Leo Strauss, Giorgio Agamben, and two answers to the question, “What is Security?”

I have been revisiting some old writing lately. Some of it should be confined to the dustbin… some of it deserves more consideration. These thoughts on Agamben & Strauss I’d say deserve more thought. They were the focus of an old conference paper I once gave, and then never did anything with. Writing and reading is purely for pleasure now, so I’m not sure what I will do next, but these thoughts have some kernel of usefulness in them, I believe.  With the publication of Strauss’s lectures, and helpful volumes such as the recent collection on Strauss’s 1930s work (“Reorientation”), obviously the literature would need to be addressed anew. I’ve long thought that Strauss needs to supplement the arguments that Agamben makes in Homo Sacer, especially given that Agamben mentions him by name. What follows is the beginning of such an attempt. 

“What is Security?” Two answers from Strauss & Agambem

Strauss’s “Notes on Carl Schmitt” have been translated and published alongside Schmitt’s treatise since 1996, while the appearance of Homo Sacer in English in 1998—a book that takes up the debate on emergency powers between Schmitt and Walter Benjamin—shows readers that Strauss’s philosophy is one of the touchstones from which Agamben’s critique takes its bearings.  Agamben, while introducing his understanding of the distinction between zoe and bios says the following:  “The idea of an inner solidarity between democracy and totalitarianism…is obviously not (like Leo Strauss’s thesis concerning the secret convergence of the final goals of liberalism and communism) a historiographical claim, which would authorize the liquidation and leveling of the enormous differences that characterize their histories and rivalry” (Agamben 1998, 10).  That is, Strauss’s interpretation of the history of political philosophy in Agamben’s presentation is unable to “thematically interrogate the link between bare life and politics” and cannot “bring the political out of its concealment and, at the same time, return thought to its practical calling” (Agamben 1998, 4-5).  Agamben turns to Strauss again at the very conclusion of the work:

Every attempt to rethink the political space of the West must begin with the clear awareness that we no longer know anything of the classical distinction between zōe and bios, between private life and political existence, between man as a simple living being at home in the house and man’s political existence in the city.  This is why the restoration of classical political categories proposed by Leo Strauss and, in a different sense, by Hannah Arendt can have only a critical sense.  There is no return from the camps to classical politics. (1998, 187)

Agamben has picked a fine interlocutor, though it is unclear how aware Agamben is of this fact, as Strauss demonstrates a surprising ability to respond to Agamben’s challenges.[1]  Agamben mentions Strauss on other time in Homo Sacer, during his discussion of the distinction between physis [nature] and nomos [law/custom/convention].[2]  There, Agamben identifies the “classical natural right” teaching—by way of Strauss—to be the use of the “law of nature” to undermine the “Sophistic opposition” between nature and nomos (1998, 35).[3]

51kfxqxfh6l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Very briefly, Agamben’s biopolitical presupposition of sovereign power breaks down in Strauss’s account because the division between the city and the household or the family is not so clear.  In A Giving of Accounts Strauss is asked whether the philosopher would get his education from nature?   “His first education,” Strauss responds, “surely not.  His first education he would usually get from his father and mother, and other relatives, that is to say, from the city” (JPCM 466, cf. 459-60).  The “city” has for Strauss a much broader connotation here than the simple “qualified political life” of which Agamben speaks.  This said, Strauss’s more important response to Agamben is his recovery of the idea that philosophy is a way of life, or that one can once again pose the question of the right way of life (cf. Tarcov 2010; Armada 2010).  What is of central importance in the tension between nature and nomos is not, pace Agamben, the revealing of the inclusive exclusion of zoe and the concomitant relation of politics and “bare life” in the hopes of progressing beyond this foundational exclusion of Modernity, but the posing of the question, pos bioteon? or, “how must one live?” (GS 2.388-9; EW 32).[4]  The question of one’s way of life is what Strauss identifies as the “primary subject” of Xenophon’s Hiero: “the difference between tyrannical and private life” (OT 78; cf. NRH 156).   Strauss adjusts this formulation, first as the “contrast between the citizen and the stranger” before moving to a discussion of “the wise man and the ruler” (OT 79, 86).[5]  This discussion culminates with Strauss stressing the roles that foreign policy and security play in the distinction of these two ways of life:  “The city is essentially the potential enemy of other cities, hence one cannot define the function of the ruler without thinking of war…the city and her ruler need allies, whereas the wise man does not” (OT 90).  The particularism of political life is contrasted with the cosmopolitanism of the philosophic life:  “When Socrates assumes that the wise man is just, he understands by justice transpolitical justice, the justice which is irreconcilable with hurting anyone” (OT 91).[6]

