Stanley Rosen's critique of Leo Strauss.
--Leo Strauss, Liberalism Ancient and Modern
STANLEY ROSEN'S CRITIQUES OF HIS TEACHER, Leo Strauss, are invariably brisk and stylish philosophic polemics. Over the course of more than forty years they have ranged in tone from the pugnacious to the laudatory. As critiques of Strauss go they are consistently in the highest philosophic echelon. What, then, are we to make of their frequent rough-handling of their subject? Even at their most temperate and even-handed--as in Rosen's chapter on Wittgenstein and Strauss in The Elusiveness of the Ordinary--Rosen ' s interpretations of Strauss rely on unsympathetic, distorting readings of Strauss. (1)
A number of scholars have interpreted Rosen's critiques of Strauss as unfair. While they are not dismissive of Rosen, they present an account of his relationship to his teacher that makes him seem either careless, ungenerous in his manner of reading Strauss, or both. (2) These interpretations of Rosen correctly report a litany of false inferences, misplaced claims, forced conclusions, strident pronouncements, and in one case, an important misquotation. Surely the unique combination of brusqueness and celerity that characterizes Rosen's treatments of Strauss gives them warrant. (3) These accounts fail, however, to credit the genuinely philosophical character of Rosen's encounter with Strauss and Rosen's manner of writing. Those who have written on Rosen's philosophical thought are closer to the mark. (4) They remark on Rosen's differences with his teacher but do not at any length account for the extreme peculiarity of Rosen's critiques of Strauss. Without sufficiently addressing themselves to these critiques, these authors have not successfully answered the charge that Rosen's discussion of Strauss rests on a series of willful exaggerations and distortions. Rosen distorts Strauss because according to his own understanding of the nature of philosophy, such a distortion is required. This mode of speech is, for Rosen, an intrinsic element of philosophy. At the same time, paradoxically, Rosen's distortion of Strauss is the mark of respect shown by one thinker of high rank for another.
Rosen claims that philosophers do not really argue with other philosophers, they instead distort and "punish" them for their mistakes. Rosen writes, "Fair-mindedness and objectivity are (sometimes) the traits of scholars, not of thinkers of the highest rank.
Philosophers educate nonphilosophers; they punish other philosophers for their mistakes." (5) Philosophers, on Rosen's account, do not speak to one another, they punish one another:
No great philosopher that I am familiar with has ever done justice to his great teacher. The same could be said of Hegel's critique of Kant, Heidegger's critique of Husserl, Derrida's critique of Heidegger and so on. All major thinkers, all people of the highest standing, the first thing they want to do is to destroy their teachers. Aristotle is very respectful towards Plato, but he always presents Plato's view in such a way as to make it implausible, or indefensible, in his own, Aristotelian terms, which makes it possible for him to establish how superior his own doctrines are to those of Plato. I can understand that. (6)
The same could be said of Rosen's critique of Strauss. Rosen distorts Strauss, presents Strauss in "Rosenian" terms, to punish him.
Someone could object, in sympathy with those writers who present Rosen's critique of Strauss as a cataract of misinformation and distortion, that Rosen's remark on philosophers getting other philosophers wrong is a back-handed attempt to certify his own classification with thinkers of the highest rank. This objection fails to account for the consistency of Rosen's distortion of Strauss. As we shall discuss presently, in Rosen's most interesting, even-handed, and temperate critique of Strauss, presented as the fourth chapter of Rosen's book, The Elusiveness of the Ordinary, the features of Rosen's various points of critique all derive from the same principle: Rosen's distortion of Strauss on the issue of opinion. (7) This objection also fails to account for Rosen's distinctive understanding of philosophy.
Understanding why and how Rosen distorts Strauss gives us a more complete picture of Rosen's philosophy. In what follows I begin by discussing Rosen's understanding of philosophy as illuminated by contrasting it with Strauss's. I then turn to the particulars of Rosen's critique of Strauss as found in the most measured and sober of Rosen's interpretations of Strauss, the fourth chapter of The Elusiveness of the Ordinary. I conclude by suggesting that Rosen's critique of Strauss is a rehearsal of the quarrel of the ancients with the moderns and so illuminates our understanding of this subject.
Rosen's Understanding of Philosophy. Why does Rosen think punishment is characteristic of philosophy? A general comparison with Strauss will bring out the relevant details of Rosen's position. It should come as no surprise that the quarrel between Rosen and Strauss turns on their different understanding of the nature of philosophy. Rosen generally has less respect for opinion as the proper medium of philosophy than Strauss does. This entails a different evaluation of the tension between the philosopher and the city.
Both Rosen and Strauss recur to Socrates as the model philosopher. But for Rosen, philosophy does not begin in the confrontation with opinion. Instead, it begins in individual astonishment or wonder: "As Socrates tells the story, philosophy emerges not from a careful analysis of everyday life and language, and not even from reflection on politics, but in wonder at the heavens and their regular movements." (8) The paradigmatic depiction of Socrates is not in the Apology but in the Phaedo. For Rosen, philosophy requires the noetic grasp of pure form, which is apprehended in the logoi. (9) It is imperative that logoi here be understood not as "speeches" in any sense that might have the taint of opinion but as the enduring ratios of the beings of our common perception which endow those beings with identity and unity through the fluctuating change of genesis. (10) This is what accounts for what Rosen, in the Elusiveness of the Ordinary, calls the "Socratic maxim," the classic or Platonic understanding that "to be is to be something." (11) Moreover, it is just such a perception, in principle available to man as man, that guides opinions, or about which opinions are formed. That is, if opinions have "vestiges of the truth," as Strauss maintains, (12) then the vestiges come from the presence in opinion of the logoi, which therefore deserve priority. For opinion or discourse to be anything but chatter, it must be guided by the truth of the logoi. (13)
Rosen therefore accounts for the tension between the philosopher and the city, famously identified by Strauss, on his own terms. Philosophy begins in an individual's wonder, and consists primarily in unitary vision. Its entrance into discursive speech, according to Rosen, necessarily and always fails to do justice to the unity of the vision. There is always a disjunction between noesis and dianoesis and consequently between theoria or gazing and poeien or praxis, doing. (14) The city is concerned with deeds or actions, the most elevated of these perhaps being speech. (15) Nonetheless, the disjunction between intellect and discursive reasoning, or between vision and speech, is permanent: the philosopher will never, inasmuch as the city is the location of deeds, be perfectly at home within the city. Philosophy remains, in its essence though not necessarily in its effects, a solitary, private activity.
