Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ceaser on Strauss and America

The new (spring) issue of PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE is out!

The lead article is by James W. Ceaser--"The American Context of Leo Strauss’s NATURAL RIGHT AND HISTORY." There’s so much wisdom here that I don’t dare summarize. So I’ll offer a few tastes...

On Eastern vs. Western Straussians: "The East has followed one reading in seeing the American founding as reflective of Locke and modern natural right philosphy, and thus in need of direct and visible ’correction’ from without. The West has argued, in any number of ways, that this ’correction’ is already to be found inside the American founding, and in particular inside the Declaration of Independence."

"There are several versons of this [Western] thesis: that the correction in the American founding is not in Locke, whom the Americans thankfully read exoterically rather than esoterically; that Locke, if read differently from Strauss, does already contain that correction; that the whole way in which the problem is stated was transformed by the advent of Christianity, with the result that if Aristotle were to have come back in the eighteenth century, he would assume the body of John Locke."

"Leo Strauss could easily have joined this flabby [anti-totalitarian] consensus in favor of natural rights and become part of the burgeoning ’let’s pretend’ club that was spreading throughout academia....His great offense against the American intellectual establishment was his heretical suggestion that any affirmation of natural rights has something to do with restoring nature."

"Nominalism is the only philosophic category that is listed in the index of NATURAL RIGHT AND HISTORY....Every other entry is a name." (Let me know what the heck this means!)

Discussions - 5 Comments

Peter, you tease, send me a copy, now! I promise to subscribe ASAP.

The Delsol issue is proceeding apace.

Holding aside the question of why Strauss’ indexes are always limited to names rather than subjects…an index of personal names is a list that is emphatically non-arbitrary. Each “name” designates one person or being, so that the “name” and the “being” it designates are virtually convertible. Such an index at least implies a philosophy rooted in objective truth or reality.

“Nominalism” is that philosophy which denies any intrinsic relationship between “name” and “being.” All names are merely imposed by men on arbitrary aggregations of things for the convenience of the limited human mind.

So isn’t it a little Straussian joke to include “nominalism” which after all designates a unique and specific philosophy? Its inclusion within such an index of “names” is a kind of self-refutation.

dennis, good answer. paul, send me your exact address in an email...

Who compiled the index to NRH? Harry Jaffa said he had something to do with the production of the text. I'll give him a call.

Dennis' answer get at something important, but it very well could go beyond a Straussian "joke." My short answer is to say that the meaning of nominalism's inclusion in the index might be found in Michael Gillespie's new book, which shows the way in which nominalism was the theological revolution that preceded the modern philosophical one. Hobbes is unthinkable without Scotus and Ockham.

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