For our purposes, so far as Modernity’s answer to this question “how must one live?” is concerned, Strauss’s 1930s work on Hobbes sees it entirely wrapped up in issues of fundamental relevance to International Relations.  By grounding his political philosophy on the passions of fear and hope, Hobbes turns political philosophy into a “technique” for transforming defective State into the right State (PPH 152).  Thus Hobbes’s sovereignty signifies a break with antiquity, or a break with the political philosophy that sought to achieve the good society primarily through “internal policy” in its famous formulation, “when philosophers become kings, and kings philosophers” (PPH 161; Republic 473d).  As Strauss puts it, this reliance on chance for the coincidence of philosophy and political power for which one “can only wish or pray…will be conquered by systematic philosophy issuing in systematic enlightenment” (NRH 200).  Hobbes’s critique of antiquity is meant to “secure a fixed view…of the human ordering of human life”:  “even today [Hobbes’s] harshest critics themselves admit that he was the first to develop the concept of sovereignty with full clarity; and since this concept is not just one concept among others but the foundation of modern politics, Hobbes is the founder of modern politics” (HCR 25, 63).  It is worth recalling that Strauss defines politeia or regime as the “way of life” of a community (NRH 137).  The question of a way of life is, therefore, answered by modernity with Hobbes’s affirmation of the primacy of foreign policy:

For Plato and Aristotle, in accordance with the primary interest they attach to home policy, the question of the number of inhabitants of the perfect state…is of decisive importance, Hobbes brushes this question aside in the following words: ‘The Multitude sufficient to confide in for our Security, is not determined by any certain number, but by comparison with the Enemy we fear….’ The primacy of foreign policy is taught not only by Hobbes but in all specifically modern political philosophy, whether implicitly or explicitly.  This assertion needs no proof in view of the theories of ‘power politics.’ (PPH 163)

This said, Strauss reintroduces the importance of considering the size of a state that Hobbes seems to brush off:  “If societies “grow” there is no guarantee whatsoever that they will not take away the light of the sun from others:  he who preaches “growth” without thinking of the term of growth, of the peak beyond which there cannot be growth, preaches war” (WIPP 238).  To Agamben’s initial challenge that modernity has concealed the distinction between political life and life-as-such, Strauss makes it possible to respond that modernity and the idea of security coeval with it implies a particular vision of the good society; by implying a particular vision of the good society, the idea of security poses the question of ‘the good’ simply, or the good life.

The Concept of Security in Strauss’s Change in Orientation

9780226776828Strauss says in his autobiographical preface that his ‘Notes’ on Carl Schmitt’s Concept of the Political are the “first expression” of a “change in orientation” regarding the “powerful prejudice that a return to pre-modern philosophy is impossible” (LAM 257).   It is in Strauss’s response to Schmitt that Strauss realizes a “radical critique” of liberalism is only possible if one returns to the “horizon” in which Hobbes completed the foundation of liberalism, or if one gains a “horizon beyond liberalism” (NCP ¶35).[7]  In the same year that Strauss’s  ‘Notes’ on Schmitt appear, he also writes an extended book review of Z. Lubienski’s The Foundations of Hobbes’s Ethical-Political System, which he titles “Some Notes on the Political Science of Hobbes.”[8]  About the horizon beyond liberalism, Strauss says there the following:

if liberalism wants to affirm itself, it is compelled to engage in a more radical justification than ever before in its history.  For in its beginning it could appeal—legitimately or illegitimately, but in any case with success—to certain presuppositions that lay at the basis of the religious tradition combated by liberalism…If, then, one is to provide a radical justification for liberalism, i.e. a justification that does not engage in open or secret borrowings from the religious traditions, one finds oneself again referred back to Hobbes’s political science. (HCR 122, my italics)

