Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Patrick Deneen Misunderstands Allan Bloom

That's the title of my piece at my personal blog.  I post parts of it here because the Straussians have somewhat influenced my studies of the American Founding and religion (though, I consider myself far more cautious than they are in the conclusions they draw regarding secret teachings).  A taste:

[The West Coast Straussians] defend the timeless truths of the natural rights of the Declaration of Independence in an almost fanatical sense and claim to believe in the objective truth of natural rights.  Though, they would note, the "right" kinds of traditions and religion are compatible with DOI's essences.  And it's all compatible with social conservatism.  Bloom and the East Coast Straussians understood a fanatical natural rights ideology leads to social liberalism.  So they sought a balance between the claims of natural rights and the claims of religion, tradition and culture.  They understood that reason and revelation were at base in conflict (and as secret atheists and nihilists didn't believe in the objective claims of either).  But they did NOT see "liberal" citizens as to be liberated from their "prejudices" by a fanatical natural rights ideology.  Rather, they wanted these "gentlemen" to believe devoutly in the basics of their religions' claims to revealed truths AND, as good Americans, in the natural rights of the Declaration of Independence without, I think, truly appreciating the tension between the Truth claims of reason and of revelation.  "Christianity" and "natural rights" are in conflict.  But the "gentlemen" in the military who thought of themselves as "good Christians" and "good Americans" need not really appreciate the two things as incompatible.  After Nietzsche, they believed tension, chaos, conflict, irony could be liberating and value creating and sustaining forces.  They also believed war gave man his utmost meaning.  Hence, you had folks who secretly didn't believe in the objective truths of natural rights/liberal democracy supporting going to war to defend those noble fictions.  I don't want to seem too cynical about them.  The Straussians really do believe liberal democracy and its natural rights claims led to a better life for the masses than illiberal systems.  After Churchill, they thought those who defend liberal democracy need not flatter it.


Joe Winpisinger said...

So West Coast Straussians are social conservatives for the most part?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes. Harry Jaffa is the #1. I'm not a big fan of his work, but Thomas G. West is a god.

"Claremont" = Jaffa & WCS pretty much. Jaffa is way out there on Lincoln, natural law, the Declaration, none of which I think is very much like the real Leo Strauss. [Strauss was not a Thomist!]


Was Leo Strauss Wrong About John Locke? By James R. Stoner, Jr.


And George Anastaplo was a close friend/student of Strauss. I posted his Jaffans natural law attack on Scalia recently. The Jaffans are pretty Thomistic [as am I], although admittedly that's a bit of an oxymoron.


Funny thing is, I became a Straussian Thomist all on my own and ran across these guys much later. So it turned out, I'm not too high on Prof. Jaffa but love Tom West. West takes the apparent contradiction by the balls:

Thomas Aquinas on Natural Law: A Critique of the `Straussian` Critique


Tom Van Dyke said...

Here's some great stuff from blogger Chris navin. A zillion links and a Leo Strauss video!