Mystical Philosopher and Scientist
by Frederick Lawrence
Frederick Lawrence is Associate Profesor of Theology at Boston College and is an authority on the thought of Bernard Lonergan, Eric Voegelin, and Hans-Georg Gadamer, among others. He is founder and director of the Lonergan Workshop and editor of the Lonergan Workshop Journal. The following essay is taken from International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Eric Voegelin (University of Missouri Press) and appears here in three parts with permission. Part 1 may be read HERE.
Does the Knowlege Explosion Preclude a New Summa?
As Juergen Gebhardt’s essay in this collection [from which this is taken] makes clear, Juergen Gebhardt has developed a strong rebuttal of Caringella’s argument.
He entitles his paper “The Vocation of the Scholar,” so that we may overhear the title of Max Weber’s renowned lecture, “Wissenschaft als Beruf”–“Science/Scholarship as a Vocation.25
In Gebhardt’s account, Voegelin is portrayed as refounding political science in our age by combining the analytic skill of a Plato with the concern for empirical comprehensiveness and factuality of a Max Weber: “Of course, Voegelin responded to the experience of religious, intellectual, and political disorders in our age, but his reaction took the form of modern scholarship.”26
Whereas, as we have seen, Caringella illustrated Eric Voegelin’s overall life-project in comparison with that of Augustine of Hippo fifteen centuries ago, Gebhardt strongly resists the comparison of Order in History with The City of God, insisting that “[I]t would be a misreading of the science of the order of human existence and society if it were considered the Civitas Dei or the Summa of the twenty-first century.”27
Indeed, Gebhardt avers that Voegelin “would have resented being elevated to a modern Church Father” because
|T]he very nature of a modern scholar’s search for truth renders it an ongoing process of existential and cognitive research that resists being finalized in terms of a literary corpus that will be transmitted and expounded by future generations. It is supposed to function in a communion of existential and cognitive concern within the ever expanding ecumenic horizon of empirical knowledge.28
Gebhardt wants us to realize that the knowledge-explosion being continuously wrought by the modern natural and human sciences is unprecedented in antiquity, and it has made it virtually nonsensical to compare the situation for the philosophic integration of scientific results with that of premodern philosophy and theology. He also reminds us that Voegelin kept abreast of the latest scientific developments across the board.29