First off, you have to admit this is the greatest blog in THE WHOLE WORLD. I wish I had the time and was at the pay grade required to say something about Carl’s musical posts. And I have to say I don’t know what the heck to do about Egypt or the Republican party. Pete is on top of the latter of course, whether or not anyone listens.
Ken Masugi has given us a West Coast perspective on the Straussian Civil War(s). He’s compared me to Xenophon. I’ll take his word for it, having not really studied the X-man all that seriously.
But if someone were to ask me if I’m an East Coast or West Coast Straussian, I’d say neither. If being an East Coaster means being all about “philosophy” and being all obsessed with the possibility of philosophy and using philosophy to take revelation out, prop revelation up, only to take it out again, then that ain’t me. For one thing, understanding openness to revelation as “blind obedience” (as opposed to devotion to my “autonomous reason”) is, as Remi Brague points out, based on the Islamic understanding of who god is. I try not to use the noun “philosophy.”
When Tom Pangle said at Claremont that Socrates didn’t care at all about Athens, what he means, I guess, is that the philosopher as philosopher doesn’t care about what’s best for “his people.” The philosopher as philosopher has died to himself as a relational being, has “depersonalized” eros, and lives in a kind of “transerotic solitude” (as Tom once wrote). But the real guy Socrates—as opposed to the character on the Platonic dialogues or the abstraction twice removed from reality named the philosopher king—did care about Athens or at least Athenians. No “real guy” corresponds wholly to “the philosopher.”
But (as we read in the great thread on Strauss below that you should check out) the West Coasters tend to make the “inalienable rights” and the equality of particular persons under God too political. America as the best regime puts too much weight on America and the very questionable idea that America IS a regime. The idea of “the regime” depends on premises that the Lockean (and so somewhat Christian, sometimes in spite of themselves) American Founders rejected. I care about America more than most. (I hardly ever go to other countries, and never just for fun. I’m almost as much of a stay-at-home as Socrates.) But the republic won’t fall if we admit that our Founding isn’t flawless, that it has particular strengths and weaknesses. And I certainly don’t want to reduce the liberal education that should be available to each of us to civic education.
So I’m a conscientious objector in the Straussian Civil War. That means, of course, that both sides distrust and sometimes shoot at me.
Michael Zuckert somewhat condescendingly called my little faction “faith-based Straussians.” But that’s not right either. More soon.