The Role of <i>Metaxy</i> in the Political Philosophy of Eric Voegelin
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- 1. Nature of the Research
- 2. Our Author of Reference
- 3. Relevance and Motivation
- 4. Methodology
- 5. Expected Results
- 6. Structure
- 1 Hermeneutics of Metaxy
- 1.1 Methodological Considerations
- 1.2 Plato and Metaxy
- 1.2.1 Plato’s Heritage
- 1.2.2 Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
- 1.2.3 Metaxy: Etymology and Exegesis
- 1.3 Metaxy Beyond Classical Thought
- 1.3.1 Toward the Diachronical Understanding
- 1.3.2 Philosophy of Metaxy in Simone Weil
- 1.3.3 Metaxological Philosophy of William Desmond
- 1.4 The Approach of Eric Voegelin
- 1.4.1 Eric Voegelin as a Philosopher
- 1.4.2 From Historiogenesis to Philosophy of History
- 1.4.3 Hermeneutical Spiral: Return to the Classics
- 1.4.4 Principles of Critical Historiography
- 1.4.5 Voegelin’s Interpretation of Metaxy
- 1.5 Summary
- 2 The Role of Philosophical Meditation
- 2.1 Historical Forms of Philosophical Meditation
- 2.1.1 Plato and Philosophical Vision
- 2.1.2 Aristotle and Contemplative Life
- 2.1.3 Augustinian Meditation: “Inquietum Cor Nostrum”
- 2.1.4 Descartes and Meditationes
- 2.1.5 Bergson and Metaphysical Intuition
- 2.1.6 The Problem of Husserl’s Phenomenology
- 2.1.7 Scheler: “Das Zwischen” and “Imago Dei”
- 2.2 Metaxological Meditation in Voegelin
- 2.2.1 Philosophical Meditation as “Grundform”
- 2.2.2 Between Meditation and Anamnetic Exegesis
- 2.2.3 Noetic and Pneumatic Meditation
- 2.2.4 Meditation as Reflective Distance
- 2.2.5 Meditation as “Fides Quaerens Intellectum”
- 2.3 Summary
- 3 Metaxological Philosophy of Consciousness
- 3.1 Metaxic Structure of Consciousness
- 3.1.1 The Paradox of Consciousness
- 3.1.2 The Meditative Complex: “Consciousness-Reality-Language”
- 3.1.3 Intentionality and “Thing-Reality”
- 3.1.4 Luminosity and “It-Reality”
- 3.1.5 Reflective Distance
- 3.2 Differentiations of Consciousness
- 3.2.1 Tension of Reality and Leap in Being
- 3.2.2 Noetic Differentiation of Consciousness
- 3.2.3 Pneumatic Differentiation of Consciousness
- 3.2.4 Imagination and Balance of Consciousness
- 3.2.5 Metaxic Consciousness and Linguistic Indices
- 3.3 Metaxological Philosophy of Consciousness
- 3.3.1 Intentionalist Consciousness
- 3.3.2 Between Noetic and Pneumatic Consciousness
- 3.3.3 Existential Consciousness
- 3.3.4 Participatory Consciousness
- 3.3.5 Horizon of Consciousness
- 3.4 Summary
- 4 The New Science of History
- 4.1 Historical Reality and the Nature of Truth
- 4.1.1 The Types of Truth
- 4.1.2 Historical Reality and Truth of Metaxy
- 4.1.3 Philosophy versus Philodoxy
- 4.2 From Historiogenesis to Philosophy of History
- 4.2.1 Historiogenesis and the Meaning of History
- 4.2.2 Hermeneutics of Symbolizations and Equivalences in History
- 4.2.3 Meditative Philosophy of History
- 4.2.4 Metaxological Philosophy of History
- 4.3 Summary
- 5 The New Science of Political Philosophy
- 5.1 From Philosophical Anthropology to Political Philosophy
- 5.1.1 Anthropological Principle: Man as Microcosmos
- 5.1.2 “Imago Dei”: Theomorphic Structure of Man
- 5.1.3 Towards Metaxological Anthropology
- 5.1.4 The New Science of Political Reality
- 5.2 The Problem of Gnosticism, Modernity and Political Religions
- 5.2.1 Between Gnosticism and Apocalypse
- 5.2.2 “Immanentization of Eschaton” and “Metastatic Apocalypse”
- 5.2.3 Eclipse of Reality and Dogmatomachy
- 5.2.4 From “Libido Dominandi” to “Egophanic Revolt”
- 5.2.5 Modern Ideologies as Political Religions
- 5.3 Summary
- 6 The Metaxology of Religion
- 6.1 Theophanic Engendering Experiences in Metaxy
- 6.2 From the Mystery of the Unknown God to Incarnated Logos
- 6.3 The Divine Ground of Being and Order of Reality
- 6.4 The Divine Parousia and Pleromatic Metaxy
- 6.5 The Sense of Imperfection and Religious Transformation
- 6.6 Summary
- 7 Towards Metaxological Philosophy
- 7.1 The Role of Metaxy in Voegelin’s Philosophy
- 7.2 Metaxological Philosophy and the Problem of Modernity
- 7.3 Towards Plurivocal Metaxology
- 7.4 Summary
- General Conclusion
