Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Robert P. Hunt on Leo Strauss

The following in an excerpt from the essay Christianity, Leo Strauss, and the Ancients/Moderns Distinction by Robert P. Hunt:      


Leo Strauss’s effort to rekindle an appreciation of classical political philosophy in the face of the challenges posed to it, and to any serious effort to recover the truth about political things, is to be commended. Strauss’s seeming “moral realist” approach to the study of political life was viewed by many of his contemporaries, influenced as they were by the tenets of value non-cognitivism, positivism, and historicism, as hopelessly naïve. These proponents of a “value-free”political science believed that one could understand the workings of political institutions and the ideologies that supplied justifications for those institutions without reference to some transcendent source of meaning and purpose. As Strauss ably pointed out, however, these “value-free” efforts were doomed to trivialize the study of political things, replacing political philosophy (“a doctrine which claims to be true”) with the history of political philosophy (“a survey of more or less brilliant errors”).1 For Strauss, liberal modernity was incapable of providing sustenance for an experiment in self-government, most especially that experiment explicitly grounded in an acknowledgement of the “truthfulness’” of natural rights claims.2
For Roman Catholics in particular, Strauss’s work—and the work of the scholars who express an intellectual indebtedness to him—is of special importance. It has forced them to reconsider the relationship between the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition and classical political philosophy. It has also forced them to consider the wisdom of any full-throated embrace of liberal modernity, particularly in light of the development of Catholic social and political thought as embodied in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, as Father James V. Schall has noted, Strauss (along with Hannah Arendt and Eric Voegelin) has “forcefully raised the question about the relation of reason and revelation, of modern and classical political philosophy to each other,” thus challenging “the very philosophy upon which the modern state has rested.”3
Central to the Roman Catholic tradition’s quest for a fuller understanding of its own intellectual premises, however, is a need to understand the relationship of the tradition to Strauss in particular and to the reading of intellectual history upon which the Straussian distinction between “ancients” and “moderns” rests. The use of the word distinction here is important, for few Roman Catholics would argue that there is indeed a distinction between a type of philosophical and moral realism that acknowledges the existence of a hierarchy of ends within nature itself—usually associated with the tenets of “classical” or “ancient” philosophy—and a philosophical and moral voluntarism and nominalism that acknowledges no natural teleology and reifies human choice as the highest human good—usually associated with “modern” philosophy. To the extent that the Straussian distinction between “ancients” and “moderns” points Catholics back to this fundamental philosophical “turn,” thereby assisting Roman Catholics to appreciate the consequences of liberal modernity’s rejection of the aforementioned transcendent norms and standards that are not a product of human will, it is helpful. To the extent to which it is hardened into something more than a useful distinction—that is, into a principled dichotomy whereunder the person who employs it seems to be pushed into embracing either classical or modern philosophy, especially as Strauss characterizes the distinction—it might fail to do full justice to the richness and integrity of the Catholic intellectual tradition and that tradition’s reflections upon the nature, purpose, and limits of political life. I will argue that Strauss’s distinction between “ancients” and “moderns” in general and between “classical” and “modern” political philosophy in particular does tend toward a dichotomizing of intellectual history whereunder even an ostensibly Catholic view of political life is, upon even a favorable reading of Strauss’s distinction, more classical than Catholic in its philosophic orientation and political ramifications.4
Ted McAllister has pointed out that “Strauss devoted little space [in his works] to an examination of Christianity,” but that “he often employed a more expansive language” in his analysis of natural right and natural law, “designed to suggest to the uninitiated reader a broad Judeo-Christian tradition when he meant the Jewish heritage simply.”5  McAllister’s reference to “the uninitiated reader” and the inference he draws from it is based at least in part on Strauss’s famous hermeneutic distinction between exoteric and esoteric writing and the need for the philosopher, in the interest of the commonweal, to cloak or disguise his true philosophic intentions. On this reading, “the great quarrel” and tension between Jerusalem (representing revelation-based societal adherence to divine law) and Athens (representing the corrosive character of reason and of true philosophic inquiry) is “the root of Western civilization,” not the transition from Greek particularism to Roman universalism.6 The recovery of the root of western civilization, therefore, requires not merely a return to classical political philosophy as Strauss understands it, but to an awareness of the tension between the conflicting demands of reason and revelation. The effort to dissolve the tension in the interest of revelational norms or philosophic truth is one of the hallmarks of modern philosophy and its proclivity toward political utopianism."