For Strauss, the characteristic tension between philosophy and the city is such that the appropriate response of the philosopher is moderation. The city is the realm of opinion. The philosopher questions these opinions. (16) By setting one opinion against another--each containing a vestige of truth--the philosopher is able to ascend from the realm of opinion to that of truth:
To reach consistency the philosopher is compelled to maintain one part of common opinion and to give up the other part which contradicts it; he is thus driven to adopt a view that is no longer generally held, a truly paradoxical view, one that is generally considered "absurd" or "ridiculous." Nor is that all. He is ultimately compelled to transcend not merely the dimension of common opinion, of political opinion, but the dimension of political life as such." (17)
The city, however, remains founded on opinion. The philosopher, inasmuch as he remains within the city, is compelled to respect, at least in speech, the opinions of the citizens around him. Strauss frequently characterizes the turn to opinion as a return to sanity, or as moderate. Within opinions the philosopher finds the most reliable guide to apprehending what truly is. Accordingly, the philosopher grants opinion a certain or partial respect, even as he ascends from it. He is attentive, so as not to violate it, and he is polite, not least because it is the indispensable starting point of philosophy. Strauss's philosopher ascends from and returns to the realm of opinion; one aspect of his moderation is his declining to transform radically that opinion, with only a few exceptions:
His only demand on the political men is that they leave him alone. He justifies this demand by honestly declaring that his pursuit is purely theoretical and does not interfere in any way with the business of the political men. (18)
To the extent that the conflict with the political men cannot be avoided, the philosopher is cautious about what he says in public: "moderation is a virtue controlling the philosopher's speech." (19) The Straussian philosopher, in "contradistinction to his predecessors," does "not separate wisdom from moderation." (20)
Rosen would have the philosopher respond to the tension between the philosopher and the city not with moderation but with courage or daring. For Rosen, since philosophy does not necessarily begin in the city with opinion as the only fragile path to knowledge, then it does not need to be moderate for the same profound reason. When the philosopher speaks, qua philosopher, he posits answers to the variety of questions of the character, "What is it?" (21) On Rosen's account, these answers remain hypothetical and thereby are to be evaluated by their effects. (22) Philosophy is characterized by the attempt to answer the questions, not simply by an awareness of them. The philosopher by nature asserts himself in answering, in trying to give an account which would minister to the cleavage between theory and practice. He is driven to heal the diremption between vision and speech and proceeds by punitively correcting his own and others' expressed or implied opinions. Since philosophy relates to opinion as something to be corrected--either by education or punishment (23)--and not as a fragile path to the truth, then its relation to the political is not conservative but "is by its nature revolutionary." (24)
Rosen's quarrel with Strauss thus is concerned in the first place with the character of philosophy. But secondly, it is concerned with the relation of philosophy to politics. This second aspect of their difference is a quarrel over the proper appearance of philosophy in the public square. Here the issue of rhetoric is crucial.
For Strauss, the characteristic mode of expression for the moderate philosopher is ironic speech; in its written form, this takes the form of exoteric writing. This follows from Strauss's distinctive emphasis on the desirability of identifying moderation and wisdom. (25) He writes:
It should ... not be overlooked that this exoteric literature, which provides the highest type of education, is found not only in classical times; it has reappeared in all epochs in which philosophy was understood in its full and challenging meaning, in all epochs, that is, in which wisdom was not separated from moderation. (26)
Exoteric writing is moderate, not merely for the mundane purpose of mitigating persecution, but because it respects natural divisions, in particular as they first appear within opinion. These apparent differences in kind are reflections of the true natural differences, above all "nature in its most practically important respect: the natural differences among men." (27) The natural differences among men of which Strauss speaks are the distinctions between the class of nonphilosophers and the class of philosophers. Exoteric writing respects the opinion which supports established political order as a reflection, however imperfect, of the natural difference between the class of philosophers and the class of nonphilosophers.
For Rosen, the appropriate rhetoric for philosophy is not moderate accommodation to the actually existing regime but reformation, indeed, revolution. The reason is not willful idealism but proceeds from the nature of philosophic speech. Philosophic speech, including writing, is never strictly respectful of the divisions into classes and kinds as these appear in opinion. In particular, Rosen gives no priority and nothing but provisional regard to the different types or classes of men as they become visible in opinion. More fundamental are the individuals to be ranked by the legislative speech of the philosopher. Rosen understands the divisions within nature differently than Strauss. The fundamental cleavage is not between classes of men--whether this be the distinctions of the sort between gentlemen, butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers or between the few philosophers and the many nonphilosophers--but within each human being as such, and singularly within the philosophers. Philosophic speech attempts to heal this wound with only the minimum of deference to conventional hierarchies as these appear to exist within the half-light of opinion. What follows is that philosophic speech makes political ranks and new regimes; it does not accept them as they already exist but speaks them into being. The priority in classifying human nature is thus given to the individual, foremost among whom is the individual philosopher. Individuals, not preexisting types or ranks, are the irreducible units which will be ranked or classified.
Strauss and Rosen thus clearly disagree about the character and necessity of esotericism. Strauss notes several motives for such discretion by philosophers, among them prudence and what one set of interpreters aptly calls "pedagogical reserve." (28) Undergirding these reasons for Strauss is the important association of wisdom with moderation: philosophers speak, write, and act moderately in order to preserve what limited access they have to the truth. When political philosophy is thus prioritized as, in a manner of speaking, first philosophy, this ironic, cautious reserve is of the greatest importance. Rosen takes the view that a private association of self-styled philosopher-friends is no more likely to hit upon the truth than a politically revolutionary philosopher. For "the only secure verification of the truth of one's doctrines is that they are made true by historical success, that is, by political enactment, not by the agreement of private individuals." (29) To verify what we think, we have to try to say what we have seen. And saying, that is making speeches, is already a political act. This is not to deny that philosophy is by its nature esoteric. Here Rosen follows Hegel in the view that the philosopher "must actually philosophize, and this means with one's ideas on the table, not concealed in one's pockets." (30) Rosen and Strauss are surely in agreement about the occasional need for philosophers to exercise caution in their public speech, (31) but in Rosen's understanding of the nature of philosophy, the fundamental, permanent Straussian reason for philosophic exotericism is missing. In its place, there is rather the impulse to intrepid or audacious garrulity, the better to proffer and test hypothetical discursive accounts that might verify the otherwise inexpressible unity of the philosopher's synoptic vision. Philosophers speak in order to bring to light and examine the esoteric truth. (32)
Rosen's understanding of philosophy and philosophic writing requires that philosophers punish, rather than simply speak to, one another. The fundamental cleavage between the unity and silence of noetic vision, on the one hand, and discursive reasoning, speech, and deed, on the other, supplies a fundamental rupture between perspectives. Fellow philosophers do not share a medium such as opinion in which to exchange views without friction. In Rosen's conception, because philosophers are capable of ministering to the natural sickness of human beings by educating them, they are equipped to rule non-philosophers. By extension, they punish other philosophers for their errors, as a doctor would correct another doctor. The reason for this has, in a sense, both political and philosophical dimensions. Politically, rival philosophers represent rival authorities in that they give conflicting accounts of the relationship between the parts of the whole. The philosophic disposition is not to abide peacefully with rival accounts; it is to understand those accounts as false, and inasmuch as "truth by its nature intends to suppress falsehood," (33) the servants of truth suppress the ministers of untruth. As Rosen notes, there are no non-Platonic philosophers in the best regime of the Republic. (34) Every understanding needs to defend itself against rival understandings. (35) This is combative because there "is no such thing as philosophical persuasion." (36) Philosophers punish other philosophers in order to show them the truth.
