MARS HILL AUDIO Reprint 10

Richard Sherlock, "The Secret of Straussianism"

(from Modern Age, Summer 2006)

Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the 20th century. In this essay, Richard Sherlock explores the significance of Strauss's methodology, focusing on how he understood the communication of ideas in classical and modern thought about political order. Strauss's deep, insightful readings and profound respect for the writers of seminal works manifested a powerful apologetic for the idea of "classic natural right," even as his intellectual esotericism masked a critical gap in his political philosophy. Read by Ken Myers. 36 minutes

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    “During the 1940s and into the 1950s . . . political philosophy as a disicpline witnessed a revival of an older effort to ground thinking about morals and politics in what is known as natural law. . . .”
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    “What, however, is Straussianism, and why has it become so entrenched yet so controversial in political philosophy? . . .”
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    “Strauss’s rich readings of great philosophers have had wide influence even among those who would not think of themselves as Straussians. . . .”
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    “. . . Strauss read classical philosophical texts with the care of a literary critic . . .”
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    “Strauss also engages in a rich discussion of both classic natural right and its modern cousin, natural rights. . . .”
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    “. . . Strauss simply ignores the fact that the first and most profound opponents of the Nazi regime were churches and theologians like Karl Barth . . .”
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    “. . . to grasp the Straussian rhetorical project at its sharpest, as well as its ultimately empty core, I shall focus on two Straussian books of recent vintage. . . .”
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    “The story that Zuckert does not treat in any detail is the deep religious convictions that lay at the heart of early modernity. . . .”
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    “Like Strauss, Simone Weil . . . was a profound student of the ancients . . .”