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Who Was Eric Voegelin?

Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin was a political philosopher of some repute at the time of his death in 1985, but whose repute has fallen somewhat since.

If one had to express Voegelin's views in one quick phrase, it would be, "gnosis is bad." Or, not so quickly, "Gnosticism is bad." Gnosticism in the relevant sense is a certainty about one's own rightness, usually coupled with a desire to create a heaven on earth. Bad stuff, that.

Here is a great quote from EV:  "[T]here has emerged a phenomenon unknown to antiquity that permeates our modern societies so completely that its ubiquity scarcely leaves us any room to see it at all: the prohibition of questioning. This is not a matter of resistance to analysis – that existed in antiquity as well. It does not involve those who cling to opinions by reason of tradition or emotion, or those who engage in debate in a naïve confidence in the rightness of their opinions and who take the offensive only when analysis unnerves them. Rather, we are confronted here with persons who know that, and why, their opinions cannot stand up under critical analysis and who therefore make a prohibition of the examination of their premises part of their dogma. this position of a conscious, deliberate, and painstakingly elaborated obstruction of ratio constitutes the new phenomenon.”

Science, Politics and Gnosticism (1968).

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