Leo Strauss and Arab Philosophy: Medieval versus Modern Enlightenment

Diogenes 57 (2):101-119 (2010)
This paper closely examines Strauss’ conception of “Medieval Enlightenment”. It focuses on the central role that Arab philosophy has played in the development of Strauss’s thought and discusses the validity of the uses he makes of it. It also emphasizes the interest of Strauss’s analyses as regards Arab philosophy while drawing attention to the tensions they create. It claims that Strauss’ involvement in the quarrel between Ancients and Moderns aims at showing that medieval philosophy cannot be reduced simply to the effort to reconcile philosophy and religion. The ideas of some Arab philosophers cropped up throughout Strauss’s philosophical development and determined his interpretation of Maimonides and Plato as well as his stance in opposition to the moderns. However Strauss’s idea of the “medieval Enlightenment” remains fundamentally ambiguous. Is that Enlightenment supposed to be an argument for the preservation of faith alongside reason or does it rather express a kind of atheism or disguised materialism?
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DOI 10.1177/0392192110393218
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