Epilogue
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Epilogue 391 Eschatology and Philosophy: The Practice of Dying One of the important insights gained by philosophers, as well as by the prophets of Israel and by the early Christians, is the movement in reality toward a state beyond its present structure. So far as the individual human being is concerned, this movement obviously can be consummated only through his personal death. The great discovery of the Classic philosophers was that man is not a “mortal,” but a being engaged in a movement toward immortality. The athanatizein—­ the activity of immortalizing—­ as the substance of the philosophers’ existence is a central experience in both Plato and Aristotle. In the same manner, the great experience and insight of Paul was the movement of reality beyond its present structure of death into the imperishable state that will succeed it through the grace of God—­ i.e., into the state of aphtharsia or imperishing. This movement toward a state of being beyond the present structure injects a further tension into existential order inasmuch as life has to be conducted in such a manner that it will lead toward the state of imperishability. * * * * * This eschatological tension of man’s humanity, in its dimensions of person, society, and history, is more than a matter of theoretical insight for the philosopher; it is a practical question. As I have said, Plato and Aristotle were very much aware that the action of philosophizing is a process of immortalizing in this world. This action does not come to its end with Plato and Aristotle, it continues, though in every concrete situation the philosopher has to cope with 392 epilogue the problems he encounters in his own position concretely. If the Classic philosophers had to cope with the difficulties created by a dying myth and an active Sophistic aggressiveness, the philosopher in the twentieth-­ century has to struggle with the “climate of opinion ,” as Whitehead called this phenomenon. Moreover, in his concrete work he has to absorb the enormous advances of the sciences, both natural and historical, and to relate them to the understanding of existence. That is a considerable labor, considering the mountains of historical materials that have become known in our time. A new picture of history is developing. The conceptual penetration of the sources is the task of the philosopher today; the results of his analysis must be communicated to the general public and, if he happens to be a professor in a university, to the students. These chores—­ of keeping up with the problems, of analyzing the sources, and of communicating the results—­ are concrete actions through which the philosopher participates in the eschatological movement of history and conforms to the Platonic-­ Aristotelian practice of dying. —­Eric Voegelin, Autobiographical Reflections ...


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