Must Philosophy Be Political?: Heidegger and Strauss on 'First Philosophy'

Gnosis 11 (2):1-17 (2010)

Abstract
The question of where philosophic examination must begin and what objects must it first examine is important no matter what philosophic perspective or approach one holds, and the response to such a question thereby determines both the form and the content of the philosophical conclusions one can reach. Martin Heidegger and Leo Strauss both present complex and controversial responses to the question of what ‘first philosophy’ is. My paper consists primarily of a comparison of these two conceptions, as well as what each conception indicates concerning the two thinkers’ respective overall philosophical projects. I argue that one of the primary critiques Strauss makes of Heidegger’s philosophical position is that Heidegger is mistaken when he asserts that philosophy is primarily ontology. Hence, it would seem that Strauss’s conception of ‘first philosophy’ is ultimately more satisfying of Husserl’s phenomenological dictum, to which Heidegger holds, ‘to the things themselves!’ More generally, I conclude that the tension between Heidegger and Strauss concerning first philosophy sheds light on the relation of theory and practice, or, expressed in a different way, what it means to be a philosopher and at the same time to be a citizen of a political regime, and what this simultaneous and fraught existence entails
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