Imperative means imperative. The implications of remaining or claiming to remain indifferent to or uncomprehending of the imperative is handled differently in different faiths or moral systems, but in one way or another it leads to some kind of disqualification... which can be quite uncomfortable, often quite harmful to one's political, social, professional, and biological prospects.

interesting... Haven't finished the piece yet, but it makes me want to pick up the Machiavelli book even more, though I'm not sure I have six months to devote to it. Interesting that Strauss early on treated Hobbes as the founder of modern political philosophy but later put Machiavelli in his place. In his scheme, I think that means that Machiavelli was an originator of an "evil," but an evil that still permitted access to prior influences and better possibilities - thus his somewhat complicated view of America, which the Zuckerts sum up as "modernity is bad, America is modern, America is good."

I'll take that: If you're a believer in one or another moral imperative, then everyone else is either with you or against you.

Strauss attributed great importance to Machiavelli in the history of political philosophy. It's not so much that M is "amoral" as that his morality is intentionally set much lower than the classics, on the level of the actualizable, rather than on the best and most just. Heidegger at one point, isolate Descartes as the key figure ushering in or thinking the modern as relevance, empiricism, manipulation of nature and things, etc. It's also popular to credit Francis Bacon. Not sure it's important who wins the Mr. Modernity competition, but unlike Descartes and Bacon, Machiavelli (and Hobbes) spoke directly to the political.

I may turn to the book on Machiavelli soon. Haven't really decided.

Kabbala can lead in a number of directions, but being aware of Kabbala and other mainly medieval traditions doesn't make you a practitioner.

As for the DeLong piece, I'm glad you're enjoying yourself. Obviously, there's no point in trusting anything he says, since he tells us, somewhat gratuitously that it's a satire (or is it? - nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

I'm not convinced that Strauss himself wrote "esoterically" as his main objective, or that whatever "between the lines" content of his writing is more significant (or more difficult and challenging, or subversive, or dangerous) than what's right there in the lines themselves.

It's interesting how threatened people act when he's brought up... 40 years after his death... a guy who wrote about all those guys in the Harvard Classics that "no one" reads anymore.

I think that would be a typical sub-mediocre observation in an overall mediocre blog post. It's not completely clear to me whether Sullivan is referring there to Strauss or to the Straussians. If it's meant to refer to Strauss, then it's sloppy and misleading for the noted reasons. If it's meant to refer to the Straussians, it may be misleading or they may have been poor representatives of Strauss. My guess is that it's a little of both, but probably more of the former.

One concept or image of Strauss's, more of the early or immature Strauss but something he occasionally invoked later in life, that you might like, is "the Second Cave." The reference is to the Allegory of the Cave from The Republic. The young Strauss's idea was that between the classical philosophers and ourselves, 2,500 years of further civilization and especially modernity had opened a new cave beneath the first cave making it even more difficult for those of us within it to see the truth/nature. We no longer even have access to the shadows, but now have to make do with the shadows of the people observing the shadows unless we're willing to make the effort to climb up out. I don't think that would exclude the possibility of leaping straight from Cave #2 to truth/nature (satori?), but it's similar to what you write about when you're into your A-perspective.

Who told you Strauss was into numerology? Sometimes how he works is referred to as "arithmological," meaning that he interprets the use of arithmetical compositional or structural devices in the works of other authors - for instance, the possible importance to Machiavelli of the number "13" or the way that the central or middle argument in any series of arguments may be used by another author for some particularly significant utterance. He also will simply count the number of mentions of a particular word in order to evidence an argument that an author was not, contrary to somebody else's statements, particularly interested in an argument: So, a reviewer says that author X was obsessed with "blue," but it turns out that in the work under question the word blue appears only once, in some trivial context, and that other variations don't appear at all.

That's not the same thing as being "into numerology" in some occult way. So, you can go back to h8ing him, I guess.

Having been born in Vienna - or at least so I've been told and the certificate says - I'll take "pious viennasausage" for the observation on mediocrity vs. the noble gesture as a compliment, though I'm not sure that I deserve it.