We can already discern the outlines of a general critique of Strauss. The issue of whether a philosopher claims the public, political realm for reason--in both its daring and moderate inflections--is the point where Rosen quarrels with Strauss. What is required for a defense of philosophy? More than just submission to the authoritative opinions is required. Strauss ought to have, as Rosen does, announce himself boldly as a philosopher. Instead, the failure of philosophy to enter daringly into the public square then cedes the public square to what Strauss himself called "any orthodoxy." (37) Here Rosen's comparatively early critique of the "philosophic conservative" (38) (an obvious stand-in for Strauss) is germane:
the "conservative" solution to this problem is to distinguish between private and public speech, if not to suppress philosophy altogether, in order to keep it out of the marketplace, which is reserved for prayer, including its most obvious "political" form, patriotism. But this is no solution, because prayer is as diverse as philosophy.... [T]he intelligent conservative has rightly perceived the danger of speech; his defect lies in the fact that he does not know how to respond to this danger. Hence he tends to vacillate in the privacy of speech as concealed irony, which, as Hegel wisely observed, contains an absolute negativity, or, as we may say, is all too close to the nihilism it seeks to avoid. (39)
In failing to claim the public for philosophy, the "conservative" surrenders the public to the madness of revelation. What is worse, it inadvertently allies the dignity of philosophy with what one student of Rosen's provocatively calls "fundamentalism." (40) It is precisely for Strauss's failure here that Rosen punishes him in The Elusiveness of the Ordinary.
The Paradox of Straussian Rhetoric. The mistake made by Leo Strauss, Philosopher, is to cede the public square to religion, by being insufficiently bold and thus truckling to opinion. Rosen would like to punish him, but his understanding of philosophy and its relation to politics is confronted with a peculiar paradox. Rosen argues that philosophy calls for rhetorical daring, not rhetorical moderation, and this all the more so in an immoderate age. (41) Lest it be drowned out by the din of loudspeakers, philosophy cannot whisper among its circle of friends; it must shout its virtues from the rooftops. The rhetoric of Strauss poses a problem for Rosen's account. The moderation of Strauss's rhetoric is not, of course, an exclamation from the rooftops, but neither is it a well-kept secret. It has more the character of a stage-whisper than a military cipher. It is not, therefore, simply moderate; rather, it is extremely moderate, outlandishly moderate, dashingly moderate. If it drew no attention to itself, Rosen could say that Strauss's rhetoric is not suited to the noble task of a philosophical defense of politics on the world-historical stage. (42) As it is, however, Strauss's moderate rhetoric calls attention to its author as a philosopher.
In his treatment of Strauss in The Elusiveness of the Ordinary, Rosen shows an awareness of this paradox at the heart of his critique. The paradox of Rosen's position may be expressed by the following syllogism:
1. All philosophers are daring and bold in their speech.
2. Leo Strauss is a philosopher.
3. Leo Strauss is moderate and cautious in his speech.
It is impossible to hold each of the three propositions of the syllogism at once. The essence of Rosen's distortion of Strauss, I contend, is that he holds two of them--all philosophers are daring and bold in their speech, and Leo Strauss is a philosopher--while punishing Strauss as though he held two others: All philosophers are daring and bold in their speech; Leo Strauss is moderate and cautious in his speech. He thus implies--punitively--the conclusion that Leo Strauss is not a philosopher.
At the heart of his most serious critique of Strauss, Rosen identifies this very paradox and makes it the source of his distorting punishment of Strauss. Strauss presents himself as a scholar, not as a philosopher. This captures, in essence, the fault for which Rosen criticizes Strauss. In presenting himself as a mere scholar, Strauss forbears from the daring self-proclamation of the philosopher by restricting himself to commentary on other philosophers. Rosen points toward how to understand this dimension of Strauss the philosopher: he grants that Strauss's rhetoric is not simply that of the moderate or cautious scholar. Recalling Nietzsche, Rosen says of Strauss, "he had his own mode of daring. There are Straussian texts for the few, and there are other texts for the many." (43) Strauss was fully aware, Rosen here admits, of the differing requirements of philosophical rhetoric in different times and places: "As Strauss himself often pointed out, how much one can say in public about esoteric doctrines is in part a function of the particular historical circumstances." (44) Strauss was more or less candid depending on the author of whom he was writing. And, Rosen quotes Strauss: "the line of demarcation between timidity and responsibility is drawn differently in different ages." (45) Here Rosen suggestively quotes Nietzsche: "To speak much of oneself is also a way of hiding oneself." (46) Applied to Strauss, he interprets this to mean that Strauss's self-presentation as a modest, moderate scholar is something of a disguised announcement of his philosophic nature:
I would modify this statement as follows. To make many heterodox pronouncements is a way of speaking of oneself, even if the pronouncements are partially concealed by rhetorical disavowals of one's own gifts and are often couched in hypothetical statements or ambiguous parenthetical clauses. (47)
Nietzsche is referring to the intrinsic hiddenness of the noble, the hiddenness of his own philosophic nature. Rosen is suggesting that Strauss, by the most counter-Nietzschean means, is in fact proclaiming his own philosophic nature. Here Rosen lets us see a flash of gold beneath the silver, scholarly filigree. Strauss's self-presentation is as a scholar; Rosen quietly identifies him as a philosopher. But then the vision fades, the sun once again passes behind a cloud, and for the rest of the chapter, Rosen seems to rebuke Strauss for his failure or refusal to declare his philosophic nature. Rosen announces here the possibility that a philosopher might conceal his gifts by a frank disavowal of them, but throughout this chapter he punishes Strauss by taking seriously or "literally" (48) a number of Strauss's such disavowals.
Rosen's distortions of Strauss on the issue of opinion. Rosen judges Strauss to be too deferential to opinion and for that reason punishes Strauss by abstracting from the dimension of Strauss's philosophy that is concerned with opinion, namely, that philosophy consists in the ascent from opinion. In what follows, I read Rosen's critique of Strauss in the Elusiveness of the Ordinary as an exercise in philosophic punishment. In this chapter, Rosen characterizes Strauss's philosophy as historicist, as consisting in a crippling dependence on convention (shared with Wittgenstein) such that it reduces to mere knowledge of ignorance, and thus as being insufficiently robust to defend the claims of reason against revelation.
Strauss's conception of philosophy appears to exhibit the failures that Rosen attributes to it because Rosen only presents one half of Strauss's understanding of philosophy and abstracts from the other half. Throughout this chapter, Rosen discusses Strauss's understanding of philosophy as knowledge of ignorance, or otherwise put, awareness of the fundamental problems. This is only one of the two definitions of philosophy to appear regularly in Strauss. The second is that philosophy is the replacement of opinion with knowledge, or the ascent from opinion to knowledge. The crucial point here is the turn to opinion. In this chapter, Rosen attributes to Strauss the chief philosophic concern of apprehending what he calls the "ordinary" or "everyday." This, however, is not Strauss's main concern; it is Rosen's principal concern in this book: the elusiveness of the ordinary. As though to exaggerate Strauss's failure to accomplish Rosen's main philosophic purpose, Rosen is all but completely silent on the aspect of Strauss's thought that most approximates a return "to the pretheoretical domain of ordinary language," (49) namely, his endorsement of the turn to opinion for the sake of a philosophical ascent therefrom. In a parodic imitation of the Straussian insight that Plato abstracts from something essential in each dialogue, Rosen, throughout the argument of this chapter, barely refers to this Straussian definition of philosophy.
