Esoteric Philosophy and Ancient Wisdom
Strauss begins with the assumption that there exists an inevitable conflict between philosophy and the political domain, or as Strauss says, ‘the city’. Understanding this conflict is the key to understanding Strauss’s political ideas.
KeywordsPolitical Philosophy Political Idea Political Domain Real City Philosophical Truth
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- 2.Nietzsche, Uses and Abuses of Hitory, trans. Adrian Collins (New York: Library of Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill, 1957), sec. vi, p. 41; cf. OT, p. 24; PAW, p. 159; NRH, p. 33; WIPP, pp. 66, 101. In spite of the extent to which I am inclined to sympathize with this sentiment, admitting that no man can altogether transcend his time is a matter of honesty not historicism. Even Strauss was to some extent a man of his time. Many of his central ideas reflect his German intellectual milieu. For example, he was, like Heidegger, concerned with the idea of Bodenstandigkeit, or rootedness in the soil (see Chapter 8). Like his contemporaries Hannah Arendt and Eric Voegelin, he was enchanted by antiquity and disenchanted by ‘modernity’. Like Arendt he was concerned with immortality rather than eternity; he also shared with her views about politics that they both held in common with Machiavelli (with one difference: Strauss was reluctant to make these views public). The view that Western civilization is in ‘crisis’ is common to many writers after the Second World War. The similarities between Strauss’s ideas and those of Nietzsche and Freud are also striking (see Chapters 3, 4 and 9).Google Scholar
- 4.Ibid., p. 221; ‘Farabi’s Plato’, in Louis Ginsberg: Jubilee Volume (New York: American Academy of Jewish Research, 1954) p. 393; ‘Political Philosophy and the Crisis of Our Time’, in George J. Graham, Jr, and George W. Carey (eds), The Post-Behavioral Era (New York: David McKay, 1972) p. 242.Google Scholar
- The latter is based on two lectures, ‘The Crisis of Our Time’, and ‘The Crisis of Political Philosophy’, published in Howard J. Spaeth (ed.), The Predicament of Modern Politics (Detroit, Mich.: University of Detroit Press, 1964).Google Scholar
- 8.J. S. Mill, On Liberty (New York: Library of Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill, 1956: first published 1859) p. 21.Google Scholar
- 12.PAW, p. 18. Strauss’s interpretation of Socrates relies heavily on Al Farabi and other Islamic philosophers. For example, he follows Al Farabi in maintaining that Plato was an esoteric writer, in denying any relevance to the differences between Plato and Aristotle, and in believing that Plato did not believe in an afterlife, except as a useful myth. He follows Al Razi in maintaining that Socrates underwent an important change or conversion in the course of his life. See SA; cf. Muhammad b. Zakariyya al-Razi, ‘The Philosophic Way of Life’, in Paul Kraus, ‘Raziana I’, Orientalia, vol. 4 (1935) pp. 300–34.Google Scholar
- 53.Harry Jaffa, ‘The Achievement of Leo Strauss’, National Review, vol. 25 (7 December 1973) p. 1355.Google Scholar
- 66.Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, Christianity and Political Philosophy (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978) p. 211.Google Scholar
- 69.Leo Strauss, ‘How to Begin to Study The Guide of the Perplexed’, an introduction to Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, trans. Shlomo Pines (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1963) pp. xi–lvi, reprinted in LAM. Google Scholar
- 71.Joseph J. Carpino, review of Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, Christianity and Political Philosophy, in Interpretation, vol. 8, nos 2 & 3 (May 1980) p. 217.Google Scholar