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Reading Leo StraussPolitics, Philosophy, Judaism$
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Steven B. Smith

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780226764023

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226763903.001.0001

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Tyranny Ancient and Modern

Tyranny Ancient and Modern

(p.131) Chapter Six Tyranny Ancient and Modern
Reading Leo Strauss
University of Chicago Press

Leo Strauss's On Tyranny was not only his first book written in English but also his first book written in the United States. The specific difference between ancient and modern tyranny was first highlighted by Machiavelli. On Tyranny is the first work where Strauss attributes to Machiavelli this “epoch-making change” in orientation, a change that would only be fully explored a decade later in his Thoughts on Machiavelli. Strauss identifies Machiavelli as the fons et origo of modernity, out of which all the later developments in the social sciences have arisen. His reference here to “sacred restraints” on action is as close as he gets in On Tyranny to offering something like a doctrine of natural right. Strauss's reference to what every “well-bred child” knows suggests the existence of certain pretheoretical or prephilosophical moral rules of the sort that one should not give bad examples to others or do base things for the sake of good consequences.

Keywords:   Tyranny, Leo Strauss, Machiavelli, pretheoretical moral rules, prephilosophical moral rules

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