Talk:Leo Strauss

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In no particular order, a list of things to do and points to consider: --the exact dates of Strauss' birth and death should be added; --Strauss taught at Saint John's College in Annapolis after he retired from the University of Chicago; --although I agree with Drury on Strauss, I think the article would benefit from some material that presents Strauss 'straight-up,' if you will. Strauss' own writings require that the interpretive technique he applied to the ancients be applied to them to get at the doctrines that Drury exposes and attacks. --Something on Strauss and Heidegger and/or Strauss and Carl Schmitt? Maybe that's a bit much, but Strauss didn't create his anti-Enlightenment doctrines from thin air. --I'm not sure that Wolfowitz did take his Ph.D. under Strauss. Should check this.

--GreenSooner 05:53, 16 Feb 2005 (PST)A few things to add to this list; I plan to edit the main dKosopedia entry accordingly: -- Wolfowitz did NOT do his doctorate under Strauss, but rather under Albert Wohlstetter, though he took at least one course with Strauss (many sources for this, but one good one is James Mann's RISE OF THE VULCANS, pp. 28-31). If one is going to make a case for Wolfowitz as a Straussian, his undergraduate years at Cornell's Telluride House (then run by Allan Bloom) are probably more critical. He was never particularly close to Strauss himself. -- Strauss actually taught at Claremont Men's College (now Claremont McKenna College) in between teaching at the University of Chicago and St. John's. Prior to teaching at the University of Chicago, he taught at the New School for Social Research in NYC. -- Shadia Drury has long since left Calgary. She's now at the University of Regina. Her readings of Strauss, while serious and important, are quite controversial, even among non- and anti-Straussians. She shouldn't be the only voice here on what Strauss means. -- I have never heard anyone elsewhere refer to Strauss's idea of exotericism as "the hidden meaning thesis" (so it seems a bit odd to say that it has become known as that) -- The Shulsky and Schmitt essay on Leo Strauss and intelligence gathering is available in a book entitled Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime. This is almost never noted, and since this essay is cited everywhere that should be added. -- Finally, and most importantly, I think a case could be made for a very substantial rewrite of this article. It really is not careful enough to distinguish between what Strauss thought and what his followers thought, and also to acknowledge that there are very many other sources of neoconservative thought that have also had a profound influence on the policies of the Bush administration (e.g. Wolfowitz's Wohlstetter connection is surely as important as his Strauss connection). Of course it is necessary to note that there are those who _do_ think that Strauss is some kind of mysterious power behind the throne (the recent BBC documentary _The Power of Nightmares_ is a good example of one such view, as is, in a ligher mode, Tim Robbins' play _Embedded_). But I happen to think these folks are barking up the wrong tree. This last suggestion would require a MAJOR edit, and I would certainly not begin to do it without a lot of input from other folks, first on this talk page, and then in the editing of the main page of this entry.

Bodypolitic There's also this book by Anne Norton--a skeptical student of Straussians, now political science professor at Penn--that's a good introduction: Leo Strauss and the POlitics of American Empire.

Nvalvo Perhaps a bit harsh on the Fact-Value distinction. There are reasons to reject positivism, and a great number of philosophers that I imagine people around here rather like (Marx, say) do so. More generally, and perhaps this is just me, I find it very difficult to think about Strauss' work because so much of it is, at the foundational level of things like ontology and theory of language, very close to the sort of thing I believe, but is then, along the way, perverted into a sort of grotesque double of my beliefs. For example, I agree with him about how manipulable the people are. I just think that's a bad thing, whereas he, well...

--DRolfe 00:10, 22 Jul 2005 (PDT) - Like everything else User:Lestatdelc touches, this article is taken wholesale from another GFDL site, in this case SourceWatch (disinfopedia). It is copyright infringement (and therefor unlawful) to copy this text without attribution. See: SourceWatch:Copyrights. It seems apparent that the administration of this site isn't really interested in lawful publication. I will now apply the requisite attribution.

Um, this article doesn't cite Seymour Hersch's "Chain of Command". It seems to plagiarize it almost word for word. For example, see COC page 219. "Strauss'S influence on foreign policyy decision making (he never wrote explicitely about the subject himself) is ususally discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted..."


