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1. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Jeffrey A. Bernstein New Directions in the Thought of Leo Strauss: Guest Editor's Introduction
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The figure and thought of Leo Strauss continues to provoke impassioned reactions from advocates and critics. The majority of these reactions are less engaged with Strauss’s thought than with his person and school. This volume seeks to contribute to the increase in philosophical attention paid to Strauss’s thought. The contributions collected herein exemplify both a deep and abiding familiarity with Strauss’s thought as well as a need to find new directions to explore within that thought.
2. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Alessandra Fussi Leo Strauss on Collingwood: Historicism and the Greeks
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Strauss’s invitation to understand Greek authors as they understood themselves was attacked by influential scholars as anti-historical. In the first part of the paper, I argue that the charge is due to a misunderstanding of Strauss’s position on the respective role of interpretation and criticism in historicism. In the second part, I highlight Strauss’s view of the tension between scientific history as the manifestation of a certain age, and scientific history as the culmination of historical progress. In the third part, I discuss Strauss’s thesis that the belief in progress prevented Collingwood from taking past thinkers seriously. Collingwood claimed that the Greeks failed to appreciate that age-long traditions shaped their thought. Strauss held the opposite: the beginning of Greek philosophy coincides with questioning the identity between the ancestral and the good, and philosophy in Plato’s Republic is shown to be a form of critical reflection on the reasons why certain traditions and myths can exercise political, religious, and psychological power.
3. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Jessica L. Radin Between the Messianic Era and the Text: Historicism and Exegetical Materialism in Maimonides
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This paper engages in a re-articulation of Maimonides’s sense of history. While for Leo Strauss Maimonides was a both a model and a resource for resisting historicism, recent scholarship has demonstrated that Maimonides had an understanding of history as the gradual evolution of humanity towards an ideal and perfected future. At the same time that we must acknowledge these echoes of historicism in Maimonides, a closer examination of Maimonides’s methods of exegesis, and particular his inclusion of ‘outside’ or non-Jewish texts, makes it possible to rethink the ways Maimonides provides tools which the modern reader—and teacher—can use to disrupt and call into question historical progression. The exegesis that Maimonides’s text requires of his readers itself challenges the onward motion of history, and stands in a constant tension with the pull towards the future.
4. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Eleni Panagiotarakou Leo Strauss and Aristophanes
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Leo Strauss is one of a handful of political philosophers to turn his gaze to the political thought of Aristophanes. In his book Socrates and Aristophanes (1966), Strauss provides one of the longest, most methodical, and most comprehensive studies of the Aristophanic corpus. Taking as its starting point Strauss’s interpretation of Aristophanes’s Frogs—as it pertains to the political poetics of Aeschylus and Euripides—this essay seeks to demonstrate that Strauss’s reading of Aristophanes was influenced by Nietzsche’s hermeneutical framework of agonistic impulses. Via an interdisciplinary reading of the agonal erotopoetics involving Aristophanes and his older rival Cratinus, I argue that Strauss appreciated the concept of agonal creative contests and its intertextual manifestations. In addition, I raise the possibility that, similar to Nietzsche, Strauss’s perplexing style of writing is a mimetic form of agonal intertextuality.
5. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Sharon Portnoff Not in Our Stars: Primo Levi's "Reveille" and Dante's Purgatorio
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This paper provides a living example of how close reading should be done and demonstrates that part of Levi’s meaning is to teach his audience to read in this way. Reading “Reveille”—the epigraph of his Holocaust memoir La tregua—as far as possible as its author intended entails a close reading of the poem behind its allusions—Dante’s Purgatorio—and provides the context and means by which Levi asks whether the actuality of Auschwitz refutes the possibilities implicit in narrative constructions of the reimagined whole.
6. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Thomas Meyer The Origins of Leo Strauss’s Political Philosophy
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This article analyzes Leo Strauss’s early and mature political philosophy in unusual ways. It offers a new reading of known and unknown texts and documents and shows how Leo Strauss became Leo Strauss.
7. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Alan Udoff On Leo Strauss and the Question of the Theologico-Political: An Introduction
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The conventional ways in which the reading of Strauss is conducted too often employ simplistic stratagems in the effort to reveal what is hidden, and thereby miss their mark. A case in point is the privileging of the center of a text, where the center is understood arithmetically. The essay that follows takes up the question of the adequacy of this understanding.
8. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Denise Schaefer Some Thoughts on Strauss on Rousseau
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Strauss faults Rousseau for an overly indeterminate view of nature, which stems from what Strauss sees as a defect in Rousseau’s understanding of the relationship between philosophy (or science) and the requirements of civil society. This article considers these issues in light of Rousseau’s broader rhetorical strategy, and explores Rousseau’s attempt to elucidate the possibility of a modern political philosophy that is distinct from science on the one hand and civic moralizing on the other.
9. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Matthew Dinan Strauss, Kierkegaard, and the "Secret of the Art of Helping"
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This paper compares Leo Strauss’s and Søren Kierkegaard’s views on esoteric writing. I argue that both thinkers have recourse to this kind of writing due to similar rhetorical dilemmas. Kierkegaard indeed uses indirect communication in his attempt to restore “simple” Christianity to a “Christian” age, and Strauss’s recovery of esoteric writing similarly aims to restore science—understood as philosophy—to the “Scientific” age. Both, in short, suggest that esoteric writing can help circumvent the distortions of late modern intellectual culture to recover and indeed spur readers toward philosophy or faith understood as ways of life. The encounter between Strauss and Kierkegaard on the subject of esoteric writing shows, contra some of Strauss’s recent interpreters, that there is considerable common ground between the postmodern needs of religious faith and philosophical rationalism, despite, and indeed because of, their ultimate incompatibility.
10. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Dana Hollander Understanding Law (“Gesetz” and “Recht”) in Hermann Cohen, with Help from the Early Strauss
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I present the early, incisive reading of Hermann Cohen (1842–1918) offered by Leo Strauss in parts of the book Philosophy and Law (1935) and in the closely related lecture “Cohen and Maimonides” (1931), and show that that reading can help frame and sharpen our analysis of Cohen’s approach to law in both his ethics and his philosophy of Judaism.
11. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Rodrigo Chacón Strauss and Husserl
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Among the great philosophers of the twentieth century, only one, perhaps, shared Leo Strauss’s understanding of “ideas” as fundamental problems: his teacher Husserl. Throughout his work, Strauss heeded Husserl’s call to return to the “things themselves” and “the problems connected with them.” I argue that “natural right” is one such phenomenon or problem which Strauss seeks to recover—and reactivate—from centuries of sedimented interpretations. I further propose that “natural right” may be a “sense-formation” analogous to Husserl’s “geometry.” If this is true, Natural Right and History may be modeled on Husserl’s Crisis of European Sciences.
12. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Philipp von Wussow Leo Strauss and Julius Guttmann: Some Remakrs on the Understanding of Philosophy and Law
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Leo Strauss’s early book Philosophy and Law (Philosophie und Gesetz, 1935) has remained a stumbling block in current Strauss scholarship. This article seeks to explore the text by way of the ensuing debate between Strauss and Julius Guttmann concerning the historical and systematic presuppositions of Jewish philosophy. In decisive respects Guttmann was unable to follow Strauss’s argument, particularly because he could not solve the riddle whether Philosophy and Law was a precursor of the “exoteric” Strauss or not. Furthermore, he miscast the perspective of political philosophy as an all-out politicization of philosophy. Examining these fallacies of interpretation, the article argues for a better understanding of the philosophical and rhetorical strategies employed in Strauss’s Philosophy and Law.
13. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Stephen L. Salter Between Freud and Sublimity: A Straussian Critique of Psychoanalysis
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This paper introduces Leo Strauss’s thematic question, “Progress or return?” to the context of psychoanalysis. the conversation within psychoanalysis. Progress signifies development or advancement, a mode that Freud embraced wholeheartedly. Strauss’s pursuit of a return questions the presumption of the goodness of progress. Freud’s thinking forecloses critical considerations within religion and metaphysics, circumscribing his consideration to adaptation within a given particular time and place. By contrast, a return transcends the particular setting. I address the question, “Progress or Return?” to historical and individual development. If a life of progress points away from nature toward civilization, the life of return points away from civilization and toward nature. Freud epitomizes the idea of progress and pathologizes the notion of return, consequently foreclosing the questioning of authority as well as the quest for a natural law that would supersedes authority. True progress, I argue, is not linear but dependent on return.
14. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2/3
Volume 44 Index
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15. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Martin Shuster Nothing to Know: The Epistemology of Moral Perfectionism in Adorno and Cavell
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I argue that Theodor W. Adorno is best understood as a moral perfectionist thinker in the stripe of Stanley Cavell. This is significant because Adorno’s moral philosophy has not received serious interest from moral philosophers, and much of this has to do with difficulties in situating his thought. I argue that once Adorno is situated in this way, then, like Cavell, he offers an interesting moral perspective that will be of value to a variety of moral theorists. My argument proceeds in two broad steps: first, I show that Cavell and Adorno share a distinct epistemological orientation, one that centers around the impossibility of knowledge in certain situations, and trades on a Kantian and post-Kantian picture. Second, I show that their moral perfectionism fundamentally rests on such epistemology.
16. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Michael J. Reno Adorno, Experience, and the Possibility of Practical Reason
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In order to understand the normative aspect of Adorno’s thinking, one must understand his conception of experience as it relates to both the bodily aversion to suffering and the history of concepts as deployed by the species. In order to understand experience in this way, I briefly explicate the concepts of Erfahrung and Erlebnis as both Benjamin and Adorno used them. Then, I connect these concepts to the immediacy of suffering. Arguing that the immediacy of suffering is not sufficient to understand Adorno’s concept of experience, I articulate notions of memory and imagination that characterize experience that goes beyond mere immediacy of feeling. But this concept of experience requires a connection between the individual and the species, which I attempt to demonstrate through a contemporary example. Finally, I conclude with some comments on the objective and subjective possibility of experience and thus for a practical orientation to the world.
17. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Hernán Pringe The Principle of Causality and the Coordination of Concepts and Spatio-Temporal Objects in Cassirer’s Philosophy
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This paper analyzes the role of the principle of causality in Cassirer’s account of the coordination of concepts and spatio-temporal objects. We shall see that, in contradistinction to Kantian schematism, Cassirer maintains that this coordination is not achieved by means of a third element (the schema), which albeit intellectual is nevertheless also sensible. Rather, in Cassirer’s view, the coordination will take place through a specification of the concepts that should be sought “within the domain of concepts itself.” We shall show that the principle of causality is the ultimate condition upon which the possibility of the coordination of concepts and spatio-temporal objects depends.
18. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Timothy Jussaume Production: Levinas and the Logic of Interiority
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In this essay, I address the critical role of production (production) in Levinas’s Totality and Infinity. I argue that production functions as the terminological site of Levinas’s critique of onto-logic. Specifically, production overturns the most basic ontological presupposition, viz., that Something cannot come from Nothing. At stake in this inversion of Parmenides is a phenomenological re-thinking of the relation between the I and the Other, inaugurating what Levinas calls a “logic of interiority.” This logic, in its resistance to the Principle of Non-Contradiction, enacts a paradoxical running-together of activity and passivity, autonomy and dependence, being and nothingness. It is the fact that both the I and Other are produced rather deduced which makes this strange intertwining possible. In conclusion, I reflect on the ways in which production allows for an approach to the Other as both bound up with, while at the same time, excessive to the self.
19. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Vojtěch Kolman Emotions and Understanding in Music: A Transcendental and Empirical Approach
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The aim of this paper is to sketch a theory of musical experience which takes the empirical research seriously without abandoning or neglecting music’s transcendental features. The tension between the recent empirical approach, as represented particularly by Huron’s ITPRA theory, and the transcendental fact that music as an instance of art is something one can understand and, moreover, can understand oneself through, should be overcome by elaborating on the concept of emotion and the role it can play in musical understanding. This will be done against the narrower background of the pragmatists’ theories of meaning, as represented by the semantic work of Meyer and Brandom, and their broader link to the philosophy of Hegel and the great (aesthetic) systems of German idealism.
20. Idealistic Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Kimberly S. Engels Schopenhauer's Intelligible Character and Sartre's Fundamental Project
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In this article I present a comparative analysis of Schopenhauer’s concept of a human’s intelligible character and Sartre’s concept of a human’s fundamental project. My examination reveals that both Schopenhauer and Sartre posit a groundless, baseless choice of identity which unifies a human’s future conscious states into an integrated whole. I also identify the primary difference between the two accounts: Schopenhauer’s intelligible character is permanent, while Sartre’s theory of fundamental project is capable of being transformed or transcended. Last, I show that the divergence on this point can be explained by the position the two philosophers hold with respect to the relationship of existence to essence. For Schopenhauer’s account, I use The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and his Prize Essay on the Freedom of the Will. For the analysis of Sartre, I rely on Being and Nothingness and his biography of French writer Jean Genet, titled Saint Genet.