The posthumous publication of The Argument and the Action of Plato's "Laws" was compiled shortly before the death of Leo Strauss in 1973. Strauss offers an insightful and instructive reading through careful probing of Plato's classic text.
"Strauss's The Argument and the Action of Plato's 'Laws' reflects his interest in political thought, his dogged method of following the argument of the Laws step by step, and his vigorous defense of this dialogue's integrity in respect to the ideals of the Republic."—Cross Currents
"The unique characteristics of this commentary on the Laws reflect the care and precision which were the marks of Professor Strauss's efforts to understand the complex thoughts of other men."—Allan D. Nelson, Canadian Journal of Political Science
"Thorough and provocative, an important addition to Plato scholarship."—Library Journal
"The major purpose of the commentary is to provide a reading of the dialogue which displays its structural arrangement and the continuity of the argument."—J. W. Dy, Bibliographical Bulletin of Philosophy
"The reader of Strauss's book is indeed guided closely through the whole text."— M. J. Silverthorne, The Humanities Association Review
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago.
Carl Schmitt was the most famous and controversial defender of political theology in the twentieth century. But in his best-known work, The Concept of the Political, issued in 1927, 1932, and 1933, political considerations led him to conceal the dependence of his political theory on his faith in divine revelation. In 1932 Leo Strauss published a critical review of Concept that initiated an extremely subtle exchange between Schmitt and Strauss regarding Schmitt’s critique of liberalism. Although Schmitt never answered Strauss publicly, in the third edition of his book he changed a number of passages in response to Strauss’s criticisms. Now, in this elegant translation by J. Harvey Lomax, Heinrich Meier shows us what the remarkable dialogue between Schmitt and Strauss reveals about the development of these two seminal thinkers.
Meier contends that their exchange only ostensibly revolves around liberalism. At its heart, their “hidden dialogue” explores the fundamental conflict between political theology and political philosophy, between revelation and reasonand ultimately, the vital question of how human beings ought to live their lives.
“Heinrich Meier’s treatment of Schmitt’s writings is morally analytical without moralizing, a remarkable feat in view of Schmitt’s past. He wishes to understand what Schmitt was after rather than to dismiss him out of hand or bowdlerize his thoughts for contemporary political purposes.”—Mark Lilla, New YorkReview of Books
The City and Man consists of provocative essays by the late Leo Strauss on Aristotle's Politics, Plato's Republic, and Thucydides' Peloponnesian Wars. Together, the essays constitute a brilliant attempt to use classical political philosophy as a means of liberating modern political philosophy from the stranglehold of ideology. The essays are based on a long and intimate familiarity with the works, but the essay on Aristotle is especially important as one of Strauss's few writings on the philosopher who largely shaped Strauss's conception of antiquity. The essay on Plato is a full-scale discussion of Platonic political philosophy, wide in scope yet compact in execution. When discussing Thucydides, Strauss succeeds not only in presenting the historian as a moral thinker of high rank, but in drawing his thought into the orbit of philosophy, and thus indicating a relation of history and philosophy that does not presuppose the absorption of philosophy by history.
In this, his most influential work, legal theorist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt argues that liberalism’s basis in individual rights cannot provide a reasonable justification for sacrificing oneself for the state—a critique as cogent today as when it first appeared. George Schwab’s introduction to his translation of the 1932 German edition highlights Schmitt’s intellectual journey through the turbulent period of German history leading to the Hitlerian one-party state. In addition to analysis by Leo Strauss and a foreword by Tracy B. Strong placing Schmitt’s work into contemporary context, this expanded edition also includes a translation of Schmitt’s 1929 lecture “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations,” which the author himself added to the 1932 edition of the book. An essential update on a modern classic, The Concept of the Political, Expanded Edition belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in political theory or philosophy.
Political philosophers Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin share an abiding interest in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In Disturbing Revelation, the first book to focus on their treatment of the Bible, John Ranieri explores how they draw on its texts in their philosophies and shows what these considerations say about whether the combination of religion and politics leads to violence or can prevent it.
In addressing fundamental questions of reason and revelation, Ranieri focuses not on Strauss’s treatment of Judaism or Voegelin’s of Christianity, but rather on the place of the Bible in their thought. He first examines the differences between their methodological approaches and attitudes toward the Bible and biblical criticism—rather than their attitudes toward religion or questions of faith—and then explores in depth their interpretations of the biblical message and its contribution to the modern world.
