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Lyssa
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PostSubject: Leo Strauss Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:16 pm

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"Havers is quite aware that Strauss’s Jewish identity was central to the theory he developed. As summarized by Duchesne,

"[Strauss] wanted a liberal order that would ensure the survival of the Jews, and the best assurance for this was a liberal order that spoke in a neutral and purely philosophical idiom without giving any preference to any religious faith and any historical and ethnic ancestries. He wanted a liberalism that would work to undermine any ancestral or traditionally conservative norms that gave preference to a particular people in the heritage of America’s founding, and thereby may discriminate against Jews. Only in a strictly universal civilization would the Jews feel safe while retaining their identity.""

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:16 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:22 pm

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The spat between Rosen and Strauss is like that between democrats and conservatives respectively; the common paradigm 'the platonic Good' is a shared one, a taken for granted.


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BAI: Can you explain how Leo Strauss and his students read Plato’s dialogues?

ROSEN: Well, firstly, the approach to the Platonic dialogues has changed over the course of history. For example, in Neo-Platonist times, interpreters of the dialogues took the dramatic form very seriously. And they read very complicated views into what would look to, say, the members of the contemporary analytical tradition like extremely trivial and secondary stylistic characteristics. Secondly, there was a tradition of taking seriously the dramatic form of the dialogue. It began in Germany in the 18th century with people like Schleiermacher. And that tradition extends through the 19th century, and you see it in scholars like Friedländer and in philosophical interpreters like Gadamer. And we now know, of course, that Heidegger in his lectures on the Sophist took the details of the dialogue very seriously. So, that has to be said in order for us to understand that the apparent heterodoxy or eccentricity of Leo Strauss’ approach to the Platonic dialogues is such a heterodoxy only with respect to the kind of positivist and analytical approach to Plato. That is true especially, or was true about ten years ago in the Anglo-Saxon world and secondarily, in Scandinavia as well as, to some extent, in Germany. So, the so-called un-orthodoxy, or Strauss’ approach, in taking one’s bearings by the dramatic nature of the dialogue, is a heterodoxy only with respect to the kind of positivist philological approach on the one hand, and the analytical approach on the other. One could say that the analytical approach to Plato is heterodox vis-à-vis the whole tradition in that it ignored the dramatic structure. Final point, within the last ten years, even the analysts have began talking about the dramatic form of the dialogue as though they discovered this. More directly, the Strauss approach is characterized by a fine attention to the dramatic structure, the personae, all the details in the dialogues because they were plays, and also by very close analyses. Now, Strauss’ interpretation has the tendency to give you the impression that Plato had complicated views that are concealed by the exoteric surface, and from penetrating the exoteric surface, one may find the esoteric teaching. That’s actually a slight exaggeration of what Strauss really did. Nevertheless, there is a difference between me and Straussians on this point. Whereas I don’t doubt that one has to interpret the dialogues carefully, I don’t assume that I’m going to find a coherent and a secret teaching hidden underneath the text. The purpose of the text is to stimulate the reader to think, and it does that by being an intricate construction with many implications, some of which are indeterminate in the sense that you can’t be sure of what Plato meant and what Socrates meant, but they are intended to make you, the interpreter, do your thinking for yourself. Now, Strauss wouldn’t disagree, but he and his school tend to give the impression that there is a doctrine, worked-out and concealed beneath the surface. In this generalized view of the Straussian position, the surface teaching is directed towards the many, to people who are not genuine philosophers, that is, they are not the very individuals who can think for themselves. It is meant to be helpful to these people, not harmful. The exoteric teaching so to speak expresses the truth in a manner that is accessible to non-philosophers, or it replaces the dangerous truth with a healthy myth. But the deeper teaching, which can be discerned or perceived only by the genuinely philosophical reader, is concealed underneath that surface. I think that it would be better to emphasize that the dialogue has as its primary function the task of stimulating the reader to think for himself, not to find the teaching worked-out for him.

BAI: You are against the idea that there is some sort of fixed structure of the Platonic dialogues?

ROSEN: That’s right. There is no doubt that there are some other opinions hidden beneath the surface opinions. But how do you know when you come to the end?

BAI: Do you think that Strauss had that kind of fixed picture of the Platonic dialogues?

ROSEN: For Strauss, there were three levels of the text: the surface; the intermediate depth, which I think he did think is worked out; and the third and deepest level, which is a whole series of open or finally unresolvable problems. Strauss tended to emphasize the first and the second. I wouldn’t say he didn’t mention the third, whereas I concentrate on the third.

BAI: Then, what is the basis for the philosopher in the Platonic sense to concern himself with society and other human affairs? I think the background information is this: According to Confucianists, who view themselves as some sort of philosophers, the elite are supposed to be concerned with public affairs. These are inseparable. Then, a specific difficulty for Plato is this: how can his philosophers be concerned with human affairs?

ROSEN: I have to answer this on the basis of my own understanding of Plato. I would say that if the human race is in danger of destruction, and can be rescued only by the philosopher, and the philosopher is asked to rule, then he can’t refuse. That’s simply decency as well as self-interest. Sure, that philosopher has no desire to rule. Aristotle approaches the whole problem from a totally different perspective. Under no circumstances are philosophers involved in politics. Aristotle points out that politics is the domain of practical intelligence. And practical intelligence includes the traditional virtues, which are basically political virtues; so, they are not merely private ethical virtues. Aristotle says that we need a man with ethical virtue to rule. He doesn’t have to be a philosopher at all. That’s a much more sensible approach. But Plato is not intending to be sensible: Plato is making an extreme case; namely, if you want a just city, and you are really going to be consistent about it, and keeping the argument through the end, what price do you have to pay, what steps must you take? One such step is the philosopher-king. Aristotle has no such program; his program is quite different. Let me say this: his conception of politics is quite different from Plato’s, and the way he is dealing with political problem is quite different. Theoretical knowledge is not necessary. Practical knowledge is necessary. That’s a much more relaxed approach to politics. Confucianism, from all I know about it, is much more like Aristotle in this. When Plato talks about philosophers, he means the most perfect human beings. He describes the philosophical nature in the Republic. They are the people with perfect intelligence, wonderful memory, excellent character… the best in every single way. In short, there are no such people, which is another way to show that it’s not possible to have such a city, it’s not a serious political program. One might say, once in a while, you have such a person. Of course Plato wouldn’t do that. He is not talking about turning over the city to a bunch of professors; he is talking about perfect human beings.

BAI: What about contemporary philosophers who are interested in logic, or semantics, or the like…

ROSEN: That for Plato is not philosophy. What does he mean? He means by philosophy the love of wisdom; wisdom, that means totality of life, right? It’s a unity of theory and practice. That’s what he means by a philosopher, the most perfect people. You might want to say: "there are no such people." I am not going to argue against that point right now. But it has nothing to do with making professors-kings. Can you imagine that Plato says that human problems will not be solved until professors are kings and kings are professors?

BAI: If the problem of the elite is one of your primary concerns, and you are not against liberal democracy, how can you reconcile elitism and liberal democracy?

ROSEN: Well, you know, the word "elitism" is so ambiguous today because it’s a political and ideological term. I never use it. If you ask me if I prefer to be governed by intelligent people than by stupid people, my answer is "yes," provided that intelligence includes good character. Is that "elitism"? Then I am an elitist. Only a moron would prefer to be governed by fools. Do I mean that a small number of people are superior to other people in the court of law, or that they should be treated with special deference politically? No, I don’t mean that; of course not. You know I am a liberal democrat in the sense that of all the countries I have seen, America’s about as good as any and better than most. And I never lived in a non-democratic regime. I’ve never lived in a non-democratic country. But I have no desire to do so because it is certainly my conviction that given the circumstances of life today, democracy is the best form of the government that is practically available to us. I would never devote my effort to attempt to establish an aristocracy because it wouldn’t work. I don’t believe in revolutionary transformation of society. I don’t think that one can transform a society into a utopia by a revolution. Of course, if an existing government is tyrannical, it may be necessary to revolt against that regime; this is plain from the example of Hitler. But to transform an imperfect and even decadent regime into a paradise simply by overthrowing the old guard and replacing it with extremely harsh measures designed to transform and purify the existing situation, is, I think, impossible. I think these things have to evolve in such a way that the entire population is involved, not all on the same level, but nevertheless all are involved. So, that’s the first part in my reply to your question. Secondly, universities are not governments. Would you like to be taught by a fool? No, you would like to be taught by the best possible teacher. So, under most circumstances in life, we want people who are competent rather than incompetent; we want people who are of good character rather than people who are of bad character; people who are intelligent rather than people who are stupid. If that’s elitism, then I am an elitist. Is that incompatible with democracy? No, because democracy will not function without competent leaders. These people can come from the humblest political and social backgrounds: they can be peasants.

BAI: Then, what is the proper way to fulfill the political call or task of the superior people?

ROSEN: By teaching. Teaching is a political function.

BAI: Does Strauss hold the same view on this subject?

ROSEN: Yes, I doubt that Strauss has a different view. He was training students. Some of them went into the government, and others are teaching other students. You can only have an effect in that way. Occasionally, I daydream about how nice it would be to be the tyrant of the entire country. But that’s a daydream. People like me are not interested in governing. Under certain extreme circumstances, if power were offered to me, and I was told: "Do it, or we are going to be destroyed," of course I would. But I would resign as quickly as possible.

BAI: But there are some Straussians who are actively involved in real political affairs.

ROSEN: They are mainly political scientists; they are not philosophers. They might think of themselves as philosophers, but they are almost all political scientists, specialists in American politics or constitutional law. They did actually get involved in politics but all of them are advisors; none of them has run for office. They are councilors.

BAI: But do you think that their way of being involved in politics is the proper way…

ROSEN: Not for me, because I am actually a philosopher. They are not. They are clerks, at a very high level. But I don’t want to say that it’s absolutely the case that I forbid philosophers to be engaged in politics. If they want to, let ’em do it. But I think that it’s necessary for philosophers to teach.

BAI: Why should Socrates talk to his inferiors? Why do you teach undergraduates?

ROSEN: Because I want to make sure that I am as smart as I think I am. In other words, only by teaching other people, and making clear to them what I am thinking, do I know that I understand what I am talking about. That’s why I teach.

BAI: Do you think that this is also Socrates’ concern when he is talking to other people?

ROSEN: Yes, don’t forget that Socrates is presented as talking to people in the dialogues to whom in real life he probably never spoke. But forget about the Platonic dialogues, the principle is that we have to talk to people because that’s the only way in which we can find out who we are. If I am staying at home, and just thinking how wonderful I am, or that I know the truth, I may not know it, or I may be crazy. I have to at least have friends to talk to. So, I think that’s very important.

BAI: What are your general criticisms of liberalism?

ROSEN: You know, liberalism means people who are in support of freedom. And I am in favor of freedom, so I have no criticisms of liberalism in that sense of the word. Liberalism in the U.S. today refers to a collection of attitudes, many of which I think are quite silly. For example, liberalism can mean excessive tolerance towards alternative viewpoints, failure to rank-order, the incapacity to distinguish the high and low, the noble and base. I am opposed to that. And I don’t think that’s liberal in the genuine sense of the term. But it is what is called liberalism, right? I am opposed to not holding people responsible for their actions. Does that mean that anyone who steals a loaf of bread should be shot? No, of course not. You have to use your brains. But I am not in favor of excessive permissiveness; I am not in favor of the kind of ostensible objectivity towards politics that destroys patriotism by saying: "Well, no country is better than another" or "We are worse than the others." So, I suppose that I share most of Nietzsche’s criticisms of liberalism. Does that mean that I am a tyrant or monarchist? Of course not. That means that I have a different conception of freedom than what is advocated today.

BAI: Although you make these criticisms of liberal democracy, you are still in favor of it. How so?

ROSEN: Because if we set up an aristocracy, the wrong people would rule. If we instituted an aristocracy, the correct people would not be in charge of things. I prefer a system with much greater chance that my view will be tolerated and respected.

BAI: In other words, philosophers will be tolerated…

ROSEN: That’s right. Philosophers do better in democracies. In tyrannies they can exist only by going underground, by being completely silent. I enjoy talking, so I prefer living in a democracy. Democracy is a terrible regime, but it’s the best available. That’s good enough for me. The last thing I want to have is a cadre of technicians taking care of the country.

BAI: Then, do you suggest any cure for the problems you just mentioned?

ROSEN: No, no. I don’t suggest any cure. What I do suggest is that we all do the best we can, struggle mightily with our problems in as intelligent and decent way as we can. Do I think that we are heading toward the solution? Absolutely not. I mean, history is cyclical, you know, there are just these random movements. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything, you know. Maybe we can make things locally better. But there is no Utopian solution. That’s what Plato is telling us.

BAI: And somehow, you are suggesting here that we have no guarantee that even by our great effort, those bad things in liberal democracy can be improved definitely?

ROSEN: No guarantee, no. Let me put it in this way. There is always a chance that things are going to be improved. Sometime they do improve. For example, I have become professionally well-known. I mean, if I stayed home, and said, "Ah well, no point in doing things," I would have no reputation, and so no opportunity to make an influence on bright people’s minds. So, I have some small effect. I don’t want to exaggerate. I have students.

