The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

October 08, 2015

Page 1 of 4
Supplement and Corrections to "The Strauss-Voegelin Correspondence"
Emmanuel Patard

The present paper[1] is meant to complete and revise Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934–1964, translated and edited by Peter Emberley and Barry Cooper (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993). All page numbers below (marked "p. XX") refer to this edition, unless otherwise indicated. The second edition (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2004) includes the correspondence only, with unchanged pagination and text. The translation has been used without changes in the selection from Eric Voegelin's letters to Leo Strauss in Selected Correspondence, 1950–1984, vol. 30, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, ed. Thomas A. Hollweck (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2007), which includes the letters dated January 2, 1950; April 18, 1950; April 22, 1951; June 10, 1953; pp. 41–42, 53–54, 75–83, 166–67.[2]

Additional letters and documents
Faith and Political Philosophy contains the remaining letters between Strauss and Voegelin,[3] except for the following four letters and two sketches not located in the main correspondence files, but which have been filed together with the manuscripts to which they refer, or with other material:[4] a sketch of Strauss's letter dated 24.11.42 (handwritten in German, Leo Strauss Papers, Box 4, Folder 18); Voegelin to Strauss, 21 Dezember 1943 (typed in German, copy, Eric Voegelin Papers, Box 61, Folder 17) and December 22, 1943 (typed in English, copy, loc. cit.); Strauss to Voegelin, December 28, 1943 (typed in English, printed heading of Social Research, loc. cit.); Voegelin to Strauss, April 30, 1947 (typed in English, copy, ibid., Box 62, Folder 19); sketch dated 2. Juni 1951 of Strauss's letter dated 5. Juni 1951 (handwritten in German, Leo Strauss Papers, Box 16, Folder 11). A document attached to Voegelin's letter dated October 11, 1948 (Eric Voegelin Papers, Box 62, Folder 26), as well as a translation of Voegelin's German review of Strauss's On Tyranny (Eric Voegelin Papers, Box 62, Folder 29), have also been displayed. All the footnotes are the editor's work.

3900 Greystone Av., New York City[5]

Dear Dr. Vögelin,

I thank you cordially for the sending of your critique of Cairns' book, which I have read at once with great interest and large agreement. One reads very rarely critics so detailed, thorough and going to the center. And the verve and clarity of the diction make reading a pleasure.

The essay interests me especially because one has to do here in America so to say constantly with the view represented by Cairns. I have often enough considered how one can attest this position in a way which is here understandable. As I believe, you have remarkably solved this problem.

It remains for me though a question which is not solved with the refutation of Cairns etc. Finally this position is only the latest remnant of the science founded by Plato and Aristotle: the ideal of the exact politics in Plato; Aristotle's adhering to the ideal of exactness despite the abandonment of its applicability to human things; the higher ranking of physics, which holds at least unconditionally for Aristotle, vis-à-vis ethics and politics; the opinion holding for the whole tradition until the 19th century "that the question of generality does have a bearing on the legitimacy of (the) status (of a science)" (contrary to p. 561). It is clear to me that the Platonico-Aristotelian concept of science has been decisively modified in the 17th century (however under adherence to the indicated points), and that this modification led to a new problematic in the social science, which the German 19th century seeks to solve with the help of "history" and of the "individualized" method. But that means that Max Weber's still so intelligently interpreted methodology presupposes e.g. the method of the modern science of nature, as it expands it to some extent. Not to say anything about that: that this methodology leads in Max Weber himself at least in a capitulation in view of the [2] "value" problem. I see that you do not considerably modify this Weberian thesis (p. 562)—you refer to the "objectivity" of the problem, which remains maintained in all the "subjectivity" of the answers; but this objectivity itself is not to be presupposed without difficulty: you speak of a "convergence towards standards . . ." I cannot admit this, or else as far as a convergence is to be noticed, it seems to me to result in this eclecticism. To express myself somewhat more concretely: I am not sure "that we can no longer build a science of social order . . . on the anthropologies of Plato or Aristotle" (563). The basis of your thesis is Christianity. The Christian belief? Thus we come to the old question, how far a science can be grounded on faith. The consequences of the fact that the Christian faith has formed Europe? But how far are these consequences viable in the long run, if faith itself loses its power? The great, not enough valued problem of Nietzsche.

21 December 1943

Dr. Leo Strauss
New School for Social Research
66 West 12th Street
New York City

Dear Doctor Strauss:

Early today I have let go off to you the review of Farber's book. It has come about somewhat under pressure, because we close tomorrow for the vacations and the secretary is not at disposal until the New Year. As I consider now the thing more precisely, I noticed that the review has become somewhat longer than you had foreseen. In case you want to abridge, I would propose that you leave aside the whole first paragraph and begin only with the second.[6] In this case, the beginning of the second paragraph should read:

Professor Farber's Foundation of Phenomenology is the third in a series of publications of the International Phenomenological Society. The setting of the book has to be taken into account in its appraisal . . .

On p. 4, 1. 1, I further noticed an accumulation of the word "philosophy." The line should better read:

. . . foundation, fulfilling intentions of earlier thinkers, . . .

With the best wishes for the New Year,


[Eric Voegelin]

December 22, 1943

Dr. Leo Strauss
New School for Social Research
66 West 12th Street
New York, New York

Dear Dr. Strauss,

Enclosed you will find the review of Farber's book. I hope you will get it in time in spite of the inevitable delay in the holiday rush.

With all good wishes from us to you and Mrs. Strauss for the holidays, I am,

Very sincerely yours,

Eric Voegelin


Social Research
An International Quarterly of Political and Social Science
66 West 12 Street, New York City

Edited by the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School of Social Research

December 28, 1943

Professor Eric Voegelin
Department of Government
Louisiana State
College of Arts & Sciences
University Station
Baton Rouge, La.

Dear Dr. Voegelin:

Many thanks for your excellent review of Farber's book. I sincerely hope, in the interest of SOCIAL RESEARCH, that you will continue to contribute reviews to our periodical.

You needn't be concerned about the length. It is perfectly all right as it is. One or two changes are necessary and they will be taken care of here. You will be given an opportunity to see the final version.

With repeated thanks and best wishes for the New Year, I remain,


Leo Strauss

Associate Editor

dictated but not signed by L. S.

April 30, 1947

Dear Dr. Strauss:

Please, find enclosed, at long last, the review of Northrop's Meeting of East and West.[7]

I have to apologize for the long delay. It is due only in part to other work; the principal reason was a strong revulsion against the book. I have it toned down in the review; and I hope the irony is gentle enough so that most people will not even notice it.

With best regards,

Very sincerely yours,

Eric Voegelin

§ 3. Absolute Space and Relativity[8]

    a. Relativity from Copernicus
    b. Galilei's Conflict with the Inquisition
    c. Newton's Assumption of Absolute Space
    d. The Influence of Henry More
    e. Berkeley's Psychological Criticism
    f. The Deadlock
    g. Leibniz
    h. . . . . . .
    i. Science, Power and Magic
    j. The Pathos of Science and the Spiritual Eunuchs

    PS. For printing as an independent article I would suggest the title

    The Origins of Scientism

    If you have alternative suggestions, please let me know.

    Moreover, the MS has been checked by an excellent theoretical physicist, by professor Georg Jaffé; the physical part is critically safe.

    [written with a pencil below:] chapter of Book }

    Leo Strauss,On Tyranny. An Interpretation of Xenophon's Hiero. With a Foreword by Alvin Johnson. Political Science Classics, New York, 1948. XIII and 121 pp. Price?[9]

    The work by Professor Strauss "On Tyranny" has in its main content a careful, detailed analysis of the Xenophontic dialogue "Hiero." Beyond that, especially in the introductory chapter, the author reflects on the problem of tyranny in Antiquity and Modern Age, on the difference between ancient and modern political science, and especially on the relationship between "Hiero" and Machiavelli's "Prince"—the works in which the ancient and modern position to the problem of tyranny are in the closest contact.

