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a book review by Sarah Shea
Lee Trepainier & Steven F. McGuire. Eric Voegelin and the Continental Tradition: Explorations in Modern Political Thought. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2011. Hardbound, 272 pp, $44.95.
Eric Voegelin embodied Nietzsche’s “philosophical physician” to an exceptional degree. He was preoccupied with the spiritual and intellectual condition of Western culture since the Enlightenment. This is best illustrated by his studies of modern epistemology and its failure to take into account experience and its symbolism.
Voegelin’s diagnoses are derived from his open reading of philosophical texts. This openness reflects his understanding of reality–what he called “participatory.” This meant immersing himself in relationships to God and man, world and society.
Voegelin acquired the learning and spiritual maturity to see how ideologies corrupt individuals and consequently, society.
Courageously, Voegelin undertakes for our time the task once undertaken by Socrates. This task of restoration is again necessary because people no longer see the nature of reality or celebrate its meaning. This daunting task is both reminiscent of Plato and embraces the mystery of existence.
In Eric Voegelin and the Continental Tradition, Lee Trepanier and Steven F. McGuire investigate Voegelin’s relation to modern philosophy. They bring together a range of scholars who know both Voegelin and influential modern European thinkers.
Contributions include those from Thomas Heilke, Cyril O’Regan, Eugene Nagy, Rouven J. Steeves, Arpad Szakolczai, David Walsh, Fred Lawrence, Barry Cooper, as well as the editors themselves. This reviewer found the essays to be well-written and insightful.
For scholars curious about Voegelin’s philosophy, especially within a contemporary context, this book is useful. It illustrates how Voegelin’s work remains relevant today in the great philosophical conversation. After all, Voegelin is not only a cutting-edge political scientist but also a philosopher and diagnostician able to answer those continental thinkers labeled the foremost representatives of modernity.