BAI: But some Straussians seem to have some comprehensive political projects…

ROSEN: I don’t think so. I don’t think that they have more comprehensive projects than Marxists, or Monarchists, or liberal democrats. If you want say that they have projects, you might say that they want a kind of more conservative democracy in the republic, not Plato’s Republic. Straussians who served in the government were generally working for reasonable policies. They were very interested in containing communism. Strauss hates communism, like many Germans. The Nazis used to justify themselves in that way: they had to save the world from communism. Strauss is not a Nazi. But he regarded communism as a much greater danger; you know, Strauss was Jewish, and he hated Nazis, but he regarded communism as the main danger in the last century, and I think that he was in at least one sense correct. I mean that communism came much closer to taking over the world than National Socialism. The Nazis were insane, but Marxists were just fanatical. I mean, the principle of Marxism is very benevolent: everybody will prosper, everybody will be given justice. That’s not what Nazism teaches. So, no wonder communism had a better run for its money. Communism failed because they took Plato literally. So naturally, they had to kill all the people over the age often. That’s where they went wrong.

BAI: What do you think is the future of human society?

ROSEN: I have no idea.

BAI: So, you don’t believe that things…

ROSEN: Get better all the time? Absolutely not. I mean, brain surgery is improving, but not politics. Take a look at the world leaders in this generation, compare them with the leaders of 30 years ago. I even don’t know the name of the man who is taking charge of China now. How can you compare him to Mao? How can you compare whoever is the President of France now to General de Gaulle? How can you compare President Clinton to Roosevelt? How can you compare Tony Blair to Winston Churchill? Now, we need only look back 30 or 40 years or so, in comparison with which you see already the recent decline of world leaders. I think that the West is in a kind of decline, as a matter of fact. I think that China is in decline, I mean, you are turning into America, is that not so? All I know is what I see on television: big businesses, factories, Disneyland, McDonald, making money, everybody is prosperous. Well, in 50 years, there will be no communism here. You don’t have to shoot everybody. You tell all these very brave and wonderful people, who are being shot and being put in prison, "Relax, study nuclear physics. Because in 50 years it’s going to be like New York." Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Those old men who are 90 years old and clinging to power, they may be Marxists. But whatever they are, they will be dead in a few years. Then you are going to have businessmen taking over. And inevitably, they will bring corruption, you know, favoritism… But you want to watch out for it, so that you don’t turn into Indonesia. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.

BAI: Then, even in terms of society, you don’t think there is a guarantee for progress?

ROSEN: No, I can’t really say. I don’t have any apocalyptic views on this matter.

BAI: So, though there is progress in some aspects there is deterioration in others. You wouldn’t say that we can compare progress in brain surgery to deterioration in some other areas.

ROSEN: I wouldn’t say that, although I must say I am very pleased. I just had a surgical procedure two weeks ago. I mean I would’ve been dead horribly if there had been no such procedure and had my problem not been discovered by the appropriate examination. In any case, is that progress? Oh, yes, it is. But it doesn’t improve how I personally live. No, there is no connection.

BAI: So, for you, there is no way to calculate how much we gain, and how much we lose.

ROSEN: I can’t do it. You see certain things are worse, and certain things are better. But in general, no. Things have changed. That’s clear. Some were for the worse. And the dangers in science and technology are bigger just as the advances are bigger. Do you fear being murdered by some nut who may put some poison into the water system? What are you going to do about it? Sit around and worry about it? Or take steps to prevent it from happening?

BAI: Let me conclude by asking you about the Enlightenment.

ROSEN: I am also basically in favor of the Enlightenment. Did you know that? You look surprised. I mean, if the Enlightenment means that we have to try our best to progress scientifically, and morally, and to improve things. Of course I am in favor of it. If it means that more people can live longer, happier, and more comfortable lives, of course I am in favor of it. Do I believe that there is a necessary connection between scientific progress and morality? No, I just told you that. Do I think that the Enlightenment is correct in the very dominant position it gives to mathematics as a paradigm of reason? No, I don’t. Do I believe that the modification of the high standard of virtue of biblical and classical traditions has led to superior morality? No, I don’t believe in that. Do I believe that the Enlightenment is directly responsible for liberalism in the bad sense of the word? Yes, I do believe that. So, I have nuanced positions about the Enlightenment. Then, if you ask what is my final assessment, my final assessment is that we have no choice but to defend the Enlightenment, in a modified form. We should try our best to improve things, and we certainly don’t wish to return to the dark ages, or to authoritarian societies. What would you have me do? Destroy physics? How could we do that? In my essay, "A Modest Proposal to Rethink the Enlightenment," I point out there that it’s impossible to go back. Even if it were desirable. There is no way to overturn the Enlightenment without destroying ourselves completely, we cannot undo the influence of science and technology and civilization. How can we do it? I mean, we’d have to burn all subversive books, and shoot everyone who is capable of rewriting these books. Ultimately, if we couldn’t take any chances, we’d better shoot everybody. Otherwise, somebody will come along, you know, who’d re-invent the wheel. No, I am not a big critic of the Enlightenment. I am a sensible critic of the Enlightenment. Not the only one. It certainly doesn’t follow from this that we should go back to go back to Ancient Greece.

BAI: For me, your position is that we should both warn against some sort of exaggerated ideals of the Enlightenment, such as that by mass education, we can have some sort of Utopia, that kind of ideology, and we should also warn against nihilism or postmodernism.

ROSEN: Yes. I think that nihilism is a consequence of the substitution of science for prudence. Because science is incapable of evaluating anything, including science. People say: "Science is wonderful," but science is incapable of saying "science is wonderful." That’s rhetoric by the scientific standard, and therefore is unreasonable. So, you must not receive the impression that I am one of the reactionary opponents to the Enlightenment. That’s false. I am not that at all. I am a liberal democrat and a man of the people. I understand very, very well that in a way the modern enterprise is nobler than the ancient enterprise because the modern enterprise dares to take the chance of freeing people, and making them comfortable, whereas the Ancients say "No, it’s impossible. We have to pay this penalty. We prefer to have a few cultivated people." So, the modern position is much nobler, it may be impossible, but so what? Isn’t it a principle of the classics that the good is good even if it lasts a short time? So, if we are to destroy ourselves by our attempt to set ourselves free, maybe the period during which we’ve lived free is intrinsically so valuable that it makes up for the shortness. Would you want to live for 5,000 years like the ancient Egyptians, safe from political change but dying of hook-worm at the age of 30, to say nothing of other horrors of daily life? No. Don’t think of me as an enemy of the Enlightenment, please. Think of me as a sane man who therefore sees the dangers and weaknesses of the Enlightenment. There is no necessary connection between being reasonable and being happy. In other words, the illusion is created by a lot of people, including the Straussians, to the effect that the Greeks are all happy, and we moderns are all miserable. That’s nonsense. Plato’s view of human life is not that optimistic. In my book Hermeneutics as Politics, I argued that postmodernism is a kind of logical consequence of Enlightenment. Too much light leads to total darkness. In other words, the Enlightenment leads to the identification of reason with mathematics and physics, which means everything else is irrational, in which case there are no rules and no laws and we can say anything we want to, and that’s what the postmodernists do. Science shows us that reality is matter in motion. Then human life is an illusion, which means that subjectivity is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, and so on and so forth. Yes, in that sense, it’s very clear that exaggerated Enlightenment ironically leads to chaos. I am not in favor of exaggerated Enlightenment. So that has to be factored into my position. It’s a complicated, nuanced position with respect to the Enlightenment. I neither approve nor disapprove of it one hundred percent. I am much too fussy to approve of anything one hundred percent. There are two exaggerations of the Enlightenment: one, the positivist, scientific exaggeration; two, postmodernism, whose representatives don’t think of themselves as Enlightenment people, but they are. It’s just that the light was so bright that they couldn’t see anything.

BAI: What about Strauss’ political philosophy?

ROSEN: You mean his actual political views? I think he was misunderstood in America. I think that he was himself a liberal. He was a liberal democrat. He supported democracy. Winston Churchill was his great hero. He inculcated in his disciples, too, frequently a kind of exaggerated, rhetorical, amateurish, I don’t know how to put it, appreciation for aristocratic societies, a Burkean conservatism, the Greek polis. But basically, Strauss was a moderate, liberal. Just like me. He was just not understood in this country. People think of him as a Fascist, a Racist. It’s false. He was an anti-Communist, anti-Marxist. He is a classical liberal. He would certainly be called a conservative today. I prefer to say that, whatever his political views may have been, what Strauss cared about was philosophy, and he wanted a political society in which philosophy was possible. In a society which is called liberalism today, philosophy is not possible. Either you have machine man, you know, people who are doing nothing but constructing technical artifacts, or you have these postmodernist gasbags. On the other hand, I want to correct myself immediately. Of course philosophy is possible today. I mean things are so chaotic, even I can exist. It’s just that if you look at the establishment, it’s not very good. It’s rather poor. But that’s to be expected, in democracy, you have low standards of taste. Conniving people who desire power are in every society. In our society, the ideologues and sophists are in the public view. They are the same people who make vulgar interpretations of things to be in favor of the fashions of the day. They exist in every country. It’s not surprising that we have them here.

BAI: Are there any general differences between your political philosophy and Strauss’?

ROSEN: I don’t know. Probably. I think I am more liberal than Strauss is. I tend to support the Democratic Party for example, I mean, talking about concrete political things. The Republicans are sometimes right, but the current state of their leadership is very low, very low. For example, I believe in morality, but I think their version of morality is like fundamentalism. Morality as the evangelical interpretation of the Bible. I think their economic thinking is often quite cruel. Fifty years ago, Strauss persuaded me that Communism was a big danger, and that relativism, and subjectivism is a big danger. I still believe that. But on concrete political issues, I am often to the left of Strauss. You can’t equate conservatism with capitalism. Conservatism originally meant that the state controlled everything. The current view that as long as you have free markets everything will be wonderful, is absurd. You must have governmental supervision of pharmaceuticals, toys, safety belts, right? I think that’s crazy. You’ve got to have governmental supervision of things. I’m sure Strauss would agree with that, but I don’t know to what degree. He was a Republican in his day. He supported Nixon. He was not at all critical of Joe MacCarthy. I know that for a fact. I didn’t share Strauss’ views at all. That’s what I meant when I said I was more liberal. I was more to the left than Strauss. Strauss was quite conservative. But he saw his conservatism as true liberalism. It was not that he wanted to institute an aristocracy. He was very concerned about the Communist menace. In general, I am to the left of Strauss, as those words are used today, but not very far. I am much more frank than the Straussians. They would regard me as imprudent and running the risk of corrupting the multitude by talking about difficult questions in public.

2000.


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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:30 pm

Quote :
"As Strauss succinctly puts it, “The Bible is a human book—in this one sentence we can sum up all the presuppositions of Spinoza’s Bible science.”
Although this presupposition warrants the possibility of a scientific approach, it is far from obvious that it has a sufficient scientific foundation itself, Strauss continues. From a religious point of view, to say the least, it is unacceptable. For a believer, the Bible derives its specific authority from its nonhuman, divine origin: its contents were revealed by God himself and subsequently written down by man. This premise, of course, leads to an en- tirely different exegesis. Hence, when Spinoza posits the basic assumption of his scientific hermeneutics, he first has to confront a rival hermeneutics. If he wants to see his interpretation accepted, he is first compelled to subvert the traditional reading of the Bible. In other words, he must successfully refute the rival point of view before he can go on to found biblical science.

Moreover, there is a second argument that shows the priority of the critique of religion over biblical science. This becomes apparent when one looks at the relationship between the Treatise and Spinoza’s other great work, the Ethics. From the central teaching of the Ethics, the impossibility of revelation follows logically. When God is identified with the unchange- able and intelligible order of nature, every supernatural and inscrutable intervention is excluded, such as revelation or creation ex nihilo.26 The only divine laws are the eternal and immutable laws of nature, and God’s activity coincides with the reign of causal necessity, understood as logical necessity. For God to violate his own laws by declaring his will in a mirac- ulous way would amount to a logical contradiction.27 The same holds for man: to act against divine will or natural necessity is impossible. According to Spinoza, the unity of will and understanding of God or nature are oper- ative in everything that is, including human action. Carrying this doctrine of “predestination” to its extreme, he denies the existence of sin.

At this point, however, Spinoza introduces a crucial proviso: he states that unprejudiced reason cannot regard a miracle as a supernatural phenomenon, since it cannot claim to know the limits of the power of nature. From the perspective of unprejudiced reason, what theology calls a miracle is at most a problem that cannot be explained on the basis of current knowledge of nature. In a letter to his friend Henry Oldenburg, Spinoza expresses this condition in a succinct manner:
I venture to ask you whether we petty men possess sufficient knowledge of nature to be able to lay down the limits of its force and power, or to say that a given thing surpasses its power? No one could go so far without arrogance. We may, therefore, without presumption ex- plain miracles as far as possible by natural causes. When we cannot explain them, nor even prove their impossibility, we may well sus- pend our judgment about them and establish religion, as I have said, solely by the wisdom of its doctrines.

