The Theological-Political Problem in Leo Strauss’s Writings on Moses Mendelssohn

in The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
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The Theological-Political Problem in Leo Strauss’s Writings on Moses Mendelssohn

in The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy



Cf. StraussWhat Is Political Philosophy?42–45; Leo Strauss Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1965) 165–251. Strauss’s critique of Mendelssohn’s Plato may be understood as containing quite determinate Heideggerian overtones concerning the emphasis on dying. It has been clearly established by Rodrigo Chacón and Richard Velkley that Strauss was a close and continuous reader of Heidegger; see respectively Rodrigo Chacón “Reading Heidegger from the Start: On the Heideggerian Origins of ‘Political Philosophy’ ” European Journal of Political Theory 9 no. 3 (2010): 287–307; Richard L. Velkley Heidegger Strauss and the Premises of Philosophy: On Original Forgetting (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2011). It would however need to be shown that the reading of Plato (that Strauss juxtaposes to Mendelssohn’s Plato) owes more to Heidegger than to the actual Platonic Phaedo (which Mendelssohn was creatively reworking). Put differently does Strauss apply Heidegger’s conception of Sein-zum-Tode to Plato or does he simply draw out an element from the Platonic text? This very interesting question is unfortunately far too large to be pursued in the present context. One issue that would certainly merit consideration in such a discussion however is the question of whether it is Plato or Heidegger who ultimately provides the impetus for Strauss’s claim that (for Plato) philosophy requires the maintenance of a distance from bodily concerns.


Alexander AltmannMoses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (London: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization1998) 733. Cf. Spinoza Conversations 137.


See MendelssohnMorning Hours83.


MendelssohnMorning Hours85; translation slightly modified in accordance with Yaffe’s text.


LeibnizTheodicy288. See Moses Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed 2 vols. trans. Shlomo Pines (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1963) 2:442 (part 3 chap. 12). It should be noted in this context that Spinoza’s critique of final causality (and as a result of divine justice) in the appendix to book 1 of the Ethics is also based on Maimonides’ critique of anthropocentrism.


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