The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss takes on the crucial task of separating what is truly important in the work of Leo Strauss from the ephemeral politics associated with his school. Laurence Lampert focuses on exotericism: the use of artful rhetoric to simultaneously communicate a socially responsible message to the public at large and a more radical message of philosophic truth to a smaller, more intellectually inclined audience. Largely forgotten after the Enlightenment, exotericism, he shows, deeply informed Strauss both as a reader and as a philosophic writer—indeed, Lampert argues, Strauss learned from the finest practitioners of exoteric writing how to become one himself.
Examining some of Strauss’s most important books and essays through this exoteric lens, Lampert reevaluates not only Strauss but the philosophers—from Plato to Halevi to Nietzsche—with whom Strauss most deeply engaged. Ultimately Lampert shows that Strauss’s famous distinction between ancient and modern thinkers is primarily rhetorical, one of the great examples of Strauss’s exoteric craft. Celebrating Strauss’s achievements while recognizing one main shortcoming—unlike Nietzsche, he failed to appreciate the ramifications of modern natural science for philosophy and its public presentation—Lampert illuminates Strauss as having even greater philosophic importance than we have thought before.
Plato’s dialogues show Socrates at different ages, beginning when he was about nineteen and already deeply immersed in philosophy and ending with his execution five decades later. By presenting his model philosopher across a fifty-year span of his life, Plato leads his readers to wonder: does that time period correspond to the development of Socrates’ thought? In this magisterial investigation of the evolution of Socrates’ philosophy, Laurence Lampert answers in the affirmative.
The chronological route that Plato maps for us, Lampert argues, reveals the enduring record of philosophy as it gradually took the form that came to dominate the life of the mind in the West. The reader accompanies Socrates as he breaks with the century-old tradition of philosophy, turns to his own path, gradually enters into a deeper understanding of nature and human nature, and discovers the successful way to transmit his wisdom to the wider world. Focusing on the final and most prominent step in that process and offering detailed textual analysis of Plato’s Protagoras, Charmides, and Republic, How Philosophy Became Socratic charts Socrates’ gradual discovery of a proper politics to shelter and advance philosophy.
Leo Strauss and Nietzsche
Laurence Lampert University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress B3317.L254 1996 | Dewey Decimal 193
The influential political philosopher Leo Strauss has been credited by conservatives with the recovery of the great tradition of political philosophy stretching back to Plato. Among Strauss's most enduring legacies is a strongly negative assessment of Nietzsche as the modern philosopher most at odds with that tradition and most responsible for the sins of twentieth-century culture—relativism, godlessness, nihilism, and the breakdown of family values. In fact, this apparent denunciation has become so closely associated with Strauss that it is often seen as the very core of his thought.
In Leo Strauss and Nietzsche, the eminent Nietzsche scholar Laurence Lampert offers a controversial new assessment of the Strauss-Nietzsche connection. Lampert undertakes a searching examination of the key Straussian essay, "Note on the Plan of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil." He shows that this essay, written toward the end of Strauss's life and placed at the center of his final work, reveals an affinity for and debt to Nietzsche greater than Strauss's followers allow. Lampert argues that the essay comprises the most important interpretation of Nietzsche ever published, one that clarifies Nietzsche's conception of nature and of human spiritual history and demonstrates the logical relationship between the essential themes in Nietzsche's thought—the will to power and the eternal return.
The trajectory of Friedrich Nietzsche’s thought has long presented a difficulty for the study of his philosophy. How did the young Nietzsche—classicist and ardent advocate of Wagner’s cultural renewal—become the philosopher of Will to Power and the Eternal Return?
With this book, Laurence Lampert answers that question. He does so through his trademark technique of close readings of key works in Nietzsche’s journey to philosophy: The Birth of Tragedy, Schopenhauer as Educator, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, Human All Too Human, and “Sanctus Januarius,” the final book of the 1882 Gay Science. Relying partly on how Nietzsche himself characterized his books in his many autobiographical guides to the trajectory of his thought, Lampert sets each in the context of Nietzsche’s writings as a whole, and looks at how they individually treat the question of what a philosopher is. Indispensable to his conclusions are the workbooks in which Nietzsche first recorded his advances, especially the 1881 workbook which shows him gradually gaining insights into the two foundations of his mature thinking. The result is the most complete picture we’ve had yet of the philosopher’s development, one that gives us a Promethean Nietzsche, gaining knowledge even as he was expanding his thought to create new worlds.