Left's will to "immanentize the eschaton," picked up the term from "Ersatz Religion"::
"... All gnostic movements are involved in the project of abolishing the constitution of being, with its origin in divine, transcendent being, and replacing it with a world-immanent order of being, the perfection of which lies in the realm of human action. This is a matter of so altering the structure of the world, which is perceived as inadequate, that a new, satisfying world arises. The variants of immanentization, therefore, are the controlling symbols, to which the other complexes are subordinated as secondary ways of expressing the will to immanentization."
And what is very important, there is not a trace of bitterness in his unavoidable conclusions.
The book invites further reading of the philosopher's works.