History of Political Ideas: Crisis and the Apocalypse of Man

History of Political Ideas: Crisis and the Apocalypse of Man

History of Political Ideas: Crisis and the Apocalypse of Man

History of Political Ideas: Crisis and the Apocalypse of Man

Synopsis

Crisis and the Apocalypse of Man confronts the disintegration of traditional sources of meaning and the correlative attempts to generate new sources of order from within the self. Voegelin allows us to contemplate the crisis in its starkest terms as the apocalypse of man that now seeks to replace the apocalypse of God. The totalitarian upheaval that convulsed Voegelin's world, and whose aftermath still defines ours, is only the external manifestation of an inner spiritual turmoil. Its roots have been probed throughout the eight volumes of History of Political Ideas, but its emergence is marked by the age of Enlightenment.

Excerpt

It is still today difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a balanced view of the person and work of Helvétius. There is more than one reason for this state of things. Helvétius (1715–1771) lived in the age of Montesquieu and Voltaire, of Hume and Rousseau. His figure, though quite respectable, does not measure up to the stature of these dominating figures of the Age of Enlightenment; and his work has, consequently, never received the same careful, detailed attention as the work of his greater contemporaries. Moreover, his work is expressive of the movement of enlightenment to such a degree that its typical features were seen more clearly than its far more important, concretely personal ones. Helvétius belonged intimately to the circle of the encyclopédistes, though he himself never contributed to the Encyclopédie. One may say of his firstgreat work, De l'esprit (1758), that it focused in the form of a systematic treatise the political views that, in the articles of the Encyclopédie, appear in the form of a wide spectrum of divergent opinions of several authors. the relation of the Esprit to the Encyclopédie was strongly sensed at the time the treatise appeared. the Parlement de Paris, in 1759, when it ordered the burning of the Esprit, ordered at the same time an inquiry into the orthodoxy of the Encyclopédie. As a consequence of the excitement, the permission for the publication of the Encyclopédie, of which seven volumes had appeared between 1751 and 1757, was withdrawn; the publication could be resumed only in 1765. Quite as much as by a too close association with the Encyclopédie, the personal achievement of Helvétius has been obscured by its being related too closely to the evolution of English utilitarianism. What is perhaps best known today of Helvétius is his . . .

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