This research is about the phenomenon of the “in-between” as the ontological and metaphysical matrix of the human condition. Man is in the state of ignorance; he experiences finitude and yet desires to know; the human being sees the horizon and yet is perplexed by it. As such, man strives to reach beyond what he or she already is. Proper to man’s awareness of being is the attraction toward transcendence or divine reality. This attraction, experienced as a tension within the realm of consciousness, reveals one of the perennial truths about human nature as such, that is, the phenomenon of being as given in the form of an intermediate state between immanence and transcendence, the sacred and the profane, finitude and eternity, determinacy and indeterminacy, individual and community, self and other, unity and plurality, the fear of nothingness and the promise of plenitude. Indeed, human beings are beings “in-between” and thus remain in a state of dynamic tension between poles such as the ones just mentioned. As a matter of fact, it was in order to render expression to this “in-between” condition of man that Plato applied the term metaxy.←xi | xii→
The question about such an existing “in-between” has become a subject of my personal reflection and intellectual inquiry in the dimension of cross-cultural encounter between the West and the East. This represents one of the most emblematic civilizational polarizations in history. My native experience of a predominantly kataphatic tradition of the West has been enriched by the apophatic traditions of the Far East which I particularly encountered in Taoism and Buddhism. My living in an Asian context helped my inquiry into the human experience of transcendence as reflected in diverse cultures, religions and philosophical traditions. Regardless of the differences in the ways in which we describe this existential tension between finitude and eternity, between immanence and transcendence, such a universal perspective on “being-in-the-middle” or the “middle way” of human beings is shared by number of philosophical and religious traditions. Finding the very same polarity in different intellectual and spiritual intuitions deepened my intellectual interest in metaphysical questions about human nature and its openness to transcendence. The relevant consequence of my Eastern experience prompted my own return to the intellectual tradition of Western philosophy in order to explore the nature of this “in-between” proper to human beings. In other words, I have realized that metaxy is an important expression of the Western perspective on this “being-in-the-middle.” Moreover, metaxy can constitute one of the bridges able to lead us into a deeper intercultural and inter-philosophical dialogue. This is a challenging task since we are dealing with a plurality of mediations that appears as the natural milieu so typical of our contemporary and globalized world.
This book is a revised and abridged version of my doctoral dissertation defended at the Pontifical Gregorian University (PUG) in Rome in 2017. Every research is the fruit of collaboration and of the contributions of many persons. So it is with this book. I am grateful to anyone who directly or indirectly contributed to this project. There are many people whose support and encouragement have been instrumental in the writing of this thesis. Many friends, colleagues, students and professors from Pontificia Università Gregoriana and from the Collegio San Roberto Bellarmino in Rome were helpful during the writing process. I am grateful to my parents, my family members and many Jesuit brethren for their interest in the project and encouragement during the research. I express special thanks to the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus that has made my research possible. I would like to thank Fr. Michael Paul Gallagher, S.J., my former rector at the Collegio Bellarmino, with whom I had many meaningful conversations and who supported my project from the very beginning, but his passing away prevented him from seeing the outcomes of this research.←xiii | xiv→
In 2013 I had an opportunity to spend one semester in Germany, at the Geschwister-Scholl-Institut für Politikwissenschaft (GSI) in Munich, doing research in the Voegelin-Zentrum für Politik, Kultur und Religion. I am very grateful to the staff and professors for their help and for many fruitful discussions. Some of them shared with me their personal experiences from the time they were students of Prof. Voegelin. I would also like to acknowledge several important discussions I had with William Desmond at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium.