There is a lot said here and much of it is, as TVD would say, the "tall weeds" of scholarship.  I thought it germane to this blog on many levels but particularly since it mentions modern philosophies "proclivity toward utopianism" which I stated in a recent post was the Enlightenment answer to the Christian notion of the "millennial reign of Christ".  This is the much ignored back drop in many discussions on political theory leading up to, and many years after, the founding.  It would seem me that one, the other, or both was at the root of "American Exceptionalism".  In fact, if this book is correct, this concept was in the forefront of the Puritan mind that spoke of a "City on a Hill".  

Anyway, that is what jumped out to me. But, like I said there is a lot here, and I would like to here from others that may have insights.

43 comments:

Pinky said...

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I'm wondering what you mean to be getting at here with this Robert Hunt quote in regards to the Founding. Hunt's expertise is in world religion, right?
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Are you wanting to focus on how the Founding documents seem to be designed for the purpose of guaranteeing freedom of choice for the individual and that Catholicism is opposed to that modern idea?
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What is it that Hunt connotes as "the very philosophy upon which the modern state has rested"? Modernity? Democracy? Liberalism? All three as one?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

King, the link didn't work for me and I don't see trying to discuss your post without reading it.

King of Ireland said...

http://www.catholicsocialscientists.org/CSSR/Current/2009/Hunt%20-Symposium.pdf

King of Ireland said...

I think he is trying to hit on, as Locke would put it, liberty not license idea. In other words, I think he agrees with Strauss that the modern idea of radical individualism and no sense of trancedent right or wrong is dangerous to society.

As we see is his thoughts on Kraynak that I posted earlier I do not think he goes as far as they do in that he does not believe in hierarchy of humans as Kraynak and it seems Strauss did.

In short, I think he is saying that the modern selfishness we see is liberalism run amok. Peek into an public school class that is 100 percent based on Dewey 101 and you will tend to agree with him I would think.

I think these ideas of modern vs. classical and reason and revelation are germane to the founing. Along with what I said about utopia that often gets missed in these discussions.

BUT Phil I was more interested in what others thought. I am not so sure why Utopianism comes up though I think Stauss was against any such ideas.

So what do you think?

Tom Van Dyke said...

This is interesting. John Gray is well-thought of in some circles. I agree with his treatment of Locke.

Pinky said...

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So what do you think?
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As far as Strauss is concerned?
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I don't know. I'm just now beginning to get a handle on him. Maybe he is the deconstructionist par excellence? But, that would make him a post modernist, right?
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I think Hunt puts a focus on intellectualism vs the heart. I have a copy of the Baptist Philadelphia Confession of Faith 1742 which deals with that same point. It seems like a very complicated issue that might give support to the anti-Catholicism that was so prevalent in those days. We recently had Carrol of Carrollton on the docket who was not able to hold any political office during the Colonial era because he was a Catholic even though he was said to be the wealthiest land owner on the continent. Protestant acceptance of Roman Catholics as possible brothers in Christ is only a late twentieth century thing. Other than that, America has exhibited a fairly strong anti-Catholic fervor.
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Pinky said...

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I think Hunt puts a focus on intellectualism vs the heart.
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I suppose that's the focus of reason vs revelation or modernism vs the ancient?
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eli said...

Here's a basic question, King:

What do you think an "awareness of the tension between the conflicting demands of reason and revelation" even means?

