Leo Strauss, Digitized
Posted in Political Philosophy by Ken Thomas
I recall the days when longing political philosophy students would attempt to secure a copy of the closely guarded class transcripts of Leo Strauss's courses at the University of Chicago. Now 47 of these courses are to be digitized
and thus made available to those who want to expel stupidities through a close read of Thucydides and to be in the know on Rousseau. As a sampler, here's a
to his course on Plato's Meno
. My favorite transcript is his course on Plato's Gorgias
, but many others might be mentioned by Strauss's close students.
This will fill your Ipod and help put in its place amusement such as this: The old tv series Gunsmoke and Perry Mason explain the core of Strauss's political teaching.
UPDATE: I'm told by a scholar editing some of these courses that transcripts will also be produced.
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Ken. Thanks for the link to that Strauss seminar on the Meno. A pretty good mind offering a pretty good introduction to political philosophy. One can see how in a democracy that kind of talk can gain influence. The film noir video offered some delicious footage of Mansfield. It shows one that there are almost infinite layers of vulgarity.
I am not sure how to read old Rootbeers comment, and really not sure if there is much point in commenting except to say that I appreciate listening to Strauss even if the form is vulgar, or even if listening is different from reading, and reading different from reading out loud.
Since I am given to making stupid statements, I will simply say that Strauss in the Meno lecture seems to me to be an advocate of historicism. In other words Hegel accepts a common sense understanding that exists in each age, the greeks have a common sense, the germans have a common sense and americans in 2008 have a common sense...I am actually not sure that there aren't multiple common senses in multiple american cultures...nevertheless by bringing into focus in the lecture both common sense and differences in meaning and understanding Strauss smuggles historicism back into the conversation(maybe this is just the true teaching of Meno, but is the true teaching of Meno not based upon premises that cannot be validated by human reason by virtue of being the treasured property of specific minds?) That "culture" structures common sense, is actually a broader statement than the view that individual attention spans intelligences and dispositions do so. In other words to be the product of the times means that there are meanings and common sense that make sense in the present. So I can defend Hegel with Strauss by saying that Political Philosophy is no less impossible under Hegel than it is under Strauss by virtue of the fact that the historism is simply shifted into the different and various meanings each human being can make and take from a single statement.
In a sense then I can't make a distinction that actually reflects a difference, between the true teaching of Hegel and the true teaching of Strauss(in the Meno lecture.) If I had to make a distinction I would say that Strauss takes Hegel and then brings Kant back in to strip the historicism from the world itself and puts it back into the mind. But Hegel has historicism in order to get past Kant's noumena/phenomena split, and save common sense.
So I still think you are left with either historicism(Toqueville, Hegel) or positivism(Karl Popper)...there are also other ways of putting this together one rather popular or common grouping is the Analytical/Continental split in philosophy...in this case what Strauss calls Historicism belongs to Continental Philosophy and positivism/Karl Popper belongs to Analytical philosophy...Strauss obviously belongs to Continental philosophy...While I see parallels between Toqueville and Hegel, I am not sure I like the historicist label for Toqueville and am not even sure that he couldn't be placed into the Analytical camp as opposed to the Continental camp, in other words there are many different possible ways to group these thinkers, and different ways of being technical about it.
In any case I really enjoy the clarity and wisdom of Toqueville about this issue in Democracy in America starting with Chapter 14 and ending with a warning against the temptation of thinking even historicism true(and therefore man completly determined and without free will) at the of Chapter 20.
The Power of Nightmares video is old hat. Back when talk of a "Straussian cabal" found its way into the New Yorker and off Broadway in a Tim Robbins play. Depsite interesting comments from Rosen on Strauss's alleged affection for 1950s and 1960s television--depsite Mansfield being Mansfield--I'm not sure what this video shows. Ditzy chicks drinking Martinis, dipshit kids dancing some jig that supposedly demonstrates rampant individualism and anomie. So Sayyid Qutb gets angry--what could you expect? Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood is more than a simple jihad organization. They may have wanted a more Burkean conservative version of Islam as compared to Nasser's westernizing ass kissing of the USSR. Either way, "them skirts are too short."
Relevant articles recently made available:
Alan Gilbert. "Do Philosophers Counsel Tyrants? in Constellations.
William H.F. Altman. "Pyrrhic Victories
and a Trojan Horse in the Strauss Wars" in Philosophy of the Social Sciences.
FYI.. the Strauss lecture was pulled off yesterday.... :( It will take two years to get things up, but given things I suspect it will take longer if not never.
Has anyone read Altman's "review" of Mansfield?