Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

William Dean

Second Advisor

David Van Heemst

Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery


Following the insights of Eric Voegelin, this paper attempts to articulate a measuring tool by which Western civilization could test its health. The paper is centered on Plato’s existential principle, tracing its formulation and development through Greek tragedy and Socratic thought, first. The existential principle in its basic formulation is that a societal order reflects the type of people by whom it is composed; stated more tersely, the spirit of the people weave together the spirit of the society. An understanding of the existential principle is given by the example of when Socrates and Plato used the authority of the classical wisdom tradition to evaluate and critique the existential order of the Athenian society. The paper briefly touches on the development and understanding of justice in the Athenian society, and then an analysis of the trial of Socrates follows. After this, Eric Voegelin’s understanding of Plato’s dialogue in general and the forces of the Socratic soul in particular are presented in order to reify the existential authority of the classical wisdom tradition. The paper concludes by formulating a positive understanding of the existential authority of wisdom in measuring the health of Western culture.


A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Department of History and Political Science in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts in Philosophy of History