Voegelin on Rawls

"In the first place you have certainly an accredited respectable gentleman who is a professor at Harvard.

"In the second place, he develops a contract theory in complete ignorance of the fact that in the Republic, Book II, Plato has explained why contract theories don't work. Crass philosophical ignorance! Incredible impertinence in believing that he can develop axioms like contract theories and so on as a basis of anything. Complete ignorance of the famous Platonic dichotomies of philosophy and philodoxy, of justice and injustice, of doxa and so on, and episteme.

"And on this basis (I wouldn't even call it semi-literate–at least three quarters illiterate) regarding philosophical matters, he publishes a book which attracts enormous attention (also enormous criticism, not only applause).

"But after all, it is a major event if you look at the periodicals and the publications and so on; there are books written about it, there are articles written about it, and so on.

"So this production, which is practically a documentation of the illiteracy of our contemporary philosophical population you might say, is a book which attracts major attention and is an important event in society." -- Eric Voegelin


  1. What was Plato's explanation of why contract theories don't work?

  2. Oakeshott writes in the into to Experience and Its Modes: "A philosopher is not, as such, a scholar; and philosophy, more often than not, has foundered in learning. There is no book which is indispensable for the study of philosophy. And to speak of a philosopher as ignorant is to commit an ignoratio elenchi; an historian or a scientist may be ignorant, philosophers merely stupid."

    Which is to say, Oakeshott's take on Rawls might be even harsher than Voegelin's...

  3. "What was Plato's explanation of why contract theories don't work?"

    It was the explanation that wound up giving us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.


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