Ranieri shows how both men recognized that biblical texts must be seriously engaged in order for us to understand our contemporary situation—but that their appreciation of the Bible is marked by deep ambivalence concerning its vision of life and its influence on the political sphere. He brings their thought into conversation with that of René Girard, whose writings on violence and religion shed light on the problems that arise when biblical insights take root in a culture, and also offers fresh insight into Strauss’s elusive writings, such as his indebtedness to Nietzsche.
Disturbing Revelation reveals how Strauss and Voegelin viewed the applicability of biblical texts to what they considered the crisis of modernity without belaboring questions of their own personal faith. It is a clearly written exposition that reflects a rich understanding of the work of these thinkers and is as provocative as it is informative, not only for students of the two men but also for anyone interested in the relationship between philosophy and religious belief.
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.
Faith and Political Philosophy consists of fifty-three letters between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, two of the most important political theorists of the twentieth century. In this correspondence, Strauss and Voegelin explore the nature of their similarities and differences, offering insightful observations about one another's work, about the state of the discipline, and about the influences working on them. The letters shed light on many assumptions made in their published writings, often with an openness that removes all vestiges of uncertainty.
In this groundbreaking work, Richard L. Velkley examines the complex philosophical relationship between Martin Heidegger and Leo Strauss. Velkley argues that both thinkers provide searching analyses of the philosophical tradition’s origins in radical questioning. For Heidegger and Strauss, the recovery of the original premises of philosophy cannot be separated from rethinking the very possibility of genuine philosophizing.
Common views of the influence of Heidegger’s thought on Strauss suggest that, after being inspired early on by Heidegger’s dismantling of the philosophical tradition, Strauss took a wholly separate path, spurning modernity and pursuing instead a renewal of Socratic political philosophy. Velkley rejects this reading and maintains that Strauss’s engagement with the challenges posed by Heidegger—as well as by modern philosophy in general—formed a crucial and enduring framework for his lifelong philosophical project. More than an intellectual biography or a mere charting of influence, Heidegger, Strauss, and the Premises of Philosophy is a profound consideration of these two philosophers’ reflections on the roots, meaning, and fate of Western rationalism.
History of Political Philosophy
Edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey University of Chicago Press, 1987 Library of Congress JA81.H58 1987 | Dewey Decimal 320.01
This volume provides an unequaled introduction to the thought of chief contributors to the Western tradition of political philosophy from classical Greek antiquity to the twentieth century. Written by specialists on the various philosophers, this third edition has been expanded significantly to include both new and revised essays.
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.
This book looks at the work and influence of Leo Strauss in a variety of ways that will be of interest to readers of political philosophy. It will be of particular interest to Catholics and scholars of other religious traditions. Strauss had a great deal of interaction with his contemporary Catholic scholars, and many of his students or their students teach or have taught at Catholic colleges and universities in America. Leo Strauss and His Catholic Readers brings together work by scholars from two continents, some of whom knew Strauss, one of whom was his student at the University of Chicago. The first section of essays considers Catholic responses to Strauss’s project of recovering Classical natural right as against modern individual rights. Some of the authors suggest that his approach can be a fruitful corrective to an uncritical reception of modern ideas. Nevertheless, most point out that the Catholic cannot accept all of Strauss’s project. The second section deals with areas of overlap between Strauss and Catholics. Some of the chapters explore encounters with his contemporary scholars while others turn to more current concerns. The final section approaches the theological-political question itself, a question central to both Strauss’s work and that of the Catholic intellectual tradition. This section of the book considers the relationship of Strauss’s work to Christianity and Christian commitments at a broader level. Because Christianity does not have an explicit political doctrine, Christians have found themselves as rulers, subjects, and citizens in a variety of political regimes. Leo Strauss’s return to Platonic political philosophy can provide a useful lens through which his Catholic readers can assess what it means for there to be a best regime.
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.
