Friday, November 7, 2008

Strauss on Husserl

"The decisive point in Husserl is the critique of modern science in the light of genuine science, that is to say, Platonic-Aristotelian. His work can only be understood in the light of the enormous difficulties in which Platonic-Aristotelian culminated, namely, the problem of nous. Considering the enormous difficulties of understanding de anima iii.5, Husserl's egological foundation of the ontologies is at least excusable."

Letter to Voegelin, October 11, 1943

"On the question of modern philosophy and progress: modern philosophy (or science) is originally the attempt to replace the allegedly or really inadequate classical (and that means, at the same time, medieval) philosophy (or science) by the correct philosophy. The inadequacy was this: the achieved science of antiquity (Plato and Aristotle) was not capable of giving an account of certain natural phenomena (of the external world) which on its own terms it had to give an account of. The idea arose that the materialistic physics, displaced by classical philosophy, that is, above all by the Aristotelian physics, offered an unheard of expansion of the possibilities of knowledge. But: one had learned from Plato-Aristotle that a materialistic physics cannot understand itself, the possibility of knowledge (noein). Thus the task: first to secure the possibility of knowledge, in order then to be able to proceed with mechanistic physics, and so to be able to understand the universe. That is the meaning of Descartes Meditations, of the fundamental book of modern philosophy."

Letter to Lowith, August 20, 1946

Strauss on Kant

Strauss mentions in the Heidegger lecture that he began as a "doubting and dubious adherent of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism." In NRH he describes neo-Kantianism (a stand in for Nietzsche) in this way, in the discussion of Weber:

"Reality is an infinite and meaningless sequence, or a chaos, of unique and infinitely divisible events, which in themselves are meaningless: all meaning, all articulation, originates in the activity of the knowing and evaluating subject. Very few people today will be satisfied with this view of reality, which Weber had taken over from neo-Kantianism." (77). 

At the start of his first book, on Spinoza, he begins by attacking Kant: 

"Must the difference between positive science, which offers no possibility of criticism of religion, and metaphysics, which in principle permits criticism of religion, be defined as it has been defined by Kant in his transcendental dialectic, namely by the statement that this difference has its basis in theoretical consciousness?"
"Theory" seems to always have a pejorative sense for Strauss. Consider the criticism, more than thirty five years later, of American social science. 

"The new science uses sociological or psychological theories regarding religion which exclude, without considering it, the possibility that religion rests ultimately on God's revealing Himself to man; hence those theories are mere hypotheses which can never be confirmed. Those theories are in fact the hidden basis of the new science. The new science rests on a dogmatic atheism which presents itself as merely methodological or hypothetical."
Wolin and Schaar, in their reply, say they are "haunted" by this charge of atheism. What do studies of voting behaviour have to do with atheism? What are these "theories" that serve as the "hidden basis of the new science"? I think the clue is to be found in this footnote from the 1946 review of John Wild, which points in the direction of Kant.

". . . A case could be made for the view that it was reflection guided by the Biblical notion of creation which ultimately led to the doctrine that the world as created by God, or the "thing in itself," is inaccessible to human knowledge, or to the idealistic assertion that the world as far as we can understand it, that is, the world as studied by human science, must be the "work" of the human mind." *8 8. See Kant, Kritiik der Reinen Vernunft, ed. by Vorlander, p. 131, and Kritik der Urteilskraft, SS 84 ff. 

Strauss is making the same objection to American social science that he made to neo-Kantianism thirty years earlier. Both are based on the dogmatic assumption that "the world as far as we can understand it, that is, the world as studied by human science, must be the "work" of the human mind," or that "reality is an infinite and meaningless sequence, or a chaos, of unique and infinitely divisible events, which in themselves are meaningless: all meaning, all articulation, originates in the activity of the knowing and evaluating subject."

"Work" of the human mind is, I think, a reference to Locke.

The German Scholar and American Diplomat at the Beginning of NRH

Strauss begins NRH with a passage from the Declaration of Independence, and he then quotes an "American diplomat," like so:

"A generation ago, an American diplomat could still say that 'the natural and the divine foundation of the rights of self-evident to all Americans.'"

This "American diplomat" was probably David Jayne Hill. The quote may have been taken from an introduction Hill wrote to this book:

Hughes, Charles Evans. The Pathway of Peace: Representative Addresses Delivered during His Term As Secretary of State (1921-1925) . New York: Harper & Brothers, 1925.

