Via a reader, a supplemental lecture (part of a course) on Strauss’ three waves of modernity:
Strauss briefly highlighted (about 40 years ago now in this video) what he saw as two intellectually/academically predominant ways of approaching political philosophy that have rejected it as a pursuit of the good:
1. Positivism-“The only form of genuine knowledge is scientific knowledge…and science knows only facts, or relations of facts.”-Video 1-Minute 4:40
Outside of (S)cience, you are only discussing values, or relations of ideas which are less than factual, and thus perhaps not knowable (or certainly not with the same claim upon (T)ruth). Of course, this doesn’t prevent people from pursuing “The Great Society,” or “The Open Society” or other ideas which likely influence politics in the wake of positivism…but it can prevent the kind of project Strauss wanted to pursue.
Strauss also brings up:
2. Historicism-: “All human thought, including scientific thought, rests ultimately on premises, which cannot be validated by human reason, and which change from historical epoch to historical epoch.”-Video 2-Minute 4:10.
From Aristotle to Locke, thinkers have presented really different and conflicting ideas on what a good society ought to be. Historicism suggests that this is because they lived in different times, with different problems. So, as you look back upon history you must see them as part of their contexts/cultures/times. Yet, in so doing, the lens with which you understand their times assumes that you can have an absolute knowledge of time itself.
Paradoxically, like Hegel, you are then claiming to have absolute knowledge but also claiming that you can’t have absolute knowledge within the bounds of reason (or claiming that there are absolute ideas, however unknowable).
The Meno here.
Just a few ideas. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.
Also, if Strauss relies so much on the reason/revelation distinction, and heavily on Plato and philosophical idealism (as opposed to empiricism, say) does he miss some of what that tradition has meant for political freedom in the U.S.? Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’