Born in rural Hesse, Germany, Leo Strauss (1899–1973) became an active Zionist and philosopher during the tumultuous and fractious Weimar Republic. As Eugene R. Sheppard demonstrates in this groundbreaking and engaging book, Strauss gravitated towards such thinkers as Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt as he sought to identify and overcome fundamental philosophical, political, and theological crises. The rise of Nazism impelled Strauss as a young Jewish émigré, first in Europe and then in America, to grapple with—and accommodate his thought to—the pressing challenges of exile. In confronting his own state of exile, Strauss enlisted premodern Jewish thinkers such as Moses Maimonides and Baruch Spinoza who earlier addressed the problem of reconciling their competing loyalties as philosophers and Jews. This is the first study to frame Strauss’s political philosophy around his critique of liberalism and the problem of exile. Sheppard follows Strauss from Europe to the United States, a journey of a conservative Weimar Jew struggling with modern liberalism and the existential and political contours of exile. Strauss sought to resolve the conflicts of a Jew unwilling to surrender loyalty to his ancestral community and equally unwilling to adhere to the strictures of orthodox observance. Strauss saw truth and wisdom as transcending particular religious and national communities, as well as the modern enlightened humanism in which he himself had been nurtured. In his efforts to navigate between the Jewish and the philosophical, the ancient and the modern, Berlin and New York, Strauss developed a distinctively programmatic way of reading and writing “between the lines.” Sheppard recaptures the complexity and intrigue of this project which has been ignored by those who both reject and claim Strauss’s legacy.
Leo Strauss and his alleged political influence regarding the Iraq War have in recent years been the subject of significant media attention, including stories in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.Time magazine even called him “one of the most influential men in American politics.” With The Truth about Leo Strauss, Michael and Catherine Zuckert challenged the many claims and speculations about this notoriously complex thinker. Now, with Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy, they turn their attention to a searching and more comprehensive interpretation of Strauss’s thought as a whole, using the many manifestations of the “problem of political philosophy” as their touchstone.
For Strauss, political philosophy presented a “problem” to which there have been a variety of solutions proposed over the course of Western history. Strauss’s work, they show, revolved around recovering—and restoring—political philosophy to its original Socratic form. Since positivism and historicism represented two intellectual currents that undermined the possibility of a Socratic political philosophy, the first part of the book is devoted to Strauss’s critique of these two positions. Then, the authors explore Strauss’s interpretation of the history of philosophy and both ancient and modern canonical political philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Locke. Strauss’s often-unconventional readings of these philosophers, they argue, pointed to solutions to the problem of political philosophy. Finally, the authors examine Strauss’s thought in the context of the twentieth century, when his chief interlocutors were Schmitt, Husserl, Heidegger, and Nietzsche.
The most penetrating and capacious treatment of the political philosophy of this complex and often misunderstood thinker, from his early years to his last works, Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy reveals Strauss’s writings as an attempt to show that the distinctive characteristics of ancient and modern thought derive from different modes of solving the problem of political philosophy and reveal why he considered the ancient solution both philosophically and politically superior.
In Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides, Kenneth Hart Green explores the critical role played by Maimonides in shaping Leo Strauss’s thought. In uncovering the esoteric tradition employed in Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed, Strauss made the radical realization that other ancient and medieval philosophers might be concealing their true thoughts through literary artifice. Maimonides and al-Farabi, he saw, allowed their message to be altered by dogmatic considerations only to the extent required by moral and political imperatives and were in fact avid advocates for enlightenment. Strauss also revealed Maimonides’s potential relevance to contemporary concerns, especially his paradoxical conviction that one must confront the conflict between reason and revelation rather than resolve it.
An invaluable companion to Green’s comprehensive collection of Strauss’s writings on Maimonides, this volume shows how Strauss confronted the commonly accepted approaches to the medieval philosopher, resulting in both a new understanding of Maimonides and a new depth and direction for his own thought. It will be welcomed by anyone engaged with the work of either philosopher.
Can politics be studied scientifically, and if so, how? Assuming it is impossible to justify values by human reason alone, social science has come to consider an unreflective relativism the only viable basis, not only for its own operations, but for liberal societies more generally. Although the experience of the sixties has made social scientists more sensitive to the importance of values, it has not led to a fundamental reexamination of value relativism, which remains the basis of contemporary social science. Almost three decades after Leo Strauss's death, Nasser Behnegar offers the first sustained exposition of what Strauss was best known for: his radical critique of contemporary social science, and particularly of political science.