Hill (not Hughes) was an ambassador in Berlin from 1908 to 1911, when Strauss would have been between the ages of 9 and 12. Strauss's colleague and friend Kurt Riezler was the German foreign secretary beginning in 1909, so he would have known D.J. Hill.

Hill was working with Andrew Carnegie to build a "palace of peace." This is a representative passage:

"Almost all great advances in the life of humanity have come silently and gradually, like the dawn; and it is only rarely that the glory of a new day has suddenly burst upon the world. The future is likely to be very much like the past in this respect, but the improvement of mankind has for its guarantee the principle of evolution, which is the law of the Universe. We have, therefore, a permanent ground for faith in the good that is to come; even in the darkest hour we may be as certain of it as we are of the laws of logic and their final sway over human action."

In the text of NRH, Strauss then cites a German scholar, Ernst Troeltsch, who is counterpoised to the "American diplomat." Here is the passage about Troeltsch:

"At about the same time a German scholar could still describe the difference between German thought and that of Western Europe and the United States by saying that the West still attached decisive importance to natural right, while in Germany, the very terms "natural right" and "humanity" "have now become almost incomprehensible . . . and have lost altogether their original life and color." While abandoning the idea of natural right and through abandoning it, he continued, German thought has "created the historical sense," and thus was led eventually to unqualified relativism." NRH, 1-2.

Here is a related passage from the work by Troeltsch that Strauss quotes:

"In the first place, the contrast of 'conservative' and 'revolutionary' is one which has to be banished from the whole problem. It has only come into existence as the result of recent complications: it is only in German thought that it is regarded as fundamental; and the reason why we take that view is that the modern democratic movement--which flows inevitably from the increase of population and the education of the masses--has only just begun to assert itself among us, and has done so in a series of revolutions. In its own nature, and apart from these temporary conditions, democracy may well assume a conservative form. American democracy, in its political and social aspects, tends to issue in the strictest conservatism; it regards its principles as the eternal and divine commands of morality and law."

The question is, then, why does Strauss place Troeltsch and Hill side by side in this way? Hill is not just any American diplomat, he was the American diplomat in Germany shortly before the outbreak of World War I. And Troeltsch was not just any German scholar, he was, like Strauss, a former neo-Kantian.

Here are some thoughts on who Ernst Troeltsch was:

"Ernst Troeltsch was profoundly influenced by the same Max Weber that Strauss, in this very work, so ably criticizes. Weber and Troeltsch lived together in the same house in Heidelberg for thirteen years. The essay from which Strauss quotes was one of Troeltsch's last, written in 1920. It is a comparison of German thought, which by then was in the grip of radical historicism, and Anglo-American thought, which still at that time believed in what Troeltsch always called "natural law." What Strauss does not tell the reader is that by 1920, having first given up on traditional Christianity and then on Kantianism as a substitute, Troeltsch was a convinced historicist who could brilliantly describe the difference between German historicism and the thought of the Declaration but could give no cogent argument defending the Declaration against historicism. Does this intellectual journey imply something about Strauss's own with respect to Judaism? Troeltsch tried to find an answer to historicism but having, in his own view, failed, he conceded and embraced a version of historicism borrowed from Dilthey. Perhaps the quotation points to a conclusion. It is better to be silent about one's failures and offer instead the rhetoric of virtue. It is better not to let the skeptical cat out of the bag."

Who is the conservative, Hill or Troeltsch? Judging by Troeltsch's criteria, Hill is the "conservative" in the American context, in which democracy takes a conservative form. It is safe to say that Strauss does not identify himself with either Hill or Troeltsch.

Footnote 124 of NRH

In the chapter on Locke, footnote 124 illustrates this quote from Locke: "nature and the earth furnish only the almost most worthless materials as in themselves"*

* 124. "Locke's statements about the relative importance of the gifts of nature and human labor [are illustrated--sic] with a statement from Ambrose's Hexameron, translated by George Boas, in Essays on Primitivism and Related Ideas in the Middle Ages (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1948), p. 42."

The passage cited by Strauss quotes the Church father Ambrose in this way:

"In the Hexameron he gives us a description of the world and of man as they came from the hands of their creator, before their nature had been changed by sin. This description combines themes from Genesis and pictures of the Golden Age from classical poetry. Its general tone is that of soft primitivism.

