By David Janssens

Praised as a big political philosopher of the 20 th century and vilified because the putative godfather of latest neoconservatism, Leo Strauss (1899–1973) has been the item of heated controversy either within the usa and in another country. This publication bargains a extra balanced appraisal via concentrating on Strauss’s early writings. by way of a detailed and entire learn of those texts, David Janssens reconstructs the genesis of Strauss’s suggestion from its earliest beginnings until eventually his emigration to the U.S. in 1937. He discusses the 1st levels in Strauss’s grappling with the “theological-political problem,” from his doctoral dissertation on Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi to his contributions to Zionist periodicals, from his groundbreaking examine of Spinoza’s critique of faith to his study on Moses Mendelssohn, and from his rediscovery of medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy to his study on Hobbes. all through, Janssens strains Strauss’s rediscovery of the Socratic lifestyle as a attainable substitute to either glossy philosophy and printed faith.

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What does the struggle for the autonomy of science and the state have to do with the interest of Judaism? 17 Underneath these questions, we can discern the Rechtsfrage, the quaestio iuris already discussed in the previous chapter: of what concern is Europe to Judaism, and with what right has Europe penetrated and altered the world of tradition? Was the contact between the two worlds legitimate? Did Judaism have—and does it still have—an interest in being enlightened about its origins, and if so, what is that interest?

Only when it is demonstrated that reason alone can lead to true knowledge can Spinoza introduce analytical and critical distinctions. Contrary to what Cohen assumes, this does not involve a pro-Christian prejudice. Even when Spinoza appears to side openly with Christianity there are pragmatic reasons, Strauss adds. Thus, when he espouses Paul’s critique of the Jewish law, he does so because he regards charity as the only true biblical commandment and thus as the core of faith and piety. Of course, this “minimalist” conception of faith is anything but Pauline: it derives from Spinoza’s view that biblical doctrine has no cognitive but only practical value.

This, however, is not the case, Strauss holds. In his view, the relationship between the two has changed since the seventeenth century. ’”46 As Strauss emphasizes again, this struggle was decided in favor of the critique of religion and of science. They confronted religion with the alternative: either adapt to the requirements of science and critique, or face ruin. However, he continues, the adaptation religion submitted to was not so much its own merit as the consequence of the fact that eventually the critique began to criticize itself.

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