By means of this “deferral,” Spinoza’s positive critique deploys a silent but deadly power, Strauss points out. Even in its limited form, the right of reason is the basis for the legitimate expectation of progress in our knowledge of the limits of nature. In the light of this expectation, the expe- rience of miracles—recorded and situated in the past—loses its demonstra- tive power. The fact that in biblical times an event was held inexplicable and thus attributed to divine intervention does not imply that it must remain unexplained. Critical scientific observation and analysis of the event, combined with historical research, may eventually yield a purely natural explanation. Until such an explanation has been found, however, to deduce without further ado the existence of an omnipotent God from the current knowledge of nature is inadmissible. From this perspective, the biblical ac- counts are indeed nothing more than “prejudices of the ancient people,” the fruit of the primitive and associative mode of thinking Spinoza deems characteristic of the Bible as a whole.

As long as the limits of nature are insufficiently known, unprejudiced “positive” reason cannot recognize any phenomenon as a miracle. How- ever, the reverse also holds: all that reason can successfully claim against theology is the postponement of judgment and additional research. As long as no definitive result is available, the possibility remains that the biblical events related as miracles will prove to be miracles after all. Therefore, the positive critique must be buttressed by further investigation into the relia- bility and credibility of biblical miracle stories. Strauss calls this supple- mentary critique “philological-historical,” as it assesses the Bible’s literary and historical consistency and examines biblical authorship.

Strauss asserts: “But what is Spinoza actually proving? In fact, noth- ing more than that it is not humanly possible that Moses wrote the Penta- teuch, and that the text of a book should come down to us through the centuries without any corruption of the text at any single passage.”
This brings us to the positive critique itself. Contrary to Spinoza’s claim, there is no foundational relationship between the metaphysical and the positive critique, Strauss holds. The positive critique, which aims to demonstrate that miracles cannot be known by reason, is based on the recognition that we are ignorant of the power of nature, and that it would be presumptuous to limit this power by referring to divine intervention. This claim, however, differs fundamentally from the more sweeping con- tention of the metaphysical critique that the power of nature is unlimited, from which it follows that divine intervention is impossible.63 Hence, the positive critique can never go as far as the metaphysical critique: it can only submit that miracles cannot be known to scientific reason, not that they are impossible. The positive critique, Strauss argues, “merely proves that mir- acles are not recognizable as such by the truly unbelieving mind which does not openly assume—or surreptitiously smuggle in—an element of faith. Reason devoid of faith, engaged in the pursuit of scientific inquiry, shows itself as immune to miracles.”

But how effective is reason’s declaration of independence against a po- sition that claims to be based on something that precedes all human judg- ment? According to Strauss, the critique based on experience and reason misses its target, not only because positive reason postpones judgment, but also because it fails to do justice to an important principle of revealed reli- gion. The positive spirit is characterized by a “will to immediacy” that aims to stay as close as possible to present experience and that refuses any other guidance. Viewed from this perspective, the tradition of revelation is based on something located in a remote past and hence a prejudice under suspi- cion. Since tradition and presence are mutually exclusive, the former can only throw a misleading veil over the latter. This presupposition, however, ignores the fact that, for a believer, mediation by a tradition is an essential condition for the presence of revelation. From a religious point of view, im- mediately hearing and seeing revelation in a direct confrontation with God is deadly for man.76 Only a prophet with superhuman powers is able to en- dure the tremendum, the terror that attends the presence of God.

Prophetic mediation, which creates a safe distance with regard to the “inhu- man” character of revelation, is the source of tradition’s authority, Strauss argues. By permanently representing revelation, it answers to the “will to mediacy” of the God-fearing believer, whose pious obedience is based on the recognition that the tradition continually reveals and expresses God’s will. This principle of continuous mediation thus allows revelation to be ex- perienced by all believers as a covenant that is continually renewed:
If the will to mediated hearing of revelation is grounded in actual hearing of revelation, then the tradition of revealed religion, and with this the obedience to the tradition and the fidelity to that tradition is grounded in the actual hearing of the present revelation. Then all cri- tique of prejudice, and even more, all critique of the “rigidity” (Starrheit) of the tradition from the point of view of “experience,” cannot touch the seriousness and the depth of the will, grounded in immediate hearing, to mediacy.

In Strauss’s analysis, then, the believer’s “will to mediacy” appears as an equal opponent of the positive spirit’s “will to immediacy.” The consequences of this equality, moreover, do apply not only to revelation, but also to miracles in general. The positive critique, it is true, asserts that miracles are unknowable to unbelieving reason, so that an impartial, scientific determination is impossible.
However, Strauss asks, isn’t the mere intention to ascertain scientifically itself based on a blind and premature dismissal of the specific doubt and expectation that attend the experience of miracles? Even the followers of Baal, for example, did not experience the events on Mount Carmel as scientific observers, but with doubt, expectation, and the readiness to see a miracle that would decide between Jehovah and Baal. It is only because of this disposition that they were able to recognize the miraculous ignition of Elijah’s altar as a sign of the God of Israel and convert. Miracles, Strauss stresses, cannot create faith, but they presuppose a principal readiness to believing in a higher power. ...According to Maimonides, reason can do no more than deduce the greater probability of creation. Hence, it must be assisted by revelation. The latter does not contradict reason, but completes it and transcends its limits.

These falasifa, as they were called in Arabic, attempted to reconcile Greek philosophy and Islam by presenting the prophet Mohammed as a philosopher, seer, statesman, lawgiver, and founder of the perfect state. Maimonides, who was familiar with the work of Alfarabi and who similarly attempted to harmonize philosophy and Ju- daism, adapted this approach by presenting Moses as the perfect legislator.

As Strauss goes on to show, however, the prophetology of the falasifa itself points to an even older source. In the introduction to a treatise entitled On the Parts of the Sciences, Avicenna states that the science dealing with prophecy is a part of the practical sciences, more specifically of political sci- ence.19 The goal of prophecy, he explains, is primarily political, since the prophet’s principal task is to provide political guidance to the community. In the same treatise, he points to the source of this particular view:
Of this, what has to do with kingship is contained in the book [sic] of Plato and of Aristotle on the state, and what has to do with prophecy and the religious law is contained in both of their books on the laws . . . this part of practical philosophy [viz. politics] has as its subject matter the existence of prophecy and the dependence of the human race, for its existence, stability, and propagation, on the religious law.

Moreover, Plato’s work provides justification for the subordinate posi- tion of philosophy under the revealed law, which proved to be an important point of divergence between Maimonides and Aristotle. In the Republic, Socrates forbids the philosophers “what is now permitted,” namely, to remain outside the cave and devote themselves to contemplation in splendid isolation, “and not be willing to go down again among those prisoners or share their labors and honors, whether they be slighter or more serious.”24 Hence, Socrates proposes legislation that compels the philosophers to be concerned for and participate in the life of the political community. Only when they obey these laws and dedicate themselves to the common good can a truly harmo- nious state come into being, as opposed to the existing states that are gov- erned “in a dream.”

According to Strauss, Plato’s Socrates thus subjects philosophy to “the state by means of the harsh commandment of the lawgiver, which considers the order of the whole and not the happiness of the parts. The philosopher is subordinate to the state, subordinate to the law. Philosophy must justify itself before the state, before the law: it is not simply sovereign.”

Nevertheless, Socrates formulates a specific requirement the law has to meet. It can claim the philosopher’s obedience only if it is truly divine, that is, if its ultimate goal is the perfection of the soul, which is tantamount to philosophizing. Thus, in the Laws, the Athenian Stranger names pru- dence and intelligence as the most important among “the divine goods” or- dained by the divine law.

According to the falasifa, the revealed law fulfills this requirement more than any other law. On the one hand, it surpasses the understanding of the philosopher and thus legitimately commands his obedience. On the other hand, it aims above all at the perfection of the soul: both the Torah and the Koran command man to acquire knowledge, the highest form of which is knowledge of God and creation. For the falasifa, this means that the law not only allows but also obliges them to philosophize, since this is the way toward knowledge of God. Thus, it is no coincidence that the prophetology of Maimonides and the falasifa appeals to Plato, Strauss argues. Living, in fact, under the au- thority of a religious law, they had no other choice: “The Platonism of these philosophers is given with their situation, with their standing in fact under the law.” Platonic political philosophy provides them with the means to justify their philosophic activity.

In his autobiographical prefaces, Strauss spells out his critique of cultural Zionism in more detail. As he argues there, cultural Zionism’s al- leged return to Jewish tradition was insincere and bound to fail, since it was based on a profound modification of the Jewish tradition. Inspired by the thought of German Idealist thinkers like G. W. F. Hegel and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, cultural Zionism understood the Jewish tradition as “high culture” (Hochkultur), the product of the Jewish “folk spirit” (Volksgeist). In doing so, however, it departed from the tradition’s self-understanding, which traced the origin of Jewish culture not to a human, but to a divine act. According to the tradition, the people of Israel were distinguished from all other peoples by divine election through receiving the revealed law. As a result, the Jewish people is what it is by dint of something that cannot be reduced to the “folk spirit,” national culture, or national consciousness.

Strauss observes:
And if you take these things with a minimum of respect or seriousness, you must say that they were not meant to be products of the Jewish mind. They were meant to be ultimately “from Heaven” and this is the crux of the matter: Judaism cannot be understood as a culture. . . .The substance is not culture, but divine revelation.

If cultural Zionism wanted to remain consistent in its objections to political Zionism, it had no choice but to transform itself into religious Zionism, Strauss asserts. This, however, implied a profound change in pri- orities: “when religious Zionism understands itself, it is in the first place Jewish faith and only secondarily Zionism.”27 If religion prevails over po- litical concerns, the reconstitution of the Jewish state is no longer exclu- sively nor essentially a matter of human intervention, but it becomes dependent on the coming of the Messiah, who will inaugurate tikkun, the great restoration. Religious

Zionism is based on the conviction that the Jewish Question is an absolute problem, the result of a divine dispensation. From this perspective, the difficulties of the “unreal” life in exile are an in- alienable part of a divine providence unfathomable to man. They are signs that indicate the Jewish people have been elected by the creator to assume the sufferings of the world and to receive and spread ultimate salvation. Since these ordeals are imposed by a superhuman power, they can be ended only by that same power. Every attempt to achieve this goal by merely human means must therefore be rejected as blasphemous and false. According to religious Zionism, the insolubility of the Jewish Question is the core of Jewish identity. The establishment of the state of Israel may seem to be the end, but it is, in fact, a continuation by other means of the galut, a relative solution to what is, in fact, an absolute problem.

From the neoorthodox perspective, Zionists were apostates who had been unable to resist the temptations of modern European culture, and who had abandoned religious faith in divine providence for the sake of a secular trust in progress and human autonomy. In this way, neoorthodoxy argued, Zionism had surrendered Judaism to the power, the discretion and the mutual quarrels of the modern nation states and undermined Jewish resilience. In its view, the failure of assimilation proved that Jews could find salvation only in theocracy, faith, and obedience to the revealed Law. Instead of trying to find a place among the other nations, the Jews ought to remain in exile, since the latter could be truly ended only by the coming of the Messiah. The violence of the goyim or non-Jews had to be endured resignedly, in the knowledge that justice ultimately was on the side of the Jewish people.
Strauss forcefully dismisses these accusations as well as the view under- lying them. In his rejoinder, he charges his opponents with dangerous polit- ical naïveté as well as with intellectual dishonesty. To begin with, he argues that neoorthodoxy’s angry polemic against Zionism hardly contributes to alleviating the predicament of German Jews.

Second, its simplistic presen- tation of the relationship between the Jewish people and the other peoples as a matter of “justice against injustice” constitutes a serious obstacle to reaching a viable political balance of powers. Third, he objects to the fact that, in spite of its antipolitical discourse, neoorthodoxy nevertheless deploys a political strategy that is not devoid of demagoguery: its defense of theocracy mobilizes the fundamental religious premises primarily because of their political utility, not because of their meaning and content.

According to Strauss, religious neoorthodoxy deploys a purely consequentialist argument. It preaches faith and obedience to Mosaic law by systematically emphasizing their salutary consequences, such as national unity, social cohesion, the fulfillment of psychological needs, or the even force of habit. If the law is upheld for these reasons, it argues, faith in the fundamental religious dogmas is wont to follow. For Strauss, this view amounts to an outright reversal of priorities. The only valid reason for obe- dience to the law, he rejoins, is the existence of God and the authority of Mosaic revelation. If the law is to be obeyed, it is to be obeyed because it is the will of God, revealed by him directly and miraculously to Moses, and not because obedience has salutary consequences. By giving precedence to human concerns over God and the Torah, neoorthodoxy forgets “that re- ligion deals first with ‘God’ and not with the human being.” The view that the deeper meaning of the law consists in its “therapeutic” effects nullifies the seriousness of faith, and culminates in rigid dogmatism. Strauss’s dis- missal is particularly scathing: “For the sake of such a ‘deeper’ meaning of the Law one swallows the dogmas whole, unchewed, like pills. One asserts that that without inspiration the Law would lose its binding force, and one forgets that one doesn’t base it on inspiration at all.”

