1. So H.T., in the Ivan the K thread below, says that the writings of Leo Strauss are “utterly trivial.” And he so certain he’s right that he says that the burden is on others to prove him wrong. But “we Straussians” (even we lapsed Straussians) shouldn’t be offended, because guys like us tend to have the same opinion of analytic philosophy. I have to admit that when I’ve been stuck with leading some seminar that included some “analytics,” I often think “who the heck cares about this?” (intention, linguistic idealism, or whatever). But eventually I figure out I’m put off by the mode of expression rather than the actual subject. What language is, after all, is really important. But overall, I still tend to be with Richard Rorty who departs from the analytics because of their inability to speak publicly and convincingly about “the real problems of men.” Rorty, of course, goes from one extreme to the other when it comes to language and stuff like that, coming to believe that words are nothing but weapons to make life less cruel.

2. So “we Straussians” think that the analytics are somewhat obtuse on Plato because they miss “the dramatic context” or the rhetorical intention of much of what Socrates says. And “we Straussians” think that Rorty is wrong to reduce Plato to the “effectual truth” of his thought or Platonism. But we have to admit that we Straussians are sometimes inferior to the analytics in missing the genuinely technical core of much of classical philosophy, and so not caring enough, for example, that Aristotle might have been surpassed on stuff like logic. And we Straussians might even be inferior to Rorty in being so heck-bound in recovering the true Plato that we forget that Plato might have meant his effect to be Platonism. So there might be something quixotic in attempting to overcome Nietzsche’s “Platonism for the people” by a return to the original intention of Plato. There is something true, we lapsed Straussian semi-Thomists think, in the idea that all persons really do have souls, and the Greek idea was transformed in a very credible way by the early church fathers in the direction of the person being the indispensable source of logos. Christianity isn’t really Platonism for the people, and even Locke saw that’s what true about Christianity entails a rejection of the classical idea of philosophical serenity and especially the classical idea of civil theology.

3. I kind of agree with H.T. that Straussians often do seem trivial in the “who cares?” sense. The point of life couldn’t possibly be defending the way of life of the philosopher from the challenge of revelation. Once you done that once, what do you do after lunch? It is also trivial to suggest that all philosophers are and say the same thing, once you get past the rhetoric. It’s trivial to say that Locke is simply Aristotle facing the challenge of Christianity. So it trivializes philosophy to dismiss the possibility that Locke (and Kant) actually give us a technically innovative and better understanding of language, personal identity, and so forth. Most of all, as Tom H. says in the thread, it’s trivial to dismiss the possibility that Thomas is superior to Maimonides (who, in turn, is more-or-less Plato) on human particularity or irreducible personal identity.

4. I’m not saying that Strauss himself or all Straussians say that stuff. I’m not at all sure on Strauss’s “bottom line.” His pursuits are far from trivial though.

5. Other random points for discussion: I don’t think analytical Thomism works out, though (see “the new natural law,” the problem is, to begin with, that it’s not really “natural” or “law”). The more I think about Nietzsche the less impressed I am. MacIntyre’s utopianism or lack of political prudence may have something to do with his analytic foundation (does he share that with Rorty?). It’s Rawls who discredits analytical philosophy for lots of Straussians. He’s in some ways technically formidable but the bottom line is liberal conventionalism. The preference of non-analytic philosophy might be a preference for poetry over analysis, and so a kind of rigor is inevitably sacrificed. Sheldon Cooper knows and respects the analytics, but he lumps Heidegger, I would guess, with the squishy humanities.

All this is very ill-considered, of course. Or just for fun—the right kind of fun.

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