Hi. I hate to say it, but this article need to be overhauled or deleted. Reading it is like reading a jarring collection of the worst misinterpretations and misappraisals of Strauss and his teachings. Why should you listen to me? I have studied with Straussian teachers for six years, and I am a bit of a lefty myself. My understanding of Strauss is not based entirely off secondary sources (which would disgust Strauss!) and my comments will not be some conservative diatribe. So...

1. The introduction In a way, this is the best and worst introduction I could imagine. While it certainly gives a clear picture of what is to come, that picture is a mean-spirited distortion of Straussians as arrogant, closed-minded fools who should be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. Oh, and Strauss is the founding father of a secret neoconservative cabal, too. But it's cool because some of the people who drank the kool-aid are moderate or even (gasp!) liberal.

I would be more offended that someone would think this tripe has a place in any serious or semi-serious attempt to collect and present the truth if such crass, thinly-veiled political distortions had not already been printed in the New York Times, and in books by Anne Norton and Shadia Drury. Notably, the thought that those two--of all people--could be defered to as experts on Strauss, with nothing but a throw-away caveat that they might be a little controversial, is out-and-out idiocy even among intelligent *critics* of Strauss.

2. Background I have no idea where this notion came from that once-a-century a grand philosopher will come along. Or, for that matter, the idea that Strauss was The Philosopher. If anything, Straussians usually give that distinction to Martin Heidegger, who couldn't be further from their philosophic standpoint. Surely, Straussians think REAL philosopher are truly rare and that most who take on the moniker don't deserve it, but this implies a sort of historical determinism totally alien to Strauss' work.

(And the little jabs continue with the "clever self-promotion" bit. Who says this? The mouse in your pocket? I've never heard this. But worse than the fact that it is unattributed, it contributes to the dark, conspiratorial overtones that saturate this article, and are never substantiated.)

"What is Political Philosophy?" or "City and Man" might be better texts to send interested readers to after "Natural Right and History." He and Cropsey also edited a volume, "History of Political Philosophy," which would be good to mention.

Other significant Straussians would be Harvey Mansfield (Author of a new book, "Manliness") and Thomas Pangle. But it should be mentioned that the line that ties these men together is that they are ALL scholars, not policy wonks. (See more below)

2a. Fact/Value Distinction This whole section is ridiculous and "treats" Strauss by writing him off as a buffoon. I truly hope this is the misguided product of too much bad secondary literature, rather than an awkward and failed attempt to interpret Strauss through his own works. As a previous writer noted, there are serious reasons to question the fact/value distinction, as well as the primacy of modern science. Oh, and quoting Carl Sagan doesn't automatically make you right about something. (Rather, I think it quite irrelevant unless he, unbeknownst to me, ever wrote anything on Strauss or his intelligent and serious critique of the fact/value distinction...)

2b. Versus Democracy Also idiotic. Straussians revere great leaders of great virtue--such as Lincoln and Churchill--not tricksters, demagogues and great manipulators. Otherwise, Straussians would be populists and drooling all over Hugo Chavez (which they don't). Read the "Republic" and read "Strauss"--this idea that Strauss thought there was neither good nor evil, but only the advantage of the stronger, would be laughable if people didn't distort his thought with it so much. This, however, is totally obliterated here under the authority of Shadia Drury, whose work is questionable at best.

Strauss didn't advocate a society of worker drones --"a crowd that you can manipulate like putty." He was scarcely political. But even his more political students would never have advocated this, as they esteem the opposite: a society motivated by virtue, guided by virtuous leaders; a vibrant, strong democracy. Ancient Athens, not Nazi Germany. What, precisely, this means for modern democracy is a matter for debate, but Straussians *never* call for the destruction of liberal democracy. Sadly, though, this is the picture painted in this section.

2c. influence on foreign policy Kudos on clarifying Wolfowitz's (minimal) relation to Strauss. Unlike the NYT, Mann's work is a careful, accurate portrayal of Strauss' influence on contemporary US foreign policy. That is, practically none at all--the book is not about Strauss, and there are but two or three instances of his name in the text, despite the fact it is about neoconservatives and their foreign policy. This would be quite strange if Strauss was neoconservativism's "man behind the curtain." But, apart from this useful correction, the section is far too vague to be useful. It should be expanded or recast as "myths about Strauss' influence on foreign policy."

