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Leo Strauss & Straussian

Straussian Approach & Leo Strauss

Leo Strauss was born on the 20th of September, 1899 in Kirchhain, Hese-Nassau, Germany and died on the 18th of October, 1973 in the United States. He was a famous political philosopher and had classical political philosophy as his specialty. Although born in Germany, Strauss made his name as a philosopher on American soil. In his lifetime, Strauss released fifteen books and was a professor at the University of Chicago.

Leo Strauss’ Early Life and Education

Although born in Germany, Leo Strauss was brought up in accordance with orthodox Jewish practices. The reason for this is his parents, Hugo and Jennie Strauss were of Jewish origin. Although born of Jewish parents and raised according to some Jewish traditions, Leo Strauss claimed his family did not know much about Judaism.

Leo Strauss was educated at the Gymnasium Philoppinum. An institution that had affiliations with the University of Marburg. He enrolled for this institution in 1912 and finished in 1917. After his education at Gymnasium Philloppinum, Strauss took part in the First World War between 1917 and 1918.

After serving in the German army, Leo Strauss enrolled for a doctorate from the University of Hamburg. Apart from obtaining a doctorate from the University of Hamburg, Strauss also took part in classes at the University of Freiburg and the University of Marburg. In the course of his life, Strauss was able to meet some important personalities like Leo Löwenthal, Norbert Elias, Walter Benjamin, ad Hannah Arendt after becoming a part of the German Zionist movement.

Time Spent in the United States

After the time spent getting educated in Germany, Strauss left Germany for England. He, however, was unable to get the right employment in England. Due to this, in 1937, he moved to the United States. He did this with help from Harold Laski. After making it into the United States, Strauss was a Research Fellow in the History department of Columbia University. He then moved on to work in the faculty of political science in The New School. He worked in the faculty of political science for a decade and held several positions while working there. Six years after living in the United States, Leo Strauss became a citizen of the United States and a professor five years later.

Leo Strauss gave a public speech about Socrates after he met with Gadamer and Löwith in Heidelberg in 1954. While still in the United States, Leo Strauss went to work at Claremont McKenna College in California. He did this for a period of one year before moving on to St. John’s College, Annapolis. At St. John’s College, Strauss was the Scott Buchanan Distinguished Scholar in Residence. A position he held until he died in 1973.

Strauss’ Philosophy

Although a lot of philosophers and politicians of his time could not see any relationship between politics and Philosophy, Strauss regarded philosophy and politics as being related. According to Strauss, the trial, as well as the death of Socrates marked the time politics and philosophy became intertwined. While there are lots of important periods in the history of philosophy, Strauss considered the moment Socrates argued that the only way philosophers could study nature was when they considered nature to be the most vital period in the history of philosophy.

While a lot of people regard scholars as great thinkers, Strauss made a striking difference between these two sets of people. He made it known that he was a scholar and a lot of people that considered themselves to be great thinkers were actually just scholars and not great thinkers in any way. According to Strauss, a person can only be called a great thinker if they are able to bring solutions to major challenges. Unlike great thinkers that directly deal with the challenges associated with human existence, scholars only come into play when it is time to weigh the difference in the methodology of various great thinkers.

As a professor, Leo Strauss criticized Max Weber’s epistemology. He also went on to engage Martin Heidegger’s relativity. He did not stop at that. He went on to talk about the evolution of natural rights. He did this by analyzing the thoughts of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. In conclusion, he criticized Edmund Burke and Jean-Jacques. Strauss never came up with philosophies of his own. A lot of his philosophies were linked to some of Heidegger’s works. He made it known that for a contemporary political theory to be formulated, Heidegger’s line of thoughts had to be understood. The implication of this was there had to be a sync between metaphysics, ontology and political thoughts.

Leo Strauss made it known that until Freiderich Nietzsche grasped the principle of historicism, no other philosopher did. Historicisms was basically a school of thought which was based on totally accepting the Hegelian philosophy of history.

Strauss’ Explanation of Esoteric Teaching

For the first time in human existence, there was a call for taking a close look at the difference between exoteric and esoteric teaching. This call was made by Leo Strauss in the late 1930s. To further support his line of thought, Straus released a book titled ‘Persecution and the Art of Writing’. This book was released in 1952 and was an argument that writing esoterically was a way serious writers expressed themselves. He made it known that when writing, serious writers wrote in ways that ensured their writings had multiple meanings. This was achieved with the use of paradox, irony, purposeful contradictions and reverences that lots of people had no way of relating with. While there were lots of reasons why esoteric writing was needed, popular among them was it served as a means of keeping the regime protected from philosophy’s corrosion, as well as keeping philosophers protected from the regime’s retribution. Furthermore, esoteric writings helped to put away the wrong readers and attract the right readers. With direction from his study of Al Farabi and Maimonides, and also looking deeper into Plato’s ‘discussion of writing’, Leo Strauss put up a proposal. This proposal was the right way for philosophical learning to take place was through the process of esoteric writing. He went on to make it known that with esoteric writing, the thoughts of a philosopher do not get displayed superficially. Also, it played a role in making readers have a line of thought that is independent of that of the writer. This ultimately led to a provocation of questions in readers. These questions directed the readers towards understanding the issues addressed by an author in their writing.

