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History and Modernity in the Strauss-Krüger Correspondence

  • Richard Velkley
Chapter
Part of the Recovering Political Philosophy book series (REPOPH)

Abstract

In an appreciation written for the 60th birthday of his friend and colleague, Gerhard Krüger, Hans-Georg Gadamer briefly nods toward the importance of another long-lasting philosophic friendship. “That in the famous quarrel of the ancients and the moderns one can be a child of modernity while also taking a reasoned position on the side of the ancients, was an insight that closely tied Krüger to Leo Strauss, whose early Spinoza book strongly influenced him.” (H.-G. Gadamer, Gesammelte Werke, vol. 10 (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1995; henceforth GW), 412–17, reprinting of “Geleitwort,” in Einsichten: Gerhard Krüger zum 60. Geburtstag (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1962), 7–10. An English translation is found at H.-G. Gadamer, Philosophical Apprenticeships, trans. R. Sullivan (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), 61–67) Gadamer recounts the principal factors these young philosophers in 1920s’ Marburg experienced in “coming of age in an atmosphere filled with tension and stamped by strong intellectual models.” (GW, 413) Orthodox theology was being renewed with the criticisms of liberal theology by Karl Barth, Friedrich Gogarten and Rudolf Bultmann; the Marburg Neo-Kantian school, in its final stage after the departure of Hermann Cohen, was turning from traditional idealist readings of Kant toward more “metaphysical” approaches through such scholars as Nicolai Hartmann and Heinz Heimsoeth; and of central importance were the lectures of Martin Heidegger, the former assistant of Edmund Husserl, offering a novel version of phenomenology, which “went back to primordial experiences of existence in such a way as to replace experience as worked upon by science with radical philosophical reflection.” (GW, 413–14) As Strauss commented in his later years, he (together with Jacob Klein, who was also at Marburg) saw that Heidegger “by uprooting and not simply rejecting the tradition of philosophy…made possible for the first time after many centuries – one hesitates to say how many – to see the roots of the tradition as they really are” and thus opened up “the possibility of a genuine return to classical philosophy.” (“An Unspoken Prologue to a Public Lecture at St. John’s College in Honor of Jacob Klein” (1959), in L. Strauss, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought, ed. K. H. Green (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997, henceforth JPCM), 450. Strauss also writes that “nothing affected us as profoundly in the years in which our minds took their lasting directions as the thought of Heidegger.” In the same piece Strauss calls Heidegger, a great philosopher: “Heidegger was the first great German philosopher who was a Catholic by origin and training” (ibid., 450). Also of first importance to this generation was Edmund Husserl’s teaching, which Strauss experienced first-hand, but in a later, retrospective statement, Strauss explains, “in the most simple terms why in my opinion Heidegger won out over Husserl; he radicalized Husserl’s critique of the school of Marburg and turned it against Husserl.” JPCM, 461. The 1956 lecture “Existentialism” asserts that “the only great thinker in our time is Heidegger” and discusses Heidegger’s philosophical advance over Husserl: “It was Heidegger’s critique of Husserl’s phenomenology which became decisive: precisely because that criticism consisted in a radicalization of Husserl’s own question and questioning.” Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 22/3, spring 1995, 304–5. For more discussion on Strauss’s complex critical indebtedness to Heidegger, see the author’s Heidegger, Strauss, and the Premises of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). Careful study precludes any simple view of Strauss as either derivative from Heidegger or as relating only polemically negatively to the older philosopher.)

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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Velkley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

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