The Significance of Plato’s Philebus in the Philosophy of Eric Voegelin
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The Significance of Plato’s Philebus in the Philosophy of Eric Voegelin. (2018). The Political Science Reviewer, 41(1), 33-51.


One of the main features of Eric Voegelin’s work is his willingness to confront the situation of political disorder through a recovery of classical political philosophy and, more precisely, through a recovery of Plato’s political philosophy. We could say that his task is that of clarifying and examining what is relevant in the study of human beings and political life. Faced with the complex political situation in which he lived, Voegelin tried to revive the form of confrontation with political situations that characterizes Platonic and Aristotelian political science. The core of Voegelin’s thought is to formulate a theory of man, society, and history based on a theory of order—a project that assumes that there is a connection between order in the soul, order in the city, and order in the cosmos. He himself affirms that his attempt is originally to create “a new social field of existential order in competition with the fields whose claim to truth has become doubtful.” According to Voegelin, man’s attunement with order is only possible through his participation in the community of being, that is, his participation in what he calls “the divine ground.” The community of being or the divine ground is neither an object nor a mere abstraction but the structural boundary of experienced reality. Any theory of man, society, or history has to begin by asking what the experiences are from which the different symbols emerge; in this regard, “the essence of philosophy is to be found … in the interpretation of the experiences of the transcendence.” The study of different symbolizations of the order experienced at different historical moments and by different philosophers is one of the main objectives of Voegelin’s enterprise. Certain symbols enable man to have a better understanding of his situation in the whole, while other symbols conceal this situation: Voegelin’s search for order aims to distinguish between the two kinds of symbols in order to orientate human life.

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