Leo Strauss’s The Political Philosophy of Hobbes deservedly ranks among his most widely acclaimed works. In it Strauss argues that the basis for Hobbes’s natural and political science is his interest in “self-knowledge of man as he really is.” The writings collected in this book, each written prior to that classic volume, complement that account. Thus at long last, this book allows us to have a complete picture of Strauss’s interpretation of Hobbes, the thinker pivotal to the fundamental theme of his life’s work: the conflicting demands of philosophy and revelation, or as he termed it, “the theologico-political problem.”
It is no exaggeration to say that Strauss’s work on Hobbes’s critique of religion is essential to his analysis of Hobbes’s political philosophy, and vice versa. This volume will spark new interest in Hobbes’s explication of the Bible and in his understanding of religion by revealing previously neglected dimensions and motives of Hobbes’s “theology.” At the same time, scholars interested in the intellectual development of Leo Strauss will find in these writings the missing link, as it were, between his two early books,Spinoza’s Critique of Religion and The Political Philosophy of Hobbes.
In addition, this volume makes available for the first time in English a letter, a book outline, an extended review, an engagement with legal positivism, and an account of Strauss’s work on Hobbes by Heinrich Meier, all of which shed light on Strauss’s concerns and his approach to Hobbes in particular, as well as to modern political thought and life.
Natural Right and History is widely recognized as Strauss’s most influential work. The six lectures, written while Strauss was at the New School, and a full transcript of the 1949 Walgreen Lectures show Strauss working toward the ideas he would present in fully matured form in his landmark work. In them, he explores natural right and the relationship between modern philosophers and the thought of the ancient Greek philosophers, as well as the relation of political philosophy to contemporary political science and to major political and historical events, especially the Holocaust and World War II.
Previously unpublished in book form, Strauss’s lectures are presented here in a thematic order that mirrors Natural Right and History and with interpretive essays by J. A. Colen, Christopher Lynch, Svetozar Minkov, Daniel Tanguay, Nathan Tarcov, and Michael Zuckert that establish their relation to the work. Rounding out the book are copious annotations and notes to facilitate further study.