Ramesh proposes to disrupt my entire afternoon by asking what I thought of Damon Linker’s review of two recent books on Strauss in The New Republic, and by recalling a clearly late-night, alcohol-induced musing that I might try my own book on Strauss.
My first instinct is to follow the advice of Brave Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Run away!!” But Sir Galahad the Just wins out, so I guess I better give my $0.02 worth. I haven’t read the Steven Smith (or the Heinrich Meier) book yet, but both Linker’s own summary account of Strauss and his summary of Smith’s account seem suceptible of numerous criticisms and objections. But neither is it a wholly tendentious approach to Strauss (unlike, say, Shadia Drury), which is unusual these days, so it doesn’t warrant convening the full Chicago-Claremont Inquisition.
What is lacking in Linker’s review, however, is exactly what prompted me to consider my own book on Strauss–namely, drawing out the way in which Strauss and his followers represent a massive rebuke to conventional academic political science, and the way in which his approach is a massive challenge to all varieties of what we today call post-modernism, not to mention the soft-headed liberalism that is its popular shadow today. This explains the core of the Left’s hatred of Strauss and his students–not his admittedly difficult and problematic views on the clash of reason and revelation, made freshly important this week by the Pope. Specifically, it was the estimable Alan Ehrenhalt of Governing magazine who said to me after listening to Tom Pangle’s very challenging and obscure lecture about Strauss at AEI two years ago that someone needed to write “Strauss for Dummies.” I thought about it, but it can’t be done. (Besides, I have a large book on Reagan’s presidency still to finish; God I hope my long-suffering publisher isn’t reading The Corner today.) On top of all that, there are several new books on Strauss, one by Pangle, and another by Catherine and Michael Zuckert, that deserve notice, before someone else sets out to enter the ruckus. And on the question of Strauss’s theological-political problem, don’t make up your mind without reading Susan Orr’s Jerusalem and Athens: Reason and Revelation in the Works of Leo Strauss, and, while you’re at it, the collection of letters between Strauss and Eric Voegelin, Faith and Political Philosophy, published by Penn State Press way back in 1993, and finally, a collection of essays, Leo Strauss and Judaism, edited by David Novak.
Now back to the Gipper, who poses none of these theoretical problems, thankfully.