Introduction: Platonic dramatology -- The political and philosophical problems. Using pre-Socratic philosophy to support political reform: the Athenian stranger ; Plato's Parmenides: Parmenides' critique of Socrates and Plato's critique of Parmenides ; Becoming Socrates ; Socrates interrogates his contemporaries about the noble and good -- Paradigms of philosophy. Socrates' positive teaching ; Timaeus-Critias: completing or challenging Socratic political philosophy? ; Socratic practice -- The trial and death of Socrates. The limits of human intelligence ; The Eleatic challenge ; The trial (...) and death of Socrates -- Conclusion: Why Plato made Socrates his hero. (shrink)
Faced with the difficult task of discerning Plato’s true ideas from the contradictory voices he used to express them, scholars have never fully made sense of the many incompatibilities within and between the dialogues. In the magisterial _Plato’s Philosophers_, Catherine Zuckert explains for the first time how these prose dramas cohere to reveal a comprehensive Platonic understanding of philosophy. To expose this coherence, Zuckert examines the dialogues not in their supposed order of composition but according to the dramatic order in (...) which Plato indicates they took place. This unconventional arrangement lays bare a narrative of the rise, development, and limitations of Socratic philosophy. In the drama’s earliest dialogues, for example, non-Socratic philosophers introduce the political and philosophical problems to which Socrates tries to respond. A second dramatic group shows how Socrates develops his distinctive philosophical style. And, finally, the later dialogues feature interlocutors who reveal his philosophy’s limitations. Despite these limitations, Zuckert concludes, Plato made Socrates the dialogues’ central figure because Socrates raises the fundamental human question: what is the best way to live? Plato’s dramatization of Socratic imperfections suggests, moreover, that he recognized the apparently unbridgeable gap between our understandings of human life and the nonhuman world. At a time when this gap continues to raise questions—about the division between sciences and the humanities and the potentially dehumanizing effects of scientific progress—Zuckert’s brilliant interpretation of the entire Platonic corpus offers genuinely new insights into worlds past and present. (shrink)
Catherine Zuckert examines the work of five key philosophical figures from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through the lens of their own decidedly postmodern readings of Plato. She argues that Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, Strauss, and Derrida, convinced that modern rationalism had exhausted its possibilities, all turned to Plato in order to rediscover the original character of philosophy and to reconceive the Western tradition as a whole. Zuckert's artful juxtaposition of these seemingly disparate bodies of thought furnishes a synoptic view, not (...) merely of these individual thinkers, but of the broad postmodern landscape as well. The result is a brilliantly conceived work that offers an innovative perspective on the relation between the Western philosophical tradition and the evolving postmodern enterprise. (shrink)
Leo Strauss and his alleged political influence regarding the Iraq War have in recent years been the subject of significant media attention, including stories in the _Wall Street Journal _and _New York Times._ _Time_ magazine even called him “one of the most influential men in American politics.” With _The Truth about Leo Strauss_, Michael and Catherine Zuckert challenged the many claims and speculations about this notoriously complex thinker. Now, with _Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy_, they turn their (...) attention to a searching and more comprehensive interpretation of Strauss’s thought as a whole, using the many manifestations of the “problem of political philosophy” as their touchstone. For Strauss, political philosophy presented a “problem” to which there have been a variety of solutions proposed over the course of Western history. Strauss’s work, they show, revolved around recovering—and restoring—political philosophy to its original Socratic form. Since positivism and historicism represented two intellectual currents that undermined the possibility of a Socratic political philosophy, the first part of the book is devoted to Strauss’s critique of these two positions. Then, the authors explore Strauss’s interpretation of the history of philosophy and both ancient and modern canonical political philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Locke. Strauss’s often-unconventional readings of these philosophers, they argue, pointed to solutions to the problem of political philosophy. Finally, the authors examine Strauss’s thought in the context of the twentieth century, when his chief interlocutors were Schmitt, Husserl, Heidegger, and Nietzsche. The most penetrating and capacious treatment of the political philosophy of this complex and often misunderstood thinker, from his early years to his last works, _Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy_ reveals Strauss’s writings as an attempt to show that the distinctive characteristics of ancient and modern thought derive from different modes of solving the problem of political philosophy and reveal why he considered the ancient solution both philosophically and politically superior. (shrink)
