Leo Strauss and the Jewish Question: Philosophy, Homelessness, and the Politics of Redemption
This study of Leo Strauss is an attempt to reconstruct his interpretation of the history of political thought in terms of his own unique appropriation of the meaning of the Jewish question. This question is the context that profoundly shaped and nourished his ideas, and within which Strauss became a political conservative and a philosophical skeptic. Specifically, I argue that Strauss's work amounts to a recovery of Western political thought as the encounter between competing notions of redemption - the Biblical and the philosophical, and that he ultimately conceived of this encounter as disclosing and articulating the unsettled and unsettling spiritual state of Western Civilization.I advance the view that his interpretation of political philosophy as the confrontation between reason and revelation comes to light initially within the internal Jewish theologico-political dialogue concerning the meaning of redemption for the Jewish people. That is to say, the analytic categories he uses to expose the underlying structure of the political-religious-philosophical story of the West are the ones he discovered in his consideration of the Jewish historical experience.I conclude that his own often difficult and ironic work does not allow for comforting, redemptive resolutions of the human condition. His writings on Plato, Xenophon, Maimonides, Hobbes, Spinoza and others are a testament to the fact that in the end he sided neither with the Bible nor philosophy, neither with revelation nor reason as having redemptive solutions to the problem of human existence. As such, his thought and his life are a testament to the spiritual homelessness of man in the modern world.
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