Essays Of Leo Strauss

Essays Of Leo Strauss-63
They must have failed to appreciate that the streak of “Menckenism” in Strauss had become toxic to the classes dominant in the academic-intellectual world in the intervening time. Above Conservatism, or, the Non-Partisanship of Political Philosophy According to Heinrich Meier, Leo Strauss “writes in direct confrontation with philosophy’s oblivion of politics and of itself in the twentieth century” (emphasis added).Meier continues, “(Strauss) does not place those treatises at the service of a political project in the narrower sense.” In fact, Strauss’s treatises, pursue exactly the opposite tendency of the masterpieces of the radical Enlightenment.

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Some commentators have been so exercised by Strauss’s reservations about modern democracy that they seem to lament there are no occasions for a true democratic .[5]So something drastic must have happened to American intellectual life between the 1920’s when Mencken could be the “toast of the (intellectual) town” and our day when some cautiously phrased remarks about the possible disadvantages of equality and liberty can cause great consternation in .

As one of Mencken’s biographers has noted of the changed environment, “when every phrase must be examined for political correctness, many find it impossible to enjoy Mencken without apology.”[6] Those observers who register surprise that Strauss’s carefully worded criticisms of the in a spirit more or less opposite to that in which they had earlier received Mencken seem to have failed to register the change in the intellectual climate over the generations.

Ultimately, despite the strengths of Strauss’ political philosophy, its rigidity ...

in the light of the unchangeable ideas” that forms the foundation of natural right.6 Strauss also used Laws to depict how forsaking the traditional in favor of the natural allows for the transcendence of human tradition in favor of an absolute guiding principle.7 Strauss emphasized his proposal of natural right as the solution to the crisis of modernity in his discussion of the good citizen and the good man, in which he concluded that “whereas good citizen is relative to the regime, good man does not have such a relativity.”8 Strauss solidified the notion of natural right as having an immutable foundation by articulating his premise with precise, incontrovertible principles dating back to the roots of classical political philosophy.

But as perfect men I regard those who are able to mingle and fuse political capacity with philosophy. We must apply our best endeavours, therefore, both to perform public duties and to hold fast to philosophy as far as opportunity permits. Why complain, as if a man’s debt to his inferiors were not at least equal to his debt to his superiors?

Such men, I take it, are masters of the two greatest goods there are: as statesmen, a life of public usefulness, and a tranquil existence of untroubled serenity in the pursuit of philosophy . The good botanist will find flowers between the street pavements, and any man filled with an idea or a purpose will find examples and illustrations and coadjutors wherever he goes . If men were equals, the waters would not move; but the difference of level which makes Niagara a cataract, makes eloquence, indignation, poetry, in him who finds there is much to communicate. they would be in favor of it.” Mencken’s “liberals,” seem to interpret liberty to mean in “the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it.”[2] Thus Mencken took the view that the life of civil freedom is unlikely to survive the politics of democracy.Leo Strauss and Reinhold Niebuhr represent two giants of twentieth century political philosophy.The Jewish classicist and Christian theologian contemporaries articulated profound thoughts on political philosophy and earned recognition for their work on the subject of international relations.They do not put philosophy to work for the purposes of politics but rather turn to politics “for the sake of self-reflection.” They do not attempt to “draw the special attention of the political promising and ambitious readers” even as they are not meant to inspire political idealism or feed the will to rule.They do not elaborate a theory of politics, nor do they devise an image of the “perfect city” that would be capable of inducing identification and devotion.Such is the shock and horror engendered by some of Strauss’s observations that they can all but paralyze the intellectual egg-laying industry.Strauss has frequently been attacked as an “elitist” or even a “proto-fascist” for suggesting that contemporary liberal democracy has a “crisis” on its hands when it comes to civic and intellectual virtue.Why should not the “transcendence” implicit in the pursuit of political philosophy not allow for the occasional “drop in” on the sub-transcendent world of political thought?Could not Strauss have taken a moment from his questing for pure transcendence to put in his “two cents worth” of “political thought” at certain key moments in the public debate?That which ranks as “political thought” in Holloway’s eyes cannot transcend the realm of opinion because its primary purpose is “to preserve the American regime and its traditional institutions and morality.”[15] If as Holloway insists conservatism ranks only “as a kind of political thought” then by definition Strauss had no strong interest in it.Political philosophy however, in which Strauss was “primarily interested” seeks to “question the presuppositions upon which these things are based.” Given his premise of a disconnection between political thought and political philosophy, Holloway concludes not so much that Strauss was not a conservative but more specifically he was simply “ being a conservative.” [16]Addressing Holloway’s distinction we might ask whether or not Strauss might be capable of pursuing both “political philosophy” and “political thought” at one and the same time.

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    The publication of Leo Strauss and His Catholic Readers by the Catholic University of America Press, a collection of essays by several distinguished scholars, is a manifestation of the Catholic mind at its best. In dealing with Leo Strauss, a man of formidable insight and thorough scholarship, we need to know the Hebrew Bible and the various schools of Jewish thought; we need to know how Islam with its thinkers is related to Jerusalem; we also need to know modern philosophy—Machiavelli.…

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    Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History University of Chicago, 1953, p. 248. As strictly a historical report of the philosophical result of the rejection of natural ends by the Moderns and not a statement about what a natural rights theory must reject, it is not necessary to take exception to it here.…

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