Is Leo Strauss truly an intellectual forebear of neoconservatism and a powerful force in shaping Bush administration foreign policy? _The Truth about Leo Strauss_ puts this question to rest, revealing for the first time how the popular media came to perpetuate an oversimplified view of a complex and wide-ranging philosopher. In doing so, it corrects our perception of Strauss, providing the best general introduction available to the political thought of this misunderstood figure. Catherine and Michael Zuckert—both former students of Strauss—guide (...) readers here to a nuanced understanding of how Strauss’s political thought fits into his broader philosophy. Challenging the ideas that Strauss was an inflexible conservative who followed in the footsteps of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt, the Zuckerts contend that Strauss’s signature idea was the need for a return to the ancients. Through their work, they conclude that Strauss was a sober defender of liberal democracy, aware of both its strengths and its weaknesses. Balanced and accessible, _The Truth about Leo Strauss_ is a must-read for anyone who wants to more fully comprehend this enigmatic philosopher and his much-disputed legacy. “_The Truth about Leo Strauss_ is the most balanced and insightful book yet written about Strauss’s thought, students, and political influence. It dispels myths promulgated by both friends and foes and persuasively traces the conflicting paths that American thinkers indebted to Strauss have taken.”—William Galston, Brookings Institution. (shrink)
Is Leo Strauss truly an intellectual forebear of neoconservatism and a powerful force in shaping Bush administration foreign policy? _The Truth about Leo Strauss_ puts this question to rest, revealing for the first time how the popular media came to perpetuate such an oversimplified view of such a complex and wide-ranging philosopher. More important, it corrects our perception of Strauss, providing the best general introduction available to the political thought of this misunderstood figure. Catherine and Michael Zuckert—both former students of (...) Strauss—guide readers here to a nuanced understanding of how Strauss’s political thought fits into his broader philosophy. Challenging the ideas that Strauss was an inflexible conservative who followed in the footsteps of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt, the Zuckerts contend that Strauss’s signature idea was the need for a return to the ancients. This idea, they show, stemmed from Strauss’s belief that modern thought, with its relativism and nihilism, undermines healthy politics and even the possibility of real philosophy. Identifying this view as one of Strauss’s three core propositions—America is modern, modernity is bad, and America is good—they conclude that Strauss was a sober defender of liberal democracy, aware of both its strengths and its weaknesses. The Zuckerts finish, appropriately, by examining the varied work of Strauss’s numerous students and followers, revealing the origins—rooted in the tensions within his own thought—oftheir split into opposing camps. Balanced and accessible, _The Truth about Leo Strauss_ is a must-read for anyone who wants to more fully comprehend this enigmatic philosopher and his much-disputed legacy. (shrink)
Virtue ethics now constitutes one of three major approaches to the study of ethics by Anglophone philosophers. Its proponents almost all recognize the source of their approach in Aristotle, but relatively few of them confront the problem that source poses for contemporary ethicists. According to Aristotle, ethikê belongs and is subordinate to politikê. But in the liberal democracies within which most Anglophone ethicists write, political authorities are not supposed to legislate morality; they are supposed merely to establish the conditions necessary (...) for individuals to choose their own life paths. Contemporary ethicists who have addressed this question have proposed three very different answers to the question of how virtue ethics ought to be related to politics in modern nation-states. Martha Nussbaum seeks to provide all human beings with the capacities—intellectual and moral as well as material—they need to choose the best way of life. Arguing that the modern nation-state is incapable of providing its citizens with the education they need to live a good life, Alasdair MacIntyre looks to smaller, tradition-based communities. Because political action is coercive and truly ethical action is voluntary, Douglas den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen insist, ethics and politics should be strictly separated. This article examines each of these attempts to revive an Aristotelian understanding of ethics, bringing out the advantages and problems involved. (shrink)
MANY READERS HAVE TAKEN THE ELEATIC STRANGER to represent a later stage of Plato’s philosophical development because the arguments or doctrines the Stranger presents in the Sophist appear to be better than those Socrates articulates in earlier dialogues. In particular, in the Sophist Plato shows the Stranger answering two questions Socrates proved unable to resolve in two of his conversations the day before. In the Theaetetus Socrates admitted that he had long been perplexed by the fact of false opinion; he (...) was not able to explain how it was possible. Likewise, in the Cratylus Socrates and his interlocutors were not able to determine satisfactorily the relation between names and the things to which they refer. Through his teaching about the idea of the other, the Stranger shows not only how false opinion is possible but also why names do not always correspond to the kinds or ideas of things. More generally, in the course of his account of previous thought the Stranger presents a fundamental critique of the teaching of “friends of the forms” like Socrates. When we examine the definition of the sophist to which the Stranger comes at the end of the dialogue, however, we find reasons to question the adequacy of his teaching and, consequently, his superiority to Socrates. If philosophy consists in knowledge—of the whole or merely of self— we are forced to conclude, neither the Stranger nor Socrates is a philosopher. Each or even both might appear, therefore, to be a pretender—or sophist. If, on the other hand, philosophy consists in the search for knowledge by means of a dialectical sorting of things according to kinds, Socrates and the Stranger represent two different, although related types. (shrink)
