Continental Freedom

By Coetsier, Meins G. S. | Modern Age, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Continental Freedom


Coetsier, Meins G. S., Modern Age


Eric Voegelin and the Continental Tradition: Explorations in Modern Political Thought, edited by Lee Trepanier and Steven F. McGuire (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2010)

Originality and independence of thought are evident within the continental tradition. Yet the search for freedom and for truth has been marked by growing concerns about the possible collapse of modern Western society. Conscious reflection on the social order and on the philosophical foundations of world civilizations has increased steadily since the middle of the twentieth century. A crisis within modernity was detected when the fundamental structures of reality were shaken by "revolutionary political movements" and by "totalitarian ideologies" (1). Man's quest for autonomy in experiences of existence, transcendence, and truncated reason were ever more regarded as private and often suspect beliefs. The willed separation of modern man from "the community of being"--that is, from God, man, society, and world--by an act of intellect had now turned into a "second," arguably "deformed" reality (4).

The political and philosophical consequences of modernity's predicament and of the deformations and intrinsic skepticism of "postmodernity" were severely criticized by the twentieth-century German-born American political philosopher Eric Voegelin (1901-1985). Much of his work argues against what he called modernity's "Gnostic Revolt" (4). Voegelin supposes that man's spiritual freedom and consciousness of the "fundamental structure of reality" are threatened by the tendencies of secular or Gnostic ideologies that attempt to refashion the world in man's own image. Voegelin rejects the belief in a transformed reality through "secret knowledge and social action" (4). Moreover, he is strongly convinced that such action toward social-political freedom is ultimately doomed to failure. Experiencing the rise of National Socialism in Europe in the 1930s and '40s, Voegelin was alerted to the consequences of the inherent failure of modernity's attempt to transform "the order of reality into some sort of magical utopia" (5). This not only truncated the experience-symbolization of man's spiritual freedom; it cost the price of millions of lives.

Voegelin witnessed how European civilization had fallen into a "spiritual and intellectual malaise" that echoes the prophetic words of the nineteenth-century German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine: "Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen" ("Where they burn books, in the end they also burn people"). The "phenomenon of Hitler" and his success in the context of an intellectually or morally ruined society had made religious faith, free thinking, questioning, or even having a particular sexual orientation or handicap increasingly dangerous and life threatening (1). Victims of Nazi ideology and racial politics, irrespective of their political beliefs, were arrested and then deported to be murdered. Voegelin, who escaped to the United States following the Anschluss in 1938, struggled with this calamity throughout his career, holding the modern continental tradition largely responsible for the atrocities of war and the inherent disorder.

Turning to "premodern philosophy," Voegelin searched for a nobility of soul, for a new philosophy--a new science--that would restore the sense of man's connection with society (3). What is required is a proper understanding of reality that would reestablish a basis for its representation. The crisis of modernity, Voegelin argues, was implicated in and partly the fault of the "modern philosophical trajectory" (2, 8). Although his analysis of the continental philosophical tradition is very critical, Voegelin's work also bears marks of its influence. Apparently, he has much more in common with the continental style of philosophizing than is usually acknowledged (2).

In offering these introductory observations, I hope to elucidate why the volume Eric Voegelin and the Continental Tradition: Explorations in Modern Political Thought is a compelling introduction and a fresh reinstatement of Eric Voegelin's relationship to the modern continental tradition in philosophy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Continental Freedom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.