Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy

Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy

Michael P. Zuckert and Catherine H. Zuckert

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226135731

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Leo Strauss was one of the preeminent political philosophers of the twentieth century. Although most of his work took the form of investigations in the history of political philosophy, his intentions were not simply those of a historian of ideas. His chief goal was the restoration of political philosophy as a meaningful, even urgent enterprise. To that end, he delivered stinging critiques of two modern intellectual movements, positivism and historicism, that seemed to make political philosophy no longer possible. His was an effort to reestablish rationalism by showing that the death spiral of philosophy in modern times was a failure not of philosophic rationalism as such, but rather of modern philosophy. That rationalism had at its center what Straus called the “problem of political philosophy,” the solutions to which constituted the history of political philosophy. His inquiries led to the recovery of the classical philosophy of the Socratic tradition, which Strauss saw as a rejoinder to proclamations of the end of philosophy by Nietzsche and Heidegger. The exploration of the several dimensions of “the problem of political philosophy” as Strauss understood it,is the core of this book. That leads to the consideration of such matters as his debts to Husserl, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, his notion of political philosophy as “first philosophy,” the difference between the ancients and moderns, the theological-political problem that he pronounced central to his work, and his contention that liberal democracy is the best regime for our time.