Persecution and the Art of Writing

University of Chicago Press
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The essays collected in Persecution and the Art of Writing all deal with one problem—the relation between philosophy and politics. Here, Strauss sets forth the thesis that many philosophers, especially political philosophers, have reacted to the threat of persecution by disguising their most controversial and heterodox ideas.
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About the author

Leo Strauss's contributions to political philosophy include Natural Right and History, Platonic Political Philosophy, and The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
May 10, 2013
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Pages
214
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ISBN
9780226227887
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / General
Philosophy / Political
Political Science / General
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Leo Strauss is known primarily for reviving classical political philosophy through careful analyses of works by ancient thinkers. As with his published writings, Strauss’s seminars devoted to specific philosophers were notoriously dense, accessible only to graduate students and scholars with a good command of the subject. In 1965, however, Strauss offered an introductory course on political philosophy at the University of Chicago. Using a conversational style, he sought to make political philosophy, as well as his own ideas and methods, understandable to those with little background on the subject.

Leo Strauss on Political Philosophy brings together the lectures that comprise Strauss’s “Introduction to Political Philosophy.” Strauss begins by emphasizing the importance of political philosophy in determining the common good of society and critically examining the two most powerful contemporary challenges to the possibility of using political theory to learn about and develop the best political order: positivism and historicism. In seeking the common good, classical political philosophers like Plato and Aristotle did not distinguish between political philosophy and political science. Today, however, political philosophy must contend with the contemporary belief that it is impossible to know what the good society really is. Strauss emphasizes the need to study the history of political philosophy to see whether the changes in the understanding of nature and conceptions of justice that gradually led people to believe that it is not possible to determine what the best political society is are either necessary or valid. In doing so, he ranges across the entire history of political philosophy, providing a valuable, thematically coherent foundation, including explications of many canonical thinkers, such as Auguste Comte and Immanuel Kant, about whom Strauss did not write extensively in his published writings.
Although Leo Strauss published little on Nietzsche, his lectures and correspondence demonstrate a deep critical engagement with Nietzsche’s thought. One of the richest contributions is a seminar on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, taught in 1959 during Strauss’s tenure at the University of Chicago. In the lectures, Strauss draws important parallels between Nietzsche’s most important project and his own ongoing efforts to restore classical political philosophy.

With Leo Strauss on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” eminent Strauss scholar Richard L. Velkley presents Strauss’s lectures on Zarathustra with superb annotations that bring context and clarity to the critical role played by Nietzsche in shaping Strauss’s thought. In addition to the broad relationship between Nietzsche and political philosophy, Strauss adeptly guides readers through Heidegger’s confrontations with Nietzsche, laying out Heidegger’s critique of Nietzsche’s “will to power” while also showing how Heidegger can be read as a foil for his own reading of Nietzsche. The lectures also shed light on the relationship between Heidegger and Strauss, as both philosophers saw Nietzsche as a central figure for understanding the crisis of philosophy and Western civilization.
Strauss’s reading of Nietzsche is one of the important—yet little appreciated—philosophical inquiries of the past century, both an original interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought and a deep engagement with the core problems that modernity posed for political philosophy. It will be welcomed by anyone interested in the work of either philosopher.
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