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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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Strauss's America

Strauss's America

Chapter:
(p.156) Chapter Seven Strauss's America
Source:
Reading Leo Strauss
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226763903.003.0008

This chapter discusses the philosophical significance of politics in Strauss's view. The expression “political philosophy” has two distinct meanings: it can mean the philosophical examination of politics or it can mean the political treatment of philosophy. In the first case, it denotes an object of inquiry and in the second, a distinctive manner of writing or rhetoric. Strauss wrote to strengthen those aspects of American public life that would prevent constitutional democracy from devolving into mass democracy. At its most basic level, he treated the American polity as a product of modernity and the Enlightenment. In Natural Right and History, his first book to address a large audience of American social scientists, Strauss accepts the view that Locke's theory of property is at the root of the modern “spirit of capitalism.” He also acknowledges that contemporary tyranny has its source in the Machiavellian dictum that the ends justify the means.

Keywords:   Leo Strauss, political philosophy, Machiavellian dictum, Natural Right, Locke

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