Thursday, January 20, 2011
In The American Conservative, Paul Gottfried reviews another book on Strauss.
Altman makes much of the fact that Strauss devoted an essay, “Introduction to Heideggerian Existentialism,” to the German antidemocratic philosopher Heidegger. In that article Strauss characterized this father of existential thought as “the most brilliant thinker” he’d ever encountered. The same essay praises Nietzsche and speaks slightingly about the moral vision of democracy, Kantian ethics, and other things that Strauss as a liberal democrat should have admired.

Of course, Strauss was telling the unvarnished truth about Heidegger’s philosophical brilliance. He also notices his subject’s unacknowledged dependence on the Old Testament account of God the Creator for his understanding of the Ground of Being. And though in this essay Strauss examines what may appear to be the seamy side of democratic cultures, these remarks by no means typify Strauss’s expressed opinion about democracy. Why should we assume that his true political view can be found in his interpretation of Heidegger but not in his far more numerous favorable references to liberal democracy?
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