53 Facts About Leo Strauss


Leo Strauss was a German-American scholar of political philosophy who specialized in classical political philosophy.


Leo Strauss spent much of his career as a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, where he taught several generations of students and published fifteen books.


Leo Strauss himself noted that he came from a "conservative, even orthodox Jewish home", but one which knew little about Judaism except strict adherence to ceremonial laws.


Leo Strauss boarded with the Marburg cantor Strauss, whose residence served as a meeting place for followers of the neo-Kantian philosopher Hermann Cohen.


Leo Strauss served in the German army from World War I from July 5,1917, to December 1918.


Leo Strauss attended courses at the Universities of Freiburg and Marburg, including some taught by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger.


Leo Strauss had been engaged in a discourse with Carl Schmitt.


However, after Leo Strauss left Germany, he broke off the discourse when Schmitt failed to respond to his letters.


Leo Strauss returned to Germany only once, for a few short days twenty years later.


Leo Strauss adopted his wife's son, Thomas, and later his sister's child, Jenny Strauss Clay ; he and Miriam had no biological children of their own.


Leo Strauss became a lifelong friend of Alexandre Kojeve and was on friendly terms with Raymond Aron and Etienne Gilson.


Leo Strauss found shelter, after some vicissitudes, in England, where, in 1935 he gained temporary employment at the University of Cambridge with the help of his in-law David Daube, who was affiliated with Gonville and Caius College.


Unable to find permanent employment in England, Leo Strauss moved in 1937 to the United States, under the patronage of Harold Laski, who made introductions and helped him obtain a brief lectureship.


Leo Strauss became a US citizen in 1944, and in 1949 became a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, holding the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professorship until he left in 1969.


In 1953, Leo Strauss coined the phrase reductio ad Hitlerum, a play on reductio ad absurdum, suggesting that comparing an argument to one of Hitler's, or "playing the Nazi card", is often a fallacy of irrelevance.


Leo Strauss had received a call for a temporary lectureship in Hamburg in 1965 and received and accepted an honorary doctorate from Hamburg University and the Bundesverdienstkreuz via the German representative in Chicago.


In 1969 Leo Strauss moved to Claremont McKenna College in California for a year, and then to St John's College, Annapolis in 1970, where he was the Scott Buchanan Distinguished Scholar in Residence until his death from pneumonia in 1973.


Leo Strauss was buried in Annapolis Hebrew Cemetery, with his wife Miriam Bernsohn Strauss, who died in 1985.


Leo Strauss regarded the trial and death of Socrates as the moment when political philosophy came into existence.


Leo Strauss considered one of the most important moments in the history of philosophy Socrates' argument that philosophers could not study nature without considering their own human nature, which, in the words of Aristotle, is that of "a political animal".


Leo Strauss distinguished "scholars" from "great thinkers", identifying himself as a scholar.


Leo Strauss wrote that most self-described philosophers are in actuality scholars, cautious and methodical.


In Natural Right and History Leo Strauss begins with a critique of Max Weber's epistemology, briefly engages the relativism of Martin Heidegger, and continues with a discussion of the evolution of natural rights via an analysis of the thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.


Leo Strauss concludes by critiquing Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke.


Indeed, Leo Strauss wrote that Heidegger's thinking must be understood and confronted before any complete formulation of modern political theory is possible, and this means that political thought has to engage with issues of ontology and the history of metaphysics.


Leo Strauss wrote that Friedrich Nietzsche was the first philosopher to properly understand historicism, an idea grounded in a general acceptance of Hegelian philosophy of history.


Explicitly following Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's lead, Leo Strauss indicates that medieval political philosophers, no less than their ancient counterparts, carefully adapted their wording to the dominant moral views of their time, lest their writings be condemned as heretical or unjust, not by "the many", but by those "few" whom the many regarded as the most righteous guardians of morality.


Leo Strauss traced its roots in Enlightenment philosophy to Max Weber, a thinker whom Strauss described as a "serious and noble mind".


Weber wanted to separate values from science but, according to Leo Strauss, was really a derivative thinker, deeply influenced by Nietzsche's relativism.


Leo Strauss treated politics as something that could not be studied from afar.


Two significant political-philosophical dialogues Leo Strauss had with living thinkers were those he held with Carl Schmitt and Alexandre Kojeve.


Leo Strauss believed that such an analysis, as in Hobbes's time, served as a useful "preparatory action", revealing our contemporary orientation towards the eternal problems of politics.


However, Leo Strauss believed that Schmitt's reification of our modern self-understanding of the problem of politics into a political theology was not an adequate solution.


Leo Strauss instead advocated a return to a broader classical understanding of human nature and a tentative return to political philosophy, in the tradition of the ancient philosophers.


The political-philosophical dispute between Kojeve and Leo Strauss centered on the role that philosophy should and can be allowed to play in politics.


Leo Strauss argued that philosophers should have an active role in shaping political events.


Leo Strauss argued that liberalism in its modern form, contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism:.


Leo Strauss argued that the city-in-speech was unnatural, precisely because "it is rendered possible by the abstraction from eros".


Leo Strauss spoke of the danger in trying finally to resolve the debate between rationalism and traditionalism in politics.


Leo Strauss agreed with a letter of response to his request of Eric Voegelin to look into the issue.


Leo Strauss proceeded to show this letter to Kurt Riezler, who used his influence in order to oppose Popper's appointment at the University of Chicago.


Leo Strauss constantly stressed the importance of two dichotomies in political philosophy, namely Athens and Jerusalem and Ancient versus Modern.


Leo Strauss wrote several essays about its controversies but left these activities behind by his early twenties.


Leo Strauss argued that the author did not provide enough proof for his argument.


Leo Strauss was openly disdainful of atheism and disapproved of contemporary dogmatic disbelief, which he considered intemperate and irrational.


Leo Strauss's works were read and admired by thinkers as diverse as the philosophers Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Alexandre Kojeve, and the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.


Some critics of Leo Strauss have accused him of being elitist, illiberal and anti-democratic.


Journalists such as Seymour Hersh have opined that Leo Strauss endorsed noble lies, "myths used by political leaders seeking to maintain a cohesive society".


Drury argues that Leo Strauss teaches that "perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical because they need to be led, and they need strong rulers to tell them what's good for them".


Nicholas Xenos similarly argues that Leo Strauss was "an anti-democrat in a fundamental sense, a true reactionary".


Leo Strauss, Ryn argues, wrongly and reductively assumes that respect for tradition must undermine reason and universality.


Leo Strauss's anti-historical thinking connects him and his followers with the French Jacobins, who regarded tradition as incompatible with virtue and rationality.


In particular, Leo Strauss argued that Plato's myth of the philosopher king should be read as a reductio ad absurdum, and that philosophers should understand politics not in order to influence policy but to ensure philosophy's autonomy from politics.