Without accounting for Strauss's turn to opinion, Rosen makes his historical scholarship seem historicist. Rosen regularly depicts Strauss's interest in and return to classical political thought as historical, and thus historicist, rather than philosophical in nature. (50) Rosen says the pretheoretical experience that Strauss elevates "in doing philosophy" is "the condition of ordinary Greek life before Greek, and so western European, theory emerged." (51) Rosen then claims that this historical "return to the pretheoretical context" (52) is in some unspecified way the essence of Strauss's philosophical endeavor. Rosen treats Strauss as though his intention was to resurrect ordinary Greek life, rather than to recover the fundamental problems shared by both ancient Greeks and residents of late-modernity. This false dichotomy is illustrative:
Either the truth of Greek pretheoretical experience is available in principle at any time, and so a return to the Greeks is superfluous; or else Strauss advocates the historicist thesis that our Greek heritage has predisposed us to search for the origin of philosophy in the pretheoretical understanding of the Greeks themselves. (53)
Strauss's references to Greek "pretheoretical experience" (54) are neither superfluous nor historicist. Strauss is attempting to present an introduction to philosophy that is suited to the opinions of his audience. According to Strauss, and as Rosen demands, the "truth of Greek pretheoretical experience is available in principle at any time;" hence we see the intelligibility and worthiness of Strauss's reminders on this matter. It is odd that Rosen should choose the term "superfluous" to characterize Strauss's labors. Amidst a series of pregnant remarks on how to read books, Strauss says this:
Now, not indeed philosophy, but the way in which the introduction to philosophy must proceed, necessarily changes with the change of the artificial or accidental obstacles to philosophy. The artificial obstacles may be so strong at a given time that a most elaborate "artificial" introduction has to be completed before the "natural" introduction can begin. It is conceivable that a particular pseudo-philosophy may emerge whose power cannot be broken but by the most intensive reading of old books. As long as that pseudo-philosophy rules, elaborate historical studies may be needed which would have been superfluous and therefore harmful in more fortunate times. (55)
At the end of his introduction to On Tyranny, Strauss looks forward to a time when "cumbersome introductions like the present study" will be unnecessary. (56) Strauss's historical work was intentionally auxiliary to genuine philosophy, philosophy understood as "knowledge of what one does not know, or awareness of the fundamental problems and, therewith, of the fundamental alternatives regarding their solution that are coeval with human thought." (57) What Strauss says of his study of Machiavelli may be applied to all of his historical work: "Our critical study of Machiavelli's teaching can ultimately have no other purpose than to contribute towards the recovery of the permanent problems." (58) It must be emphasized that according to Strauss, these problems are not uniquely accessible for the Greeks. Rather, they "retain their identity in all historical change, however much they may be obscured by the temporary denial of their relevance and however variable or provisional all human solutions to these problems may be." (59) Rosen misconstrues the "preliminary and auxiliary" (60) character of Strauss's historical work and thus imputes to his understanding an alien historicist element.
Instead of discussing Strauss's turn to opinion, Rosen invents a "maxim" and attributes it to Strauss: "the depths are contained in the surface." (61) Rosen infers that Strauss means to caution against replacing "the immediate context of experience" with a "theoretical artifact." (62) Surely Strauss would and did object to the replacement of the ordinary or normal perspective with constructed artifacts; this is the meaning of his rhetoric of "the cave beneath the cave" and the like. (63) In the passage quoted, however, Strauss is not concerned with surfaces and depths; he is remarking on the character of opinion, from which one might ascend as the necessary route to the truth. The remark, in context, urges the importance of beginning with received opinion as the necessary route to the truth:
We are in sympathy with the simple opinion about Machiavelli, not only because it is wholesome, but above all because a failure to take that opinion seriously prevents one from doing justice to what is truly admirable in Machiavelli: the intrepidity of his thought, the grandeur of his vision, and the graceful subtlety of his speech. Not the contempt for the simple opinion, nor the disregard of it, but the considerate ascent from it leads to the core of Machiavelli's thought. There is no surer protection against the understanding of anything than taking for granted or otherwise despising the obvious and the surface. The problem inherent in the surface of things, and only in the surface of things, is the heart of things. (64)
Strauss attends to the opinion in question because it is his most reliable guide to the truth.
We see here a pattern that is repeated throughout this chapter. Rosen has misused a quotation from Strauss which, had it been cited earlier or later, would contradict a different aspect of Rosen's interpretation of Strauss. In this case, Strauss has given an especially clear explanation of the relationship between present-day opinion and his historical studies which would have contradicted Rosen's charge of historicism in the previous section of the chapter. Moreover, the context for the quotation highlights that Strauss is not concerned with "depths." Quite the opposite: he is talking about a "considerate ascent" from opinion. Rosen develops none of this, never addressing himself to Strauss's understanding of philosophy as beginning in the turn to opinion.
Throughout this discussion of the surface, Rosen so abstracts from Strauss's texts that his argument rests almost entirely on the foil of Wittgenstein. Rosen clearly implicates Strauss in the entire argument but chooses to address himself mainly to Wittgenstein. His claim is that the turn to the surface must be guided by noetic vision, if it is not to succumb to convention. There are echoes of Rosen's earlier critique of Strauss throughout. (65) Rosen presents to us a certain Wittgenstein concerned with finding a logos amidst the nomoi: "Wittgenstein" turns to "'ordinary' or 'customary language," (66) but this turn does not include any penetration beyond "linguistic invention" or "nomos" to provide an analysis of "the nature of discourse or logos"; indeed, "the possibility of theorizing on questions of this sort" is excluded. (67) There is no satisfactory appeal to human nature. Rosen characterizes this as "rejecting nature in the sense of phusis, that is to say, of an order external to human linguistic invention." (68) Wittgenstein is thus left with nomos. Without the possibility of an appeal beyond convention to nature, Rosen attributes to Wittgenstein the impossibility of "ascent," in the sense we have been stressing was essential to Strauss. The turn to opinion is thus circular. For Wittgenstein, without ascent, there is no end to the investigation of conventional opinion: "His analysis of the 'ordinary' use of language is thus endless; it has no beginning and no end. Otherwise stated, it has no bottom and no top." (69) In a peculiar choice of terms, Rosen restates the matter thus: "Wittgenstein's linguistic therapy points to the triumph of Jerusalem over Athens. He is Socrates without Platonic Ideas." (70) For Strauss as well as for Wittgenstein, the turn to opinion or ordinary discourse is a circular pursuit because it does not include an appeal to phusis discerned noetically within or beyond the conventions of opinion. In an earlier treatment of Strauss, Rosen offered the following conjecture:
I suspect that Strauss did not take seriously the doctrine of the noetic perception of pure form ... for Strauss, philosophy is discourse. Or in slightly different terms, I suggest that Strauss regarded philosophy as finally impossible because of the impossibility of furnishing the discursive validation of the foundations. (71)
Rosen accuses Strauss, or his proxy, of peering into customary opinion in search of natural standards, finding suitably old conventions, and, in Strauss's case, arbitrarily calling them natural. Without an appeal to noetic intuition of form, searching through opinion is an endless, infinitely repetitious task. Without such an appeal the claim to ascent is at best wishful, at worst mendacious.