Behnegar's impressive book argues that Strauss was not against the scientific study of politics, but he did reject the idea that it could be built upon political science's unexamined assumption of the distinction between facts and values. Max Weber was, for Strauss, the most profound exponent of values relativism in social science, and Behnegar's explication artfully illuminates Strauss's critique of Weber's belief in the ultimate insolubility of all value conflicts.
Strauss's polemic against contemporary political science was meant to make clear the contradiction between its claim of value-free premises and its commitment to democratic principles. As Behnegar ultimately shows, values—the ethical component lacking in a contemporary social science—are essential to Strauss's project of constructing a genuinely scientific study of politics.
Leo Strauss on Hegel
Leo Strauss University of Chicago Press, 2019 Library of Congress D16.8.H49S77 2019 | Dewey Decimal 901
In the winter of 1965, Leo Strauss taught a seminar on Hegel at the University of Chicago. While Strauss neither considered himself a Hegelian nor wrote about Hegel at any length, his writings contain intriguing references to the philosopher, particularly in connection with his studies of Hobbes, in his debate in On Tyranny with Alexandre Kojève; and in his account of the “three waves” of modern political philosophy.
Leo Strauss on Hegel reconstructs Strauss’s seminar on Hegel, supplemented by passages from an earlier version of the seminar from which only fragments of a transcript remain. Strauss focused his seminar on the lectures collected in The Philosophy of History, which he considered more accessible than Hegel’s written works. In his own lectures on Hegel, Strauss continues his project of demonstrating how modern philosophers related to ancient thought and explores the development and weaknesses of modern political theory. Strauss is especially concerned with the relationship in Hegel between empirical history and his philosophy of history, and he argues for the primacy of religion in Hegel’s understanding of history and society. In addition to a relatively complete transcript, Leo Strauss on Hegel also includes annotations, which bring context and clarity to the text.
Leo Strauss is widely recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of Maimonides. His studies of the medieval Jewish philosopher led to his rediscovery of esotericism and deepened his sense that the tension between reason and revelation was central to modern political thought. His writings throughout the twentieth century were chiefly responsible for restoring Maimonides as a philosophical thinker of the first rank. Yet, to appreciate the extent of Strauss’s contribution to the scholarship on Maimonides, one has traditionally had to seek out essays he published separately spanning almost fifty years.
With Leo Strauss on Maimonides, Kenneth Hart Green presents for the first time a comprehensive, annotated collection of Strauss’s writings on Maimonides, comprising sixteen essays, three of which appear in English for the first time. Green has also provided careful translations of materials that had originally been quoted in Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, German, and French; written an informative introduction highlighting the original contributions found in each essay; and brought references to out-of-print editions fully up to date. The result will become the standard edition of Strauss’s writings on Maimonides.
Moses Mendelssohn (1729–86) was the leading Jewish thinker of the German Enlightenment and the founder of modern Jewish philosophy. His writings, especially his attempt during the Pantheism Controversy to defend the philosophical legacies of Spinoza and Leibniz against F. H. Jacobi’s philosophy of faith, captured the attention of a young Leo Strauss and played a critical role in the development of his thought on one of the fundamental themes of his life’s work: the conflicting demands of reason and revelation.
Leo Strauss on Moses Mendelssohn is a superbly annotated translation of ten introductions written by Strauss to a multi-volume critical edition of Mendelssohn’s work. Commissioned in Weimar Germany in the 1920s, the project was suppressed and nearly destroyed during Nazi rule and was not revived until the 1960s. In addition to Strauss’s introductions, Martin D. Yaffe has translated Strauss’s editorial remarks on each of the passages he annotates in Mendelssohn’s texts and brings those together with the introductions themselves. Yaffe has also contributed an extensive interpretive essay that both analyzes the introductions on their own terms and discusses what Strauss writes elsewhere about the broader themes broached in his Mendelssohn studies.
Strauss’s critique of Mendelssohn represents one of the largest bodies of work by the young Strauss on a single thinker to be made available in English. It illuminates not only a formerly obscure phase in the emergence of his thought but also a critical moment in the history of the German Enlightenment.
