Leo Strauss

Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 12:26 PM/9:09 PM
I am curious about Leo Strauss. I have been running across his name lately. I have read a couple of his books and browsed several others. I really enjoy what I have read so far and find his observations to be insightful and thoroughly based on close reading of original Greek texts. What I don’t quite understand is the connection between what I am reading and what I hear about Leo Strauss. They don’t seem related. The books are thoughtful and well researched readings of classical history and philosophy and seem unrelated and unsupportive of his reputation of being the grandfather of neoconservatism.

This is a familiar story. One finds that Skinner, Freud, Marx also have little in common with their respective ‘-isms’ when you sit down and read what they actually wrote. Why should Leo Strauss be any different? I avoided him for many years, but in reading his works I found a meticulous and very observant classical historian. I cannot find anything to suggest his reputation. Seems other people who actually know him and his work feel similar regarding his popular reputation:

“The Real Leo Strauss” by Jenny Strauss Clay

“Defending Strauss” by Julie Englander


~ by severalfourmany on January 1, 2009.

2 Responses to “Leo Strauss”

  1. Fri 1/09/09 6:30 PM
    The little i read of Strauss confirmed my impression that he is way to conservative for my purposes. Ugly stuff: you are either with us or you are against us.  Then again, how can you read Strauss, if you only can read him between the lines, the same way he claimed his heroes needed to be read. It seems to me like a pretty esoteric/elitist club: ‘members only!’ In any case, my time is too precious to waste on this. Am i missing anything important?

  2. On Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 2:51 PM,
    I don’t really know for certain how Straussians can be so different from Strauss, but I suspect it is the usual reason. The same reason Machiavelli/Machiavellians, Skinner/Behaviorists, Derrida/Deconstrutionists have different and even opposite views. In this case, as with the others, it is most likely a “creative” misreading/misinterpretation of him by a group of highly influential students—rather ironic as Strauss was an advocate of close and careful reading. These students probably read their Strauss just as carefully as they read the pre-war intelligence from Iraq. At least they are consistent.

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