Voegelin on America, Part 2

Last Sunday I mentioned appreciating Eric Voegelin’s Autobiographical Reflections. Here’s another passage that reinforces the point that America is superior to Europe in terms of philosophy and relevant thinking, based on his first extended visit to the U.S. in the early 1920s. (Voegelin could be pretty dense himself at times, but not here.)

This literary work in which I assembled the results of the two American years does not, however, give a full understanding of the importance these years had in my life. The great event was the fact of being thrown into a world for which the great neo-Kantian methodology debates, which I considered the most important things intellectually, were of no importance. Instead, there was the background of the great political foundation of 1776 and 1789, and of the unfolding of this founding act through a political and legal culture represented primarily by the layers’ guild and the Supreme Court. There was the strong background of Christianity and Classical culture that was so signally fading out, if not missing, in the methodological debates in which I had grown up as a student. In brief, there was a world in which the other world in which I had grown up was intellectually, morally, and spiritually irrelevant. . .

The immediate effect was that upon my return to Europe certain phenomena that were of the greatest importance in the intellectual and ideological context of Central Europe, for instance the work of Martin Heidegger, whose famous Sein und Zeit I read in 1928, no longer had any effect on me. It just ran off, because I had been immunized against the whole context of philosophizing through my time in America and especially in Wisconsin. The priorities and relations of importance between various theories had been fundamentally changed—and, so far as I can see, for the better.


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