There are three people whom I would like to thank in a particular way. Above all my thanks goes to Prof. João J. Vila-Chã, S.J., for being the advisor of my research, for his help and encouragement from the very beginning of designing the project of this research till its conclusion. I am also grateful to Prof. Terrance Walsh, S.J., for his critical reading of my thesis and for his constructive criticism. My special thanks go to Fr. Thomas Carroll, S.J., for his effort and patience in correcting this work. I owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Lang Publishing and to two institutions for financial support, namely to the Fundação Macau (FM) and to the Macau Ricci Institute (MRI), thanks to which this publication is made possible.
Finally, yet importantly, I would like to honor the Pope Francis, who on several occasions reminded Jesuits that they should live in tension. For him the Society of Jesus itself “is an institution in tension, always fundamentally in tension.” He thinks that “we are men in tension” because “our heart is always in tension.” We experience the “restlessness of our inner abyss,” but without such a restlessness “we are sterile.” An individual Jesuit, therefore “must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking.” I find his words to have much in common with the content of this book. Therefore, as a token of gratitude for this Pope’s profound inspiration and generous service, this humble work I dedicate to him.
Macau, July 2020
The aim of the book is to explore the “in-between” nature of human beings in the light of the metaxy inherited from the classics. Throughout the history of philosophy there have been discussions about the meaning of metaxy.1 This work envisages a study of contemporary philosopher Eric Voegelin and the role which Plato’s metaxy plays in his philosophy. The goal is to provide an interpretation of metaxy in terms of that dynamic happening taking place in the “between” and thus becoming the condition of the possibility of the historical, political, ethical and religious orientation of the human person in reality. The experience of being in the context of metaxy reveals for Voegelin a spiritual movement and tension within consciousness, something that the German-American philosopher designates in terms of a noetic consciousness. We can say, therefore, that consciousness for Voegelin constitutes the proper locus of the metaxy regardless of its plurivocal expressions. In other words, the human consciousness is situated in the reality of the “in-between,” the middle ground where the divine reality manifests itself as the origin of being. We intend to show, therefore, that, thanks to a philosophy based on the concept of metaxy, the vision of Voegelin represents a profound insight and deserves recognition as an option adequate for addressing the intellectual challenges engendered by modern and postmodern philosophies.
Eric Voegelin2 was a German-born American political philosopher. His particular interest was the nature of human consciousness and the way it shapes the ordering of history and of political reality. He was also a fierce critic of modernity, addressing the problem of atheism, scientism and modern ideology present under the revival of diverse forms of Gnosticism. Voegelin was especially critical of ideologies such as Nazism, Marxism and Scientism. One of his principal goals was to show how the sense of order is conveyed by the experience of transcendence, which can never be fully described but only partially expressed by means of symbolic language. The transcendent order reflected in consciousness remains a basis for a specific political order. In Voegelin the philosophy of politics becomes the philosophy of consciousness. His primary concern was to engage in an open philosophical investigation concerning the truth of existence. The search for this truth, he held, should be based on resistance to prevalent ideological distortions, diagnosis of their spiritual causes, and study of their historical development. Voegelin’s view is an invitation to think realistically about the world that systematically marginalizes the dimension of the spirit and does not speak about man’s true nature expressed in the form of a quaternarian structure of reality: “God, world, man, society.”