It is precisely this “open or secret” borrowing that Strauss detects in Schmitt’s argument, in his nullification of the understanding of evil that is natural and innocent in favour of one that sees evil as moral baseness (NCP ¶26).  Strauss recognizes that it is this moral baseness that ultimately requires dominion – “the morally demanding decision” – and provides the basis of Schmitt’s sovereign decisionism:  when the moment of decision ceases, politics ceases, and thus Schmitt possesses an “eagerness for decision regardless of content” (NCP ¶32).

Part of Strauss’s “change in orientation” involves a rejection of Schmitt’s presentation of the relationship between the sovereign decision and politics.  This is not Strauss’s language, but we could say that part of regaining the pre-liberal and pre-modern horizon involves a reflection on the normal and the exceptional political situation.  In the chapter on Classic Natural Right in Natural Right and History Strauss turns to a discussion of mutable and immutable natural right in the last six paragraphs; that is, in that section of the narrative that immediately precedes the discussion of modern natural right, Strauss devotes a considerable amount of attention to the relationship between natural right and an “extreme situation where the very existence or independence of a society is at stake” (NRH 160).

Strauss’s discussion of exceptionalism here is pregnant with Schmittean undertones, though Schmitt is never named.  Strauss begins this subsection of Natural Right and History with a discussion of moral conscience, and ends with a discussion of how the modern critique of Thomistic natural law returned to the Ancients.  Strauss’s discussion of the changeability of Aristotelian natural right introduces the Thomistic concept of synderesis or “habitus of moral principles” or moral conscience (NRH 157).[9]  Aristotle’s concept of habitus has been introduced into the arena of security studies via Pierre Bourdieu’s work on habitus and field, and the interaction between structure, agency and practice (Williams 2007, esp. 25ff.).[10]  Strauss’s concern here, however, is with the consciousness and natural right.  Strauss describes Aristotle’s attitude towards natural right in a way that reminds fully of Schmitt’s “decisionism” thesis:  “Aristotle does not primarily think of any general propositions but rather of concrete decisions.  All action is concerned with particular situations.  Hence justice and natural right reside, as it were, in concrete decisions rather than in general rules” (NRH 159).  But, this is where the similarity ends, and Strauss adds the following in opposition to Schmitt’s decisionism regardless of content:  “Yet one can hardly deny that in all concrete decisions general principles are implied and presupposed” (NRH 159).

Strauss responds to Aristotle’s decisionism thesis in his own voice (NRH 160).  Strauss speaks here of an “extreme situation” and the possibility that a society might risk its total demise.  But this is not Strauss’s own voice per se:  he is recasting what he identifies as the Thucydidean understanding of the “low and the high” that he discusses in his eulogy of his friend Kurt Riezler:  “[Thucydides] regards the higher of the opposites not, as Socrates did, as stronger but as more vulnerable, more delicate than the lower” (WIPP 260).  Strauss returns to this theme again at the end of City and Man, and again in response to Aristotle:  “Aristotle goes so far as to visualize a perfectly good city that has no “foreign relations” whatever…The lack of order which characterizes the “society” of the cities or, in other words, the omnipresence of War puts a much lower ceiling on the highest aspiration of any city toward just and virtue than classical political philosophy might seem to have admitted” (CM 239, my emphasis).   For Strauss, what is possible in peaceful times, or the extent to which the just society is possible always depends on the quality and character of international relations.  We take this to be what he has in mind when he observes that the Cold War in 1964 represented a state of “practical particularism” (CM 6).

