The Straussian Approach

Catherine Zuckert

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Straussian Approach

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  • Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Social and Political Philosophy



The “Straussian” approach to the history of political philosophy is articulated primarily in the writings of Leo Strauss. Strauss wrote extremely careful, detailed studies of canonical philosophical works along with essays explaining his approach. The most controversial claim Strauss made was that philosophers in the past did not always present their thoughts openly and explicitly. They used an “art of writing” to entice potential philosophers to begin a life of inquiry by following the hints the authors gave about their true thoughts and questions. The overriding purpose of Strauss's own studies was to prove that philosophy in its original Socratic form is still possible by showing the persistence of certain fundamental problems throughout the history of philosophy. The most pertinent of those problems, not merely to political philosophy but to human life as a whole, was the problem of justice. Strauss also insisted that “historicism” is based on a philosophical account of the character and limitations of human knowledge and that it can be refuted, therefore, only on the basis of a philosophical argument.

Keywords: Leo Strauss; history; political philosophy; historicism; Straussian approach; justice; art of writing

Article.  5955 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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