History of Political Ideas (Volume 7): The New Order and Last Orientation (Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 25)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In The New Order and Last Orientation, Eric Voegelin explores two distinctly different yet equally important aspects of modernity. He begins by offering a vivid account of the political situation in seventeenth-century Europe after the decline of the church and the passing of the empire. Voegelin shows how the intellectual and political disorder of the period was met by such seemingly disparate responses as Grotius's theory of natural right, Hobbes's Leviathan, the role of the Fronde in the formation of the French national state, Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, and Locke's Second Treatise, the blueprint of a modern middle-class society. By putting these responses and the thought of Montesquieu, Hume, and others in the context of the birth pains of the national state and the emergence of a new self-understanding of man, Voegelin achieves a brilliant mixture of political history and profound philosophical analysis.
Voegelin's verdict of modernity is pronounced most powerfully in the opening part of "Last Orientation," in the chapter entitled "Phenomenalism." His discussion of the intellectual confusion underlying the modern project of scientistic phenomenalism is the most original criticism leveled against modernity to date. It is at the same time the first step toward a recovery of reality through philosophy conceived as a science of substance in the spirit of Giordano Bruno. Voegelin's first example of such an effort at recovering reality is the chapter on Schelling, one of the spiritual realists who has not been affected by the prevailing rationalist or reductionist creeds that are part of the modern disorder. Schelling's indirect yet powerful influence on Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Freud more than justifies Voegelin's interest in his philosophy and character, even though Voegelin would later distance himself from some of Schelling's positions.
The volume's concluding chapter, "Nietzsche and Pascal," applies the understanding gained from the study of Schelling to the thought of the most powerful critic of the age, Nietzsche. Nietzsche's self-avowed affinity with Pascal provides the key to an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of his thought and reaffirms the connection that links the beginning of modernity with its most recent crises and the efforts to overcome them.
Press, 1997), 1–47. 4. “Observations on the ‘Report on Voegelin’s History of Political Ideas,’ ” p. 1; Eric Voegelin Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Box 24, file 8. 5. Voegelin to A. Gurwitsch, April 16, 1949, and Voegelin to H. A. Moe, October 29, 1949, Box 15. 2 editor’s introduction “The Ancient World” was changed to “Myth, History, and Philosophy,” “The Middle Ages” to “Empire and Christianity,” and, finally, “The Modern World” to “The Gnostic Age.” The three volumes were to comprise
evolves a theory of the elite and the ruling class. The gifts of mind are unequally distributed among men; some are wiser, some less so. God has diffused a “natural aristocracy” throughout the whole body of mankind for the purpose of providing guidance in public affairs to the mass who would be helpless without the counsel of the more gifted. He goes farther and considers that “natural aristocracy” is not sufficient in governing a commonwealth, but that it needs institutionalization as a gentry.
public effect. On a second road we find men who sometimes are excellent diagnosticians of the crisis but in addition are spiritual activists who engineer the revolution against the decadent society, men like Marx, Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler. They form a middle group between the men of the New Science and the thinkers of the bourgeois settlement insofar as they diagnose correctly the decadence but bring to the solution of the crisis a narrowness of spirit that disrupts the shaky Western
destructive forces from within and without, and maintaining its existence by the ultimate threat and application of violence against the internal breaker of law as well as the external aggressor.” But the application of violence is not the ultimate reason for creating and maintaining political order. “The function proper of order is the creation of a shelter in which man may give to his life a semblance of meaning. The founding of order involves the creation of meaning.” “[T]he political cosmion
management has become an all-pervasive element in our civilization and has created a phantastic world of phenomenal obsessions, devoid of substantial reality, by means of commercial advertisement, political propaganda, the reporting of “news,” literary critique in journals and magazines, etc. We live in a world of name brands, soaps, cigarettes, men of authority and distinction who drink choice brands of whiskey, of must-readings, best-sellers, body odors, and irresistible perfumes for special