It goes without saying that any religious faith -- in the ancient or modern worlds -- is ALWAYS trying to "dissolve the tension in the interest of revelational norms". To the religious mind, there never was any fruitful tension - there are only those who accept the truth, and those who deny it.

So, *I* think Strauss was talking to the philosopher here. The philosopher knows that no one knows the truth, and the philosopher knows that philosophic thinking must be in tension with the religious foundation of "our" civilization. "Our" civilization accepts that our customs and laws are handed down to us from gods or those who knew the gods, but the philosopher knows this is not true.

The "awareness of tension" lies entirely in the philosopher's mind.

If I were Catholic I'd simply rather not be associated with Straussian thinking at all. I'd always feel like a patronized dupe.

But this is my opinion... what do you think?

Tom Van Dyke said...

The reason Strauss' classroom was "full of priests" was for his strong refutation of modernity.

Further, we must remember that Christianity [especially Thomism] lays claim to classical philosophy, "Christianizing" and correcting it. Strauss is helpful in the understanding and arguing the primacy of the "ancients."

For Christianity [or Catholicism, Thomism, whathaveyou] not to make this claim on Aristotle, Cicero, etc. is to abandon the playing field to fideism

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06068b.htm


either Strauss' agnoticism [which on a practical level, is a "functional atheism"], the moderns who are similarly "functionally atheistic," or to the fideism of the more fundamentalist Christians who argue that faith must reject rationality.

Natural law, therefore, is the prime argument against fideism, whether Strauss', the moderns, or the fundamentalists. Therefore all three tend to reject natural law, which argues that both the existence of God and some level of "what is good" can be known through [God-given] reason.

Since Christianity, especially Thomism, subsumed classical philosophy, it stands to reason that these classrooms full of priests would seek to subsume Strauss as well, "correcting" his work via Christianity, about which he wrote little. In fact, Thomism must accept the challenge of Strauss and fideism, or it loses the war, and the moderns win on one side and the fundamentalists win on the other: philosophy becomes a sterile study of materialism and theology becomes no more than a code, an arbitrary law, a roster of arbitrary beliefs.

Pinky said...

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I'm not sure Strauss carried a "strong refutation of modernity". He certainly does take it apart and in detail as much as anyone I've ever read. But, he claims true friends do that.
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As far as I've ever known any Catholics (quite a few including some priests) it seems they've always been far more intellectually inclined than their counterparts of the Protestant persuasion--especially the Fundamentalists.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

...and to bring home the point, Strauss treated revelation as simply arbitrary, and a system of codes; smart, clever and often just, but not genuine wisdom. Therefore theology becomes only a study of revelation, shut off from philosophy and from reason itself in attempting to understand the "real world."

Modernity [especially after Kant] gives the same "fideistic" argument in exiling theology, but since Strauss opposes also modernity, he and Aquinas have a rival in common. Hence, the theistic strategy is to use Strauss against modernity, then in turn "correct" and absorb Strauss and the ancients.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm not sure Strauss carried a "strong refutation of modernity". He certainly does take it apart and in detail as much as anyone I've ever read. But, he claims true friends do that.

As point of clarification, Strauss is a self-described "friend of liberal democracy," but not of modernity itself.

eli said...

Tom, sometimes your comments are dense. (I mean they're hard to unpack, not that they're dumb!!)

If I heard you correctly:

1.) The catholic brand of christianity hangs on to natural law. The protestants, Strauss, and the moderns reject natural law.

2.) The catholics have adopted, and in their minds, corrected classical philosophy.

3.) You state that Strauss helps to understand the "primacy of the ancients". I don't know what you meant there. Did you mean that the catholics actually corrupted (not corrected) classical philosophy?

4.) But then you said that the catholics have to follow the classics, or they'd be giving up the game to their anti-natural law opponents.

