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The Link Between Strauss and Neoconservatism

But hear the morning's injured weeping, and know why: Cities and men have fallen; the will of the Unjust Has never lost its power; still, all princes must Employ the Fairly-Noble unifying Lie. – Auden, "In Time of War" "Not … Read More

By / August 30, 2007

But hear the morning's injured weeping, and know why: Cities and men have fallen; the will of the Unjust Has never lost its power; still, all princes must Employ the Fairly-Noble unifying Lie.

– Auden, "In Time of War"

"Not even wrong" is how scientists dispense with bullshit and incoherence in their field. It's a riposte tantamount to telling a windy fool at a bar, "You may be right," and then walking away to finish your drink in peace. In the last five years Leo Strauss has had his legacy run through every lens of distortion and every mind given to feverish falsification — a sad irony for the philosopher who thought that one of the greatest dangers to modern culture was "fanatical obscurantism."

Strauss' own untenderized prose, often believed to demonstrate how murky and sinister was the man behind it, is explicable by something much less sexy than his alleged adherence to lying with good intent: He was German. The sentences are long and difficult. Even in translation. Ask a German.

Now comes a fascinating look at the most misunderstood philosopher since Socrates by the very students — "disciples" is a touch much — he trained. The most notable of this bunch is Nathan Tarcov, a political science professor at (where else?) the University of Chicago. You should know three things about Tarcov. The first is that he was against the toppling of Saddam Hussein. The second is that he's uncovered some of the scant evidence of Strauss' well-guarded opinions on modern American politics; the old man having been quite mums throughout his career about anything other than the first shining city on a hill, Athens. Forget that he's credited, or blamed, with spawning a whole generation of Plato's Republicans.

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