Although Leo Strauss published little on Nietzsche, his lectures and correspondence demonstrate a deep critical engagement with Nietzsche’s thought. One of the richest contributions is a seminar on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, taught in 1959 during Strauss’s tenure at the University of Chicago. In the lectures, Strauss draws important parallels between Nietzsche’s most important project and his own ongoing efforts to restore classical political philosophy.
With Leo Strauss on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” eminent Strauss scholar Richard L. Velkley presents Strauss’s lectures on Zarathustra with superb annotations that bring context and clarity to the critical role played by Nietzsche in shaping Strauss’s thought. In addition to the broad relationship between Nietzsche and political philosophy, Strauss adeptly guides readers through Heidegger’s confrontations with Nietzsche, laying out Heidegger’s critique of Nietzsche’s “will to power” while also showing how Heidegger can be read as a foil for his own reading of Nietzsche. The lectures also shed light on the relationship between Heidegger and Strauss, as both philosophers saw Nietzsche as a central figure for understanding the crisis of philosophy and Western civilization.
Strauss’s reading of Nietzsche is one of the important—yet little appreciated—philosophical inquiries of the past century, both an original interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought and a deep engagement with the core problems that modernity posed for political philosophy. It will be welcomed by anyone interested in the work of either philosopher.
The first major piece of unpublished work by Leo Strauss to appear in more than thirty years, this volume offers the public the unprecedented experience of encountering this renowned scholar as his students did. Given as a course in autumn 1959 under the title "Plato's Political Philosophy," these provocative lectures—until now, never published, but instead passed down from one generation of students to the next—show Strauss at his subtle and insightful best.
Leo Strauss is known primarily for reviving classical political philosophy through careful analyses of works by ancient thinkers. As with his published writings, Strauss’s seminars devoted to specific philosophers were notoriously dense, accessible only to graduate students and scholars with a good command of the subject. In 1965, however, Strauss offered an introductory course on political philosophy at the University of Chicago. Using a conversational style, he sought to make political philosophy, as well as his own ideas and methods, understandable to those with little background on the subject.
Leo Strauss on Political Philosophy brings together the lectures that comprise Strauss’s “Introduction to Political Philosophy.” Strauss begins by emphasizing the importance of political philosophy in determining the common good of society and critically examining the two most powerful contemporary challenges to the possibility of using political theory to learn about and develop the best political order: positivism and historicism. In seeking the common good, classical political philosophers like Plato and Aristotle did not distinguish between political philosophy and political science. Today, however, political philosophy must contend with the contemporary belief that it is impossible to know what the good society really is. Strauss emphasizes the need to study the history of political philosophy to see whether the changes in the understanding of nature and conceptions of justice that gradually led people to believe that it is not possible to determine what the best political society is are either necessary or valid. In doing so, he ranges across the entire history of political philosophy, providing a valuable, thematically coherent foundation, including explications of many canonical thinkers, such as Auguste Comte and Immanuel Kant, about whom Strauss did not write extensively in his published writings.
Leo Strauss’s What Is Political Philosophy? addresses almost every major theme in his life’s work and is often viewed as a defense of his overall philosophic approach. Yet precisely because the book is so foundational, if we want to understand Strauss’s notoriously careful and complex thinking in these essays, we must also consider them just as Strauss treated philosophers of the past: on their own terms.
Each of the contributors in this collection focuses on a single chapter from What Is Political Philosophy? in an effort to shed light on both Strauss’s thoughts about the history of philosophy and the major issues about which he wrote. Included are treatments of Strauss’s esoteric method of reading, his critique of behavioral political science, and his views on classical political philosophy. Key thinkers whose work Strauss responded to are also analyzed in depth: Plato, Al-Farabi, Maimonides, Hobbes, and Locke, as well as twentieth-century figures such as Eric Voegelin, Alexandre Kojève, and Kurt Riezler. Written by scholars well-known for their insight and expertise on Strauss’s thought, the essays in this volume apply to Strauss the same meticulous approach he developed in reading others.
The first book-length treatment on a single book by Strauss, Leo Strauss’s Defense of the Philosophic Life will serve as an invaluable companion to those seeking a helpful introduction or delving deeper into the major themes and ideas of this controversial thinker.
