Political philosophy and the divine ground : Eric Voegelin on Plato.
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Romanello, Julianne M.
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Recent scholarship has shown an interest in how prominent twentieth-century thinkers have interpreted classic texts, especially those of Plato. Understanding how and why contemporary thinkers have turned to Plato promises to illuminate critical features of the contemporary thinker’s work, Plato’s work, and the modern situation in general. This study contributes to these efforts by examining how the political philosopher Eric Voegelin approached the Platonic texts. I argue that Voegelin’s approach to Plato is distinct from other twentieth-century interpretations inasmuch as Voegelin understood Platonic philosophy as a divinely-inspired quest for the ground of being. In order to substantiate my claim, I compare Voegelin’s approach to reading Plato to Leo Strauss’s approach, paying attention to each thinker’s antecedent intellectual commitments and specific techniques for analyzing texts. I then turn to each thinker’s conclusions about the significance of three particular dialogues: the Gorgias, the Republic, and the Laws. I show that Voegelin’s attention to the divine dimension of Plato’s thought brings clarity to a number of Plato’s most enigmatic passages, especially his various myths. Voegelin’s interpretation also invites us to reconsider the relationship between philosophy, politics, and history, for Voegelin’s Plato was involved in the dynamic process of restoring order within history through his loving insights into the eternal ground.