Political Zionism’s appeal to the “will” of the Jewish people ultimately proves to beg the question. Mere normalization, Strauss notes, is not enough: “‘A people like all other peoples’ cannot be the program of self-critical Zionism.” Clearly, this puts him in a very difficult position. On the one hand, the Jewish people cannot survive without politics: the closed world of faith and galut has been definitely and irretrievably destroyed by modern science and modern politics. On the other hand, it cannot survive with pol- itics alone: its legacy continues to emit a claim that is constitutive of Jewish identity and thus cannot be ignored. This claim, however, inevitably points back to religion, which, properly understood, is apolitical and even excludes politics.

According to Strauss, Athens and Jerusalem represent two fundamentally irreconcilable and incompatible views of the right life. According to the first, only the philosophical, theoretical life leads to true human happiness. This view leads to an ambiguous relationship to the theological-political order of the city: philosophy as an activity is transmoral and transpolitical, but the philosopher is a political being subject to the authority of the city and its laws. As a result, the philosopher’s obedience to this authority can only be ambiguous. According to the second view, only the practical, moral life of pious obedience to the divine will leads to felicity.

This view cannot be dismissed forthwith, Strauss stresses. Revelation offers the most profound foundation and the most coherent defense of the superiority of the moral-practical life over the theoretical life as the way to happiness.95 Be- cause of this quality, it is the only worthy opponent of philosophy in its orig- inal meaning. The latter can call revelation into question, but it cannot refute it, for this would presuppose that it has found a definite answer to the question of the right life. Conversely, revelation cannot compel the philoso- pher’s assent with the argument that such assent is of the greatest impor- tance for his salvation: in the philosopher’s view, this would only confirm the importance of raising the question of the right life, and thus demon- strate the necessity of philosophy.

Finite, relative problems can be solved; infinite, absolute problems cannot be solved. In other words, human beings will never create a society which is free of contradictions. From every point of view, it looks as if the Jewish people were the chosen people in the sense, at least, that the Jewish problem is the most manifest symbol of the human problem as a social or political problem." [Janssens, Between Athens and Jerusalem]

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:34 pm

Strauss, Leo wrote:
"The crisis of modernity on which we have been reflecting leads to the suggestion that we should return. But return to what? Obviously, to Western civilization in its pre-modern integrity, to the principles of Western civilization.

Yet, there is a difficulty here, because Western civilization consists of two elements, has two roots, which are in radical disagreement with each other. We may call these elements, as I have done elsewhere, Jerusalem and Athens, or, to speak in non-metaphorical language, the Bible and Greek philosophy.

This radical disagreement today is frequently played down, and this playing down has a certain superficial justification, for the whole history of the West presents itself at first glance as an attempt to harmonize or to synthesize the bible and Greek philosophy. But a closer study shows that what happened and has been happening in the West for many centuries is not a harmonization but an attempt at harmonization.

These attempts at harmonization were doomed to failure for the following reason: each of these two roots of the Western world sets forth one thing as the one thing needful, and the one thing needful proclaimed in the Bible is incompatible, as it is understood in the Bible, with the one thing needful proclaimed by Greek philosophy, as it is understood by Greek philosophy.

To put it very simply and therefore somewhat crudely, the one thing needful according to Greek philosophy is the life of autonomous understanding. The one thing needful as spoken by the bible is the life of obedient love."

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:37 pm

Strauss on What IS the 'Jewish Problem'?  from [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]


Political Zionism:

Quote :
"At the core of this claim to truth, he goes on to explain, is the independent existence of God, which cannot be reduced to mere human culture or human experience: “That religion deals first with ‘God’ and not with the human being, that this conception is the great legacy of
precisely the Jew- ish past—this our ancestors have handed down to us, and this we wish to hold on to honestly and clearly.” By reducing this legacy to mere culture, cultural Zionism proves to be based on modern atheism, in spite of its own claims to the contrary.

In his autobiographical prefaces, Strauss spells out his critique of cultural Zionism in more detail. As he argues there, cultural Zionism’s al- leged return to Jewish tradition was insincere and bound to fail, since it was based on a profound modification of the Jewish tradition. Inspired by the thought of German Idealist thinkers like G. W. F. Hegel and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, cultural Zionism understood the Jewish tradition as “high culture” (Hochkultur), the product of the Jewish “folk spirit” (Volksgeist). In doing so, however, it departed from the tradition’s self-understanding, which traced the origin of Jewish culture not to a human, but to a divine act.
According to the tradition, the people of Israel were distinguished from all other peoples by divine election through receiving the revealed law. As a result, the Jewish people is what it is by dint of something that cannot be reduced to the “folk spirit,” national culture, or national con- sciousness. Strauss observes:
And if you take these things with a minimum of respect or seriousness, you must say that they were not meant to be products of the Jewish
mind. They were meant to be ultimately “from Heaven” and this is the crux of the matter: Judaism cannot be understood as a culture. . .
The substance is not culture, but divine revelation." [Janssens, Bet. Athens and Jerusalem]

vs. Cultural Zionism:

Quote :
"If cultural Zionism wanted to remain consistent in its objections to political Zionism, it had no choice but to transform itself into religious Zionism, Strauss asserts. This, however, implied a profound change in pri- orities: “when religious Zionism understands itself, it is in the first place Jewish faith and only secondarily Zionism.” If religion prevails over po- litical concerns, the reconstitution of the Jewish state is no longer exclu- sively nor essentially a matter of human intervention, but it becomes dependent on the coming of the Messiah, who will inaugurate tikkun, the great restoration. Religious Zionism is based on the conviction that the Jewish Question is an absolute problem, the result of a divine dispensation. From this perspective, the difficulties of the “unreal” life in exile are an inalienable part of a divine providence unfathomable to man. They are signs that indicate the Jewish people have been elected by the creator to assume the sufferings of the world and to receive and spread ultimate salvation. Since these ordeals are imposed by a superhuman power, they can be ended only by that same power. Every attempt to achieve this goal by merely human means must therefore be rejected as blasphemous and false. According to religious Zionism, the insolubility of the Jewish Question is the core of Jewish identity. The establishment of the state of Israel may seem to be the end, but it is, in fact, a continuation by other means of the galut, a relative solution to what is, in fact, an absolute problem."

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:39 pm

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Strauss, Leo wrote:
"Now, in the course of these extremely summary remarks, I have tacitly replaced morality by justice, understanding by justice obedience to the divine law. This notion, the divine law, it seems to me is the common ground between the Bible and Greek philosophy. And here I use a term which is certainly easily translatable into Greek as well as into biblical Hebrew. But I must be more precise.

The common ground between the bible and Greek philosophy is the problem of divine law. They solve that problem in a diametrically opposed manner.
Before I speak of the root of their difference, I would like to illustrate the fundamental antagonism between the bible and philosophy by enumerating some of its consequences. I have indicated the place of justice in both Bible and Greek philosophy. We may take Aristotle’s Ethics as the most perfect or certainly accessible presentation of philosophic ethics.
Now, Aristotle’s Ethics has two foci, not one: one is justice, the other, however, is magnanimity."[The Culture of Jewish Modernity]


Strauss, Leo wrote:
"The Bible and Greek philosophy agree, indeed, as regards the importance of morality or justice, and as to the insufficiency of morality, but they disagree as to what completes morality. According to the Greek philosophers, as already noted, it is understanding or contemplation.

Now, this necessarily tends to weaken the majesty of the moral demands, whereas humility, a sense of guilt, repentance, and faith in divine mercy, which complete morality according to the Bible, necessarily strengthen the majesty of the moral demands."[The Culture ofJewish Modernity]  

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Thu Jul 17, 2014 7:59 am

Strauss wrote:
The crisis of modernity on which we have been reflecting leads to the suggestion that we should return. But return to what? Obviously, to Western civilization in its pre-modern integrity, to the principles of Western civilization.

No re-turn.
Time cannot be reversed.

To re-collect what has been scattered and buried in Modern nihilism.
To re-call and bring it forth out of its hiding.
To re-member and re-establish the integrity of idea(l)s forgotten.

What is aletheia need not posit any seductive argument.

It is already known, though not understood.
It is present, though considered overcome.
It is obvious, though contradicted with human artifices, supported by human vanity and fear.

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:23 am

Quote :
"In this article the young Strauss makes clear his differences with the policies of both liberal assimilationists and Zionists. He deplores especially the “self-destructive” tendencies of assimilationist Jews, with their naïve belief in the liberalizing principles of the French Revolution and their willingness to abandon the traditional grounds of Judaism, namely, the idea of chosenness and faith in the Messiah. For Strauss, the experience of the galut—the history of the Jews during their Diaspora—has had the positive effect of strengthening the traditional faith. “This is the essence of galut,” Strauss writes. “It provides the Jewish people with a maximal possibility of existence by means of a minimum of normality.” The policy of assimilation seeks to reverse the historical relationship of the Jews with their host nations. Its goal could be stated as providing a minimum possibility for existence by ensuring a maximum normality. Strauss considers this policy illusory. It deprives the Jews of “the self-assurance of ghetto life” by promising “the illusionary surrogate of trust in the humanity of civilization.”

As for political Zionism, it merely “continues and heightens the dejudaizing tendency of assimilation.” This de-judaizing tendency is revealed in Zionism’s attribution of the distress of the Jews not to divine punishment for the sins of the fathers, but to “the accumulation of minor political and economic facts.”  And likewise Zionism understands the amelioration of this distress as having nothing to do with the coming of the Messiah, but everything to do with the secular, political struggle of the Jewish people for a homeland. While for tactical reasons Strauss felt closer to the representa- tives of German Zionism than to the representatives of assimilation, he recognized that Zionism too was but another form of assimilation based on the belief that the Jews should become a people no different from any other.

In other words, Zionism offers the Jews only another version of the lib- eral secular state—“a state for a people, for a people without a state.” Nordau’s particular form of Zionism, with its lofty appeal to a politics of honesty, sincerity, and candor, has no other aim than to appeal to “the Jewish heart which is always susceptible to an appeal to innocent suffering and disappointed idealism.” But a Jewish state divorced from traditional Jewish beliefs and practices can be only an empty shell. Consequently, Nordau’s quasi-Hegelian belief that European civilization is moving toward a more rational solution to the Jewish problem is itself evidence of a gross philistinism." [Steven Smith, Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism]

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:24 am


Quote :
"Like his early hero Franz Rosenzweig, Strauss came to regard the problems of Judaism as ultimately beyond history. For both thinkers, the essence of Judaism—the commanding voice of revelation—is, literally, above time and impervious to political solutions. Strauss learned from Rosenzweig that the modern Jew is torn between two competing homelands (Zweistromland), as it were, between faith and reason, law and philosophy, Deutschtum and Judentum. This is why Strauss could regard the foundation of the Jewish state from his lofty vantage point as merely a “modification” of the exile. From the metaphysical or theological point of view it changed nothing. He may have expressed deep admiration and grat- itude for a Jewish state, but he denied to it any deeper redemptive significance. As he put it in a passage cited earlier, the Jews were the people chosen to prove the absence of redemption.

Certain it is that Spinoza cannot legitimately deny the possibility of revelation. But to grant that revelation is possible means to grant that the philosophical account and the philosophic way of life are not necessarily, not evidently, the true account and the right way of life: philosophy, the quest for evident and necessary knowledge, rests itself on an unevident decision, on an act of will, just as faith.

The critique of philosophy contained in the above passage is far- reaching. There is no proposition more central to the Ethics as a whole than the famous Deus sive nature, that the mind can aspire to knowledge of God (= nature) and therefore that there is nothing in nature that is not susceptible to a rational explanation. This is the principle of rational sufficiency. However, philosophy that aspires to provide a rational account of nature, of everything that is, itself rests on an act of will, on an “unevident decision.” Philosophy that attempts to explain everything cannot explain or account for itself. The idea that philosophy or reason rests on a prior act of faith is obviously not damaging to the standpoint of orthodoxy that assumes the choice between good and evil rests on a decision whose origin is in the will. The standpoint of philosophy (or at least of the Ethics) that attempts to make will and choice subordinate to reason and necessity is compromised, perhaps fatally, by this awareness.

In fact Strauss’s peculiar conception of orthodoxy has nothing to do with the black hat Haredi community, but consists of a “Maimonidean” strategy that combines outward fidelity to the community of Israel with a private or “esoteric” commitment to philosophy and the life of free inquiry. To be sure, Strauss did not adopt this position in order to undermine Judaism, but to sustain it as a form of political theology. This dual strategy allows one to maintain respect for, even love of, the tradition as a prophylactic to the alternatives of atheism and assimilation, while denying orthodoxy any truth value. The doctrine of the double truth remains the only way of preserving the viability of Judaism in a post-Nietzschean world that demands intellectual probity at all costs.