The issue of practicality might be behind Strauss presenting Aristotle in such a way that he is indistinguishable from Schmitt:  “Aristotle seems to suggest that there is not a single rule, however basic, that is not subject to exception.” Though Strauss distinguishes Aristotelian exceptionalism from the Schmittean variety by invoking the simile of inside/outside or the “outer and the inner”: “One could say that in all cases the common good must be preferred to the private good and that this rule suffers no exception” (NRH 160-1, my italics).  Thus even the “exception” is not a simply free decision but “must” prefer the common to the private good, though Strauss immediately notes that this merely brings us to the question of “the good” or just, simply.  Strauss continues in the following way:

…it is not possible to define precisely what constitutes an extreme situation in contradistinction to a normal situation.  Every dangerous external or internal enemy is inventive to the extent that he is capable of transforming what, on the basis of previous experience, could reasonably be regarded as a normal situation into an extreme situation.  Natural right must be mutable in order to be able to cope with the inventiveness of wickedness.  What cannot be decided in advance by universal rules, what can be decided in the critical moment by the most competent and most conscientious statesman on the spot, can be made visible as just, in retrospect, to all; the objective discrimination between extreme actions which were just and extreme actions which were unjust is one of the noble duties of the historian. (161, my emphasis)

Certainly, this praise of “the historian” here should come as a surprise to readers who recall the critique of historicism from earlier in the work.  But this is not Strauss’s last word on this.  Immediately before the passage quoted, Strauss provides the following detail about the norm, exception, and just society:  “By saying that in extreme situations the public safety is the highest law, one implies that public safety is not the highest law in normal situations; in normal situations, the highest laws are the common rules of justice” (NRH 161).  While there remains a type of justice for normal situations and “extreme” situations, the intellectual pursuit of knowledge of justice and the good society is only possible during “normal” situations.  To put this in slightly different terms, any understanding of Natural Right must take its bearings from how we live in the present, captured in Strauss’s idea of the “inventiveness of wickedness”.  Our understanding of nature is not wholly separate from nomos or convention; indeed, even Strauss’s thoughts here on exceptionalism and decisionism point not to the independence and autonomy of nature but to the permanent tension and debate between nature and nomos.

At this point, we can frame Strauss’s understanding of security as something like the securing and protection of nomos against all that might destabilize the normal situation.  In a footnote appended to the passages in question, Strauss attributes to Aristotle the opinion that “a man who is not capable of being a member of civil society is not necessarily a defective human being; on the contrary, he may be a superior human being” (NRH 161n33).  Because this thought concludes Strauss’s paragraph on the norm and the exception, the contemporary reader is compelled to mention Agamben once more.  And for good reason: it is Agamben’s expressed aim in his opening and closing chapters to take on Strauss’s use of the theologico-political problem for the interpretation of the history of political philosophy by urging us to instead consider the distinction between bare and qualified life. Both are after “presuppositions” or the ground of Modernity and Sovereignty.  But Strauss’s response is much fuller and comprehensive to Agamben’s challenge than one might imagine.  There is a very real sense in which Strauss understands “security” to mean security of the conscience.  In a letter to Helmet Kuhn about this passage on synderesis, Strauss emphasizes that there is no synderesis in Aristotle. This doctrine belongs to Thomas Aquinas:  “And considering the connection between synderesis and conscience this means that Aristotle implicitly denies the conscience” (Quoted in Tanguay 2007, 121).[11]  If Aristotle denied the conscience, and Thomas had a doctrine of the conscience, then one must read with renewed interest the observations about the “retreat into consciousness” that Strauss makes of Hobbes and Descartes (HCR 97; cf. Burns 2010).  The “retreat into consciousness” is what allows Hobbes to launch his critique of revelation, which is the presupposition of his political philosophy.  If it is of Medieval, or Biblical, and not Greek origin, then this emphasizes to a greater degree the importance of the Strauss’s turn to medieval rationalism in his attempt to “get behind” modernity.[12]

The Prophetic Imagination

One of the chief reasons behind our assertion that Strauss is capable of providing insight into the concept of security is due to his presentation and understanding of the relationship between prophecy and politics.  Consider again the last half of the footnote to Aristotle quoted above on participation in political society:  “he may be a superior human being.”  If Agamben’s homo sacer stands below society as “he who can be killed but not sacrificed” then the figure of the prophet must be at the opposite political and theological pole.  The closing chapter of Strauss’s Philosophy and Law deals with the relationship between prophecy and the law, or that human being who predicts the future and the prevailing order of things in a way that is very close to how we have been framing Strauss’s thoughts on security.  The prophet is that person who predicts the future of a community. That is, prediction of future calamity and the prevailing order of things are integrally related; yet, this is not a “closure” of intellectual space.  On the contrary, it presupposes freedom of thought to begin with, or the freedom of thought of the prophet.