Revered and reviled, Leo Strauss has left a rich legacy of work that continues to spark discussion and controversy. This volume of essays ranges over critical themes that define Strauss's thought: the tension between reason and revelation in the Western tradition, the philsophical roots of liberal democracy, and especially the conflicting yet complementary relationship between ancient and modern liberalism. For those seeking to become acquainted with this provocative thinker, one need look no further.
Natural Right and History
Leo Strauss University of Chicago Press, 1965 Library of Congress K460.S77 1965 | Dewey Decimal 323.401
In this classic work, Leo Strauss examines the problem of natural right and argues that there is a firm foundation in reality for the distinction between right and wrong in ethics and politics. On the centenary of Strauss's birth, and the fiftieth anniversary of the Walgreen Lectures which spawned the work, Natural Right and History remains as controversial and essential as ever.
"Strauss . . . makes a significant contribution towards an understanding of the intellectual crisis in which we find ourselves . . . [and] brings to his task an admirable scholarship and a brilliant, incisive mind."—John H. Hallowell, American Political Science Review
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Political Science at the University of Chicago.
Leo Strauss University of Chicago Press, 2000 Library of Congress PA4494.H6S8 2000 | Dewey Decimal 321.9
On Tyranny is Leo Strauss's classic reading of Xenophon's dialogue, Hiero or Tyrannicus, in which the tyrant Hiero and the poet Simonides discuss the advantages and disadvantages of exercising tyranny. This edition includes a translation of the dialogue, a critique of the commentary by the French philosopher Alexandre Kojève, Strauss's restatement of his position in light of Kojève's comments, and finally, the complete Strauss-Kojève correspondence.
"Through [Strauss's] interpretation Xenophon appears to us as no longer the somewhat dull and flat author we know, but as a brilliant and subtle writer, an original and profound thinker. What is more, in interpreting this forgotten dialogue, Strauss lays bare great moral and political problems that are still ours." —Alexandre Kojève, Critique
"On Tyranny is a complex and stimulating book with its 'parallel dialogue' made all the more striking since both participants take such unusual, highly provocative positions, and so force readers to face substantial problems in what are often wholly unfamiliar, even shocking ways." —Robert Pippin, History and Theory
"Every political scientist who tries to disentangle himself from the contemporary confusion over the problems of tyranny will be much indebted to this study and inevitably use it as a starting point."—Eric Voegelin, The Review of Politics
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.
On Tyranny is Leo Strauss’s classic reading of Xenophon’s dialogue Hiero, or Tyrannicus, in which the tyrant Hiero and the poet Simonides discuss the advantages and disadvantages of exercising tyranny. Included are a translation of the dialogue from its original Greek, a critique of Strauss’s commentary by the French philosopher Alexandre Kojève, and the complete correspondence between the two.
This revised and expanded edition introduces important corrections throughout and expands Strauss’s restatement of his position in light of Kojève’s commentary to bring it into conformity with the text as it was originally published in France.
The essays collected in Persecution and the Art of Writing all deal with one problem—the relation between philosophy and politics. Here, Strauss sets forth the thesis that many philosophers, especially political philosophers, have reacted to the threat of persecution by disguising their most controversial and heterodox ideas.
Heinrich Meier’s guiding insight in Political Philosophy and the Challenge of Revealed Religion is that philosophy must prove its right and its necessity in the face of the claim to truth and demand obedience of its most powerful opponent, revealed religion. Philosophy must rationally justify and politically defend its free and unreserved questioning, and, in doing so, turns decisively to political philosophy.
In the first of three chapters, Meier determines four intertwined moments constituting the concept of political philosophy as an articulated and internally dynamic whole. The following two chapters develop the concept through the interpretation of two masterpieces of political philosophy that have occupied Meier’s attention for more than thirty years: Leo Strauss’s Thoughts on Machiavelli and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. Meier provides a detailed investigation of Thoughts on Machiavelli, with an appendix containing Strauss’s original manuscript headings for each of his paragraphs. Linking the problem of Socrates (the origin of political philosophy) with the problem of Machiavelli (the beginning of modern political philosophy), while placing between them the political and theological claims opposed to philosophy, Strauss’s most complex and controversial book proves to be, as Meier shows, the most astonishing treatise on the challenge of revealed religion. The final chapter, which offers a new interpretation of the Social Contract, demonstrates that Rousseau’s most famous work can be adequately understood only as a coherent political-philosophic response to theocracy in all its forms.
