‘It seems, then, according to Strauss, that Nietzsche was correct in his critique of modern rationalism, which created a crisis leading to fascism, and that Nietzsche offered no way out of this crisis. But any reader familiar with Nietzsche’s writings must wonder why Strauss says nothing about Nietzsche’s acceptance of Darwinian science in his middle period as an alternative to the apocalyptic rhetoric of “will to power” and “eternal return” in his later writings. It is this Nietzsche of the later writings that Strauss and the Straussians have embraced–the Nietzsche who shows the “manly nihilism” admired by Harvey Mansfield.’
A commenter responds. Worth a read.
For a friend at her request, here is a crude summary of some of Strauss’s thinking:
Most modern thinkers since the Enlightenment, because of the triumph of physics, mathematical physics and a split from natural philosophy, theology, and the Church’s old Aristotelian models, have had to wrestle with a new set of problems regarding the pursuit of truth and our claims to knowledge. Some of them have believed that just as physics (and metaphysics as Kant intended to put metaphysics on the same ground as the natural sciences) yields new knowledge of the natural world, so too can epistemologies can be built and entire disciplines based upon the universal truths of historicist and positivist thought.
For Strauss however, historicism and positivism both lead to relativism and nihilism, which pose great dangers to liberal democracy and which have led to the three crises of modernity, including the most recent descent into fascism upon the European continent.
Politics on this view, for example, won’t be studied as it was for Aristotle (man is a political animal) in the polis, but now as a (S)cience. A modern wall has been put up. Political scientists will be necessary. Politics, too, involves groups of people, therefore a new field of study like sociology is required to understand groups of people. Groups of people are made up of individuals, therefore a field of study like psychology is required to understand individuals. Next, perhaps, would be a general theory of personality for all of those individuals. And if we can observe individual humans in a political group, why not animals, or plants, or bacteria? If we must look at all cultures, and all epochs in their specific contexts…why is our time, our culture, and our traditions any better than anyone else’s? This reasoning should be familiar to us all, though it clearly has it uses.
‘The new political science denies in a way that there is a public reason: government may be a broker, if a broker possessing “the monopoly of violence,” but it surely is not the public reason. The true public reason is the new political science, which judges in a universally valid, or objective, manner what is to the interest of each, for it show to everyone what means he must choose to attain his attainable ends, whatever those ends may be.”
Strauss’s critique of the new political science highlights the limits and logical fallacies he sees within modern thought and modernity itself. And much like a man who wears glasses, historicist and positivist thinkers soon forget they are wearing them. The “Is” become “Oughts” and crowd out other possible, differing and perfectly valid ways of thinking about man, politics, man’s nature and his natural ends which Strauss wanted to recover within his own project of returning to the ancients. Hegelian historicism, in particular, comes under Strauss’ criticism and the collectivist political ideologies (Marxism, Communism) that have sprung from it.
Obviously, this approach has been very important to many conservative thinkers in the U.S, those who are particularly religious, Natural Law thinkers (addition: many have disagreements with Strauss), and other assorted enemies of the collectivist projects of the Left, including the actual Communists and Neo-Marxists, moral relativists, modernists and post-modernists etc.
Feel free to highlight my ignorance. Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
Link to a paper given at Oxford suggesting there are reasons to be skeptical of Strauss’s motives.
*Essays On The Scientific Study Of Politics, edited by Herbert J Storing (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962). (2nd paragraph of this post is a summary in my own words from pg 318…2nd quotation is from pg 320):
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Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss…From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’
Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?: From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …
…Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx…From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’