The relationship between prophecy and security, in very general terms, is identified by Heinrich Meier as one of the approaches that Strauss takes in his rhetorical strategy to lead his readers out of the supposed stalemate of Reason or Revelation.   According to Meier, one of Strauss’s approaches is to “determine the limits of what is possible or the concentration on security” (Meier 2006, 25).  By this Meier means that Strauss’s presentation of philosophy “demonstrates what must be presupposed in order to defend the possibility of revelation, therefore what the security of faith in revelation depends on, the security with respect to which all human security is said to shatter and to pale” (ibid.).  That is, if philosophy remains secure, it is able to articulate a challenge to revelation that allows the political community at large to find security in revealed prophecy.

Still, Strauss asks, “why does the human race depend on prophets?” (PAL 120).  He provides a version of Maimonides’ answer to this question that has been made by Strauss to be strictly political:  “man is by nature a political being, and, in contradistinction to the other living beings, he is by nature in need of association…Since, therefore, association is nowhere so necessary and nowhere so difficult as precisely among men, men need a governor to regulate the affairs of individuals in such a way that concord based on statute replaces the natural opposition” (PAL 120).  This concord based on statute is also necessary:  “man, as a political being, can live only under law” (PAL 121).[13]  This is another way of saying that if the prophet is the lawgiver, then man as a political being can live only under prophecy; furthermore, this prophecy stands in opposition to nature, even if it seeks an end to the “natural opposition” of human beings:  “the end of prophecy is political…the supreme role of the prophet is not mantics but political government” (PAL 122).

 The link between Strauss’s prophetology and the concept of security is seen most explicitly in the relation that the prophet has with future events.  “The prophet’s knowledge of the future (his ability to see the future before him as an embodied present) belongs to the imaginative faculty” (PAL 146n23).  This is to say that the prophecy of the future is basically affective, or that the role of the rational parts of human psychology is not central to the receiving of prophecy and the legislation that follows.  The “enlightenment” is aimed at the welfare of the community, or the securing of the good life for the community:  “the existence and the welfare of the human race depends on men’s living in community; community presupposes reciprocal intercourse; this intercourse is not possible without regimen and justice; regimen is not possible without a lawgiver” (PAL 123).

The human race is therefore “dependent” on the prophet even though they are something rare.  Furthermore, because not all humans are capable of prophecy, the character of prophecy is much closer to a “propaganda” that attempts a popular enlightenment without taking such enlightenment as one’s aim.  In the modern context, progress and science take on the role of prophecy for the relief of man’s estate, and security itself is the relief of man’s, protecting against the warlike natural condition, and so on.  Security and modernity come to represent the use of enlightenment for the relief of man’s estate, or the use of science to reduce one’s insecurities in all of their forms.  The security brought by the prophetic imagination, and the security sought by the popularization of science and progress both assume the bridging of knowledge and politics—of knowledge and nomos—to be a possibility.  This is a possibility that Socrates in Republic consigns to nothing more than a coincidence.

Conclusion & Next Steps:  Strauss’s Enlightenment Thought

The Socratic formulation of the security problem does not, in the final analysis, seek the security of and for political life but rather points beyond the political life from within the political life, to the good beyond the political life.  Reflecting on the ways in which Strauss addresses the concept of security has forced us to turn to his enlightenment thought, or that body of work that he produces that is explicitly devoted to the presupposition of the “Formal” enlightenment, and the Medieval enlightenment that precedes it.  “Security” and the Socratic conception of it has as its essential characteristic the critique of the establishment of the philosopher-prophet in the city, as the harbinger of future events or that figure who predicts the future of the political community.  That is, a Socratic formulation of the security problem will interpret the concept of security to be under the umbrella of the theologico-political problem.  Strauss’s interpretation of the relationship between modernity, sovereignty, and security, reveals that concepts such as the moral consciousness and enlightenment are intimately bound up in the relationship between sovereignty and security in such a way as to begin to dissolve the difference between these two concepts.  The full exposition of Strauss’s thoughts on these matters would have to move to his remarks on the first crisis of modernity, or to the critique of enlightenment that he discerns in the philosophic intention of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the ways in which it imitates the philosophic intention of Machiavelli.