Strauss further made it known that esoteric writings were of utmost importance before the 19th century as writings by lots of philosophers were known to question traditional wisdom. Due to this, philosophy had to keep itself protected from readers that considered themselves wise, authoritative and guardians of the norm. Since philosophical writings were used to question popularly accepted opinions and also look into principles of morality, it became expedient that philosophers made use of methods that could keep the messages they conveyed hidden to the average person.

While certain people think that Strauss’s argument is one that writers in medieval times had two meanings to their writings, this assumption is wrong. Strauss only argued that writers in medieval times only passed the message that was contained in their writings to those that understood what they felt at heart.

Strauss further revealed that the reason esoteric writing was a norm among philosophers of the medieval period and those that lived before them was philosophers made use of words that were not offensive to the views of people in their days. As this was the only way their writings could be released and not have issues with heresy by those that were regarded as most righteous. These guardians of morality were those that would be very willing to deal with any philosopher that took it upon themselves to reveal truths and lies which the general populace needed to know to be free from the oppression of a select few.

Due to Strauss’s explanation of the difference between esoteric and exoteric knowledge, he has been criticized by lots of people. Popular among them is Shadia Druru. While he has written severally to state the difference between esoteric and exoteric forms of writing and why people made use of esoteric forms of writing, he too has been accused of always writing esoterically.

Strauss and Politics

Strauss made it known that there are flaws with modern social science. This is because of its assumption of fact-value distinction.

Leo Strauss and Carl Schmitt

While lots of scholars and deep thinkers never lived in the same era, Strauss was able to have meetings with two deep thinkers that existed in his days. These thinkers were Alexandre Kojève and Carl Schmitt. After his discussion with Straussian, Carl Schmitt went on to become Nazi Germany’s Chief jurist. Schmitt played an important role in enabling Strauss to get out of Germany. This was possible because he was an important academic in Germany and one of the first people to take a look at Strauss’ work in a positive light. Due to the fact that he saw Strauss’ work in a positive light, he gave it a positive reference. This positive reference that he gave Strauss’ work played an important role in enabling Strauss get the scholarship funding which helped him get out of Germany.

Strauss Teaching on Liberalism and Nihilism

In his teaching, Strauss stressed that liberalism in its most recent form leads to high levels of relativism and finally led to two forms of nihilism.

The first nihilism that it led to was brutal nihilism which was expressed in the regimes that had the Nazi and Bollshevik in charge. He explained that this form of nihilism sought ways to bring an end to all ethics, history, moral standards and traditions and replace them with a system in which mankind is conquered. The second type of nihilism which is known as gentle nihilism is the form of nihilism which is expressed in liberal democracies associated with the western world. Was centered on aimlessness which was value-free and was the type of nihilism that characterized the American society.

It was believed by many people that relativism, nihilism, historicism, and scientism of the 20th century played a major role in the breakdown of philosophy and modern society. Due to this, Leo Strauss looked for ways to discover political processes that were responsible for this occurrence. This was a reason he took it upon himself to get back to classical political philosophy as the beginning of making judgments related to political actions.

How Strauss Interpreted Plato’s Republic

Strauss made it known that in his opinion, The Republic by Plato did not play the role of a ‘blueprint for regime reform”.

Due to the perspective from which he saw Plato’s Republic, Strauss always developed a suspicion for anything that claimed to be an antidote to the challenge associated with politics and philosophy. He shed light of the negative expectations that are associated with making attempts at bringing an end to the debates that existed between traditionalism and rationalism in the political sector. Strauss had a fear that people were making attempts at forcing a world state into existence. He was of the opinion that this move would lead to tyranny. Due to this, he tried to stay away as far as possible from the totalitarianism which existed in is time.

Strauss Relationship with Zionism

 While growing up, Leo Strauss was a part of the group known as the German Zionist youth group. Also in this group were his friends Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem. These two friends that grew up with Strauss always admired him as youths and continued to do so as adults. As a seventeen-year-old, Strauss was a disciple of Vladimir Jabotinsky and was, therefore, a member of political Zionism.

Although he was a Zionist and always had a form of interest in Zionism even after he stopped being an active Zionist, he started to see Zionism as being a source of problems. Also, he stopped Clearly understanding some of its goals.

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