I read Strauss as interested in providing a solid foundation for getting around the problems of the project of Reason, and modernity, and the dangers of grounding one’s thinking only in Reason. At its worst, this led to the growth of States that knew better than individuals what was best for them (and many millions of deaths), potentially sublimated religious belief into secular belief and the growth of the State (though there are many other forces at work in Europe), and, according to Strauss, caused a split from a certain kind of moral reasoning and much moral philosophy (Platonic political philosophy especially) that we should get back to.
Here’s what a reader writes to Sullivan about how the Straussian influence has played out in the hands of the neo-cons (and I would beware of giving Sullivan any chance to pamphleteer his own project without coming up with good reasons as to why):
“Strauss’s essay, “The Three Waves of Modernity.” Modernity starts with Machiavelli and Hobbes and Locke, moves through Rousseau, and ends with Nietzsche (and implicitly Heidegger). That is, a nefarious break with “the ancients” occurred in the early modern period that set in motion a decline towards historicism, relativism, and nihilism. This is the theoretical backdrop to significant elements within neoconservatism; it is premised on this critique of modernity, on the possibility of impending doom, on the inability of “modernity” to sustain itself.”
as well as:
So neoconservatives, cynically and instrumentally, tend to defend and deploy “pre-modern” virtues and institutions — the military, war, and martial virtue; and reactionary religion (“Biblical religion”). These push against the trajectory of modern life, and thus (supposedly) stave off the decline they are convinced is always already underway. They do not try to sustain modernity from within, to reconcile, say, faith and modernity, but rather see modernity as something that needs counterweights, that needs to be pushed back against at every turn. So you purposefully cultivate certain elements that are in reaction to modernity — you push for war to fend off the decadent “softness” of modern liberals, and you make alliances with the religious right.”
More and more Straussian criticism is in the air lately…
Perhaps Strauss is using much Nietzsche to get around Nietzsche, and I don’t necessarily see a need for his esotericism regarding the Greeks.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
Another Addition: Peter Levine discusses the Nietzsche connection here.
Related On This Site: Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’…Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss? From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes: From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?
Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?: From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …