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Damon Linker reviews two books about Leo Strauss under the title “Defending Leo Strauss’s Legacy” at TNR. Straussian critic Shadia Drury referred to Strauss as “a Jewish Nazi,” and Linker calls this “risible” and a “repulsive charge.” Repulsive is accurate enough, but solely because of its accuracy (see this post for details); calling her comment risible is, well, risible itself. Linker comments of Steven Smith’s Reading Leo Strauss that:

Smith deserves credit for injecting some much-needed sobriety and freshness into the discussion of Strauss's work and its legacy. Whether Smith's book deserves to be the final word on Strauss's ideas is another matter.

The “final word” on Strauss—like the immortal philosophers about whom he wrote—will not be written for decades, if not centuries. Linker’s conclusion strikes just the right note:

How has a thinker as radical as Strauss--a thinker so blatantly hostile to democracy and modernity, so deeply suspicious of political liberty and equality, so profoundly skeptical of moral and religious belief--managed to become the intellectual idol of contemporary American conservatism, with its clamorous moralism, its pious parochialism, its shameless populism, and its instinctual suspicion of doubt? Only when we have devised a satisfactory answer to that troubling question will we be capable of rendering a responsible judgment of Leo Strauss's ideas and their enigmatic legacy to the times in which we live.

I await his forthcoming book The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on July 22, 2006 10:46 PM.

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