Reformed Critiques of Straussianism

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Haeralis, Aug 13, 2018.

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  1. Haeralis

    Haeralis Puritan Board Freshman

    I am heading to Hillsdale College for graduate school in just two weeks, and I am anticipating vigorous debates between myself and supporters of an esoteric field of political philosophy known as "Straussianism." Named after Leo Strauss, it can be summarized using the following list of points (taken from Dr. Christopher Duncan's excellent book, The Anti-Federalists and Early American Political Thought). Hillsdale is decidedly Straussian. It is generally in-line with Harry Jaffa in glorifying Enlightenment notions of equality and natural rights.

    General Straussian Arguments:

    1. There is a form of justice prior to man and uncreated by him which should order the political world, if possible.

    2. The contemplation of that form is the greatest life an individual can live. It is the good life.

    3. Only a select few in any given time and place have the philosophic nature that allows them to be satisfied with a life of contemplation of the good (justice), and hence they are the ones who in a perfect world ought to rule.

    4. The problem that arises is that the majority of people are motivated not by the quest for knowledge (they lack appropriate natures) but by the quest for lower-order pleasures and bodily satisfactions. They resent the imposition of a just order with its rigorous demands and esoteric concerns, preferring to live by their will rather than reason.

    5. This preference for “opinion” rather than knowledge on the part of the majority makes them hostile towards philosophy in general, and philosophers in particular, because the discipline and its disciples typically stand in opposition to the majority.

    6. This opposition, if too pronounced, can lead to the “death” of philosophers, and perhaps of philosophy itself, at the hands of a majority and their demagogic rulers, who have a vested interest in the status quo.

    7. Philosophers should avoid public life altogether or, if they choose to participate, must do so in such a way that (a) the majority will not feel threatened or affronted by their opinions, so as to avoid persecution; (b) those in power will be directed toward wise decisions; and (c) those of similar natures will be able to read between the lines and understand the true teachings intended, and thus carry on the tradition without suffering the fate of say, Socrates.

    The task of the good Straussian:

    1. Discover who these philosophers were

    2. Discover how they went about their philosophic duties, given their particular historical contexts

    3. Discover what their hidden philosophical teachings were

    Does anyone here know of any good critiques of the political theory of Straussianism? I'd especially like to see some from a Reformed perspective. The only Reformed conservative political theorist who I can think of that is a vehement anti-Straussian is Dr. Barry Alan Shain at Colgate University whose work I recommend.
  2. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    I am not aware of a Reformed critique of Leo Strauss. Gregory Butler wrote a critique some years ago that I read in either Modern Age or InterCollegiate Review. Butler is I believe Roman Catholic and a follower Orestes Brownson
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