Wednesday, February 20, 2019

On the Beginning of Political Science

I am now reading Eric Voegelin’s book The New Science of Politics. Voegelin is of the view that a theory of politics must at the same time be a theory of history. He begins his Introduction to the book with this line, “The existence of man in political society is historical existence; and a theory of politics, if it penetrates to principles, must at the same time be a theory of history.”

The book is full of quotable lines. Voegelin looks at Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics (on page 28) and offers the following perspective on the origin of the discipline of political science:

“Hence, when political science begins, it does not begin with a tabula rasa on which it can inscribe its concepts; it will inevitably start from the rich body of self interpretation of a society and proceed by critical clarification of socially pre-existent symbols. When Aristotle wrote his Ethics and Politics, when he constructed his concepts of the polis, of the constitution, the citizen, the various forms of government, of justice, of happiness, etc., he did not invent these terms and endow them with arbitrary meanings; he took rather the symbols which he found in his social environment, surveyed with care the variety of meanings which they had in common parlance, and ordered and clarified these meanings by the criteria of his theory.”
I am finding lot of value in Voegelin’s theory of political science. He also offers an impressive perspective on ancient, medieval, and early modern history.

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