Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The great debate

I don’t yet have anything to add to this rather heated exchange, as I’m still plowing through this uncharitable piece, but it strikes me that those who want to understand the issues that animated Strauss are better served by turning to this book, reviewed here..

Argh, I can’t help myself! I have a preliminary thought, subject to much revision. Ryn makes much of incarnation and synthesis, and, apparently, of the Incarnation as an example of synthesis. Which comes first for him, synthesis or Incarnation? If the former, then he strikes me as, ultimately, a polytheist opposed both to Judaism and Christianity, on the one hand, and to philosophy as Strauss understood it, on the other.

More later, when I can catch a breath.

Update: Someone’s unhappy with me, apparently unaware that I am aware of the significance of the Incarnation, either as the example par excellence of "synthesis" or as the only real "synthesis." (I’ve read a little theology.) My point is a simple one, I think: yes, you can say that all particular histories acquire their significance as part of God’s providential plan and that each of us is significant because we’re created in God’s image. But all those particular histories (call them national histories, if you will) have to be understood in the light of the Incarnation, i.e., of the "synthesis." There is a tendency among traditionalist conservatives (and I don’t know Ryn’s work well enough to judge the extent to which he shares it) to "apotheosize" the local and the particular, which (to be sure) has its place, but pales in significance before the way in which we participate in the universal history of salvation. Stated in Augustinian terms, some traditionalists seem to be in the thrall of the City of Man and not to recognize how their participation in that City is qualified by their membership in the City of God.

But, once again, I have other things I need to be doing.

Discussions - 11 Comments

Ryn strikes me as a resentful crank, jealous of the influence of Strauss and his students. Back in 1993 heard him in a seminar at the Heritage Foundation saying that Allan Bloom’s book The Closing of the American Mind was so bad that it shouldn’t have been published. Everyone in the room was appalled.

The Meier book is well worth reading. I must say, though, that Steve Lenzner’s review - rather lengthy by weekly standard ... er, standards, stopped short of stating the most important and arresting claim made by Meier in the book. Meier claims that Strauss refuted Revelation. He (Meier) indicates/sketches four, then a fifth, Strauss argument against the possibility of Revelation. I suppose he (Lenzner) had to do so, in order to keep Strauss’s fair name intact. But it is one of the essential claims/arguments in the book.
(In the for-what-it’s worth-department: I have an expository review of the book coming out in Perspectives on Political Science.)

Lenzer says: "Yet, in recent years, Meier’s labors have occasionally been used (and abused) by academics as part of their procrustean attempt to reduce Strauss to another case study in 20th-century intellectual history."

Typical German intellectual cultism. Heaven forbid that Strauss (or Heidegger or Hegel or Freud) could be "reduced to a case study." Yes, clearly some thinkers are just so important, and just so profound that no mere intellectual historian should ever be allowed to so much as utter their names.

Whatever Ryn’s personality limitations, I think the "uncharitable piece" is an important contribution. Ryn’s views on Strauss and Straussians’ disregard for Burkean tradition are worth careful consideration.

Here’s my advice: 1. Ignore Ryn: he has no following and has, to say the least, a very quirky teaching. 2. Read Paul’s review of Meier in PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE (when it comes out, ask him for an advance copy) and subscribe to PPS.
3. Consider that Meier too has a very strange doctrine (Paul is right!): Strauss proved atheism to be true. So Strauss exploded what he called the secret to the vitality of the West. Meier’s book is well worth discussing (and buying, if only because it includes a previously unpublished very important essay by Strauss on reason and revelation).

Happy Easter triduum to each and all (Joe, Peter L., Peter S., et ceteri) here at no left turns. Off to Charlottesville to hang with UVA friends.

It’s good to know that a scholar "without a following" is not worth reading. Jump on board the lemming express!

To Mike: 1. It’s doubtful that the only non-lemmings in America are those who do not follow Ryn and 2. The fate of the republic will not turn on who turns out to be right in a debate between Jaffa and Ryn. There might be some who are pretty uneasy with both extemes.

I’ve gotten some emails complaining that I called Jaffa an extremist. Well, it’s possible to be extremely right and extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. But what I really meant, of course, is that the premise of the alleged great debate btwn. Ryn and Jaffa would have to be something like: The Declaration of Independence is completely unimportant vs. The Declaration of Independence is of supreme importance and the foundation of the best regime. It could be that some conservatives would stand between those two positions. I’m not saying that a debate on that foundation would be that illuminating or even based on a completely accurate view of the nuanced writings of either of the participants.
Be assured, for the record, that I really do great admire Professor Jaffa and have learned a huge amount from his writing.

Dr. Lawler is right about the position of the two extremes. And when Bradford debated Jaffa he did a better job than Ryn. But at least somebody keeping the torch lit.

Lawler wrote: "Ignore Ryn: he doesn’t have a following..." and "Be assured, for the record, that I really do great admire Professor Jaffa and have learned a huge amount from his writing..."

Well, finally, Prof Lawler shows his true sentiments rather than his typical, very pretentious rhetorical obfuscation.

I mean really, it is almost impossible to really understand where you are coming from whether it be on the Evil of Francis Fukuyma or on many of your ISI recorded presentation.

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