5.) So: are you saying that catholic philosophy needs a house cleaning, to restore what it has corrupted (I don't know what that is... I'm just trying to understand you), if it is to claim to be a viable natural law tradition?

King of Ireland said...

"What do you think an "awareness of the tension between the conflicting demands of reason and revelation" even means?"

It looks like Tom was answering this question and if I am reading Tom right I think I agree. The conflict, from the Christian natural law point of view does not have to be there. Stauss says it is because I assume he does not believe revelation is truth. I am not sure though since I am new to this Stauss thing.

But I am going to do some more posts on this paper in hope that we can have a group discussion about what all this may mean.

I think this is at the heart of Jon's argument that the founding is a modern Enlightenment thing. I retort with the fact that one has to ignore a lot of medevil Catholic history do come to that conclusion.

King of Ireland said...

"As point of clarification, Strauss is a self-described "friend of liberal democracy," but not of modernity itself."

Didn't he write a book on the classical type of democratic liberalism? I was wondering how in the heck Fukuyama was promoting liberal democracy if Strauss hated it and he was a Straussian. This clears some things up.


Fukuyama's thesis has fascinated me for years but I think I am just starting to get it. That is in its full context.

King of Ireland said...

Eli,

I am starting to get what Tom is saying here(this has been coming up for a long time here at AC) and it is not what you are hearing. But I do not understand him enough to explain it to you. Hopefully he will respond.

I would also recommend searching this blog for "straussians" because there are many posts under that search where Jon and Tom discuss this. I did it this weekend and it helped.


This is dense stuff. I agree. But interesting as hell.

Pinky said...

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I'm not going to make any outlandish claims about Strauss; but, I'm developing a respect for him and his teachings.
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I'm reading Pangle Drury and Smith all on Strauss.
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Who knows? Maybe I'll learn something.
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I see that some impute Strauss with likes and dislikes and others think he is just a very good scholar.
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Pinky said...

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I'm leaning toward the belief that Strauss was an exceptional scholar who came out of early twentieth century Germany. He had personal relationships with some of the greats.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx for asking Eli. This discussion provided a clarity for this correspondent as well.

To stay out of the tall scholarly/philosophical weeds for the moment and return to religion and the Founding, the argument is simple, and I think well-substantiated by the historical evidence, be it Locke, Hamilton or James Wilson and almost everybody else in the Founding era: the political theology of the Founding was NOT fideism, which consigns reason and faith to separate spheres.

Strauss is fidestic; so is modern philosophy. Protestantism can be, swooping in from the other side, whether via fundamentalism or even a hyper-Lutheranism/Calvinism, like 20th centurians Karl Barth and Francis Schaeffer: faith alone saves, reason and "natural religion" can tell us nothing important. Man needs the Gospel.

But the Protestantism of the Founding era didn't reject "natural religion" [and thereby natural law]; neither did the Scottish Enlightenment component, which unlike the modernity we've grown accustomed to these days, was theistic.

[I argue that what they had in common was Thomism, "scholasticism," but let's leave that for now.]

The Founding political theology was based on a providential God and the existence of a natural law that was a higher law than man's own law, "positive" law, legalism, even constitutionalism. I don't see how that's in dispute; the evidence is clear and plentiful.

Is "natural law" a viable account of reality in the 21st century? That's where we get into the "tall weeds," especially the metaphysics of Aristotelian-Thomism, the idea of "teleology," which modernity rejects and without which natural law is likely not viable.

For the purposes of this blog, I think we need to step back from those tall weeds or we'll never get out of them. The historical point would be that at the Founding, both the Protestant and Enlightenment components were comfortable with natural law and a certainty of Divine Providence, which stand in opposition to the fideism of Strauss, modernity, and the anti-intellectual strains of Christian thought.

