Thursday, April 24, 2014

Leo Strauss Defines the City

 “Just as man's natural power of first hand knowledge, so his power of love or of active concern is by nature limited; the limits of the city coincide with the range of man's active concern for nonanonymous individuals.”

It means that if you have several hundred friends, you won’t have time for all of them, and you cannot even think of them or remember them more than about once a year. So why do you call them friends?
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“A city is a community commensurate with man's natural powers of firsthand or direct knowledge. It is a community which can be taken in in one view, or in which a mature man can find his bearings through his own observation, without having to rely habitually on indirect information in matters of vital importance. ”

Strauss describes the classical city as an ideal. Most of the inhabitants know what is being planned and decided and how much it will cost. Most feel competent to deal with those decisions. 
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“Only a society small enough to permit mutual trust is small enough to permit mutual responsibility or supervision .....;  in a very large city, in "Babylon," everyone can live more or less as he lists. ”

Is Strauss anti-modern?
But what is meant by “modern”?

Modernity typically refers to the change from the agricultural past towards industrialization and towards a more rational way of life that sets people free from their traditions.
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The problem is that this change has brought about what Strauss called

 “the foolish excrescences of the liberal creed which were allowed to grow  during the time when liberalism had succeeded and therefore was ap-
proaching dormancy.”

Strauss thought that liberalism has made people’s lives so comfortable that they can no longer maintain its complex underpinnings.

The quotes are from
“The City and Man” and from “A History of Natural Right”, both at
 http://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22Leo+Strauss%22
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