Strauss’s response to the Nietzschean demand for probity is an embrace of orthodoxy, but an orthodoxy of a very particular sort. His adoption of a “hyper-Maimonidean style,” as Rémi Brague has observed, has the function of turning the substance of the law into a fiction in the precise legal sense of the term. To be sure, this operation was not peculiar to Maimonides, but was adopted by him from Alfarabi and the Islamic Falasifa and has even carried over into modern forms of civil religion. Strauss himself gave cre- dence to this view in his lecture “Why We Remain Jews,” where he refers to Judaism as a “delusion,” even a “heroic delusion.” “What is a delusion?” he asks:

We also say a “dream.” No nobler dream was ever dreamt. It is surely nobler to be a victim of the most noble dream than to profit from a sordid reality and to wallow in it. Dream is akin to aspiration. And aspiration is a kind of divination of an enigmatic vision. And an enigmatic vision in the emphatic sense is the perception of the ultimate mystery, of the truth of the ultimate mystery.

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Strauss, who took evident pleasure in exposing the hidden atheism of early modern philosophy, cannot in good conscience complain when the same trick is played on him. The statement that Judaism represents a “heroic delusion” is as close as he ever came, I think, to expressing in his writing that orthodoxy is a kind of Platonic noble lie that must be preserved in order to maintain standards of decency and public civility, to say nothing of Jewish pride and self-respect. Gershom Scholem had it exactly right when he wrote to Walter Benjamin about Strauss’s bid for a chair in Jewish thought at the Hebrew University that “only three people at the very most will make use of the freedom to vote for the appointment of an atheist to a teaching position that serves to endorse the philosophy of religion.”

In the final analysis Strauss’s difference with Spinoza is not with what he said, but with how he said it." [Steven Smith, Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism]

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:27 am

Quote :
"Being dominated by the desire, the eros, for knowledge as the one thing needful, or knowing that philosophy is the most pleasant and blessed possession, the philosophers have no leisure for looking down at human affairs, let alone for taking care of them. They believe that while still alive they are already firmly settled far away from their cities in the “Islands of the Blessed.” Hence only compulsion could induce them to take part in public life in the just city, i.e., in the city which regards the proper upbringing of philosophers as its most important task.

From the philosophers’ unwillingness or reluctance to rule, Strauss infers that kallipolis can only come into being through force or necessity. If the philosophers cannot be persuaded, they must be compelled (499b–c, 500d, 539e–540a). But who will do the compelling? It is absurd to believe that the non-philosophers will compel the philosophers to rule. The only alternative seems to be that the philosophers could compel themselves through the force of argument. But what argument could convince the philosopher to abandon philosophy and take on the responsibilities of public life? Strauss denies that any such argument could be compelling. The passage cited above continues:

Having perceived the truly grand, the philosophers regard the human things as paltry. Their very justice—their abstaining from wronging their fellow human beings—flows from contempt for the things for which the non-philosophers hotly contest. They know that the life not dedicated to philosophy and therefore even political life at its best is like life in a cave, so much so that the city can be identified with the Cave.

Rather than demonstrating the union of philosophy and politics, the Republic demonstrates the opposite. The “true reason” that makes kallipolis “extremely improbable” can now be stated: “philosophy and the city tend away from one another in opposite directions.”

Thrasymachus must be rehabilitated because he represents the art of popular persuasion that Socrates appears to lack. The art of Socrates is adequate for ruling a conversation among a group of cultured Athenians before dinner, but as the Apology demonstrates, it is manifestly inadequate for rul- ing a city. Thrasymachus is a rhetorician, and despite (or perhaps because of) his tough talk, he attributes to speech extraordinary powers of persuasion. It is a typical failing of the Sophists that they overstate the power of their art. This is not to say, however, that Thrasymachus is useless. Strauss notes with a certain irony that Homer and Sophocles must be expelled from kallipolis but Thrasymachus is welcomed back in.

Thrasymachus is said to occupy the “central place” among the inter- locutors of the Republic. He and Socrates stand dramatically disconnected from Cephalus and Polemarchus, the father and son, and Adeimantus and Glaucon, the two brothers. Socrates and Thrasymachus are mirror images of each other and as such require one another’s help. By the dialogue’s end Socrates and Thrasymachus have become friends even though Socrates says they had never really been enemies (498c–d). Each is a necessary compo- nent of justice. The way of Socrates is appropriate for dealing with the political elite, the way of Thrasymachus for dealing with the many and the young. Justice, it appears, consists of combining the “way of Socrates” and the “way of Thrasymachus” and thus managing to avoid the fate of Socrates.

Strauss’s view that justice consists of an admixture of persuasion and coercion, freedom and necessity, is intended to dampen the idealist, even revolutionary fervor that the Republic might inspire. The kallipolis, the “city in speech,” represents one side of justice—the yearning for freedom— but abstracts entirely from the context of necessity out of which that yearn- ing arises. Accordingly, the idea that “there will be no rest from ills for the city” until kings become philosophers and philosophers become kings is evidence for Strauss that the best city is “against nature.” The effort to bring kallipolis into being is tantamount to the effort to abolish evil from the human condition. Strauss regards this as a violation or an effort to transform the very premises of human nature. “The proximate premise of [Strauss’s] political thought,” Victor Gourevitch argues, “is that there are ‘evils which are inseparable from the human condition,’ this is to say that there are evils that are, in one sense of the term, natural, and hence cannot be eliminated.”

The argument for the persistence of evil is based in part on the empirical observation that attempts to abolish evil have always had to resort to evil means. It is also based on a passage from Plato’s Theaetetus (176a) in which Socrates argues that we can only know a thing in terms of its opposite, so that we can only understand the good in terms of the persistence of evil. Evil, it seems, is as much a part of human nature as good, and to seek to abolish it is to attempt to transcend human nature itself. The desire to conquer evil, to abolish necessity, while a part of justice, even “the most outstanding” and “practically most important” part, is not the whole of justice. A part of justice is a recognition of the limits of justice.

The desire to conquer nature must necessarily lead to the abolition of the family, private property, and all of those things rooted in eros or the “erotic necessities” of life. The Republic becomes, then, an object lesson in the dangers of efforts at utopian social engineering. By demonstrating what is required in order to conquer necessity, the Republic tries to enhance our awareness of the role of necessity and hence the “essential limits” of politics.

What strikes many readers as perverse, even willfully perverse, is not just Strauss’s conclusion that the coincidence of philosophy and politics is “extremely improbable”—everyone agrees with that. It is rather Strauss’s argument that the union of philosophy and politics was always a non- starter. To force the philosopher to rule is to commit an injustice against him. Kallipolis is said to be impossible because its foundation rests upon an act of injustice. But what entitles Strauss to that conclusion? Where in the text does Plato say that? “The reader who asks where exactly in the text of the Republic Socrates makes this turn will be hard-pressed for an answer,” Ferrari notes. “It is not a turn made in the Republic; it is the turn that makes the Republic.”

Strauss believes that the lack of sufficiently compelling reasons for the philosophers to accept the burden of political office is enough to prove the disjunction of philosophy and politics. But doesn’t Socrates give reasons why the philosopher should accept the responsibilities of public life? In answer to Glaucon’s objection that it would be unjust to force the philoso- pher back into the cave, Socrates replies:

My friend, you have again forgotten . . . that it’s not the concern of law that any one class in the city fare exceptionally well, but it contrives to bring this about for the whole city, harmonizing the citizens by persua- sion and compulsion, making them share with one another the benefit that each class is able to bring to the commonwealth. (519e-20a)

Strauss clearly finds this line of reasoning unpersuasive; or, more accu- rately, he finds it persuasive for helping the war-like Glaucon accept the burdens and responsibilities of political life. Justice entails compulsion or a “mixture of compulsion and persuasion.” In this context, Strauss cites the Introduction to Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals to show that reasons to behave justly toward others do not cease to be compulsory or coercive because they are self-imposed.

Strauss does not raise the issue of compulsion in order to impugn the view of morality as obedience to law, even self-imposed law. He raises the issue rather to illustrate the gap between the citizen’s view of justice as dedication to the common good and the philosopher’s quest for wisdom as the highest aspiration of the human soul. The difference between Kant and Plato is the difference between someone who believes that the highest good is to be found in the moral realm of obligation and duty and someone who believes that only the examined life is worth living. The necessary and inevitable conflict between morality and philosophy is the key to Strauss’s Plato. The very title of Strauss’s book The City and Man is a stand-in for these two most comprehensive alternatives, the moral life and the philosophical life. The Republic as a whole is nothing less than an object lesson in their incommensurability." [Steven Smith, Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism]

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:37 am

This quote can be a defining one...for the present age...

Quote :
The critique of philosophy contained in the above passage is far- reaching. There is no proposition more central to the Ethics as a whole than the famous Deus sive nature, that the mind can aspire to knowledge of God (= nature) and therefore that there is nothing in nature that is not susceptible to a rational explanation.

The arrogance of thinking all can be known, first appearing as a projection outside and then as a declaration that words and numbers suffice.
They mystify demystification, to appear rational.

Today the political has become the only philosophical discipline.
To speak of the world is to drag it through social and psychological contingencies.
Any time you say something troubling the typical ad hom, "what if it were your daughter?" pops-up.

Subjectivity is taken for granted as the cage/cave nobody can, or should, escape from.

Philosophy it taken for granted as an all-inclusive discipline...and so all can participate and have their say.
It must remain politically oriented, the collective always deciding its direction and its honesty.

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:49 am

Satyr wrote:
This quote can be a defining one...for the present age...

Quote :
The critique of philosophy contained in the above passage is far- reaching. There is no proposition more central to the Ethics as a whole than the famous Deus sive nature, that the mind can aspire to knowledge of God (= nature) and therefore that there is nothing in nature that is not susceptible to a rational explanation.

The arrogance of thinking all can be known, first appearing as a projection outside and then as a declaration that words and numbers suffice.
They mystify demystification, to appear rational.

Today the political has become the only philosophical discipline.
To speak of the world is to drag it through social and psychological contingencies.
Any time you say something troubling the typical ad hom, "what if it were your daughter?" pops-up.

Subjectivity is taken for granted as the cage nobody can, or should, escape from.  


Strauss' argument against Spinoza's anti-revelation amounts to 'since nothing can be known, the possibility of god and revelation cannot be ruled out'.
Just to preserve the validity of jewish orthodoxy, Strauss turns the irreconciliability between Athens [philosophy] vs. Jerusalem [revelation/religion] as an artificial necessity; i.e. transcendentalism as supposedly a check on the hubris of philosophical rationalism and a necessary dialectic if one is to build the kallipolis.

i.e., Strauss with his intellectual insincerity forcibly makes, pushes this Jewish question as The defining question of humanity. He centralizez them into history.

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Sat Jan 02, 2016 8:21 am

Leo Strauss wrote:
The key to Sein [Being] is one particular manner of Sein, the Sein of man. Man is project: everyone is what (or rather who) he is by virtue of the experience of his freedom, his choice of a determinate ideal of existence, his project (or his failure to do so). But man is finite: the range of his fundamental choices is limited by his situation which he has not chosen: man is a project which is thrown somewhere (geworfener Entwurf). The leap through which Sein is experienced is primarily the awareness-acceptance of being thrown, of finiteness, the abandonment of every thought of a railing, a support. (Existence must be understood in contradistinction to insistence.) [Quoted from The Problem of Socrates]

Leo Strauss wrote:
[T]he shamed avoid the shameful things in the light of day, whereas the moderate avoid them even in secret. [Quoted from The Spirit of Sparta or The Taste of Xenophon (hereafter SSTX)]

Leo Strauss wrote:
Philosophic life was considered by the classical thinkers as fundamentally different from political life. And as far as political life raised a universal claim, i.e. as far as the city left no room for a private life which was more than economic, philosophic life, which of necessity is private, of necessity became opposed to political life. The incarnation of the political spirit was Sparta: Sparta and philosophy are incompatible. Thus Sparta became, on the one hand, the natural starting point for any ruthless idealization of political life, or for any true utopia: and, on the other hand, it became the natural subject of any ruthless attack on political life, or of any philosophic satire. By satirizing Sparta, the philosophers then did not so much mean Sparta, the actual Sparta of the present or of the past, as the spirit of Sparta or the conviction that man belongs, or ought to belong, entirely to the city. [SSTX]

Leo Strauss wrote:
[B]riefness of expression, brachylogy, was one of the most famous characteristics of the Spartans. Considering that briefness of expression is one of the most ordinary devices for not disclosing the truth, we may assume that the famous brachylogy of the Spartans had something to do with their desire to conceal the shortcomings of their mode of life. Such a desire may be called bashfulness. [SSTX]

Leo Strauss wrote:
[P]olitical life, if taken seriously, meant belief in the gods of the city, and philosophy is the denial of the gods of the city [...] Belief in the gods of the city was apt to be connected with the belief that a god had given the laws of the city. [SSTX]
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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:51 am

Strauss wrote:
"No one of consequence ever doubted that Machiavelli's study of political matters was public spirited. Being a public spirited philosopher, he continued the tradition of political idealism. But he combined the idealistic view of the intrinsic nobility of statesmanship with an anti-idealistic view, if not of the whole, at any rate of the origins of mankind or of civil society.