[This opens up a number of areas King has been touching on and I've been meaning to research. For instance, both a "reasonable" Christianity [millennialism or otherwise] and modernity can have some belief in human progress, unlike the fatalism of some of the classic philosophers and Strauss himself. Likewise in the former two's rather rosier view of man's nature and a fundamental equality in being able to recognize and be drawn by his nature toward "what is good," unlike classical philosophy's less egalitarian view of the "common" man.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I was wondering how in the heck Fukuyama was promoting liberal democracy if Strauss hated it and he was a Straussian. This clears some things up.

Fukuyama's thesis has fascinated me for years but I think I am just starting to get it. That is in its full context.



Again for clarification, Strauss is "a friend" but was disappointed in the weakness inherent in liberal democracy when push comes to shove. The Weimar Republic permitted the rise of Hitler, and did nothing to defend the Jews even in the 1930s when they started losing their status as equal citizens.

As for Fukayama, he started with Strauss [actually, Allan Bloom] but ended up with

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Koj%C3%A8ve

Alexandre Kojeve, who was the philosophical godfather of the European Union, a One-World type, a Hegelian and quite a "modern."

Strauss and Kojeve were friends, and their correspondence fills the 2nd half of Strauss' "On Tyranny."

Mostly they talk past each other except when discussing the Universal Homogeneous State, which Kojeve worked for and Strauss opposed as the establishment of mediocrity as the ideal and the end of human excellence---when everybody is special, nobody is special.

So au contraire mon frere, Fukayama is no Straussian.

Pinky said...

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I think there is a definite tendency to confuse what it means to be a Straussian with the scholarship of Strauss.
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I am almost certain Leo Strauss would not go along with some who call themselves Straussians or who think they know what Strauss actually believed himself.
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King of Ireland said...

"[This opens up a number of areas King has been touching on and I've been meaning to research. For instance, both a "reasonable" Christianity [millennialism or otherwise] and modernity can have some belief in human progress"

That is the reason I keep hitting on this theme and is key to understanding the founding in my opinion. The book Puritian Hope I keep linking too is a good view of the Calvinist mind on progress. I think where I differ with them is that I do not feel that it takes just "Christians" by God's spirit to make the city on a hill.

I think Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists... all using reason and conscience according to Romans 2 can create just government. I think most of the founders, orthodox and non, would have agreed with me.

That is my take anyway.

King of Ireland said...

"[This opens up a number of areas King has been touching on and I've been meaning to research. For instance, both a "reasonable" Christianity [millennialism or otherwise] and modernity can have some belief in human progress"

That is the reason I keep hitting on this theme and is key to understanding the founding in my opinion. The book Puritian Hope I keep linking too is a good view of the Calvinist mind on progress. I think where I differ with them is that I do not feel that it takes just "Christians" by God's spirit to make the city on a hill.

I think Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists... all using reason and conscience according to Romans 2 can create just government. I think most of the founders, orthodox and non, would have agreed with me.

That is my take anyway.

King of Ireland said...

"Mostly they talk past each other except when discussing the Universal Homogeneous State"

The Lion that will pounce on the unsuspecting lamb?


The European Union is very little different than the Congress of Vienna to me. With that said this fly in the ointment to this homogenous state at the time of the founding was America.

That is why we have to get this story right as we move into a new era.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That was Kojeve's pitch. But that requires a universalization of philosophy, not only resolving all philosophical questions but that every man becomes a philosopher as well, so that mankind is unanimous.

Hyuh.

Oh, and theology will have to go, too. Double hyuh.

Oh, and the flaws and limitations of human nature, which philosophy and everybody becoming philosophers will overcome. Three strikes?

If you recall Locke in "The Reasonableness of Christianity," he said that philosophy could never fill that bill, or at least hadn't to that point.

http://www.piney.com/Lockereasonableness.html

King of Ireland said...

"But that requires a universalization of philosophy, not only resolving all philosophical questions but that every man becomes a philosopher as well, so that mankind is unanimous."

