Home » (Quotes) » A Passage. Of Political Science. Of Political Living. Of Symbols.

A Passage. Of Political Science. Of Political Living. Of Symbols.

Political science is suffering from a difficulty that originates in its very nature as a science of man in historical existence. For man does not wait for science to have his life explained to him, and when the theorist approaches social reality he finds the field preempted by what may be called the self-interpretation of society. Human society is not merely a fact, or an event, in the external world, to be studied by an observer like a natural phenomenon. Although it has externality as one of its important components, it is as a whole a little world, a cosmion, illuminated with meaning from within by the human beings who continuously create and bear it as the mode and condition of their self-realization. It is illuminated through an elaborate symbolism. . . . Through such symbolization the members of a society experience it as more than an accident or a convenience; they experience it as of their human essence. And, inversely, the symbols express the experience that man is fully man by virtue of his participation in a whole that transcends his particular existence, by virtue of his participation in the xynon, the common, as Heraclitus called it. . . .

—Eric Voegelin

This passage comes from the opening lines of Voegelin’s 1951 lecture titled “Representation and Existence” from The New Science of Politics, published in The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Vol. 5, Modernity Without Restraint. Manfred Henningsen (ed.). 2000. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Page 109.

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