In this classic analysis, Leo Strauss pinpoints what is original and innovative in the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. He argues that Hobbes's ideas arose not from tradition or science but from his own deep knowledge and experience of human nature. Tracing the development of Hobbes's moral doctrine from his early writings to his major work The Leviathan, Strauss explains contradictions in the body of Hobbes's work and discovers startling connections between Hobbes and the thought of Plato, Thucydides, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, and Hegel.
Interest in Leo Strauss is greater now than at any time since his death, mostly because of the purported link between his thought and the political movement known as neoconservatism. Steven B. Smith, though, surprisingly depicts Strauss not as the high priest of neoconservatism but as a friend of liberal democracy—perhaps the best defender democracy has ever had. Moreover, in Reading Leo Strauss, Smith shows that Strauss’s defense of liberal democracy was closely connected to his skepticism of both the extreme Left and extreme Right.
Smith asserts that this philosophical skepticism defined Strauss’s thought. It was as a skeptic, Smith argues, that Strauss considered the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between reason and revelation—a conflict Strauss dubbed the “theologico-political problem.” Calling this problem “the theme of my investigations,” Strauss asked the same fundamental question throughout his life: what is the relation of the political order to revelation in general and Judaism in particular? Smith organizes his book with this question, first addressing Strauss’s views on religion and then examining his thought on philosophical and political issues.
In his investigation of these philosophical and political issues, Smith assesses Strauss’s attempt to direct the teaching of political science away from the examination of mass behavior and interest group politics and toward the study of the philosophical principles on which politics are based. With his provocative, lucid essays, Smith goes a long way toward establishing a distinctive form of Straussian liberalism.
This concise and accessible introduction to Strauss's thought provides, for wider audience, a bridge to his more complex theoretical work. Editor Pangle has gathered five of Strauss's previously unpublished lectures and five hard-to-find published writings and has arranged them so as to demonstrate the systematic progression of the major themes that underlay Strauss's mature work.
"[These essays] display the incomparable insight and remarkable range of knowledge that set Strauss's works apart from any other twentieth-century philosopher's."—Charles R. Kesler, National Review
Socrates and Aristophanes
Leo Strauss University of Chicago Press, 1996 Library of Congress PA3879.S78 1980 | Dewey Decimal 882.01
In one of his last books, Socrates and Aristophanes, Leo Strauss's examines the confrontation between Socrates and Aristophanes in Aristophanes' comedies. Looking at eleven plays, Strauss shows that this confrontation is essentially one between poetry and philosophy, and that poetry emerges as an autonomous wisdom capable of rivaling philosophy.
"Strauss gives us an impressive addition to his life's work—the recovery of the Great Tradition in political philosophy. The problem the book proposes centers formally upon Socrates. As is typical of Strauss, he raises profound issues with great courage. . . . [He addresses] a problem that has been inherent in Western life ever since [Socrates'] execution: the tension between reason and religion. . . . Thus, we come to Aristophanes, the great comic poet, and his attack on Socrates in the play The Clouds. . . [Strauss] translates it into the basic problem of the relation between poetry and philosophy, and resolves this by an analysis of the function of comedy in the life of the city." —Stanley Parry, National Review
Leo Strauss articulates the conflict between reason and revelation as he explores Spinoza's scientific, comparative, and textual treatment of the Bible. Strauss compares Spinoza's Theologico-political Treatise and the Epistles, showing their relation to critical controversy on religion from Epicurus and Lucretius through Uriel da Costa and Isaac Peyrere to Thomas Hobbes.
Strauss's autobiographical Preface, traces his dilemmas as a young liberal intellectual in Germany during the Weimar Republic, as a scholar in exile, and as a leader of American philosophical thought.
"[For] those interested in Strauss the political philosopher, and also those who doubt whether we have achieved the 'final solution' in respect to either the character of political science or the problem of the relation of religion to the state." —Journal of Politics
"A substantial contribution to the thinking of all those interested in the ageless problems of faith, revelation, and reason." —Kirkus Reviews
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago. His contributions to political science include The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, The City and the Man, What is Political Philosophy?, and Liberalism Ancient and Modern.