This is a huge difference between being equal and the same. Perhaps a bigger one in equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes.

To make the founding something it was not and sell it as "liberal democracy" is a crime against the truth.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I just want clarity here about Kojeve, and by extension, Fukayama.

"But that requires a universalization of philosophy, not only resolving all philosophical questions but that every man becomes a philosopher as well, so that mankind is unanimous."

That's just what Kojeve argues to Strauss in their correspondence in "On Tyranny." Strauss doesn't say this Universal Homogeneous State can never happen, but he thinks it's the end of genuine wisdom, the end of philosophy, since man can never know the whole of philosophical truth with any certainty. [scientia = knowledge, as opposed to opinion, knowledge of the whole being the unachievable goal that philosophy pursues.]

Sorry for being dense and all, but trying to state this all plainly and compactly in a comments section is quite a bracing challenge. [But a good one, otherwise it all gets lost in the tall weeds.] I'm hoping Pinky is reading along in Drury and Smith and finding that I'm getting this mostly right. Then at last he will love me.


To make the founding something it was not and sell it as "liberal democracy" is a crime against the truth.


That's my own purpose here, to learn to see the Founding through the Founders' eyes and not our 21st century ones. That's good history.

If we decide to pitch the Founding vision for a modernist one, let's just be clear we know what we're doing.

Pinky said...

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This is my third time through Pangle's collection of Strauss's lectures. I'll get it eventually.
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I'm not a scholar; but, I do like to think about the things scholars study.
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Strauss talks about that.
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As I read him I just don't get the sense that he lets his readers know what he thinks about the things he studies. He is an explainer and claims not to be a thinker.
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I get the sense he's above it all being as objective as he can.
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One of the things that seems to be coming out of it is that he is bringing late nineteenth century European thinking into middle twentieth century America.
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Things evolve.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

As I read [Strauss] I just don't get the sense that he lets his readers know what he thinks about the things he studies. He is an explainer and claims not to be a thinker.

And one day you'll get that about me, Pinky, and stop getting so mad at me all the time. Politics, according to Plato, I believe, is the realm of opinion. Opinion is not knowledge, and so the philosopher cannot be a politician, one who tells people what they want to hear; he's gotta call 'em as he sees 'em.

That's why they gave Socrates the hemlock, and out of respect for the preservation of Athenian society, he drank it.

Neither is it important what the philosopher believes personally. He may be wrong, and he knows it, per Socrates---"All I know is that I do not know."

Well, the philosopher knows a few things---scientia---which is why Strauss could be friends with Kojeve and the rather religious Eric Voegelin. They all knew the same things, and spoke the same language.

But I'll give you a hint about Strauss---in "Natural Right and History," even if he might agree more with Edmund Burke's politics, Strauss treats Rousseau with far more understanding and may we say affection. Burke is rather a plodding and unremarkable thinker, Rousseau is a bright albeit flawed light. Strauss admires the excellence of Rousseau first and foremost, as this is the classical view of teleology: not solidity but brilliance. Think Achilles.

In the ancient world, heroes went to heaven, philosophers could go to hell.

[True story.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

One of the things that seems to be coming out of it is that he is bringing late nineteenth century European thinking into middle twentieth century America.
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Things evolve.


That's not Strauss. Man's permanent problems remain permanent, "perennial." There is no such thing as "human progress."

That's "historicism" vs. "ahistoricism." Weimar illustrates to Strauss that no matter what "progress" is made, well, let's go to the philosopher Tom Lehrer here:


Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Lehrer wrote that in 1965. Are you feeling the change yet?

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.

But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand.
You can tolerate him if you try.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

Pinky said...

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One of the things that seems to be coming out of it is that he is bringing late nineteenth century European thinking into middle twentieth century America.
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To clarify.
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My point here was that the intellectual movements involved in Europe during Strauss's early development were, more or less, being ignored at that same time in American studies, existentialism for example. When he began his teaching career in Chicago, he turned a focus on those things here in the states.
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That's all I meant by that statement.
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Pinky said...

