Eric Voegelin on Race Theories: A Critique on the “Superstition” of Science

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Alessandra Gerolin


Considering the topic of race and state, Eric Voegelin draws a distinction between race theories and race ideas. The specific feature of race ideas at his times (characterized by the political ascendency of National Socialism) consisted in the claim to be not only political ideas, but the result of a scientific reflection. This distinction gives to Voegelin the opportunity to point out to the reader the ideological attitude of scientism, which claims to offer as true a series of statements whose foundations are not scientifically tested. Race theories are affected by difficulties which come from the fact that the methods proper to one of the realms of being are applied unjustifiably to other spheres. Following Helmuth Plessner and Max Scheler Voegelin proposes a philosophical anthropology able to consider the different levels by which the human being is constituted without making one of these layers the measure and the explanatory basis for the others. Philosophical anthropology becomes for Voegelin the instrument to understand political ideas as originated by the experience of man as a corporeal-psychic unity. The aim of the paper consists in proposing a critical view of Voegelin’s anthropology, testing its validity within the contemporary debate.



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Author Biography

Alessandra Gerolin, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan

Post-doc, History of Philosophy, Faculty of Education

Scientific secretary, Atheneum Centre for the Social Doctrine of the Church