Leo Strauss's Platonic Liberalism

in Reading Leo Strauss

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780226764023
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226763903 | DOI:
Leo Strauss's Platonic Liberalism

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The conjunction of the terms “Platonic” and “liberalism” may seem oxymoronic. The most influential interpretation of Plato in the second half of the twentieth century held him to be an intransigent enemy of liberalism and the “open society.” His harsh proposals for a closed caste system and for the censorship of poetry and literature, his radical measures to eliminate the family and private property, and his investiture of political authority in an all-wise and all-powerful philosopher-king must strike even a sympathetic reader as radically opposed to liberal beliefs in freedom of thought and expression, a robust sphere of civil society and private life, the importance of limited constitutional government supported by a system of checks and balances, and a skeptical disposition toward the rule of experts. Critics of Strauss's Plato have attacked the methodological premises of Straussian hermeneutics. The method of esoteric reading, taken originally from the Jewish and Arabic Platonists of the middle ages, is said to be inherently arbitrary and nonverifiable.

Keywords: Leo Strauss; platonic liberalism; open society; critics of Strauss; Jewish Platonists; Arabic Platonists

Chapter.  9052 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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