Terms and Topics from Voegelin’s New Science of Politics, “introduction”

(with approximate page references to Modernity Without Restraint and Chicago editions)

These terms will overlap with the outline of the chapter that is presented in both the University of Chicago paperback edition and the University of Missouri collected works edition (vol. 5), Modernity Without Restraint


political science— (/2)

re-theoretization, movement toward re-theoretization (/3)

positivism—two assumptions at base of positivism (/4ff)

three manifestations of the principle of positivism(/8): (/8-11)

 “science” as investigation of facts in relation to a value

Weber: value-free science, values as “demonic decisions,” teaching by indirection (/13ff)

Ideal types, ethics of intention, ethics of responsibility,

science of politics where are conflicting values

sharp distinction between fact and value broke down under Weber’s approach (/22)

Weber’s “progress” toward rationality at expense of religion and metaphysics

restoration of science of order, metaphysics, ontology  


The chapter focuses on the concept of “positivism” as a stage in Western intellectual history and , in particular, on the work of Max Weber (pronounced Vā-ber), who tried to remain true to positivism in principle but whose intellect and moral character forced him to burst the bonds of the positivistic ideas of the value-free science and the strict distinction between facts and values. The chapter should be compared with Leo Strauss’s chapter in Natural Right and History: “Natural Right and the Distinction Between Facts and Values.”

Given the general unfamiliarity with Weber’s work, we cannot and will not get into the details of Voegelin’s intellectual biography, but we should understand Voegelin’s argument that Weber reached the end of the possibilities of positivistic science and revealed its inadequacy and inability to satisfy real, legitimate questions about political order, thus setting the stage for a restoration or re-theoretization of political science in its grandest state.

Additional related readings: