Even a perfectly just man who wants to give advice to a tyrant has to present himself to his pupil as an utterly unscrupulous man.
Leo Strauss, On Tyranny
Thus, the voice of the Machiavellian – and the Sully-ite, too. I’m only 60 pages into the book, but I’m finding it wonderfully relevant to all of the discussions we’ve been having lately – on rights from materialist and idealist perspectives, the Ground Zero Mosque/Cordoba House… maybe even unstoppable flows of bad stuff. Even the hypothesis that I (quite independently, you might say serendipitously) proposed at the end of the “Self-Evident Truths” discussion – that our unalienable rights can be derived from the presumptions underlying the inquiry – apparently comes under discussion in some form, during the celebrated exchange between Strauss and Alexandre Kojève. According to the introduction:
Kojève’s argument stands or falls with his claim that the reconciliation of philosophy and society makes it possible to put an end to philosophy as quest, and provides the conditions for wisdom understood as the definitive, comprehensive, and coherent account. Such an account would, in Kojève’s terse formula, deduce everything we (can) say from the mere fact that we speak…
Can’t hardly wait. Incidentally, On Tyranny is considered one of Strauss’ most accessible works, and from the other reading of Strauss that I’ve done, the description strikes me as likely accurate: The book-length essay isn’t difficult at all on its own terms, mainly because its main subject is a simple and accessible, relatively short classic text – a dialogue between a poet and a tyrant – and especially because Strauss insists on a close, non-historicist (or trans-historical) reading that does not rely, or relies as little as possible, on familiarity with other works.