[1] One suspects this to be the case insofar as both have Heidegger in mind.

[2] In the published transcripts of his 1959 course, On Plato’s Symposium, Strauss adds to this that nomos is “that by which you earn disgrace” or “accepted opinions” (74-5).

[3] A comparison between these two authors on the theme of Law is surely due, especially given that Agamben cannot, unlike other modern thinkers, be charged with not thinking of Jerusalem (cf. TOM 182).

[4] One might compare the discussion between Socrates and Callicles in Plato’s Gorgias (500c ff.) where an explicit discussion of philosophy and politics as different ways of life is taken up.

[5] These in turn are further subdivided into the tyrannical and non-tyrannical ruler, and the wise man and the just man (OT 91).

[6]  Schmitt is obviously in the background of these arguments, given his famous definition of politics as the friend-foe antagonism.  Cf. Republic, 331d-336a.  Also Zuckert & Zuckert (2006: 192).

[7] To paraphrase Agamben, one needs to escape the “nomos of the modern.”

[8] This appears in translation alongside Hobbes’s Critique of Religion, in the volume of Strauss’s writings by the same name.

[9] Thomas discusses synderesis in Summa Thelogica, Ia.79.12.  It is believed that synderesis is a corruption of a different Greek word, syneidesis, in St. Jerome’s commentary on the Book of Ezekiel; specifically, his commentary on the Account of the Chariot (Kries 2002).

[10] Williams offers the following explanation:  “Perhaps the most difficult concept in Bourdieu’s attempt to articulate the logic of practice is that of the habitus. The habitus is the semi-conscious (though not innate) orientation that individuals have to the world, which forms a basis for practice. As John Thompson has lucidly described it, the habitus is ‘a set of dispositions which incline agents to act and react in certain ways. The dispositions generate practices, perceptions and attitudes which are ‘‘regular’’ without being consciously co-ordinated or governed by any ‘‘rule’.’’ The structures of the habitus are not universal, but are acquired through the occupation of specific social positions” (Williams 2007, 25).

[11] Strauss provides a longer statement in his 1963 Vico Seminar, in the first meeting.  Accounting for the necessary precautions that the lectures are not Strauss’s public or final statement on any issue, I reproduce the remarks here:

Within natural law itself an important change had taken place in the seventeenth century of which we will have to speak quite a bit in this seminar. I mention here only one point.  The natural law doctrine as developed especially in Thomas Aquinas implied, of course, that natural law must be sufficiently promulgated in order to be a law.  If there is a law, intrinsically a law, prescribing men what to do and what to forbear, and this law is not known to man, it cannot be a law.  Now Thomas Aquinas guaranteed this sufficient promulgation by his concept of synderesis which we can translate as “conscience.”  In other words the natural law is sufficiently promulgated in the human conscience.  And, of course, the Biblical account of the origin of man.  You will see in a minute why this is crucial.  By then, people began to question the Biblical account of the origin of man.  This, of course, doesn’t begin with Darwin, as some people believe.  No creation, no conscience, strictly speaking.  Now if no creation, no perfect beginning because that is a key implication of the Biblical account.  The beginnings are low which now has become really trivial since the days of Darwin.

Now this low beginning, the man who started from this low beginnings with greater success than anyone else was Hobbes.  Hobbes, however, it came into very great difficulties.  Hobbes said men lived originally like beasts in the forest – isolated, in a terrible situation:  war of everybody against everybody.  The only way to get out of it is to unite, and they cannot unite expect by contract, social contract.  How can these savages, living in isolation and therefore having not even language of any kind, how can they possibly think so far ahead that the establishment of government would solve their problems and therefore conclude the social contract? Can men in the Hobbian state of nature have developed reason so that they can conclude a contract? A very good question.