By simply following Rosen's citations back to their source--in this case, the "maxim" from Thoughts on Machiavelli--it may quickly be established that the role of the surface in Strauss's philosophy is not as Rosen depicts it. Strauss endorsed an understanding of philosophy that began with opinion, but which ascended from opinion to knowledge, setting one opinion or partial glimpse of the truth against another. As he depicts this Socratic form of philosophy in Natural Right and History, this procedure follows from Socrates' famous turn to the human things. By means of this route, Socrates "never ceased considering 'what each of the beings is.'" (72) Since "to be" means "to be something," then it means also "to be different from something else." Hence, the human things may be studied as different in kind from, for example, the divine things. Strauss refers to this as the "noetic heterogeneity" of being. (73) The study of the heterogeneity of beings means primarily investigating the whatness or quiddity of a particular being, discerning its "'shape' or 'form' or 'character.'" (74) Strauss identifies the answer to the "What is it?" question characteristic of the Socratic turn as pointing to the eidos or "idea" of a thing. (75) Crucially in Strauss's depiction of Socrates, "the being of things, their What," is first and most visible "not in what we see of them, but in what is said about them or in opinions about them." (76) Socrates looked first to opinions about the natures of things in order to conduct continuously his investigation into "what each of the beings is." Opinions derive from "some awareness," "some perception with the mind's eye," of the truth; they are a partial apprehension of truth which must not be jettisoned. (77) "Philosophy consists, therefore, in the ascent from opinions to knowledge or to the truth, in an ascent that may be said to be guided by opinions." This is what is meant by dialectics. This art of conversation proceeds from the contradictions inherent in fragmentary pieces of the truth contained in opinion: "the opinions prove to be solicited by the self-subsisting truth, and the ascent to the truth proves to be guided by the self-subsistent truth which all men always divine." (78)
This understanding of philosophy as consisting in the turn to, followed by the ascent from opinion is central to Strauss's thought, but Rosen will not discuss it in Strauss's terms. He replaces "opinion" with "surface" and "ascent" with "depths" and treats Wittgenstein instead of Strauss. (79) To be clear, my claim is not that Rosen is unaware of these aspects of Strauss. The Straussian definition of philosophy as the ascent from opinion to knowledge is so well known as to be familiar to competent and incompetent students of Strauss alike. My contention is that Rosen has presented Strauss's view "in such as way as to make it implausible, or indefensible," in Rosen's own terms.
Rosen summarizes this line of reflection with the repetition of the maxim that "the depth is contained in the surface." He makes the further inference that this concentration on the surface means that there is no access to the depths. Thus philosophy on this definition is for Strauss not the contemplation of depths, but self-aware ignorance of an elusive, mysterious surface. Rosen concludes:
For Strauss, the meaning seems to be that knowledge of ignorance is what is accessible, or knowledge of the fundamental alternatives, but not knowledge of the foundation or fundament. But is this not the practical equivalent of saying that there is no depth? (80)
Strauss is not claiming, as Rosen would have it, that "the depth is contained in the surface," or that the "surface" consists entirely in unspecified, mysterious problems with mysterious properties. Strauss was perfectly clear: the surface is opinion. Strauss, as Rosen is perfectly well aware, is concerned with the ascent from opinion, not with "terrifying depths." (81)
Rosen depicts Strauss as offering a version of philosophy that is defenseless against revelation. Strauss's mysterious or ambiguous account of the "surface," replaces the demand for rigorous thought with a return to this very ambiguity. Strauss, in presenting the "surface" as irretrievably "ambiguous," has redefined "the Socratic or favored version of the Athenian position in such a way as to render tenuous if not invisible the difference between it and revelation." (82) Socrates himself--aware of "the light of the mysterious character of the whole" (83)--thus appears as a citizen of Jerusalem. Rosen cites a number of Strauss texts in support of his claim that for Strauss, Jerusalem trumps Athens, and concludes that "on Straussian grounds," the failure of reason to "refute" revelation is tantamount to the refutation of reason. (84) Despite frequently directing the reader to the relevant passages though not quoting them himself, Rosen obscures Strauss's own self-presentation as having been guided in his youth by modern reason, which culminated in the "victory of any orthodoxy," and his later discovery of premodern reason. (85)
To substantiate his characterization of Strauss as surrendering to the triumph of Jerusalem, Rosen draws our attention to a passage on Socratic piety from The City and Man. In the passage under consideration, Rosen says Strauss "blurs the distinction between the philosophical and the religious life on the decisive point." (86) This point is precisely whether or to what extent Socratic philosophy investigates the things said to be within the province of the divine. Rosen has it that according to Strauss, the Socratic philosopher modestly or moderately retreats from the interrogation of what properly belongs to the gods. He correctly attributes to Strauss the view that for Socrates, "while the roots of the whole are hidden, the whole manifestly consists of heterogeneous parts." Rosen then says that Strauss is silent on "knowledge of these parts." Instead, Rosen says, Strauss discusses Socrates' turn to common sense and "the highest opinions, the authoritative opinions, [which] are the pronouncements of the law." (87) Rosen then quotes Strauss as follows: in accordance with these opinions,
a pious man will ... not investigate the divine things but only the human things. It is the greatest proof of Socrates' piety that he limited himself to the study of the human things. His wisdom is knowledge of ignorance because it is pious and it is pious because it is knowledge of ignorance. (88)
Rosen depicts the Straussian philosopher as retreating from investigating the divine things and hence being ignorant of these most important "parts" of the whole. Without "knowledge of the parts," the Straussian philosopher can never make a claim more robust than knowledge of ignorance.
Strauss is not, as Rosen would have it, entirely silent on the "knowledge of these parts." If we look at the context from which Rosen quotes, we can reconstruct the Straussian picture more fully. Our purpose here is not a more exacting Strauss philology, as if that were equal to the spiritual demands of Rosen's challenge, but to understand the nature of his punishment of Strauss. Reading Strauss in full and in context, we see he claims these parts are revealed, "in a manner, but necessarily," in "men's opinions." (89) Strauss characterizes the "highest" or "most authoritative" of these opinions as the "pronouncements of the law." (90) Strauss, though this point is understated in these passages from The City and Man, does not hold that the pronouncements are themselves divine; rather, he holds that they are political in their source: "The law is the law of the city; the city looks up to, holds in reverence, 'holds' the gods of the city." (91) The gods held by the city wish to keep "the things in heaven and beneath the earth" hidden. (92) However, a "pious man will therefore not investigate the divine things but only the human things, the things left to man's investigation." (93) What are "the things left to man's investigation"? In this extended passage, we see that Strauss is deliberately equivocal as to what is available for human investigation: candidates include the manifest parts of the whole, (94) which are revealed in opinion, (95) the highest of which are the "pronouncements of the law," (96) which themselves concern the gods (97) or divine things, and thus implicitly the things in heaven and below the earth. (98) Thus, it is not crystal clear that what Strauss calls the permissibly investigated "human things" are strictly speaking "the things left to man's investigation," unless the "human things" are understood quite broadly, as in, the things about which humans have opinions, including the parts, including the laws, including the gods. Surely if such things might be investigated, Rosen is incorrect to say that Strauss is "silent" on the question of "knowledge of these parts." Indeed, in the sequel, which Rosen does not include, Strauss says, "It becomes then necessary to transcend the authoritative opinions as such in the direction of what is no longer opinion but knowledge." (99) Rosen's selective, even artful, quotation has the effect of making Strauss's depiction of Socratic philosophy look more conventionally pious than Strauss seems to have intended. Reading these passages in their full context, however, shows that knowledge of ignorance is only a slightly more pious expression of the character of philosophy than the more brazen claim to be replacing opinion with knowledge.
Rosen connects his treatment of Strauss in these passages to the argument that Strauss is insufficiently bold in his grasp of the task of the philosopher. On this account, what Strauss's interpretation of Socrates shows is that Strauss has failed in the task of attempting to know the "divine" parts of the whole and as such has declined the task of supplying a philosophical "cosmology." A philosophical cosmology would be an account of the order of the whole, including nature, that would satisfy what Rosen judges to be characteristic of genuinely philosophic speech; it would bind together the naturally high and low and connect the philosopher to his fellow human beings in speech. Once again Rosen has distorted Strauss. In the sequel to a passage Rosen quotes from What is Political Philosophy, Strauss writes of the Socratic philosophy he is attempting to revive: "This understanding of the situation of man which includes, then, the quest for cosmology rather than a solution to the cosmological problem, was the foundation for classical political philosophy." (100) Cosmology was intrinsic to Strauss's project; Strauss was less moderate than Rosen suggests.
As I have shown, Rosen's critique of Strauss is its own gravedigger. The Strauss texts he cites in support of his interpretation regularly communicate the shortcomings of the readings he supplies. The consistency with which this occurs, in particular the constant distortion effected by Rosen's abstraction from Strauss on opinion, suggest that this is not simply scholarly error. Rosen's own statements on the character of philosophic punishment supply the necessary guide for interpretation. These may be supplemented by Rosen's own stated understanding of esoteric writing, which differs from that of Strauss. In a discussion of Nietzsche's writing, Rosen discerns three reasons for exotericism: the philosopher dissembles (1) for the purposes of educating; (2) because of "the intrinsic hiddenness of the great thinker"; and (3) for a certain delight in toying with his inferiors. (101) Expressed otherwise, the first two motives are perfectly comprehensible in Straussian terms. The third motive transcends necessity, however, both essential and prudential: "a kind of aristocratic playfulness or natural expression of superiority that is required neither by interior depth nor exterior prudence." (102) Throughout the chapter in The Elusiveness of the Ordinary, Rosen has playfully presented Strauss's thought in his own, Rosenian terms, making Strauss seem mistaken.
It should be said of Rosen, as Rosen said of Hegel, that his "central concern" is the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns. (103) It is inadequately appreciated that Strauss's own investigations sought to reopen that quarrel, "sine ira et studio." [without anger or zeal]. (104) Rosen has thus reappropriated Strauss's intention. (105) For what is at stake in Rosen's critique of Strauss is itself a rehearsal of the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns.
Strauss takes the part of the ancients. The critique of Strauss is not unfair, because it brings out an important dimension of his thought, namely, its reliance on opinion. As Rosen's critique establishes, this reliance implies that the philosopher can depend on the beings, the articulations of the natural whole, coming in to appearance in what is heard about them. This implies that the natural whole is beneficent and reliable. Moreover, Strauss's procedure of preparing the way to philosophy by means of historical studies depends on there being a continuity between opinion now, as it has been shaped by the philosophical project of modernity, and the currents of opinion within which early modern, medieval, and ancient philosophers lived and thought. Opinion and, on Strauss's account, politics are natural; the turn to opinion is not merely a retreat into convention but shows that within convention, nature can remain a term of distinction. Indeed, the turn to opinion certifies the distinction between nature and convention, and the philosopher may take nature as his guide.
Rosen takes the part of the moderns. He has claimed that this quarrel might only be conducted by moderns. This is true only if Rosen is correct about the nature of philosophy. The punishment of Strauss consists in abstracting from his reliance on opinion because he is too deferential to opinion, deference unbecoming of a philosopher. Strauss claims that philosophy consists in the replacement of opinion with knowledge, or the ascent from opinion. Rosen pointedly asks whether Strauss has ascended far enough. In Rosen's view--characteristically modern--Strauss's conception of noetic heterogeneity amounts to a surrender to nature. Rosen, for his part, would have philosophy liberate humanity from the bestiality, tribalism, primitivism, and superstition that are as much a part of nature as is the human inclination to science, philosophy, moderation, and the other virtues. For the modern Rosen, the philosophic discovery of the distinction between nature and convention does not entail a return to nature as it is discovered in opinion but rather a third moment. The discovery of the distinction between nature and convention is a liberation from both. It is from this standpoint of freedom that Rosen's exoteric toying with Strauss can be playful rather than merely the grim work of punishment.
Rosen supplies an alternative to the "low but solid" thesis, the "lowering the horizon" account of modernity associated with Strauss. As Strauss remarked in the well-known penultimate sentence of Natural Right and History: "The quarrel between the ancients and the moderns concerns eventually, and perhaps even from the beginning, the status of 'individuality.'" (106) In his quarrel with Strauss, Rosen suggests an understanding of the individual which sees it as complete in separation from political society--as in the early moderns--but which does not conceive of this separate status as something lower. The paradigmatic individual is the philosopher; it is in these terms that Rosen issues the provocative formulation that "Plato was a 'modern,' not an 'ancient.'" (107) Indeed, given their characteristic ippissimossity, it would follow, on Rosen's account, that all philosophers qua philosophers are modern, and thus there is a league of them yet in need of punishment. (108)
University of Notre Dame
Correspondence to: Alexander S. Duff, Department of Political Science, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27109.
(1) Stanley Rosen, The Elusiveness of the Ordinary (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).
(2) Christopher A. Colmo, "Reason and Revelation in the Thought of Leo Strauss," Interpretation 18, no. 1 (Fall 1990): 145-60; Steven J. Lenzner, "Leo Strauss and His Contemporaries," The Political Science Reviewer 22 (1993): 124-56; Robert Bartlett, The Idea of Enlightenment: A Postmortem Study (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 54-63; Catherine Zuckert and Michael Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 141-54. For a discussion of Rosen, see also James M. Rhodes, Eros, Wisdom, and Silence: Plato's Erotic Dialogues (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003), 95-101.
(3) Consider the following examples: "his conception of [the nature of] classical philosophy was inadequate because at bottom Nietzschean or modern, and therefore postmodern," Stanley Rosen, Hermeneutics as Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 123; "My thesis is that Strauss is himself almost a Nietzschean, but not quite: he comes closer to Kant in the roots of his thought," Rosen, Hermeneutics, 125; "We can now safely conclude that for Strauss, philosophy is a passion or desire, i.e., an eros, but hence, too, an act of the will by which we presuppose what we need in order to gratify that eros," Stanley Rosen, "Leo Strauss and the Quarrel Between the Ancients and the Moderns," in Leo Strauss's Thought: Towards a Critical Engagement, ed. Alan Udoff (Boulder: Lyenne Rienner Publishers, 1991), 161. One ought to balance Rosen's more pugnacious utterances against his more amusing asides: for example, comparing Strauss to Kojeve: "One cannot easily imagine Leo Strauss giving a newspaper interview in which he announces his divinity. Of course, possibilities arise in Paris that do not exist in Chicago." Rosen, Hermeneutics, 107. And one must consider also his general and frequent praise of Strauss: "The extraordinary achievements of Leo Strauss must not be minimized"; Stanley Rosen, The Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 1988), vii. Lately, Rosen has been scrupulous in recording his debts and gratitude to Strauss: in a memoir, he touchingly writes, "in due course I came to revere him as a rare blessing without whose training and guidance my life would have been seriously diminished." Stanley Rosen, "Leo Strauss in Chicago," Daedalus (Summer 2006): 110. See also Stanley Rosen, Plato's Statesman: The Web of Politics (New Haen: Yale Universtiy Press, 1995), ix-x. Rosen's interpretation of Plato's Republic, Plato's Republic: A Study (New Haven: Yale University Pressz 2005), is dedicated to "the genuine Leo Strauss."
