Ultra-modern thoughts: political theology in Leo Strauss’s Philosophy and Law

History of European Ideas 43 (7):791-807 (2017)
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ABSTRACTA primary theme in Leo Strauss’s early work is how medieval Jewish and Islamic political philosophy, while influenced by Plato, differs from him in crucial ways. This theme is central to Strauss’s 1935 book Philosophy and Law. Philosophy and Law concerns the medieval ‘philosophic foundation of the law,’ which provides a rational justification of revelation. For Strauss, the foundation provides this justification by virtue of some difference it has from Plato. In this paper, I offer a new interpretation of Strauss’s view of this difference. I suggest that, for Strauss, whereas Plato conceived of the legislator and his legislation, the foundation conceives of the sovereign and his sovereign laws. On this basis, I also suggest a solution to a perennial mystery of Philosophy and Law: Strauss claims that the medieval foundation reveals ‘ultra-modern thoughts,’ yet does not explicitly state the identity of these thoughts. I suggest that their author is Carl Schmitt.



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Beau Shaw
New York University

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The social contract.Jean-Jacques Rousseau - 1762 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by Charles Frankel.

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