Comparing Twentieth Century Political Thought Leo Strauss And Richard Rorty

1421 WordsApr 22, 20176 Pages
Introduction When it comes to an analysis of twentieth century political thought Leo Strauss and Richard Rorty are two indispensable figures. Rorty was a pupil of Strauss at the University of Chicago, and was always quick to acknowledge the influence that his former teacher had on his writing. In the following paper I will briefly highlight and critique the fundamental arguments presented by the duo. Certainly, Rorty and Strauss share a degree of commonality in their critique of the Enlightenment. Furthermore, I will assert that Rorty’s ‘pragmatic argument’ and Strauss’ ‘esotericism’ share a degree of kinship. However, when it comes to a close examination of the works of the respective scholars, it becomes clear that they had vastly…show more content…
A clear representation of this dynamic is provided by Plato’s allegory of the cave. A particular philosopher may be able to free themselves from the shadows and experience the delights of the sun waiting outside, but for Strauss only disaster awaits if said philosopher attempts to re-enter the cave and help those that she/he has left behind. This leads into Strauss’ vociferous attack on modern political thought and the Enlightenment project. According to him, modern society mired in the chaos of ‘intellectual anarchy,’ characterized by the fact that political philosophy is in a ‘state of decay or putrefaction.’ Clearly, Strauss does not hold the Enlightenment or the transition to modernity in high esteem. In fact as Ronald Beiner affirms, Strauss’ entire project is a ‘never-ceasing polemic against the Enlightenment,’ which he blames for the breaking the aforementioned distinction between the masses and philosophers. For example, the likes of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke may have written in an esoteric manner, but at the same time they foolishly pursued the idea that this divide could and should be bridged. As Beiner continues, the cornerstone of Enlightenment thought was the idea that ‘philosophy could benefit society by helping people to be more educated and tolerant’, and thus serve as a valuable tool in advancing humanity as a whole.

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