2d. intelligence and duplicity This has nothing to do with Strauss, but is entirely about some guys claimed to be Straussian and what they think. If the veiled references to Strauss' "duplicity" are meant to refer to his discussions of the age-old distinction between esoteric and exoteric writing, then you've missed the whole point behind that distinction.

2e. politics and deception, integrity vs. diplomacy AND HERE COME THE WMD! This has nothing to do with Strauss and everything to do with being angry at the Bush administration. Hmm... one might look to the "esoteric" (and I use this term all-too-loosely) intention of this piece given this little tangent. The noble lie is not about tricking the people to vote for war, or eliminate social security, it is about founding a society. And Holmes is right--it is Plato's idea, found in his "Republic." I suggest you read it before conflating "noble lies" with partisan politics, and perhaps reflect a bit on what America's real noble lies might be. (I'll give you a nice place to start: "the American dream." But that's my own tangent--an attempt to get you to read Plato that may be in the spirit of Strauss, but nothing Strauss actually said.)

2f. prudence The Cropsey quote is a helpful attempt to lead the discussion of Strauss away from contemporary politics, but our intrepid author can't help bring it back. And we get a bonus--an unsubtantiated quip about Plato's "ontology" making Hitler an ideal type. First, this has no place in an article on Strauss. Second, "ontology" would have been alien to Plato. In an article on Strauss it seem almost humorous to have such a blatant misreading of Plato, given the fact it falls prey to one of the fatal conceits of modern reading, against which Strauss warns us.

2g. influence... And now the finshing touch-- a preposterous bit of conspiratorial fearmongering substantiated by a link to some guy's blog. Classy.

3. Affiliation Apparently based almost entirely off the above (2g) list from a questionable source. This doesn't even substantiate any of these alleged affiliated in all but a handful of cases.

4. Related articles. The anti-Straussian bent rears its ugly head again.

Ok, but enough criticism. What should this article really cover, if its current state is so sorry? 1. Strauss was first, foremost, and exclusively a serious student of great books. I know this is probably boresville, and it's much more fun to hatemonger and spread wild conspiracy theories, but this is the only way to really deal with Strauss. Is this not political enough for our purposes at dKosopedia? Then we should take a page from Mann and make the discussion of his poltical influence as minimal as it actually was. 2. If we want to make the article more than a stub, and really use it to educate people who are interested in Strauss, it might be good to have an extensive debunking of myths about Strauss and Straussians. 3. If the problem is with particular Straussians, or "Strausianism" in general, all that content should be linked elsewhere. If you don't like Francis Fukuyama, Bill Kristol or the other neocons, talk about it in their articles, but don't try to back-door your beef with them into an article about Strauss by misinterpreting his life and his works. (Notably, both Fukuyama, Kristol and other neocons have "outed" themselves as "not really Straussians." That is, they reject the label because they knew Strauss, and/or his students, and know how much their political beliefs are related to Strauss--hardly at all. But they wouldn't have had the privilege of studying luminaries like Drury or Norton; they would have actually had to suffer through hearing him speak or reading his works!)

As such, in the interest of truth (and of not letting another brother or sister lefty sound like an idiot when speaking of Strauss), I am going to make appropriate cuts to this article. Let me know what you think.

--Qphilo 02:39, 16 June 2006 (PDT)

I think you have gone too far in your deletions and a more judicious approach should be taken. I don't think we've been given any more reason to believe your characterization of Strauss than any other. At least Shadia Drury has published in peer-reviewed journals and is a fit source for citation.

In "What is Liberal Education?" (1959, public lecture) Strauss says: "Modern democracy, so far from being universal aristocracy, would be mass rule were it not for the fact that the mass cannot rule but is ruled by elites, i.e., groupings of men who for whatever reason are on top or have a fair chance to arrive at the top; one of the most important virtues required for the smooth working of democracy, as far as the mass is concerned, is said to be electoral apathy, i.e., lack of public spirit; not indeed the salt of the earth but the salt of modern democracy are those citizens who read nothing except the sports page and the comic section. Democracy is then not indeed mass rule but mass culture. A mass culture is a culture which can be appropriated by the meanest capacities without any intellectual and moral effort whatsoever and at a very low monetary price."