This book demonstrates the rich diversity and depth of political philosophy in the twentieth century. Catherine H. Zuckert has compiled a collection of essays recounting the lives of political theorists, connecting each biography with the theorist's life work and explaining the significance of the contribution to modern political thought. The essays are organized to highlight the major political alternatives and approaches. Beginning with essays on John Dewey, Carl Schmitt and Antonio Gramsci, representing the three main political alternatives - liberal, fascist (...) and communist - at mid-century, the book proceeds to consider the lives and works of émigrés such as Hannah Arendt, Eric Voegelin, and Leo Strauss, who brought a continental perspective to the United States after World War II. The second half of the collection contains essays on recent defenders of liberalism, such as Friedrich Hayek, Isaiah Berlin and John Rawls and liberalism's many critics, including Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas and Alasdair MacIntyre. (shrink)
Engaging a broad range of Platonic dialogues, this collection of essays by distinguished scholars in political theory and philosophy explores the relation of Socratic philosophizing to those activities with which it is typically opposed—such as tyranny, sophistry, poetry, and rhetoric. The essays show that the harder one tries to disentangle Socrates’ own activity from that of its apparent opposite, the more entangled they become; yet, it is only by taking this entanglement seriously that the distinctive character of Socratic philosophy emerges. (...) The collection sheds new light on the ways in which Plato not only represents philosophy in relation to what it is not, but also makes it “strange” to itself. (shrink)
This collection by some of the leading scholars of Strauss's work is the first devoted to Strauss's thought regarding education. It seeks to address his conception of education as it applies to a range of his most important concepts, such as his views on the importance of revelation, his critique of modern democracy and the importance of modern classical education.
Machiavelli is popularly known as a teacher of tyrants, a key proponent of the unscrupulous “Machiavellian” politics laid down in his landmark political treatise The Prince. Others cite the Discourses on Livy to argue that Machiavelli is actually a passionate advocate of republican politics who saw the need for occasional harsh measures to maintain political order. Which best characterizes the teachings of the prolific Italian philosopher? With Machiavelli’s Politics, Catherine H. Zuckert turns this question on its head with a major (...) reinterpretation of Machiavelli’s prose works that reveals a surprisingly cohesive view of politics. Starting with Machiavelli’s two major political works, Zuckert persuasively shows that the moral revolution Machiavelli sets out in The Prince lays the foundation for the new form of democratic republic he proposes in the Discourses. Distrusting ambitious politicians to serve the public interest of their own accord, Machiavelli sought to persuade them in The Prince that the best way to achieve their own ambitions was to secure the desires and ambitions of their subjects and fellow citizens. In the Discourses, he then describes the types of laws and institutions that would balance the conflict between the two in a way that would secure the liberty of most, if not all. In the second half of her book, Zuckert places selected later works—La Mandragola, The Art of War, The Life of Castruccio Castracani, Clizia, and Florentine Histories—under scrutiny, showing how Machiavelli further developed certain aspects of his thought in these works. In The Art of War, for example, he explains more concretely how and to what extent the principles of organization he advanced in The Prince and the Discourses ought to be applied in modern circumstances. Because human beings act primarily on passions, Machiavelli attempts to show readers what those passions are and how they can be guided to have productive rather than destructive results. A stunning and ambitious analysis, Machiavelli’s Politics brilliantly shows how many conflicting perspectives do inform Machiavelli’s teachings, but that one needs to consider all of his works in order to understand how they cohere into a unified political view. This is a magisterial work that cannot be ignored if a comprehensive understanding of the philosopher is to be obtained. (shrink)
'...a remarkable book....Zuckert shows, subtly and persuasively, how the themes of American literature resonate with those of modern thought...Zuckert brings us to the point where philosophy and politics intersect. Few projects have such depth.'-AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW.