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Leo Strauss and the Neo Cons: Secrets, (Noble) Lies and Politics

Lecturers: Peter Ujvari and Matthew Sharpe

Originally Taught: Summer School 2005

This course undertakes to study the philosophy of German émigré Leo Strauss. Like Arendt, Marcuse, Lévinas, and – indirectly – an entire generation of French thought, Leo Strauss was a student of Martin Heidegger's, who left for the U.S. with the Nazi ascension to power. Like so many others of his generation, Strauss was concerned throughout his life and work that the Nazi barbarism be avoided. Yet his conclusions differ strikingly from all of his contemporaries. This course will undertake to look at his philosophically and ethico-politically challenging work.

Agreeing with Heidegger et al that Nazism was an outgrowth of modern ideas and an unpolitical faith in technology, Strauss undertook a return to the ancients. He is famous for his contention that every great philosopher until at least Machiavelli wrote esoterically, presenting a publicly accessible message for the many, and a secret message about politics for those wise enough to decipher it. In more concrete terms, Strauss is more and more infamous for the influence he has had on the Washington neo-conservatives, including such high ranked officials and advisors as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky.

Monday: Leo Strauss as Continental Philosopher: Strauss, the student of Heidegger

Tuesday: On Esoteric writing – Maimonides and Strauss’ great discovery

Wednesday: Strauss on the Ancients: Plato in particular

Thursday: Strauss on the Moderns: Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke

Friday: Plato or Nietzsche: Strauss and his response to the ‘crisis’ of modern nihilism

Summer School 2005