(4) Nalin Ranasinghe, "Introduction: Stanley Rosen as an Educator," in Logos and Eros: Essays Honoring Stanley Rosen, ed. Nalin Ranasinghe (South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2006), 1-12; Drew Hyland, "The 'Ordinary Experience' of the Platonic Dialogues," in Logos and Eros: Essays Honoring Stanley Rosen, ed. Nalin Ranasinghe (South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2006), 27-35; Jacob A. Howland, "Stanley Rosen," in Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers, 1860-1960, (New York: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005), 2078.
(5) Rosen, Statesman, 10.
(6) Rosen interview with Tongdong Bai (2000), edited and translated for Diotima, http://college.holycross.edu/diotima/n1v2/rosen.htm (accessed March 9, 2010).
(7) Rosen has published several discussions of Strauss over the decades. In some cases, the engagement with Strauss is implicit rather than explicit. See Rosen's discussion of what he calls the "philosophic conservative" and the "philosophic radical" in chapter six of Nihilism: A Philosophic Essay (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969). These two designations refer to Leo Strauss and Alexandre Kojeve. See also Stanley Rosen, "A Modest Proposal to Rethink Enlightenment," in The Ancients and the Moderns (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 1-21.
Of the more explicit critiques of Strauss, the first is Stanley Rosen, "Review," The Classical World (May 1973): 470-1. Rosen includes a long critique of Strauss in his philosophical polemic, Hermeneutics as Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). See also Stanley Rosen, "Preface to the Second Edition," Plato's Symposium (New Haven: Yale university Press, 1987), xi-xxxvii; Stanley Rosen, "Preface," The Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 1988), vii-xiii; and Stanley Rosen, "Leo Strauss and the Quarrel Between the Ancients and the Modems," in Leo Strauss's Thought: Towards a Critical Engagement, ed. Alan Udoff (Boulder: Lyenne Rienner Publishers, 1991), 155-68.
Rosen contributed a short comment on the Strauss-Voegelin correspondence, "Politics or Transcendence? Responding to Historicism," to Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence Between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964, trans, and ed. Peter C. Emberley and Barry Cooper (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993), 2616. In this period, Rosen's references to Strauss lose some of their polemical edge. See the "Preface" to Plato's Statesman, where Rosen announces his great indebtedness to Strauss, and presents the work as an Auseinandersetzung with Strauss. His collection of essays, Metaphysics in Ordinary Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), is littered with references to Strauss. The chapter we are considering from The Elusiveness of the Ordinary is an expanded version of the recent Review of Metaphysics article, "Leo Strauss and the Possibility of Philosophy," Review of Metaphysics 53 (March 2000): 541-60. From this period, see also Rosen, "Interview with Tongdong Bai"; Rosen, "Leo Strauss in Chicago"; Rosen, On Plato's Republic; Rosen, "Leo Strauss at Chicago"; and for an extremely interesting discussion of Strauss and Heidegger, Stanley Rosen, "Leo Strauss and the Problem of the Modem," in The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss, ed. Steven B. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 119-36.
(8) Rosen, Elusiveness, 3.
(9) See generally, chapter two, "Socrates' Hypothesis," of Stanley Rosen, The Question of Being (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 46-95. Here Rosen gives his very distinctive reading of Socrates' "second sailing." See also chapters 7, 8, and 9 of The Elusiveness of the Ordinary. For very fine overviews of Rosen's own philosophical positions, see Ranasinghe, "Introduction: Stanley Rosen as Educator," and Jacob Howland, "Stanley Rosen."
(10) Rosen, The Question of Being, 70-1.
(11) Rosen, Elusiveness, 246. See also Rosen, The Question of Being, 71: "To be anything at all is always to be one; to be one is always to be something or another. To be anything at all is to be something or another, and this differs from case to case." See Strauss, Natural Right and History, 122.
(12) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 124.
(13) In saying that Rosen "recurs" to Socrates, I do not mean to suggest that Socrates was the model philosopher as he was for Strauss. Consider Rosen on Hegel: "Hegel is first and foremost a logician and not a philosopher of history, a political thinker, a theologian, or a Lebensphilosoph. Of course, as a logician, he is all of these and more. This is because Hegel accepts the Greek conception of philosophy as the attempt to give a logos or discursive account of the Whole." Stanley Rosen, G. W. F. Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), xiii.
(14) Rosen, Hermeneutics as Politics, 148. See additionally Stanley Rosen, The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry, 15-16.
(15) Rosen, The Question of Being, 70.
(16) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 124.
(17) Strauss, What is Political Philosophy, 91.
(18) Strauss, What is Political Philosophy, 114.
(19) Strauss, What is Political Philosophy, 32.
(20) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 123.
(21) Rosen, The Question of Being, 71
(22) Rosen, The Question of Being, 47, 71.
(23) Rosen, Statesman, 10.
(24) Rosen, The Quarrel, 29. See this chapter more generally, "Philosophy and Revolution," in The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry, 27-55.
(25) See Strauss's description of Machiavelli's impolitic separation of moderation and wisdom. Strauss, On Tyranny, 56.
(26) Leo Strauss, "The Spirit of Sparta or the Taste of Xenophon," Social Research 6 (November 1939): 535.
(27) Leo Strauss, Socrates and Aristophanes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), 49. On the importance of this passage, see Michael S. Kochin, "Morality, Nature, and Esotericism in Leo Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing," Review of Politics 64 (Spring 2002): 269.
(28) Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth About Leo Strauss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 136.
(29) Rosen, Kojeve, 243.
(30) Rosen, "Strauss at Chicago," 113.
(31) In his study of the Republic, Rosen writes: "I therefore suggest that the implied teaching of the Republic is that the desirability of bringing philosophy into political life outweighs the dangers implicit in the frankness that such an effort entails. This is, of course, true only at certain moments and places in history. Once could not imagine such an enterprise to be successful in cultures like those of medieval Islam and its Hebrew component, in which the religious and political atmosphere presents an insuperable obstacle to frankness." Stanley Rosen, Plato's Republic: A Study (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 6-7.
(32) Rosen writes: "Strauss presents the classical, i.e. Socratic, position that philosophers seek the truth independently of historical fashions and that they are prevented from the madness of solipsism by associating with their friends. To this Kojeve rightly replies that even madmen have friends, namely, other madmen; the only secure verification of the truth of one's doctrines is that they are made true by historical success, that is, by political enactment, not by the agreement of private individuals. In my opinion, Strauss has no effective reply to Kojeve's criticism on this point, because, in the Aristotelian version of the Socratic position defended by Strauss, we choose our friends on the basis of a common love, and in the Socratic version as presented by Plato, love is a form of madness. In more sober terms, the noetic vision of pure Ideas or species-forms can only be verified by discourse; we have to say what we have seen, both to ourselves and to others. But speech is a political act on the classical analysis: political, not 'intersubjective' in the post-Hegelian terminology." Stanley Rosen, "Kojeve," in A Companion to Continental Philosophy, eds. Simon Critchley, William Ralph Schroeder, J. M. Bernstein (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1998): 243. Rosen also writes: "On balance, I prefer Hegel's treatment of the same question [on the appropriate rhetoric for one's time and place] in his lectures on the history of philosophy. Hegel, we recall, denies the claims, current in his own time, that Plato practiced esotericism, on the ground that the philosopher cannot philosophize with his ideas in his pockets. Immediately after, however, Hegel says that philosophy is, by its nature, esoteric. In order to show the truth of this judgment, however, one must actually philosophize, and this means with one's ideas on the table, not concealed in one's pockets." Stanley Rosen, "Strauss at Chicago," 113.