I will agree with you that involves particularly difficult exegesis, and this I'd say partly because of Strauss' obscure style of writing. I do not see how Shadia Drury's interpretations can be counted out in cases such as the above. I think that your characterization of a "secret neoconservative cabal" as a conspiracy theory is making a parody out of your opponents' views. We know readily how cultures emerge in academic departments, and we know that rarely do the apples fall far from the tree. It is easy to see how like minded these men are. One needn't posit a secret and explicit conspiracy to explain this! There may be a common cause, with some cross fertilization, as well as influences from Convervative thinkers. In the end, there is a convergence of ideas, and a common conceptual repertoire that a loose grouping of powerful individuals mostly share. And that is of enormous political significance.

You've put forth nothing more than an argument from authority with invective and I think deleting most of the article single-handedly is overstepping your bounds. Lacking for any solid argument, I have to question your reasons for defending him. I believe that we should restore the previous version of this page and engage in a more focused discussion of what does and doesn't belong here. Before getting others involved, I'll give you a chance to reply first.

-- --- STILLESTHOUR I'm not sure why you considered my changes unjudicious and my comments mere invective. It is especially odd that you accused me of making an argument from authority when your argument only springs from different authorities. Also, I would ask that you review my comments and my alterations if you think I am just defending Strauss. I only want the article to present the facts, full and clear. Perhaps this was somehow obscured in my talk comments, when I tried to be funny a few times--I will not make that mistake again.

My only objectives with my alterations were: 1. to remove content that was about neoconservatives or alleged "Straussians" and not about Strauss (as it belongs in other articles) 2. to clarify the questions and problems Strauss did engage (not practical political questions) and the themes of his work 3. to eliminate the unprofessional tone present in many parts of the article

Given the fact that all Strauss' works were on the "great books" of political philosophy, it seems odd that an article about him would eschew discussing any of his actual work and rather engage in wild speculation about the political activities of his students, or his students' students. And surely, we can all agree that certain common intellectual strands are present in neoconservatism, but that doesn't mean Strauss would have been a neocon, nor that neoconservatism is a faithful interpretation of Strauss' thought. Please read these articles, from the NY Times:

Thanks for you time.


How very polite of you. Straussians are always polite aren't they? They are always deceptive as well. Strauss's minions claim his work among the canon of Great Books becuase the canon of Great Books is part of their ideological project. Here's the horrible truth: Strauss is one of the history of philosophy's most overrated figures, a tribute to the American talent for salesmanship. That's basicly true of his followers as well. The sum total of Strauss's contributions and their contributions to philosophy is exactly nil because all they have ever done is put new treads on the worn-out tires of their favorite classics. That they earned a living out their drivel is a tribute to the astonishing wealth and cultural vulnerability of American society. America can afford the cult of Leo Strauss for the same reasons that it can afford a cult for Elvis Presley.

Thanks for your time.


Committee on Social Thought

There's no point of having this article part of dKosopedia. Can someone change [[Committee on Social Thought]] to [[wikipedia:Committee on Social Thought]]. Also, this page needs a category of some kind, probably [[Category:Neoconservatives]]. Chadlupkes 15:30, 4 July 2006 (PDT)


This article is dreadful. It doesn't capture Strauss's arguments - which have little to do with contemporary politics - at all. Not a single quotation from Strauss himself anywhere. The whole article relies on Shadia Drury's weak, contemptuous books. I'm re-writing sections.

Wow - locked article. Thanks. Anyway, study and make references to What is Political Philosophy, The City and Man, and Natural Right and History. Understand that Strauss is not promoting some crazy "tyranny of the elites" scheme but rather a return to virtue from within. That's it. Pretty harmless actually. It would be nice if this article were unlocked so I could rewrite it - and make it more scholarly. I am not a Straussian but the quality of this article makes me wince.

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