1. First off, I call your attention to Carl’s fine statement in the thread. It’s the outline of the big book of Carlism that would be the equivalent of the big book of Ralphism (Hancockism) that appeared not so long ago. Carl needs to turn that into a separate post.
2. Next, I want to thank Ken Masugi for his evangelical efforts in getting Straussians dogmatic and undogmatic to read this blog. The headline in featuring the post below on Facebook was something like “Tom West vs. Peter Lawler et al [Tom’s dogmatic Straussians].” I like the postmodern irony, as well as the plausible implication that guys like me were seduced by Strauss into believing Locke is an atheistic individualist. It’s that Locke, I’ve said in the past, that Americans haven’t been able to keep in the Locke-box.
3. Is Dogmatic Straussian an oxymoron or redundant? Well, Straussians are all for philosophy, which puts truth over reigning convention or prejudice. But Straussians also tend to say that all real political communities are caves—or even caves beneath caves (how deep is that!?), and that means that all political communities are formed by dogmas that they mistake for truth.
4. So I also read in one of Ken’s Facebook posts that Harry Jaffa said the only way to fight a dogma is with a bigger dogma. That was in the context of suggesting that we conservatives or we Republicans are having our clocks cleaned these days by Obama’s progressive dogma because we don’t have an adequate counter-dogma. Now a better way of saying “dogma” might be “public philosophy,” a teaching that’s partly true but not as true as those who buy it think it is. It’s in this context that we have our wars over Founderism, Progressivism, and so forth.
5. I’m not, of course, denying the sensible idea that there’s a difference between public philosophy and philosophy simply. And it goes without saying that political battles over principle are typically based on sharp distinctions—on neon highlighting—that blur out some when you get perfectly empirical about things. Strauss’ neon highlighting of the distinction between esoteric and exoteric teachings—and the corresponding sharp distinction between philosophers and nonphilosophers—even falls into this category of public philosophy.
6. I think it really is true that Pat Deneen could be viewed as a perfectly dogmatic Straussian when it comes to Locke and modernity’s three waves. But that’s probably not fair at all. Here’s one reason: The view of Locke as atheistic individualist wasn’t discovered and/or invented by Strauss. You find it, for example, in the work of the neglected American Catholic thinkers John Courtney Murray and Orestes Brownson. The Canadian George Grant had that view of Locke (see his great essay on America and ROE v. WADE) largely because he had already bought the view (from Strauss, Heidegger, and Kojeve) that modernity=technology and America=modernity. That’s basically the view of Alasdair MacIntyre too (who owes little to nothing to Strauss, Heidegger, and Kojeve—but a lot to Nietzsche). Brownson and Murray differ from Deneen, MacIntyre, and Grant in not saying America=Locke=technology. So someone might even say that they might employ the dogmatic view of Locke in order to free America from the Locke=technology=manipulative atheism box. Deneen’s immediate source for the Founding=Locke=THE FEDERALIST=individualistic techno-nihilism is what Paul Seaton astutely called the anti-Founderism of his brilliant and wonderful teacher Carey McWilliams. By turning Carey’s interpretation into an “ism,” Paul suggests that his presentation of THE FEDERALIST is quite selective, which it is. That’s not to say that Carey doesn’t often succeed in highlighting stuff about THE FEDERALIST that its partisans would rather slight.
7. I don’t deny for a moment that Tom West’s view of Locke is based on what he believes Locke actually thinks after astute and meticulous study. But it really is true that Locke has to be saved from anti-nature or “technology” for the three waves theory to work even as dogma. The view that the Founders were too stupid to be “esoteric” Lockeans doesn’t work—it certainly wouldn’t work for the really deep Madison and Franklin. Zuckert’s Cartesian Locke, after all, seems too close to Hegel and even Heideggerian anti-biologism, which is to say it’s also a very astute and plausible Locke. I will even say, for now, I like Zuckert’s Locke better, insofar that it can be understood to be an heretical or nonrelational version of the Christian idea of the person. The older I get—and against the nerve of Strauss’s dogma—I think more and more of Locke as a mixture of good and evil implicit in the idea of Christian heretic.