(33) Rosen, Republic, 6.
(34) Rosen, Republic, 391.
(35) Rosen, The Ancients and the Moderns, ix.
(36) Rosen, The Ancients and the Moderns, ix.
(37) Strauss, Spinoza's Critique of Religion, 30.
(38) Rosem, Nihilism, 215.
(39) Rosen, Nihilism, 215.
(40) Ranasinghe, "Rosen as Educator," 3, 11.
(41) See Rosen, "Review," The Classical World (May 1973): 471.
(42) See Rosen, Hermeneutics as Politics, 140.
(43) Rosen, Elusiveness, 146.
(44) Rosen, Elusiveness, 146.
(45) Rosen, Elusiveness, 146; quoting Strauss, Persecution, 110.
(46) Rosen, Elusiveness, 147.
(47) Rosen, Elusiveness, 147.
(48) Rosen, Elusiveness, 148.
(49) Rosen, Elusiveness, 135.
(50) See Hermeneutics as Politics, 145; Metaphysics in Ordinary Language, 222.
(51) Rosen, Elusiveness, 138.
(52) Rosen, Elusiveness, 138.
(53) Rosen, Elusiveness, 138.
(54) Rosen, Elusiveness, 138.
(55) Strauss, Persecution, 155. Consider also this use by Strauss of the word "superfluous," also concerned with reading: "As has been indicated, one must have some patience if one wants to grasp the meaning of the Hiero. The patience of the interpreter does not make superfluous the patience of the reader of the interpretation." Leo Strauss, On Tyranny: Revised and Expanded Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 28. See also Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 149-50. On the relation of history that is not "superfluous" to philosophy, see Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 143.
(56) Strauss, On Tyranny, 28. Consider also this passage from "Political Philosophy and History": "however important historical knowledge may be for political philosophy, it is only preliminary and auxiliary to political philosophy; it does not form an integral part of it." Strauss, What is Political Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 57. In addition to this statement, consider the extended remarks on page 77 regarding the role of "history of philosophy or of science" in reminding of the distinction between inherited and independently acquired knowledge. And, note this passage from Natural Right and History: "Our most urgent need can then be satisfied only by means of historical studies which would enable us to understand classical philosophy exactly as it understood itself, and not in the way in which it presents itself on the basis of historicism. We need, in the first place, a nonhistoricist understanding of nonhistoricist philosophy. But we need no less urgently a nonhistoricist understanding of historicism, that is, an understanding of the genesis of historicism that does not take for granted the soundness of historicism." Strauss, Natural Right and History, 33.
(57) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 32.
(58) Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli, 14.
(59) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 32.
(60) Strauss, What is Political Philosophy, 57.
(61) Rosen, Elusiveness, 139. On Rosen's attribution to Strauss of a "maxim," see, Zuckert and Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss 148.
(62) Rosen, Elusiveness, 140.
(63) Consider Leo Strauss, Persecution, 155-6; Philosophy and Law, 136 n. 2. See the excellent discussions by Michael Zank, "Preface," in Leo Strauss, The Early Writings (1921-1932) (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), 33; David Janssens, Between Athens and Jerusalem: Philosophy, Prophecy, and Politics in Leo Strauss's Early Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008), 77-108; and Daniel Tanguay, Leo Strauss: An Intellectual Biography (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 44-5. See also Seth Benardete, The Argument of the Action (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 411.
(64) Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli, 13; italics added.
(65) Rosen, "Leo Strauss and the Quarrel Between the Ancients and the Moderns," 162; See Rosen, Hermeneutics, 130-2.
(66) Rosen, Elusiveness, 140.
(67) Rosen, Elusiveness, 141.
(68) Rosen, Elusiveness, 141.
(69) Rosen, Elusiveness, 141.
(70) Rosen, Elusiveness, 148; see Rosen, "Leo Strauss and the Quarrel Between the Ancients and the Moderns," 162.
(71) Rosen, "Leo Strauss and the Quarrel Between the Ancients and the Moderns," 162.
(72) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 122.
(73) Strauss, Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, 142; City and Man, 719, 61. See Rosen, Elusiveness, 154-6.
(74) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 123.
(75) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 123.
(76) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 124.
(77) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 124.
(78) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 124.
(79) For Rosen on Wittgenstein, see Nihilism, 1-27.
(80) Rosen, Elusiveness, 149.
(81) Richard Kennington, "Strauss's Natural Right and History," in Leo Strauss's Thought: Towards a Critical Engagement, ed. Alan Udoff, (Boulder: Lyenne Rienner Publishers, 1991), 227-52. See Rosen, Hermeneutics as Politics, 204 n. 56.
(82) Rosen, Elusiveness, 151.
(83) Rosen, Elusiveness, 152.
(84) Rosen cites Strauss's "Restatement" to Kojeve, the famous "bird's eye view" passage on reason and revelation from the Weber chapter in Natural Right and History; Strauss's early work, Philosophy and Law; and Strauss's autobiographical "Preface" to Spinoza's Critique of Religion. See Leo Strauss, On Tyranny, 212; Natural Right and History, 74-5; Philosophy and Law: Contributions to the Understanding of Maimonides and His Predecessors, trans. Eve Adler (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 29; and Spinoza's Critique of Religion, 29.
(85) On the transition from Strauss's youthful thought to his mature thought, see Janssens, Athens and Jerusalem; Kenneth Hart Green, Jew and Philosopher: The Return to Maimonides in the Jewish Thought of Leo Strauss (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993); Eugene R. Sheppard, Leo Strauss and the Politics of Exile: The Making of a Political Philosopher (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2006); and Heinrich Meier, Leo Strauss and the Theological-Political Problem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
(86) Rosen, Elusiveness, 153.
(87) Strauss, City and Man, 19-20.
(88) Rosen, Elusiveness, 153; quoting Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(89) Strauss, City and Man, 19.
(90) Strauss, City and Man, 19-20.
(91) Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(92) Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(93) Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(94) Strauss, City and Man, 19.
(95) Strauss, City and Man, 19.
(96) Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(97) Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(98) Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(99) Strauss, City and Man, 20.
(100) Strauss, What is Political Philosophy, 39.
(101) See Rosen's discussion of these three points in Ancients and Moderns, 223-4.
(102) Rosen, Ancients and Moderns, 224.
(103) Stanley Rosen, G. W. F. Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 5.
(104) Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), xv. See Richard Velkley's excellent discussion of this point, "Leo Strauss and History: Is Modernity an Unnatural Construct?" (Unpublished paper presented at the New School for Social Research, 18 November 2005).
(105) Rosen, The Ancients and the Moderns, ix.
(106) Strauss, Natural Right and History, 323.
(107) Rosen, Hermeneutics as Politics, 140.
(108) The author would like to thank the Earhart Foundation for its support during the writing of this article.
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|Author:||Duff, Alexander S.|
|Publication:||The Review of Metaphysics|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2010|
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