Allan Bloom (wikipedia) wrote the Closing Of The American Mind in 1987. It is a deep book, and an interesting one. It is also, I believe, following a vein of thought that continues to affect American life…with mixed results.
There is a direct Nietzschean influence flowing through Martin Heidegger, Leo Strauss (wikipedia), and Allan Bloom…not to mention much 20th century art and existentialism. In Bloom particularly, it is guided partially by Strauss’ project of recovering and reclaiming the Greeks from Nietzsche’s assault upon Christianity.
Strauss, of course, has Nietzsche succumbing to historicism, having followed historicist logic to its nihilistic consequences (or simply continuing what was started earlier in more Continental strains of thought). Here’s Strauss on Nietzsche:
‘The theoretical analysis of life is noncommittal and fatal to commitment, but life means commitment. To avert the danger to life, Nietzsche could choose one of two ways: he could insist on the strictly esoteric character of the theoretical analysis of life–that is restore the Platonic notion of the noble delusion–or else he could deny the possibility of theory proper. and so conceive of theory as essentially subservient to, or dependent on, life or fate. If not Nietzsche himself, at any rate his successors adopted the second alternative.’
But did Strauss actually endorse Platonic idealism, not finding fault with the metaphysics of Plato, as Aristotle so obviously did, and as have most modern thinkers have done? Surely, Strauss’ esoteric approach to Plato likely has issues:
‘Allan Bloom (1930-1992), although valuable as a critic, often seems merely to be promoting the ideas of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), whose own approach strikes the editor as a very idiosyncratic version of esoteric textual hermeneutics: to argue that Plato’s Republic was not a serious political theory and that Plato and Aristotle really didn’t disagree on fundamentals perhaps nicely reaffirms the views of the Neoplatonists and early Mediaeval philosophers like al-Fârâbî, but otherwise it must seem positively perverse in its strained counter-intuitiveness.’
Any thoughts and comments are welcome. Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic can be found here.
Addition: Bryan Magee’s series available on youbtube is useful: Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…
Another Addition: While I may not agree with Bloom’s formulation, I suspect that from a purely administrative standpoint, working toward “diversity” and toward a “meritocracy” only seems to satisfy the ideals of some people driving change within our universities. Despite the benefits (and there are many) such ideas seem to me more ideal, and less practical when applied to how people actually behave (self-interested, self-sacrificing for their children, forming social networks, bending toward nepotism etc.).
See Also: Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgements apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment…Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’ What alternatives are there to the postmodernists…some vague nod to Aquinas, Teresa Of Avila…Gerard Manley Hopkins…piety and religious belief distilled into fine poetry? See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…
Martha Nussbaum is using Aristotle, the utilitarians, and Enlightenment ideals to broaden a platform for feminism, and is not much of a friend to religion, nor using religious belief and thought to guide laws…: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’… From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.
Strauss and the Chicago School figure in modern conservative thought as well and the current libertarian resurgence: Two Monday Quotations From Keeping The Tablets
Allan Bloom -Photo here from Dr Clifford Brickman