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Here's Strauss on thinkers and scholars. He definitely draws a line of distinction between the two.
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"Heidegger made a distinction between philosophers and those for whom philosophy is identical with the history of philosophy. He made a distinction, in other words, between the thinker and the scholar. I know that I am only a scholar. But, I know also that most people who call themselves philosophers are mostly, at best, scholars. The scholar is radically dependent on the work of great thinkers, of men who faced the problems without being overpowered by any authority. The scholar is cautious: methodic, not bold."(My emphasis)
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Pinky said...

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For the record, that quotation was from Strauss's essay, An Introduction to Heideggerian Existentialism.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Heidegger was a Nazi. So much for "philosophers." Clearly reason can be quite unreasonable.

Tom Van Dyke said...

This looks interesting---

Straussophobia: Defending Strauss and the Straussians from Shadia Drury and other accusers by Peter Minowitz.

Book preview, Chapter One:

All Hate Leo Strauss

Pinky said...

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I'm in no position to argue Strauss one way or the other.
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At this point, it seems he brought a great deal of good to academia and to the study of civilization as it is influenced by philosophy. I like reading Strauss.
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As far as Heidegger having been a Nazi, So what?? The majority of Germans probably supported National Socialism in the 1930s. And, Heidegger lived above it all anyway. He is credited as being one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

No, I mean Heidegger was a REAL Nazi, Phil. You could look it up.

It's a problem that disturbs many philosophy types, especially if his Nazism fits with the philosophy of the most brilliant mind of the century, and many argue it does. If true, where does that leave philosophical brilliance? Where does that leave reason?

Pinky said...

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I have read some of what Strauss has to say about Heidegger and his Nazi relationships. Strauss seems very respectful of Heidegger as the greatest thinker of his time.
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I guess I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. Same thing, I read Drury and Smith along with Strauss at the same time.
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But, maybe you have some special knowledge you could share?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm here to share and to learn, not to argue, Phil. Pls do look it up for yourself if you're genuinely interested. I'm being kind to what presents itself as a curious and honest mind. Neither did Heidegger really apologize after the war, BTW, which rather reinforces the argument that his Nazism was tied to his philosophy and not some mere naive "mistake."

Pinky said...

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Strauss credits Heidegger with being the greatest thinker of the present time. He further claims that great thinkers are the important ingredient of scholarly interest. Logic, then, tells us we cannot take Heidegger off the shelf for his membership in the Nazi Party which seems to have been influenced by his professional career.
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I don't know enough about Nazi political theory to make any claims. Anything I've read on it is too biased for any objectivity to be involved. I have heard it said that the winners write history; so, what does that mean as far as the Nazis are concerned? They lost. Who won--did democracy? Why was World War II fought? I remember the war time quite well. There seemed to have been a lot of public relations work going on. All our German neighbors were suspected of having short wave radios in their attics which they used to send secrets to their Nazi masters...
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Whatever. I'm just trying to keep people's minds open, but not empty.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/EE13Aa01.html

Pinky said...

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On keeping minds open, there is a post over at the one best way blog site that begs the question of assisted suicide.
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But, here, in this thread, the question of value regarding anything Mr. Heidegger might have had to say was--more or less--answered by the statement that he was a Nazi during the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler. We might not be able to consider that which Heidegger put on the table.
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But, what would you be if you were a German citizen in 1933 and inundated in existential thinking? I say that you would almost have to be a Nazi. When life has lost all its meaning other than what you put into it as a being (das siende), what meaning do you put in to yours? Seems you would quickly come to the conclusion that Hitler was speaking to you in that Germany should be for the Germans.
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Of course, in retrospect we can see that our culture has brought different values to the surface in our time. But, can we put our self in Heidegger's shoes?
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So, are we, too, relativists after all?
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