One of the outstanding thinkers of our time offers in this book his final words to posterity. Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy was well underway at the time of Leo Strauss's death in 1973. Having chosen the title for the book, he selected the most important writings of his later years and arranged them to clarify the issues in political philosophy that occupied his attention throughout his life.
As his choice of title indicates, the heart of Strauss's work is Platonism—a Platonism that is altogether unorthodox and highly controversial. These essays consider, among others, Heidegger, Husserl, Nietzsche, Marx, Moses Maimonides, Machiavelli, and of course Plato himself to test the Platonic understanding of the conflict between philosophy and political society. Strauss argues that an awesome spritual impoverishment has engulfed modernity because of our dimming awareness of that conflict.
Thomas Pangle's Introduction places the work within the context of the entire Straussian corpus and focuses especially on Strauss's late Socratic writings as a key to his mature thought. For those already familiar with Strauss, Pangle's essay will provoke thought and debate; for beginning readers of Strauss, it provides a fine introduction. A complete bibliography of Strauss's writings if included.
Thoughts on Machiavelli
Leo Strauss University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress JC143.M4S75 1978 | Dewey Decimal 320.1
Leo Strauss argued that the most visible fact about Machiavelli's doctrine is also the most useful one: Machiavelli seems to be a teacher of wickedness. Strauss sought to incorporate this idea in his interpretation without permitting it to overwhelm or exhaust his exegesis of The Prince and the Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy. "We are in sympathy," he writes, "with the simple opinion about Machiavelli [namely, the wickedness of his teaching], not only because it is wholesome, but above all because a failure to take that opinion seriously prevents one from doing justice to what is truly admirable in Machiavelli: the intrepidity of his thought, the grandeur of his vision, and the graceful subtlety of his speech." This critique of the founder of modern political philosophy by this prominent twentieth-century scholar is an essential text for students of both authors.
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.
Is Leo Strauss truly an intellectual forebear of neoconservatism and a powerful force in shaping Bush administration foreign policy? The Truth about Leo Strauss puts this question to rest, revealing for the first time how the popular media came to perpetuate such an oversimplified view of such a complex and wide-ranging philosopher. More important, it corrects our perception of Strauss, providing the best general introduction available to the political thought of this misunderstood figure.
Catherine and Michael Zuckert—both former students of Strauss—guide readers here to a nuanced understanding of how Strauss’s political thought fits into his broader philosophy. Challenging the ideas that Strauss was an inflexible conservative who followed in the footsteps of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt, the Zuckerts contend that Strauss’s signature idea was the need for a return to the ancients. This idea, they show, stemmed from Strauss’s belief that modern thought, with its relativism and nihilism, undermines healthy politics and even the possibility of real philosophy. Identifying this view as one of Strauss’s three core propositions—America is modern, modernity is bad, and America is good—they conclude that Strauss was a sober defender of liberal democracy, aware of both its strengths and its weaknesses.
The Zuckerts finish, appropriately, by examining the varied work of Strauss’s numerous students and followers, revealing the origins—rooted in the tensions within his own thought—oftheir split into opposing camps. Balanced and accessible, The Truth about Leo Strauss is a must-read for anyone who wants to more fully comprehend this enigmatic philosopher and his much-disputed legacy.
"All political action has . . . in itself a directedness towards knowledge of the good: of the good life, or of the good society. For the good society is the complete political good. If this directedness becomes explicit, if men make it their explicit goal to acquire knowledge of the good life and of the good society, political philosophy emerges. . . . The theme of political philosophy is mankind's great objectives, freedom and government or empire—objectives which are capable of lifting all men beyond their poor selves. Political philosophy is that branch of philosophy which is closest to political life, to non-philosophic life, to human life."—From "What Is Political Philosophy?"
What Is Political Philosophy?—a collection of ten essays and lectures and sixteen book reviews written between 1943 and 1957—contains some of Leo Strauss's most famous writings and some of his most explicit statements of the themes that made him famous. The title essay records Strauss's sole extended articulation of the meaning of political philosophy itself. Other essays discuss the relation of political philosophy to history, give an account of the political philosophy of the non-Christian Middle Ages and of classic European modernity, and present his theory of esoteric writing.