Rosen on Leo Strauss

In “Athens on the Midway: Defending Leo Strauss”, Gary Rosen (former managing editor of Commentary… ahem) writes a defense, of sorts, of the ‘Dark Lord’ of neoconservatism, Leo Strauss.

I chuckled at the following paragraph, representing the perils of attempting to understand Straussianism or neoconservatism without contemplating Jewish ethnocentric, collective interests:

The real problem is that Straussianism and neoconservatism are distinct frames of mind, with idiosyncratic histories of their own. The Venn diagram of their relationship is interesting less for the area of intersection than for the obvious examples of non-Straussian neocons (Norman Podhoretz, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, David Frum, Max Boot) and the considerable group of thinkers whose ideas have been shaped by Strauss but who reject the neoconservative credo (Francis Fukuyama, Mark Lilla, William Galston, Steven Smith, Nathan Tarcov) or seem largely indifferent to it (the vast majority of Straussian academics, busy going about their scholarly work).

What is Rosen trying to ‘explain away’ here? LOL.

Yes, and what could possibly explain such differences?

The closest we get is:

Howse tries to resolve such tensions by reminding us that Strauss was, in addition to everything else, a penetrating scholar of Jewish thought and a refugee from the world destroyed by the Nazi war against the Jews. As Howse sees it, the young Strauss shared to a degree the discontent with liberal principles among Weimar intellectuals on the right, many of whom belonged to what is known in Germany as the Konservative Revolution of the 1920s, a movement that prepared the way for a broader intellectual acceptance of Nazism. As Strauss wrote in an essay on the corrupting influence of Nietzsche, Schmitt and Heidegger, part of their appeal to high-minded young Germans (himself presumably included) lay in their “sense of responsibility for endangered morality”—morality robbed of its heroism and nobility by petty calculation and self-interest.

For Howse, Strauss’s mature thought involves certain concessions to the allure of these thinkers—to his younger self, as it were—while at the same time presenting an alternative in the chastened, worldly wisdom of classical political thought, most of all in Plato and Thucydides. Howse calls this an instance of t’shuvah—that is, of return or repentance as understood in traditional Judaism. It involves, he writes,

a pulling back from the extreme through critique, often internal, of the extreme—a deeper, more radical level of philosophical reflection that . . . has the result of reestablishing the case for moral-political limits and for legality, hence moderation in Strauss’s sense. T’shuvah . . . is accomplished not through pious shame or remorse but through an even greater philosophical Redlichkeit [honesty, probity].

This is an appealing interpretation of Strauss, though Howse has no direct evidence for it and does little more than assert it…

No direct evidence, just an assertion, one coming from an ethnocentric particularism.

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