    The work is representative for the new methodical orientation of the history of ideas. The author does not hold for his task to establish which contribution the ancient author has provided to the problems, which as such appear in the conventional systematics of the modern political science; for such a version of the historiographical task would presuppose the assumption that our contemporary heading problems are critically supportable and systematically binding. Supportability and bindingness of the modern political theory are however put into question (for reasons into which we could not enter on the occasion of a review); and the study of the classical works of politics has the purpose to come again in contact with the original problematics of political thought. From this restorative task of the study of the history of ideas follows the hermeneutical principle: that the interpreter, in the most scrupulous submission to the state of the text, has brought out the intention of the thought of the author. Only in this way it is possible to go beyond the cliches in thought and to push forward to the experiences from which the problematics of the political thought arises, and for the intellectual accomplishment of which the political terminology has been created.

    Measured by these methodical demands, Professor Strauss's work is a masterpiece of interpretation in history of ideas. The wealth which lies in details in the nature of such a research cannot be spread here. As a whole, the analysis will hardly invalidate the judgment that Xenophon is not a deep thinker; however it shows Xenophon as a psychologist and dramatist of high rank. In the dialogue between Simonides and Hiero, the wise man dominates the situation from the beginning and urges Hiero in the role of the critic of tyranny; he pushes him up to the point where the tyrant sees only suicide as the way out of his humanly intolerable situation; and only then he refers to the possibility of exerting power without being envied or despised. This "exciting" action could have determined Professor Strauss to make precisely the "Hiero" the object of his research. We live today again in an age of tyranny; and again freedom of criticism has become a problem. The book is rich in details on the question of how the wise man can affirm his existence under tyranny, how he can perhaps even act moderately upon the tyrants without losing his life by the attempt in purposeless way.

    The attempt at a comparison between ancient and modern positions on tyranny appears to us only in part successful. The remark on the relation between Xenophon and Machiavelli meets without doubt an essential point; and Professor Strauss's detailed evidence for the recurrence of Xenophontic thought in the "Prince" are a worthwhile contribution to the understanding of Machiavelli. The author does not seem to us however to have enough considered that a series of experiences are dealt with in Machiavelli's image of the prince, which are alien to Antiquity, as above all the idea of the political Paracletes. Joachim's dux, Dante's veltro, Rienzo's tribunitian idea, form the background for the apocalypse of the political redeemer in the concluding chapter of the "Principe." From the political Paracletes of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance to the mass leaders of our time, modern tyranny is tinted by the idea, rooted in Christianity, of the establishing of a final realm immanent to the world. This component of tyranny lacks in the classic-Hellenic period—with perhaps the exception of the idea of the royal ruler in Plato's "Politicus." Here seem to lie the limits of the comparison. A further study of the problem of tyranny would require analyses of the works of the Renaissance, with the same thoroughness accomplished as Strauss's analysis of the "Hiero."


    June 2, 1951

    Dear Mr. Voegelin,

    Thanks cordially for your detailed letter of April 22, to which I can answer only now, at the end of the semester. I congratulate you for the completion of your Walgreen Lectures, to the study of which I look forward with eagerness. It will probably be possible to me on the basis of these lectures to have a real dispute with you.

    You misunderstand me, if you believe that I would not have meant seriously the request take me to task. Without λόγον δοῦναι τε καì δέξασθαι, I at least cannot live.

    You have quite right to infer that a "psychological" interpretation of Revelation i.e. an atheistic one, is doomed to failure. It suffices to remember the example of Heidegger, of whom the interpretation of conscience was the last attempt in this direction to understand the call as call-to-oneself of the Dasein. But one must infer that something happened to man from God. But this event is not necessarily to understand as call or address—this is a possible interpretation—the assumption of this interpretation relies hence on faith and not on knowledge. I go further: it consists of a fundamental difference between God's call itself and the human formulation of this call—what confronts us historically is only the latter (in case one does not assume verbal inspiration). Either the human formulation is radically problematic, then one ends in the desert of Kierkegaard's subjectivism, in which the thought that one is entitled to believe only in God itself is quite thought to the end, and from which Kierkegaard can only save himself thereby that he makes understandable the content of faith, the mystery of incarnation, in a way as nobody has done this before.

Page 1 of 4

Library of Modern Thinkers Logo

By clicking the logo above to shop, every purchase helps to support ISI.

Intercollegiate Studies Institute • 3901 Centerville Rd. • Wilmington, Delaware 19807-1938 •