Spontaneously earth bore all fruits; though it could not be plowed in the absence of a plowman--no farmer yet existed--nevertheless it abounded in the richest harvests, and, I do not doubt, with an even larger yield, since the slothfulness of the husbandman could not rob the soil of its richness . . . Thus, O Man, while you are asleep and unconscious, the earth still produces its fruits; you sleep and then you rise and marvel to see how the grain has grown through the night."

German Footnotes in NRH

Here are German translations for select passages of NRH:

p4 nt2: "The claim is utterly meaningless that there is no order of law in despotism, but rather the whim of the despot rules... even the despotically governed state does represent some order of human behavior... This order is precisely the order of law. To deny it the character of law is but a natural law naiveté or arrogance ... That which is interpreted to be arbitrary whim is only the legal prerogative (Möglichkeit: alternatively and more literally "possibility") of the autocrat to appropriate every decision to himself, to determine the activity of the subordinate institutions unconditionally, and to abrogate or alter established norms at any time which have either general or particular validity. Such a condition is a condition of law, even if it is perceived to be disadvantageous. But it also has its good side. The appeal for the dictator, not at all seldom in the modern Rechstsstaat (generally rendered "constitutional republic"), makes this quite evident." [From Hans Kelsen, Allgemeine Staatslehre Berlin, 1925.]

p94 nt 17: "... if one rejects the existence of a personal Creator and Ruler of the World, natural law can no longer be sustained." [From Victor Cathrein]

p176 nt 10: Here we have two citations, one from Engels' Feuerbach piece, and the second from Bachofen. Engels: "... nothing exists [for dialectical philosophy] but the incessant process of coming to be and passing away, of ascending *without end* from the lower to the higher... We do not need to deal with the question here, whether this point of view [for Anschauungsweise] accords completely with the current state of the natural sciences, which predicts for the earth itself a possible, but for its inhabitability a *rather sure end*, which therefore concedes to human history not only an ascending, but also a descending branch." -- Bachofen: "The orient does homage to the standpoint of nature [Naturstandpunkt, just as justifiably the "natural standpoint"], the occident replaces this with the historical [standpoint]... One might be tempted to recognize in this *subordination of the divine to the human idea* the last stage of decline from an earlier more elevated [erhabeneren, also "more sublime"] standpoint... And yet this step back contains the seed for a very important step forward [literal for Fortschritt, or "progress"]. For as such [i.e., as progress] must we consider that liberation of our spirit from the paralyzing fetters of a cosmic-physical view of life... Where the Etruscan fretfully believed in the finitude of his tribe, the Roman rejoices in the eternity of his state, in the which to entertain any doubts he is utterly incapable." (Strauss says here "the italics are not in the original".)

p279 nt 47: "In a lower abstraction, infinity is indeed given prominence as the absoluteness of the subject in the theory of happiness in general, and in natural law, particularly in those systems which are called anti-socialist and which stipulate the being of the individual as the first and highest, but not in the pure abstraction, which it has obtained in the Kantian or Fichtean idealism."

p313 nt 97: "Constitutions can simply not be made, but, like works of nature, they must shape themselves through a gradual development... This truth is the most precious, perhaps the only [one] which is really new (because it was previously only divined, but not fully recognized), with which the French revolution has enriched the higher science of the state [Staatswissenschaft, alt.: "political science"]."

Letter to Kuhn on NRH

Professor Dr. Helmut Kuhn

Miinchen 22

Schellingstr. 10


Dear Mr. Kuhn:

Forgive me for writing to you in English but my hand-writing is hard to read and the lady who is taking down my dictation does not have an easy command of German.

You have obliged me very much by sending me your review article on my book. I had heard of the existence of that article and had tried to get hold of it through my German publisher and a Heidelberg book store but my efforts have been of no avail. As regards the contents of the review, I have been very much gratified by it. It is the best review of my book which has appeared. It is far more than generous and above all based on profound under­standing of the issue with which I am concerned. I myself regard the book as a preparation to an adequate philo­sophic discussion rather than as a treatise settling the question (cf. the end of the Introduction and of Chapter 1). Such a preparation is necessary because the very notion of natural right has become completely obscured in the course of the last century. Scholars lacking historical knowledge simply believe the histories of natural right and as far as I can see no historian after Fr. J. Stahl has approached the subject philosophically. (Stahl's history of the philosophy of law ought to be reprinted. I tried to persuade my German publisher to do such a reprinting but I failed. Perhaps you have an opportunity to talk to another publisher on this subject). Since natural right is today at best remembered rather than a living doctrine and since the fundamental ambiguity regarding natural right is the one caused by the essential difference between pre-modern and modern natural right, I had to write a precis raisonne of the history of natural right. I agree then with your judgment that the value of my book consists rather in its historical than in its philosophic aspect especially since your judgment implies that the historical ob­servations which I made are not philosophically irrelevant.

