Rise Of The Philodoxers

by Timothy Lusch

Fall Of The Philosophers

Autobiographical Reflections by Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) was born in Cologne but raised and educated in Vienna. After his doctoral work he taught at a university. Highly critical of the Nazis, he eventually lost his academic position. Voegelin emigrated to the United States where he taught at Notre Dame and LSU among other institutions. As a political philosopher, he ranged far into sociology, history, and religion. His work largely defies categorization. He is best known, perhaps, for The New Science of Politics and the multi-volume Order and History. He is, despite the titles and subject matter, anything but boring.

One of the key ideas that emerges in Voegelinian thought, and later picked up by thinkers such as Russell Kirk, is the antagonism between opinion and wisdom. Philosophy is, properly speaking, the love of wisdom. Any philosophical pursuit must have this as its guiding light and object. But what has arisen over the centuries, and is dominant–if not oppressive–in our own age, is philodoxy, or the love of opinion. It is easy to see in our politics and our pulpits, in our culture and in our conversations, that spongy opinions and “personal truths” have wrecked our thinking about some of the most difficult things. When opinion prevails over wisdom, power–naked and corrupt–prevails over prudence and patience. We need Voegelin now.

“The general deculturation of the academic and intellectual world in Western civilization furnishes the background for the social dominance of opinions that would have been laughed out of court in the late Middle Ages or the Renaissance.”