Hence the natural law is not sufficiently promulgated at the beginning, but only at the a advanced stage of the long experiences, long developments. Now this is already indicated by Locke, but much more clearly by Rousseau in the _Discourse on the Origin of Inequality_ the so-called Second Discourse which, according to Rousseau himself, is a history of man.  In order to lay a new basis for natural law as he understood it, Rousseau was compelled to write a history of man.  The history shows the insufficient promulgation of natural law, and therewith, of course, that the natural law is not universally valid.  How can it be valid for men who cannot possibly understand it?  Now this point, the insufficient promulgation of the law of nature, is obviously a key point in Vico.  And Vico proceeded Locke.  I’m regardless puzzled that I think there is no real evidence that Rousseau was influenced by Vico.  These things came somehow; they were, in a way, in the air.  But surely the situation is very different in Vico than it is in Rousseau.  And the simple proof of this is in Rousseau’s [structure?] it begins with this history of man which is a kind of alleged refutation of traditional natural law.  To repeat, because traditional natural law is based on the premise that natural law is sufficiently promulgated to man as man.  And after having refuted that, Rousseau set out to develop his own doctrine and this may be said to culminate in his book called Of the Social Contract.

[12] Compare the Appendix on Hobbes and Descartes in Schmitt’s Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes.  Also compare the “Epicurean atheist” who “rejects for reasons of conscience the belief in god” (PAL 37).

[13] Cf. a remark from Strauss’s 1956 lecture on Existentialism:  “Man is essentially a social being: to be a human being means to be with other human beings” (p.311).  The law, nomos, is how humans “be” together.  At the risk of playing the sophist, we will ask if this means that there cannot be a frame-of-mind without a frame, or an outlook without an outside, a disposition without a position in a political community, and so on.

Works by Leo Strauss

—-.  The Political Philosophy of Hobbes:  Its Basis and its Genesis. Trans. Elsa M. Sinclair.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952. (PPH)

—-.  Natural Right and History.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1953. (NRH)

—-.  Thoughts on Machiavelli.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1958. (TOM)

—-.  What is Political Philosophy? And Other Studies.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959. (WIPP)

—-.  The City and Man.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964. (CM)

—-. Philosophy and Law:  Contributions to the Understanding of Maimonides and his predecessors.  Transl. Eve Adler.  Albany: SUNY Press, 1995. (PAL)

—-.  “A Giving of Accounts” in Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity.  Kenneth Hart-Green, Ed.  Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

—-.  Gesammelte SchriftenBand 2 (Philosophie und Gesetz – Fruhe Schriften).  Stuttgart:  Verlag J.B. Metzler, 1997.  (GS 2)

—-.  On Tyranny: Revised and Expanded Edition, Including the Strauss-Kojeve Correspondence.  Victor Gourevitch & Michael S. Roth, Eds.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2000.  (OT)

—-. Hobbes’s Critique of Religion and Related Writings.  Trans. & Ed. Gabriel Bartlett & Svetozar Minkov.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2011. (HCR)

Works Cited

Adkins, Lesley & Roy A. Adkins.  Dictionary of Roman Religion.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1996.

Armada, Pawel “Leo Strauss as Erzieher” in Modernity and What has been Lost:  Considerations on the Legacy of Leo Strauss.  Pawel Armada & Arkadiusz Gornisiewicz, Eds.  South Bend:  St. Augustine’s Press, 2010.

Brann, Eva.  “Are Human Beings Ultimately Affective?” in Expositions.  Vol.1 No.1, pp.53-70.

Kries, Douglas.  “Origen, Plato, and Conscience (Synderesis) in Jerome’s Ezekiel Commentary” in Traditio. (2002) Vol.57, pp.67-83.

Tanguay, Daniel.  Leo Strauss: An Intellectual Biography.  Trans. Christopher Nadon.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Tarcov, Nathan. “Philosophy as the Right Way of Life in Natural Right and History” in Modernity and What has been Lost:  Considerations on the Legacy of Leo Strauss.  Pawel Armada & Arkadiusz Gornisiewicz, Eds.  South Bend:  St. Augustine’s Press, 2010.

Zuckert, Catherine & Michael Zuckert.  The Truth About Leo Strauss:  Political Philosophy and American Democracy.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.


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