Machiavelli's admiration for the political practice of classical antiquity and especially of republican Rome is only the reverse side of his rejection of classical political philosophy. He rejected classical political philosophy, and therewith the whole tradition of political philosophy in the full sense of the term, as useless: Classical political philosophy had taken its bearings by how man ought to live; the correct way of answer- ing the question of the right order of society consists in taking one's bearings by how men actually do live. Machiavelli's "realistic" revolt against tradition led to the substitution of patriotism or merely political virtue for human excellence or, more particularly, for moral virtue and the contemplative life. It entailed a deliberate lowering of the ultimate goal. The goal was lowered in order to increase the probability of its attainment. Just as Hobbes later on abandoned the original meaning of wisdom in order to guarantee the actualization of wisdom, Machiavelli abandoned the original meaning of the good society or of the good life. What would happen to those natural inclinations of man or of the human soul whose de- mands simply transcend the lowered goal was of no concern to Machiavelli. He disregarded those inclinations. He limited his horizon in order to get results. And as for the power of chance, Fortuna appeared to him in the shape of a woman who can be forced by the right kind of men: chance can be conquered.

Machiavelli justified his demand for a "realistic" political philosophy by reflections on the foundations of civil society, and this means ultimately by reflections on the whole within which man lives. There is no superhuman, no natural, support for justice. All human things fluctuate too much to permit their subjection to stable principles of justice. Necessity rather than moral purpose determines what is in each case the sen- sible course of action. Therefore, civil society cannot even aspire to be simply just. All legitimacy has its root in il- legitimacy; all social or moral orders have been established with the help of morally questionable means; civil society has its root not in justice but in injustice. The founder of the most renowned of all commonwealths was a fratricide. Justice in any sense is possible only after a social order has been estab- lished; justice in any sense is possible only within a man-made order. Yet the founding of civil society, the supreme case in politics, is imitated, within civil society, in all extreme cases. Machiavelli takes his bearings not so much by how men live as by the extreme case. He believes that the extreme case is more revealing of the roots of civil society and therefore of its true character than is the normal case. The root or the ef- ficient cause takes the place of the end or of the purpose.

It was the difficulty implied in the substitution of merely political virtue for moral virtue or the difficulty implied in Machiavelli's admiration for the lupine policies of republican Rome1 4 that induced Hobbes to attempt the restoration of the moral principles of politics, i.e., of natural law, on the plane of Machiavelli's "realism." In making this attempt he was mindful of the fact that man cannot guarantee the actualiza- tion of the right social order if he does not have certain or ex- act or scientific knowledge of both the right social order and the conditions of its actualization. He attempted, therefore, in the first place a rigorous deduction of the natural or moral law. To "avoid the cavils of the skeptics," natural law had to be made independent of any natural "anticipations" and there- fore of the consensus gentium1 5 The predominant tradition had defined natural law with a view to the end or the perfection of man as a rational and social animal. What Hobbes attempted to do on the basis of Machiavelli's fundamental objection to the Utopian teaching of the tradition, although in opposition to Machiavelli's own solution, was to maintain the idea of natural law but to divorce it from the idea ofman's perfection; only ifnatural law can be deduced from how men actually live, from the most powerful force that actually determines all men, or most men most of the time, can it be effectual or of practical value. The complete basis of natural law must be sought, not in the end of man, but in his beginnings, in the prima naturae or, rather, in the primum naturae. What is most powerful in most men most of the time is not reason but pas- sion. Natural law will not be effectual if its principles are dis- trusted by passion or are not agreeable to passion. Natural law must be deduced from the most powerful of all passions.

But the most powerful of all passions will be a natural fact, and we are not to assume that there is a natural support for justice or for what is human in man. Or is there a passion, or an object of passion, which is in a sense antinatural, which marks the point of indifference between the natural and the nonnatural, which is, as it were, the status evanescendi ofnature and therefore a possible origin for the conquest of nature or for freedom? The most powerful of all passions is the fear of death and, more particularly, the fear of violent death at the hands of others: not nature but "that terrible enemy of nature, death," yet death insofar as man can do something about it, i.e., death insofar as it can be avoided or avenged, supplies the ultimate guidance. Death takes the place of the telos. Or, to preserve the ambiguity of Hobbes's thought, let us say that the fear of violent death expresses most forcefully the most powerful and the most fundamental of all natural desires, the initial desire, the desire for self-preservation.

If, then, natural law must be deduced from the desire for self-preservation, if, in other words, the desire for self-preser- vation is the sole root of all justice and morality, the funda- mental moral fact is not a duty but a right; all duties are derivative from the fundamental and inalienable right of self- preservation. There are, then, no absolute or unconditional duties; duties are binding only to the extent to which their performance does not endanger our self-preservation. Only the right of self-preservation is unconditional or absolute. By na- ture, there exists only a perfect right and no perfect duty. The law ofnature, which formulates man's natural duties, is not a law, properly speaking. Since the fundamental and absolute moral fact is a right and not a duty, the function as well as the limits of civil society must be defined in terms of man's natural right and not in terms of his natural duty. The state has the function, not of producing or promoting a virtuous life, but of safeguarding the natural right of each. And the power of the state finds its absolute limit in that natural right and in no other moral fact.1 9 If we may call liberalism that political doc- trine which regards as the fundamental political fact the rights, as distinguished from the duties, of man and which identifies the function of the state with the protection or the safeguarding of those rights, we must say that the founder of liberalism was Hobbes.

By transplanting natural law on the plane of Machiavelli, Hobbes certainly originated an entirely new type of political doctrine. The premodern natural law doctrines taught the duties of man; if they paid any attention at all to his rights, they conceived of them as essentially derivative from his duties. As has frequently been observed, in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a much greater emphasis was put on rights than ever had been done before. One may speak of a shift of emphasis from natural duties to natural rights. But quantitative changes of this character become in- telligible only when they are seen against the background of a qualitative and fundamental change, not to say that such quantitative changes always become possible only by virtue of a qualitative and fundamental change. The fundamental change from an orientation by natural duties to an orientation by natural rights finds its clearest and most telling expression iri, the teaching of Hobbes, who squarely made an uncondi- tional natural right the basis of all natural duties, the duties

I being therefore only conditional. He is the classic and the founder of the specifically modern natural law doctrine. The profound change under consideration can be traced directly to Hobbes's concern with a human guaranty for the actualization of the right social order or to his "realistic" intention. The actualization of a social order that is defined in terms of man's duties is necessarily uncertain and even improbable; such an order may well appear to be Utopian. Quite different is the case of a social order that is defined in terms of the rights of man. For the rights in question express, and are meant to express, something that everyone actually desires anyway; they hallow everyone's self-interest as everyone sees it or can easily be brought to see it. Men can more safely be depended upon to fight for their rights than to fulfil their duties. In the words of Burke: "The little catechism of the rights of men is soon learned; and the inferences are in the passions." With regard to Hobbes's classic formulation, we add that the premises al- ready are in the passions. What is required to make modern natural right effective is enlightenment or propaganda rather than moral appeal. From this we may understand the frequently observed fact that during the modern period natural law became much more of a revolutionary force than it had been in the past. This fact is a direct consequence of the funda- mental change in the character of the natural law doctrine itself.

The tradition which Hobbes opposed had assumed that man cannot reach the perfection of his nature except in and through civil society and, therefore, that civil society is prior to the individual. It was this assumption which led to the view that the primary moral fact is duty and not rights. One could not assert the primacy of natural rights without asserting that the individual is in every respect prior to civil society: all rights of civil society or of the sovereign are derivative from rights which originally belonged to the individual.2 2 The individual as such, the individual regardless of his qualities—and not merely, as Aristotle had contended, the man who surpasses humanity—had to be conceived of as essentially complete in- dependently of civil society. This conception is implied in the contention that there is a state of nature which antedates civil society. According to Rousseau, "the philosophers who have examined the foundations of civil society have all of them felt the necessity to go back to the state of nature." It is true that the quest for the right social order is inseparable from reflec- tion on the origins of civil society or on the prepolitical life of man. But the identification of the prepolitical life of man with "the state of nature" is a particular view, a view by no means held by " a l l " political philosophers. The state of nature be- came an essential topic of political philosophy only with Hobbes, who still almost apologized for employing that term. It is only since Hobbes that the philosophic doctrine of nat- ural law has been essentially a doctrine of the state of nature. Prior to him, the term "state of nature" was at home in Christian theology rather than in political philosophy. The state of nature was distinguished especially from the state of grace, and it was subdivided into the state of pure nature and the state of fallen nature. Hobbes dropped the subdivision and replaced the state of grace by the state of civil society. He thus denied, if not the fact, at any rate the importance of the Fall and accordingly asserted that what is needed for remedying the deficiencies or the "inconveniences" of the state of nature is, not divine grace, but the right kind of human government. This antitheological implication of "the state of nature" can only with difficulty be separated from its intra-philosophic meaning, which is to make intelligible the primacy of rights as distinguished from duties: the state of nature is originally characterized by the fact that in it there are perfect rights but no perfect duties.

If everyone has by nature the right to preserve himself, he necessarily has the right to the means required for his self- preservation. At this point the question arises as to who is to be the judge of what means are required for a man's self- preservation or as to which means are proper or right. The classics would have answered that the natural judge is the man of practical wisdom, and this answer would finally lead back to the view that the simply best regime is the absolute rule of the wise and the best practicable regime is the rule of gentle- men. According to Hobbes, however, everyone is by nature the^ judge of what are the right means to his self-preservation. For, even granting that the wise man is, in principle, a better judge, he is much less concerned with the self-preservation of a given fool than is the fool himself. But if everyone, however foolish, is by nature the judge of what is required for his self- preservation, everything may legitimately be regarded as re- quired for self-preservation: everything is by nature just. We may speak of a natural right of folly. Furthermore, if everyone is by nature the judge ofwhat is conducive to his self-preserva- tion, consent takes precedence over wisdom. But consent is not effective if it does not transform itself into subjection to the sovereign. For the reason indicated, the sovereign is sovereign not because ofhis wisdom but because he has been made sovereign by the fundamental compact. This leads to the further conclusion that command or will, and not deliberation or rea- soning, is the core of sovereignty or that laws are laws by virtue, not of truth or reasonableness, but of authority alone.2 5 In Hobbes's teaching, the supremacy of authority as distin- guished from reason follows from an extraordinary extension of the natural right of the individual.

The attempt to deduce the natural law or the moral law from the natural right of self-preservation or from the in- escapable power of the fear of violent death led to far-reaching modifications of the content of the moral law. The modifica- tion amounted, in the first place, to a considerable simplifica- tion. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century thought in general tended toward a simplification of moral doctrine. To say the least, that tendency easily lent itself to absorption in the broader concern with the guaranty for the actualization of the right social order. One tried to replace the "unsystematic" multiplicity of irreducible virtues by a single virtue, or by a single basic virtue from which all other virtues could be de- duced. There existed two well-paved ways in which this reduction could be achieved. In the moral teaching of Aristotle, "whose opinions are at this day, and in these parts of greater authority than any other human writings" (Hobbes), there occur two virtues which comprise all other virtues or, as we may say, two "general" virtues: magnanimity, which com- prises all other virtues in so far as they contribute to the excel- lence of the individual, and justice, which comprises all other virtues in so far as they contribute to man's serving others.

Accordingly, one could simplify moral philosophy by reducing morality either to magnanimity or else to justice. The first was done by Descartes, the second by Hobbes. The latter's choice had the particular advantage that it was favorable to a further simplification of moral doctrine: the unqualified iden- tification of the doctrine of virtues with the doctrine of the moral or natural law. The moral law, in its turn, was to be greatly simplified by being deduced from the natural right of self-preservation. Self-preservation requires peace. The moral law became, therefore, the sum of rules which have to be obeyed if there is to be peace. Just as Machiavelli reduced virtue to the political virtue of patriotism, Hobbes reduced virtue to the social virtue of peaceableness. Those forms of human excellence which have no direct or unambiguous relation to peaceableness—courage, temperance, magnanimity, liberality, to say nothing of wisdom—cease to be virtues in the strict sense. Justice (in conjunction with equity and charity) does remain a virtue, but its meaning undergoes a radical change. If the only unconditional moral fact is the natural right of each to his self-preservation, and therefore all obligations to others arise from contract, justice becomes identical with the habit of fulfilling one's contracts. Justice no longer consists in complying with standards that are independent of human will. All material principles of justice—the rules of commutative and distributive justice or of the Second Table of the Decalogue— cease to have intrinsic validity. All material obligations arise from the agreement of the contractors, and therefore in practice from the will of the sovereign.2 6 For the contract that makes possible all other contracts is the social contract or the contract of subjection to the sovereign." [Natural Right and History]

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:04 am

Strauss attributes the three waves of Modernity to Machiavelli/Hobbes, Rousseau, and Nietzsche; (Strauss of course operates from his pro-Judaism of belief and validity of a religious Faith and Revelation as a counter-balance to Philosophy: his Jerusalem versus Athens. Nietzsche was no modern, but an ancient.)

