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Monday, April 1, 2013

Leo Strauss on Aristotle and Modern Man

   

 

1 -- Leo Strauss presents Aristotle's view

>>> >>Deutsche Fassung: 
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Man is the only Earthly being inclined towards happiness and he is capable of happiness.

This is because he is the only animal which possesses reason or speech [....] or whose soul is somehow "all things": man is the microcosm.

There is a natural harmony between the whole and the human mind. Man would not be capable of happiness if the whole of which he is a part were not friendly to him.

The picture is of Phyllis riding on Aristotle from a story preached and popular in the Middle Ages.
 -- Below :

Public domain according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casket_with_Scenes_of_Romances_%28Walters_71264%29#/media/File:French_-_Casket_with_Scenes_of_Romances_-_Walters_71264.jpg   
including, from left: Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great, Phyllis riding Aristotle, watched by Alexander from a window, on the right, old people bathing at the Fountain of Youth
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2 -- Strauss classifies Aristotle’s view

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This view of the relation of man to the whole may be described as "optimism" in the original sense of the term: the world is the best possible world.

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3 -- Strauss compares Aristotle’s perspective to modern  ideas:

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The belief in such harmony appears now as a wishful or good-natured assumption.***
We must reckon with the possibility that the world is the work of an evil demon bent on deceiving us about himself, [.......]or, which means the same, that the world is the work of  blind necessity.

What is peculiar to modern thought is [.....] the consequent resolve to liberate man [......] and to treat nature as an enemy who must be subjugated.

Accordingly, science ceases to be proud contemplation [......and instead is] devoted to the relief of man's condition. Science is for the sake of power.

This however means that nature compels man to make himself social; only because nature compels man to avoid violent death as the greatest evil can man compel himself to become and to be a citizen.

This would seem to be the root of what Nietzsche discerned as the essentially ascetic character of modern morality.

(I do not yet understand how "fear of violent death as the greatest evil compels man to make himself social", but it will presently become more obvious when I have read more. Nothing and nobody becomes intelligible all at once. --
However, I do think that "fearing violent death as the greatest evil " is not Straussian,  and that Strauss even rejects it.). Indeed........

Added in 2014:

Google:  It is famous from Hobbes' "Leviathan".



https://www.google.com/?hl=en#hl=en&q=fear+violent+death+as+greatest+evil
or http://tinyurl.com/pe5skas


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"The belief in such harmony appears now as a wishful or good-natured assumption."

Keep in mind that Strauss is often ironical and that he did not follow recent trends in philosophy. Likely he means to describe the opposite view, which is the modern view,  as "essentially evil-natured".

Then why doesn't he do it explicitly?

He did, but in another book, difficult to read:  http://archive.org/search.php?query=leo%20strauss%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts . 
Here is the quote:


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The quotes (except the last one) are from the beginning chapter of The City and Man.

I am trying to read Strauss because he may be the greatest philosopher after Nietzsche, since Heidegger is intelligible only in translation -- particularly, unbelievably, also in China.
As far as I have seen, Strauss is easy and immensely worth-while to read in  his introductions or book beginnings. --  I think that in his introductions he freely summarizes his views -- and then he spends the rest of his book displaying his prodigious erudition,  not proudly, but rather as if  under orders to pile on as much support for his views as any reader might ever want to see.
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Added December 2015

Leo Strauss in German?
from a letter to Löwith 1933

 "One can't choose a homeland and, above all, a mother tongue, and in any event I will never be able to write other than in German, even if I must write in another language. On the other hand, I see no bearable possibility of living under the swastika -"

 "Man kann seine Heimat und vor allem seine Muttersprache nicht wählen, und jedenfalls werd' ich nie anders als auf deutsch schreiben koennen, selbst wenn ich in einer anderen Sprache schreiben muesste. Andererseits - ich sehe keine ertraegliche Lebensmoeglichkeit unter der Swastika"

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