At this point, however, a serious disagreement between us begins. You say that historicism ought to have been treated by me in the style of the classic disputation, i.e., as a timeless possibility of error which only accidentally emerged in our age. You admit that to some extent I did this in the first two chapters, but you say that the bulk of the book is devoted to the causal genesis of the error rather than to its frontal criticism. But "it is necessary to state not only the truth but also the cause of the error" (E. N. 1154 a 22-26) and the cause of the error may well lie in accidents ("historical" accidents - cf. Politics 1341 a 28-32). In other words, not all errors have the same status: there are primary and, as it were, natural errors but there are also derivative and "founded" (fundierte) er­rors. I have indicated this in my chapter on Hobbes. One may say that the idea of philosophy implies directly the possibilities of dogmatism on the one hand and of skepticism on the other. The Cartesian -Hobbesian notion of a dogmatism based on skeptism is derivative from the co-existence of dogmatism and skepticism. "Dogmatism based on skepticism" is not a preserve of Descartes and Hobbes (Locke, Hume, and Positivism); we must also not forget Kant's thing-in-itself surrounding, as it were, the dogmatic sciences of the phenomenal world nor Hegel's understanding of philosophy as "sich vollbringenden Skepticismus." To return to historicism, it appears to me to be an attempt to correct "dogmaticism based on skepticism" with its peculiar "abstractions" or remoteness from the primary issues (which are met properly only on the level at which both dogmaticism and skepticism live), and hence to be derivative in the second degree. The genetic account seems therefore to be particularly appropriate.

If I understand you correctly, you suspect that while my method as distinguished from my concern is histor­ical, my method endangers my concern and that in opposing historicism I get entangled in a negative historicism of my own. I do not think that you are right. In regarding Socratics, Plato and Aristotle as the classics of natural right I do not assert, like a historicist, that there is of necessity and essentially an absolute moment in history. I merely say that it is so happened that the clearest exposition of the issue was given by that practically contempor­ary triad - it could have happened elsewhere or at other times, perhaps it did and we merely do not happen to know it. Or if the triad had not achieved what it did achieve the same discovery might have been achieved by men who now are known only as pupils or successors of the triad. "History" is not in my opinion, as you say it is, es­sentially "history of decay" but if classical natural right is superior to modern natural right (as you seem to ad­mit), then a decay did take place in fact. At the end of your article you refer to Aristotle's "negative -periodistic concept of time" which, you say, is incompatible with my own "productive-historical interest." You say that Aristotle's concept of time demands "a kosmos without history." I would say that Aristotle's concept of time de­mands an eternal or sempitemal order as the ground of all change and in a way manifesting itself in all change. Aristotle excludes indeed the essential necessity of the reasonable character of all change of human thoughts and institutions; such change is necessary but there is no necessity of its being reasonable or "meaningful." Investiga­tions of human thoughts and institutions, and of their sequence, i.e., historical studies, have for Aristotle, too, a certain value as he has shown abundantly "by deed", but of course always a strictly subordinate one, since what ultimately alone matters is the transhistorical "Wesen der Dinge."

You say that I accept the Aristotelian concept of time according to which time is rather the cause of decay and that I apply this concept to Aristotle's own philosophy: Aristotle's own philosophy is for me the permanent which has been whittled down by historical change. I am not an Aristotelian since I am not satisfied that the vis­ible universe is eternal, to say nothing of other perhaps more important reasons. I can only say that what Aris­totle and Plato say about man and the affairs of men makes infinitely more sense to me than what the moderns have said or say. In passing I note that your rendering of Aristotle's understanding of time is decisively incom­plete. Strictly speaking time is not the cause of decay rather than of the opposite (Physics 222 b 25-26); time can be said to be with equal justice to be the discoverer or a good helper of knowledge (EN. 1098 a 22-26).