His [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] has been studied in comparison to [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

From his, 'An Introduction to Political philosophy':

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:44 am

Lyssa wrote:
Strauss attributes the three waves of Modernity to Machiavelli/Hobbes, Rousseau, and Nietzsche; (Strauss of course operates from his pro-Judaism of belief and validity of a religious Faith and Revelation as a counter-balance to Philosophy: his Jerusalem versus Athens. Nietzsche was no modern, but an ancient.)

I understand what you mean, but I think Strauss and perhaps I see it another way. I do not think we can ever be truly ancient in the same way the ancients are to us now, because we are embedded in the process of history and our time and I think he saw it this way.

I do not share Strauss's exoteric goals, but I do find in him a good teacher. I do not think he would believe I do him complete justice in his own right, but it is my belief that he would have understood that and so I will do him at least as much justice as a teacher as I believe he merits.

In the Jerusalem contra Athens thread I already wrote I believe Jerusalem must take its place in the Mediterranean ecumene because it is a historical fact, and for the west? Christianity looms so largely in our history that we must face it clearly, and I think a good place to start is along the lines of natural geography and history.

Insofar as I understand the ancients, and even the quarrels between the ancients and moderns, I understand that it is above all necessary to go into the depths of modernity in all its manifestations. Tread lightly, of course, but onward I must for though I could appreciate the ancients I cannot share their times or their toils. Today I have my own, and yes they take me through the murky waters of modernity and even near the rocky shores of Jerusalem, though I cannot imagine any ancients filled with fear as they set their eyes on all which world' around them.

In our time we find the many sleeping and knowledge of the past open to us, even if obscured by a glut of information. I do not traverse western history (as nearly inseparable from "Christian history" for over 1300 years) in order to merely give it glory and pin hopes within idols, but we must emerge through our history into the present.

The ancients knew politics as inseparable from free life, it is the modern who make man utterly socialized. Benjamin Constant wrote about it explicitly. Montesquieu mentions it too as part of a project to free men of political worries for the sake of wealth accumulation, the ancient life of slavery to the necessities of the body.
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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Wed Jan 06, 2016 6:16 pm

Ethos wrote:
Lyssa wrote:
Strauss attributes the three waves of Modernity to Machiavelli/Hobbes, Rousseau, and Nietzsche; (Strauss of course operates from his pro-Judaism of belief and validity of a religious Faith and Revelation as a counter-balance to Philosophy: his Jerusalem versus Athens. Nietzsche was no modern, but an ancient.)

I understand what you mean, but I think Strauss and perhaps I see it another way. I do not think we can ever be truly ancient in the same way the ancients are to us now, because we are embedded in the process of history and our time and I think he saw it this way.

Strauss' position is J.-Xt. Revelation is a valid form of knowledge since nothing absolute can be known merely rationally - which, to him, has been the aim of Greek Philosophy - the pursuit for "the best regime".

So, am I to assume, you believe in the validity of Revelation as a necessary counter-check to philosophical excess when you allign with Strauss?

Quote :
In the Jerusalem contra Athens thread I already wrote I believe Jerusalem must take its place in the Mediterranean ecumene because it is a historical fact,

And what place do you give it?

Quote :
Insofar as I understand the ancients, and even the quarrels between the ancients and moderns, I understand that it is above all necessary to go into the depths of modernity in all its manifestations. Tread lightly, of course, but onward I must for though I could appreciate the ancients I cannot share their times or their toils. Today I have my own, and yes they take me through the murky waters of modernity and even near the rocky shores of Jerusalem, though I cannot imagine any ancients filled with fear as they set their eyes on all which world' around them.

In our time we find the many sleeping and knowledge of the past open to us, even if obscured by a glut of information. I do not traverse western history (as nearly inseparable from "Christian history" for over 1300 years) in order to merely give it glory and pin hopes within idols, but we must emerge through our history into the present.

The ancients knew politics as inseparable from free life, it is the modern who make man utterly socialized. Benjamin Constant wrote about it explicitly. Montesquieu mentions it too as part of a project to free men of political worries for the sake of wealth accumulation, the ancient life of slavery to the necessities of the body.

What are your modern political inclinations, and what ideal/s do you work towards, or is that what you are here to discover, Know Thyself?

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:19 pm

You are not to believe I think J-xt revelation is a substitute for philosophy, why would you? That is not to say I do not believe revelation is a substitute for philosophy, in a sense closer to what Heidegger points to.

Jerusalem I give place on the eastern periphery of the mediterranean, west of Persia and north of Egypt. Of course Jerusalem speaks for itself in history. Do I value that history? No, not quite, but that leads me to my political goal.

Western history is indistinguishable from that of Christianity. My political project is part of a European project and it is for that reason that I need Jerusalem, no more. Consciousness must pass through all history, especially a history which so forcefully shapes the present.

Of course I am always in the process of knowing myself. I hope to reveal my projects more clearly throughout time.
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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Thu Jan 07, 2016 4:18 am

Ethos wrote:
You are not to believe I think J-xt revelation is a substitute for philosophy, why would you? That is not to say I do not believe revelation is a substitute for philosophy, in a sense closer to what Heidegger points to.

Except that is not what Strauss or I said. He believed such irrational modes are a valid "counter-check" to the rational modes of philosophical pursuits, and precisely not a substitute. And therefore tried to rationally justify and insert Jerusalem as a "necessary" counter-part to Athens, and modern nihilism unanchored to anything beyond human WTP.
I have strong objections to that. Lampert's thoughts on Strauss show an appreciative critique of many key-points, and you might want to read him.

(Heidegger's take on Aletheia should not be read without Detienne and Vernant's [Masters of Truth] take of how it came to be.)

Quote :
Jerusalem I give place on the eastern periphery of the mediterranean, west of Persia and north of Egypt. Of course Jerusalem speaks for itself in history. Do I value that history? No, not quite, but that leads me to my political goal.

Strauss here gave a useful delineation of three Zionisms, and their entanglement with the West requires a solution to the 'jewish question', which to Strauss was above said, the necessity of a "vs." between athens and jerusalem and keeping the dialogue forever going.

Quote :
Western history is indistinguishable from that of Christianity. My political project is part of a European project and it is for that reason that I need Jerusalem, no more. Consciousness must pass through all history, especially a history which so forcefully shapes the present.

Of course I am always in the process of knowing myself. I hope to reveal my projects more clearly throughout time.

I agree. A book that maps the history of the philosophical west through political history is David Hawkes' 'Ideology'; its an excellent book. Let me know if you cant find a free pdf.

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Thu Jan 07, 2016 7:46 am

Yes, that was my mistake. My appologies. Though, I now wonder if I unconsciously wrote it with something else in mind.

Lyssa wrote:
He believed such irrational modes are a valid "counter-check" to the rational modes of philosophical pursuits, and precisely not a substitute.

(This is a general remark, not in direct response) I don't believe philosophy is entirely rational, and that is my reason for having in mind something of a Heideggerian revelation. It is not that the rational faculties would not be in play during these moments of irrationality I am speaking of, but that philosophy itself is a sort of communion entered into with the pre-rational (and in that sense irrational), how this communion unfolds and what is taken from it is another matter...

I understand that Strauss's own project was intimately connected with Judaism. You will not find me setting upon a study of Maimonides here, suffice it to say. My interest in Strauss is mainly as a teacher of history, second as a teacher of politics, third as a teacher of philosophy, he is not necessarily integral to my project, but it could be said perhaps his rejection from the city would likely be a harm rather than a gain, especially at this point in time. My stake in Jerusalem is much more intimately tied to the manifestation of Christianity and that as a fact of history more than anything else.

The historical consciousness of Europe cannot emerge into the present without moving through the past. A long convalescence is understandable, but not one that moves one such a distance from the disease one fails to understand it, which has failed to get the better of it, which is only recovering and has failed to grow through it.

Athens and the west are certainly anchored in much more than WTP. Sometimes I find it an unfortunate reductionism that Nietzsche left behind which bends easily to fit the categorical, scientific paradigm.

I have read some of Lampert and I have appreciated some of his insights. As a Nietzschean he certainly did not learn a terse writing style which Nietzsche appreciated so much in Sallust.

Lyssa wrote:
(Heidegger's take on Aletheia should not be read without Detienne and Vernant's [Masters of Truth] take of how it came to be.)

I will seek it out.

Lyssa wrote:
Strauss here gave a useful delineation of three Zionisms, and their entanglement with the West requires a solution to the 'jewish question', which to Strauss was above said, the necessity of a "vs." between athens and jerusalem and keeping the dialogue forever going.

Yes, I am aware of that. That is why I wish to put Jerusalem in the place I maintained which is, I believe, more or less, its proper place.

I do not see philosophy as a great dialogue anyway, which is not to say that philosophical dialogues of any importance do not occur. I have learned that philosophy comes from the gods and its wisdom is in history. Perhaps I am being euphemistic but that does not mean that our language can truly express the relation any less piously.

I will seek out your second suggestion by David Hawkes too. I was also intrigued by the work you posted in the thread on Heidegger.

I do think it will be important in time to establish something of a new canon, which would not only include written works, if only because of the info-glut plaguing the liquid modern age, but also because the canon would act as an invitation to all of history.
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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:17 am

I read Ideology by David Hawkes. The subject is well worth while but far from decided by the conclusion. I did notice some misinterpretation of Nietzsche, for example:

"But Milton insists on the imperative to seek the good, even though that necessitates the experience of evil, while, following Nietzsche, Baudrillard suggests that the inseparability of good and evil is grounds for abandoning these categories altogether."

Nietzsche sought to demythologize the concept of evil, but he did not overthrow the dichotomy between good and bad, which Hawkes doesn't seem to catch on at all. Also I couldn't help but feel his Marxist focus obscured the subject by always relating human life to its economic paradigm (ie. as labour power, etc.) This may be a result of his wishing to continue the dialectic. I understand the point he is making about not collapsing one element of the dialectic under another rather than seeing through a unity, but what I am saying is that his focus on the particularly historical dialectic which is exemplified in Marx and Marxist philosophy ends up containing discourse within the boundaries of the dominant paradigm (in the case of the text, Capitalism), whereas in a truly philosophical context capitalism is really a side phenomena, and by centralizing capitalism and bringing the individual into a dichotomy reduced as labour the paradigm ends up adding solidity to the foundations it "opposes". In other words the dialectic of labour vs. capital ends up ensuring the continuance of the dialogue more than making capitalism peripheral would. (In the same sense as considered earlier in this thread with Leo Strauss and Judaism dialectically opposed to Athens.)

Maybe there is implied some belief that the means of destruction are inherent in the original material, or something of that nature. I cannot recall where that idea originates.

I appreciate the recommendation. I hope to contemplate it more over time and perhaps return to it and read more from Hawkes.

I did find that the dialectic Hawkes follows, because of his focus on particularly Marxist influenced works, causes him to narrow his focus into a dialectic between idealism and materialism (perhaps for the sake of the clarity which results from a certain amount of simplifaction perhaps necessary for such a historically in depth work...).

David Hawkes wrote:
Very broadly, those thinkers, such as Hobbes, who believe that the external world determines idealism our ideas, are known as ‘empiricists’, and those, like Descartes, who believe that our innate ideas form the basis of our experience of reality, are called ‘rationalists’. Those, such as Plato, who consider the realm of ideas to be the only true reality are termed ‘idealists’, and those, like Condillac, who claim that the physical world is more authentic than human concepts are known as ‘materialists’. In fact, however, the most interesting philosophers of the three centuries following Descartes are those who
tried to overcome or reconcile these fundamental oppositions.

There are a number of other theories left behind but I think most significant at least from the perspective of the history of philosophy is with the rationalist which is bridged and modified in Kant. Do you know if Hawkes addresses the phenomenology of Husserl, Dilthey, or Heidegger in other texts?

The notion of ideology is left too confused especially after being taken through the rungs of Althusser and Foucault, and the notion of praxis is left almost entirely unaddressed especially as the study develops, and for that reason I would have thought an introduction of Heidegger might have been useful, but I understand that wasn't the intention of the work.

My thoughts about it are not entirely critical by any means. I am sure my ambivalence reflects not only the attitudes of many of the philosophers examined but also Hawkes' himself.

The problem I have with post-modern philosophy especially is that sometimes I wonder if in it philosophy hasn't itself become fetishished. Because of the centering the idea of the 'irreconcilability of the subject with the whole', philosophy seems to take a peripheral, historical position as a never ending pursuit, which in itself is fine, but a pursuit 'for its own sake'? Due to the alienation of the subject from any stable foundation (ideally), the subject is no longer able to act because all action becomes without foundation, decontextualized.

It is a lapse of memory, I think, on the part of modern historical philosophers to forget that history creates the context. It is for that reason the Kantian synthesis of rationalism and emiricism is an important trajectory which is in fact entirely dropped in Hawkes, which is again not to denegrate the work, but merely to suggest that in it so much is left open, and perhaps ultimately too much, and in that sense there is a particularly 'post-modern' character about it. That is, Hawkes never ultimately ends up uniting opposites but seems to suggest the possibility.
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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:58 am

Ethos wrote:
I read Ideology by David Hawkes. The subject is well worth while but far from decided by the conclusion. I did notice some misinterpretation of Nietzsche, for example:

"But Milton insists on the imperative to seek the good, even though that necessitates the experience of evil, while, following Nietzsche, Baudrillard suggests that the inseparability of good and evil is grounds for abandoning these categories altogether."