The dimension of human consciousness in Voegelin is considered as a platform for the interpretation of metaxy and as the privileged locus for thinking the encounter between transcendence and the human being. Voegelin practices the anamnetic and philosophical meditation which is ordered to an understanding of human consciousness. His practice of meditation in the spirit of fides quaerens intellectum appears as the way to penetrate the complex and mysterious reality of symbolization and religious experience and so opens access to divine reality.3 For Voegelin, indeed, the truth about reality appears in consciousness as the process of existential realization of the nature of being in the metaxy, while the encounter with the divine is described in terms of the divine-human participation. In other words, God is seen here not as an external reality, but rather as intimately close and dynamically dwelling within human being. This reveals the tensional nature of metaxy.4 For Voegelin, without intimacy with God and fides caritate formata it is not possible to realize true order in human life and society.←2 | 3→
Eric Voegelin’s bibliography is enormous and marks his intellectual and existential journey as one of the truly seminal twentieth-century philosophers. The goal of Voegelin’s scholarship was to analyze the crisis of Western culture as the result of the gradual detachment of philosophical discourse from a unique encounter with transcendence, which had for so long been the matrix of Western civilization. Accordingly, our research pays special attention to Order and History and Anamnesis, that is, to the works where Voegelin’s most extensive discussion of questions such as metaxy, consciousness, truth, order, ground of being and divine reality are to be found. Although the critical literature on Voegelin is already rich and in recent years has been steadily growing, there is, as far as we know, no systematic and integral study dedicated to the question of metaxy as such and how it underpins Voegelin’s philosophical vision.
Our choice of Eric Voegelin is particularly motivated by the broadness of his historiosophical vision and by his consistent application of metaxy to his philosophical interpretation of order. Indeed, my determination to study Voegelin was motivated by his stress on the role of consciousness and his view of philosophy both as an important exercise in the practice of philosophical transformation (periagoge) and as a “force” leading to greater order in life and society. Through philosophical mindfulness man can become aware of his being grounded in the divine dimension, which leads to a fuller expression of the agapeic potentiality having its source in the divine origin. Voegelin’s penetrating analysis of the modern mentality and its corresponding godlessness constitutes a powerful defense of the necessity of religious discourse nowadays. Voegelin is an example of a courageous return to the depth of the quest to explore our philosophical questions about God and man. Our interest in the vision of Voegelin derives from the notion of metaxy itself, particularly inasmuch as the concept constitutes an inspiring and a powerful symbol of what already seems to us an integral approach to the task of a philosophical interpretation of plurivocal reality in its relation to transcendence. Moreover, we also appreciate the depth inherent in the philosophical vision of Voegelin, a vision that appears to us as respectful of the particular and individual dimension in being. He witnesses that philosophy is not dissociated from reality but is a reflection in medias res, authentically concerned with what particularly dwells in the “between.”←3 | 4→
Our research is an attempt to answer several questions such as these: How does Voegelin understand and interpret the concept of metaxy? What is his interpretation and the application of the concept? What function does metaxy have in the logical structure of his relevant systematic philosophical work? How is the term metaxy employed in the context of philosophy of consciousness, history, politics and religion in Voegelin? It is by providing answers to questions such as these that our research engages these issues to demonstrate the originality of Voegelin and to calculate his specific contribution to a vision that integrates history, politics, philosophy and religion.
We decided to structure our study thematically. It proceeds with a critical analysis of the most relevant texts concerning metaxy. Voegelin as a philosopher belongs to the twentieth century, and his scholarship offers new vistas and represents a very rich field of study. This richness creates a methodological challenge. The thematic delimitation and focus of this study requires, though, that the complexity of his intellectual horizon be taken into consideration. He understood his work as a way of addressing the ideological problems of his own century, because the events of his time influenced greatly his own philosophical research. His interest in the history of political ideas brought him to the problem of human consciousness. Beyond historical, ideological and political analysis, there is need to focus on the underlying matrix of Voegelin’s thought, namely, his reflection on human consciousness, with the metaxy serving as a hermeneutical key.
