Leo Strauss at McMaster

In September 1975, Rabbi Stanley G. Weber defended a dissertation called “Leo Strauss on Jerusalem and Athens”, supervised by George Parkin Grant in the Department of Religious Studies.  The dissertation was meant to “enucleate the thought of Leo Strauss on the relation of Jerusalem and Athens” with a special interest in the relation between Judaism and Philosophy.  This is interesting for a whole host of reasons.  First, Political Philosophy has always had a home at McMaster, despite the never ending persecution to which it’s been subjected by the last 20+ years of administrations.  Second, 1975 is incredibly early to be writing a dissertation on Strauss’s thought.*  Really, Grant is one of the few (only?) people who in 1975 could have supervised such a thesis, being a reviewer of Strauss’s On Tyranny and the Strauss-Kojeve debate.  Grant was the first to bring attention the the omission of the last paragraph from the French edition in the English “Restatement”.  Confer footnote 37 in Grant’s famous Lament for a Nation, where he draws on Strauss to make sense of the Canadian modern predicament.  That whole paragraph is clearly a reflection on Strauss’s famous line, “Tyranny is a danger coeval with political life” and Kojeve’s response to it in view of the “world state”.  In Lament (1965) Grant points us to What is Political Philosophy? and The City and Man.  In his 1966 Appendix to Philosophy and the Mass Age, Grant points us again to WIPP but now substitutes CM for Thoughts on Machiavelli.

Returning to Rabbi Weber, it appears only Professor Kenneth Green has come across his thesis, granting it a citation in Jew and Philosopher, but I can find it only in the citations not in the text.  Rabbi Weber was mentioned in the Ottawa Citizen on May 27, 1961 [link].  This is a stunning thesis, which deserves much more publicity than it’s received.  Especially interesting is that Rabbi Weber appears to have met Strauss, listing his “two days with Strauss” among the abbreviated works.  More to come…

*Richard Zinman, I believe, also wrote a dissertation on Strauss.  But this was awarded (according to his CV on the Olin Center page) in 1976.

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