Nietzsche sought to demythologize the concept of evil, but he did not overthrow the dichotomy between good and bad,


Hawkes more or less writes from the perspective of a conservative Xt. traditionalist who sees Milton as a post-modern hero for his [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]. Yes, he like many others, take Milton or even Blake's affirmation of evil as Nietzschean, while, this 'evil' and 'free-spirit' to these 'rebels' meant defiance against the Xt. god. Such a 'satanism' never leaves the Xt. dialectics of course.

N. did not overthrow the dichotomy, but he also maintained there are no opposites, only polarizations of kind and degree.
He distinguished the slave's evil, from the master's bad, remarking the title of his book was beyond good and evil, but not beyond good and bad… meaning, he was no postmodern relativist or an enlightened modernist, but an ancient.

Hawkes' book is useful and excellent when you want to understand the entrenchment of J.-Xt. thought into and as political history… which is what I thought you'd wanted to explore.
The Manichean battle between good and evil, light and dark, transfers its momentum between Materialism and Idealism, and the history of political philosophy has largely been within this enframement. If you say, it is Hawkes who reduces the subject to one of Marxist economics, I'd rather say, Hawkes merely points out how this Manicheanism has reduced the subject to this post-modern condition. For more support that exposes this reduction of man to economics, see Yockey's 'Imperium' [another conserv. Xt. btw.]

If you haven't already, there is also another excellent must-read; [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], which tries to locate the origin of modernity and post-modernity to the historical nihilism between extreme objectivism and subjectivism. Neither Yockey, nor Heisman cover the topic you mention below.

Ethos wrote:
There are a number of other theories left behind but I think most significant at least from the perspective of the history of philosophy is with the rationalist which is bridged and modified in Kant. Do you know if Hawkes addresses the phenomenology of Husserl, Dilthey, or Heidegger in other texts?

No, he doesn't. You could read Pinker's Blank State which covers Hobbes and Locke, but not Heidegger.

I have not started on it, but there is a scholarly book by Justin Jacobs, 'The ancient notion of self-preservation in the theories of Hobbes and Spinoza', which starts from Aristotle and appears to work its way between the duality of Stoicism and Epicureanism and how it morphed into Hobbes and Spinoza… which looks interesting to me, but can't tell if it so, yet.

Ethos wrote:
The problem I have with post-modern philosophy especially is that sometimes I wonder if in it philosophy hasn't itself become fetishished. Because of the centering the idea of the 'irreconcilability of the subject with the whole', philosophy seems to take a peripheral, historical position as a never ending pursuit, which in itself is fine, but a pursuit 'for its own sake'? Due to the alienation of the subject from any stable foundation (ideally), the subject is no longer able to act because all action becomes without foundation, decontextualized.

That's why the study of evolution of Fetishism as Hawkes wants to trace is all the more relevant, since the positing of any supreme goal for philosophy becomes a part of oppression and the victim industry, or at the least deferred endlessly in post-modern critique of who and how one decides what is superior, and on this point, both Heidegger and Strauss seem to see things the same way. One said 'constant questioning' grounds the being of Being, and the other said, 'endless dialogue' between athens and jerusalem.
N. is alone here, in the task of goal-setting, and a goal he did set, after giving philosophy an essential political character, and politics, an essential aesthetic and artistic character.
I think he hit such a perfect balance, that to push any further in This climate would topple in one kind of apollonian/dionysian nihilism or the other. Hence his formula of "hard-but-supple" - firm enough to give a wide context of a 1000 years, but supple enough to adapt to changing circumstances of seasonal cycles.

Ethos wrote:
It is a lapse of memory, I think, on the part of modern historical philosophers to forget that history creates the context. It is for that reason the Kantian synthesis of rationalism and em[p]iricism is an important trajectory which is in fact entirely dropped in Hawkes, which is again not to denegrate the work, but merely to suggest that in it so much is left open, and perhaps ultimately too much, and in that sense there is a particularly 'post-modern' character about it. That is, Hawkes never ultimately ends up uniting opposites but seems to suggest the possibility.

Maybe you could expand on that synthesis later.
On this forum, Kant's 'rationalism' has been seen and studied more sociologically as a universal J.-Xt. moralism. A point elaborated in Tracy McNulty's, 'The Hostess' and Kant's idea of Hospitality and universal citizen, etc.
That kind of cosmopolitanism is what we try to differentiate from Heraclitus' idea of the cosmo-politan of a shared reality, as in the fragment,

Heraclitus wrote:
"Not comprehending, they hear like the deaf. The saying bears witness to them: absent while present.
Although the account (logos) is shared, most men live as though their thinking (phronesis) were a private possession." [Kahn, Fragments of Heraclitus; Diels, 34]

Heidegger's concept of the polis in Ister owes much to Heraclitus, although Heidegger's under-currents take on a diff. turn later.

Because I am not sure what you're about, maybe these other discussions [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], and [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] are the kind of threads you are looking for.

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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Tue Aug 30, 2016 6:15 pm

Strauss' seminar on Plato's Gorgias is very engrossing.


Strauss wrote:
"Now, then he--in this passage 452d, we get the definition of what Gorgias understands as the biggest human thing and there is his answer to the question of what rhetoric is. Gorgias says of his rhetoric this “Rhetoric is productive of freedom for the very human beings, whose good things are in question. And it is productive of rule over others, for each in his city.” What does this mean? First, it means, freedom is possible only under government. Rhetoric is productive of free government, but it could also mean this: Rhetoric is productive of freedom for human beings.

The greatest good is not freedom and dominion, including tyrannical rule, but the greatest good is productive of freedom and dominion.

We bring in an expert in, say, the matter of the war. And we bring in the military expert. Now, how do people know that he is really a competent man? They know it only by sight. He has one big war, perhaps two big wars. And then the presumption is he is an expert. The assumption, they don’t know. And then this man, how can he tell them. Disregarding completely the security considerations. If strategy is a science, understanding of the science requires science on the part of the hearer. In other words, they would have to take a three months course in strategy if they want to follow him. That is impossible. So he must be a public speaker. He must have the capacity of impressing the public by his character, and he must appeal to things which they cannot understand without being experts. But this is rhetoric. So that Gorgias’ definition of rhetoric, that means the art which produces belief as distinguished from knowledge, among non-knowing men, is indispensable. And even if you say the problem only arises for Plato, you will be mistaken, I can show that.

Let us take the extreme statement, and that occurs of course in the Republic. And there you have a city that is really not a democracy, but the rule of the super-experts, if there is such a word. You will admit that. Now, these men rule the city, there are three or four men who are philosophers, others are non-philosophers, but in order to get cooperation, obedience and what not, they have to talk to these people from time to time. That means in this case, knowing men will talk to non-knowing men, according to the principles accepted by non-knowing men. The noble lie in the Republic. And when you read that passage you will see that this is of course a speech, a product of rhetoric. This is addressed by knowing men to non-knowing men. And therefore, if we do not see, that that is an act of necessity for rhetoric, we can never understand the dialogue. We have two Platonic dialogues on rhetoric. One is the Phaedrus and the other is Gorgias. The Phaedrus presents, we can say, Socratic rhetoric explicitly. But this Socratic rhetoric as presented in the Gorgias is a rhetoric which deals with individuals. How to guide this man add that man. The Gorgian rhetoric is not individual rhetoric. The Gorgian rhetoric as described here is speaking to crowds. But the rhetoric as practiced by Gorgias is bad. That will come out, it’s impossible. But does this mean that the fundamental idea of a crowd rhetoric, of popular rhetoric, assembly rhetoric, is wrong and I would say no. Because that rhetoric is necessary. And what Socrates will bring out is the most important thing of popular rhetoric, which means a speech, addressed by knowing men to non-knowing, and in addition, the other point which he wants to make is this, that the good kind of popular rhetoric will not be only rhetoric produced by knowing men, but by this very fact, be incapable of being misused. That Gorgian rhetoric as we shall see, is admittedly liable to misuse. So let me just repeat this point, once you admit the rule of non-experts, and every government of the world hitherto and I’ll imagine for all the future, will be a rule of non-experts. Because these experts who would rule as technocrats would be worse than the non-expert. Plato doesn’t think of these guys. Once you admit the rule of non-knowing men, you have already admitted the need for deliberative rhetoric. For the same reason for which Chaerephon is the link between Socrates and the Demos, he is the link between Socrates and Gorgias, we understand that now. Gorgias stands for the possibility, not fulfilled by him, of the good, popular rhetoric. The sentence which is translated “in every election one must elect the best expert” is ambiguous. It can also be translated as follows: “In every election the best expert must do the electing.” In this case, the case of aristocracy, is radical understood, Platonically understood, rhetoric at first hand, would not be necessary. Because only experts talk among each other. But that only reinforces the problem.

One uses rhetoric well, if one uses it for helping friends and hurting enemies. The old formula in the Republic. A nice man will help his friends and hurt his enemies. That is the good use. Then Gorgias suddenly swears by Zeus, and thereafter he replaces the word for enemies which means also private enemies by a word which means only public enemies, foes of the country and the evil doers. He said the just use of rhetoric is use not for helping your private friends, and hurting your private enemies, but use for the common good.

The oath comes in beautifully because Zeus is the guardian of ,justice. Now then in 457a he says the teachers of rhetoric are not wicked if the pupils use wickedly what they have learned. And he says furthermore, the art of rhetoric is not responsible and wicked if the pupils use wickedly what they have learned. He makes here a distinction between the teachers and the art. Both the teachers and the art are not wicked, but the art, in addition is not responsible, whereas the teachers may be responsible without being wicked. I think the answer is simple. That teachers may have selected pupils improperly, the art could not be responsible for that. In other words, the teacher of rhetoric may show bad judgment, by picking the wrong pupil, but the art cannot show wrong judgment. And therefore, the teachers are not wicked, whereas the art is also not wicked, but also not even responsible.

Now we have reached the point where we have reached the greatest clarity which we will ever reach regarding Gorgias’ opinion of rhetoric. From this point on, the fifth and last step of the conversation begins, the refutation of Gorgias. 457c to 461b. This refutation is prepared in 457 to 458e.

Now for Plato the problem was simple--why he turned his mind to rhetoric. Plato was concerned with philosophy ...and philosophy must be distinguished from pursuits that can easily be mistaken for philosophy. And rhetoric as popularly understood was, such a phenomenon. Rhetoric was a competitor of philosophy, for the simple reason that both the philosopher and the rhetorician raise a universal claim. The philosopher deals with all things and the rhetorician deals with speeches about all things which creates a certain difficulty." [Seminar on Plato's Gorgias]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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Slaughtz



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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:43 am

Kek is replacing Jerusalem.

Nihilism:
Code:
(+)Genetic      vs.      (+)Memetic

      vs.       vs.          vs.

(-) Genetic      vs.      (-) Memetic
Jerusalem: (+) Memetic
- The Word is Truth
Kek: (-) Memetic
- The Meme is Absurd

Satyr's Absent-Absolute: Radicalism towards either Truth/Absurdity makes them indistinct from one another.

Memes must be maintained by actors.

The direct confrontation of Kek with Jerusalem causes an exposition of the actors behind the 'Word'/'Truth' and the 'Meme'/'Absurd', who must maintain it.
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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss Fri May 12, 2017 9:22 pm

Again, about "Kek", replacing Judaic nihilism with a Pagan God of chaos.

The "Pepe" and "Kek" characters with its "Kekism" is the destruction of agency. What I mean is, lies cannot sustain without cults of personality or agency.  People who tell false accounts.

"Kekism" makes it so no account is sufficient if it is not verified by the eyes of a person. Pepe and Kek taunts every actor who can be corrupted through bribery. Every liar that can pretend they are something they're not. There is no lie that is too small or too big for Kekism to confront.

Any prosperous and solid ideology will not mind the "frog posting". It will stand on its own merits, affirming what's supposedly taunted by the symbols.

If I were a "Kekist", I would say white nationalists can only utilize Pepe because the promise of their movement is not a lie in regard to their political enemies. The only way to subvert would be to become even more distinct about the group. Instead of white nationalism, you make British nationalism,  etc. The latter are actually successful, but the "big group egalitarians" cannot use more distinct groups because it would expose their lie about them being for everyone.

This is what I mean by Kekism replacing Jerusalem. Kekism is a lot more potent because it has no history it must sustain itself with. Any account by any person is acceptable, to the Kekist, so long as it promises some sort of prosperity (frogs supposedly represent prosperity).

When all accounts are equal. When all lies are equal. One only has themselves to depend on and their own experience and instinctive self interest because they cannot lie to another and get them involved in the same scam. In this way, the ponzi scheme of lies cannot continue.

Appropriately, this religion sustains itself in a culture where people all remain anonymous.
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PostSubject: Re: Leo Strauss

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