The approach of this research is based on hermeneutical philosophy, which in our view promises the most comprehensive treatment of Voegelin’s philosophy in relation to the question of metaxy. In the first chapter we apply exegetical, historical and hermeneutical considerations in order to set up the contextual background of this research. Thus we present an overview of Platonic origin and historical interpretation of metaxy. In the following chapters two through six we are discussing Voegelin’s philosophy in its various aspects of meditation, consciousness, history, politics and religion. Finally, in the last chapter we are evaluating Voegelin’s philosophy in the light of metaxy and propose an attempt at metaxological philosophy.←4 | 5→
We start the interpretation of Voegelin’s philosophy by looking in Chapter 2 into the nature of philosophical meditation in order to comprehend the questions related to anamnetic exegesis, to the problems of consciousness and to the philosophy of religion discussed by Voegelin. The core of our methodological approach is hermeneutical philosophy, which specifically has the characteristics of ontological hermeneutics and metaxological hermeneutics. Our intention is to use the methodological approach of ontology, metaphysics and “meontology” in order to explore the ramifications of Voegelin’s use of Plato’s metaxy for his comprehension of the nature of being and transcendence in both kataphatic and apophatic senses. We decided to treat metaxy from the perspective of ontological hermeneutics in order to demonstrate how it relates to the question of being and how it illumines anthropological, historical, political and religious issues.
The metaxological hermeneutics constitutes a methodological matrix in our own interpretation of Voegelin’s work. Metaxology refers to the logos of the metaxy, or to thinking and speaking about what happens in the “between,” in the sense of the tension experienced by human beings. The metaxological methodology is based on the existential faculty of meditation or mindfulness in terms of attention, concentration or awakening to the nature of reality. Such a hermeneutics has the characteristics of plurivocity and interdisciplinarity. Moreover, it can be called a “diacritical hermeneutics” as it approaches the nature of “difference” in the relation of self and other. Metaxological hermeneutics stands at the basis of our methodology because it is on the side of pluralistic or plurivocal philosophy, this hermeneutics being a necessary tool for exploring Voegelin’s philosophical intuitions. This methodology has the philosophical qualifications of hermeneutics in terms such as pluralistic, ontological, dynamic, generous and agapeic. Exactly the pluralistic character of metaxological hermeneutics will provide a critical and integral perspective on the role of metaxy in Voegelin’s philosophy.←5 | 6→
Voegelin is a many-sided thinker who escapes any simplified classification. He is not against systematic thinking, but neither does he belong to any school, nor is he the creator of a new philosophical system. In his understanding of metaxy he goes beyond its classical platonic context and meaning. Yet, his efforts show the relevance and importance of metaxological philosophy for contemporary thought. The aim of this study is to provide a synthesis of Voegelin’s contribution to the question about the human experience of transcendence from the perspective of a metaxological philosophy. Our special focus is the function of consciousness in the process of philosophical meditation and insight into the nature of experience. After all, consciousness is not just passive, but is also an active, dynamic, creative phenomenon of the human being. Since the goal of philosophical meditation is the transformation of the human mind, it is shown what kind of transformation of consciousness emerges from the vision of this philosopher and what are its ramifications for the philosophical, religious, historical and political vision of reality. This research, then, intends to propose an implementation of Voegelin’s approach to the problem of philosophy in a metaxological perspective. There is a discussion on both the depth and the limitations of Voegelin’s understanding of metaxy, an understanding that underpins his political philosophy. A systematic research on the use of the terms metaxy, meditation, consciousness, history, politics and religion gives credit to the relevance of his intellectual intuitions in the diagnosis of the philosophical and political malaise both in modernity and generally throughout history.←6 | 7→
This book is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter is dedicated to the hermeneutics of metaxy as it focuses on hermeneutical and methodological questions relevant to the notion of metaxy in the historical perspective. Here we discuss the original platonic background in which metaxy was used, providing exegetical, heuristic and hermeneutical exploration of this term. In Chapter 2 we analyze one of the methodological aspects of our thesis, that is, philosophical meditation. Here an emphasis is given to Voegelin’s application of philosophical meditation in his practice of philosophy. Chapter 3 is dedicated to the question of consciousness in the light of Plato’s metaxy. This material is the most complex and crucial for understanding Voegelin’s use of metaxy. He has found Plato’s metaxy to be the best notion to deal with the phenomenon of the “in-between” tension dynamically present in human consciousness. For Voegelin all problems of human order in history and society take their origin in the human consciousness. One can see why Voegelin’s philosophy of politics has its center in the philosophy of consciousness. Chapter 4 is dedicated to Voegelin’s interpretation of history and its meaning. We argue that Voegelin, from his initial preoccupation with his-toriogenesis, history of ideas and a linear concept of time, turned rather to what amounts to the history of symbolizations and experiences, as well as to the philosophy of history, in order to achieve a complex interpretation of the quaternarian structure of reality he identifies with God, man, world and society. This chapter provides reflection on the formative foundation of Voegelin’s philosophy, since it deals with the decisive breakthrough in his philosophy of history when he discovered the problems of consciousness to be at the center of the philosophy of history. Chapters 5 and 6 represent a synthesis of Voegelin’s view on anthropology, politics, and religion and the interrelationship between them. We start Chapter 5 from the anthropological questions, in order to consider Voegelin’s view of episteme politike. Voegelin develops his political philosophy as political theology in a direct connection with his vision of consciousness, history and religion. In Chapter 6 we discuss the question of religion in metaxological perspective which complements Voegelin’s political philosophy. As it is with history and politics, so it is with religion: Voegelin’s philosophy of religion depends on his philosophy of consciousness. In Chapter 7 we desire to address the key issues raised in this book by evaluating the role of metaxy in Voegelin’s philosophy, especially by showing how the notion of metaxy underpins his philosophical oeuvre. Drawing on Voegelin’s philosophy, we also propose a broader perspective on the possibility of metaxological philosophy by application of the notion of metaxy to contemporary philosophical discourse regarding especially the legacy of modernity. We consider particularly promising the idea of a practice of philosophy based on this rather forgotten symbol of “in-between,” the same one that Voegelin and few other philosophers tried to reconstitute in contemporary times. We try to elaborate the possibility of a plurivocal and interdisciplinary philosophy, that is, one grounded on the polyphonic character of reality, something we consider as one of the prerequisites for a credible search for truth and as the basis for intellectual honesty.
1. The Greek term metaxy (μεταξύ) denotes the middle, the intermediate, the in-between or the center. The term μεταξύ can be transliterated as mataxu, metaxú, metaxy or metaxý. We apply the version of metaxy which is transliteration used by Voegelin. In some cases when we quote from other authors we keep their original transliteration.
2. Erich Hermann Wilhelm Vögelin (January 3, 1901–January 19, 1985).
3. “The capacity of transcendence is a fundamental feature of consciousness just as much as is illumination; it is given.” CW 6:72.
4. For Voegelin the “in-between” is “the tension of God seeking man, and man seeking God—the mutuality of seeking and finding one another—the meeting between man and the Beyond of his heart. Since God is present even in the confusion of the heart, preceding and motivating the search itself, the divine Beyond is at the same time a divine Within.” CW 17:398.
This chapter is dedicated to various methodological and hermeneutical questions as we provide historical, exegetical, hermeneutical and methodological perspectives for the research ahead. These introductory remarks serve both as status quaestionis and as explanation of our philosophical way of proceeding. Our fundamental source of research is Order and History. We also consult and make references to other important texts depending on their relevance to our project. This includes the use of correspondence which has been not much present in critical literature on Voegelin. We tried also to consult all available publications, either books or articles, that discuss in a significant way the question of metaxy in Voegelin. Because these texts are not many—in fact, they are very few—we find our task to present integrally the origin, development and application of metaxy in Voegelin to be an important contribution to scholarship on this philosopher. The critical evaluation of Voegelin’s manifold philosophical discussions is not the scope of this publication. We are sure that, from the perspective of critical analysis of the history of philosophy, there could be found many problems of interpretation, such as his view of Husserl’s phenomenology, his interpretation of Gnosticism or especially his problematic interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy. We recognize the need to address these questions, but we consider them only insofar as they are relevant to our research, without discussing them in detail. They are considered, rather, to set up the context situating the meaning and use of metaxy. Philosophical meditation, history, political religions, Gnosticism and other topics, even though not central to our book, constitute an important background showing the development of Voegelin’s philosophical position, the transformation of his thought and the maturity he reached with his application of metaxy.
- XVI, 460
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- 2021 (March)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XVI, 460 pp.