I turn now to our disagreement regarding the history of natural right. You say "as is well known, the termin­ology of the doctrine of natural right was created only by stoicism": Plato does not speak at all of natural right and Aristotle only parenthetically (295). I begin my discussion with the remark that I spoke in the very title of my book of natural right and not of natural law. Natural right (jus or justum naturale, physikon dikaion or to physei dikaion), is I contend, an important and even central theme of both Plato and Aristotle. As for Plato, I re­fer to the Republic 501 b 2 (and context). This passage must be read in conjunction with such passages as Re­public 484 c 8-d 3 and 597 b-d. It thus becomes clear that for Plato "natural right" strictly understood, that which is right by itself and not in particular through man's making it right, is the same as "the idea of justice." Besides, the whole order of the best polity is emphatically "according to nature," whereas the "present" arrange­ments are apparently "against nature." (456 c 1-2). The very justice of the polity of the Republic depends upon its being "according to nature." The legislator in the Laws follows "the natural order" of the various good things (631 d 1-2). The domination of prudence or law is "according to nature." (690 c 1-3). Cf. also Laws 765 e for a clear statement of the relation between "nature" and "end." The whole Platonic doctrine of the order of the soul and of the order of the virtues is the doctrine of natural right if it is true that `justice" does not necessarily mean one of the many virtues but the all comprehensive virtue. Cf. furthermore Laws 757 c 3-d 5, regarding the rela­tion of distributive justice to "nature." To summarize, Plato's best polity is the order of human things dictated by natural right.

But the core of our disagreement is the interpretation of Aristotle's doctrine of natural right. I try to follow your criticism point by point. You say that I render Thomas' interpretation in an imprecise and even misleading way. I would be grateful to you if you substantiated this charge. I say that Thomas disagrees at any rate with the wording of Aristotle since Aristotle says that "with us everything is changeable" and hence in particular right, without making a distinction between the changeable natural right and the unchangeable natural right, whereas Thomas makes a distinction: the reasons of changeable things, and hence in particular of natural right, are un­changeable; "the first principles of natural law" are unchangeable, whereas already "the conclusions near to the first principles" are changeable. (Cf. The Commentary on the Ethics, N. 1029 and S. th. 1-2 2. 94 a.5.c.) The Thomistic example adduced here by you - theft is always unjust - is not sufficient according to Thomas himself; S. th. 2 2q. 66a.5., shows that if a man is in very great need he may take away stealthily from others what is indis­pensable to him in this situation. With a view to this fact and similar ones of the same character, I agree somehow with your statement that my interpretation of the Aristotelian passage differs from the Thomistic interpretation only by a nuance. I do not believe, however, that this renders invalid, as you say it does, my criticism of the Thomistic interpretation; there are sometimes subtle nuances which are of crucial importance. I insisted on the fact that Thomas' doctrine of natural law differs radically from any Aristotelian equivalent because there is no synderesis, no habitus of practical principles, in Aristotle. And, considering the connection between synderesis and conscience this means that Aristotle implicitly denies the conscience. You are mistaken if you think that a single passage in the De Veritate has induced me to make this point. What guided me was a broad reflection on the status of moral principles in Aristotle's teaching as a whole compared with the status of moral principles in Thomas' teaching as a whole.

Yet I return for the time being to your discussion of the crucial Aristotelian passage. You admit that E.N. 1134 b 22 by itself clearly states that both natural and conventional right are "equally or similarly changeable." But you say that this statement is wholly incomprehensible and that a very minor and perfectly plausible emen dation suggested by Joachim disposes of the difficulty: the unintelligible sentence is to be read as a question. I did not know Joachim's emendation but I knew that Moerbeke read the text as you suggest that it should be read, and that Thomas understood the sentence in question as a dubitatio. But I contend that this by itself does not dispose of the difficulty in any way. For what does your solution amount to? Natural right has the same un­changeability and the same changeability as, say, the human hand: "by nature the right hand is stronger yet allmen can become ambidextrous." Does this mean that by nature theft is unjust, but in extreme situations theft may become just? Or, generally stated, that there are rules of natural right which under certain conditions can be justly modified? This would mean that there is not a single rule of natural right which is unchangeable and univer­sally valid. At any rate, Aristotle's example of the natural right-handedness of man does not justify the Thomistic distinction between immutable principles of natural right and mutable conclusions.

In the immediate sequel Aristotle speaks of the specific changeability of conventional right; he shows that this changeability is a function of the changeability or variety of politics; and yet, "there is only one polity which is everywhere in accordance with nature the best." You take for granted that the unchangeability of the best polity proves the unchangeability of natural right.[i] Aristotle certainly does not say that the polity which is everywhere in accordance with nature is everywhere and always just; he says that it is everywhere and always the best. For, as he makes clear in his Politics, the one best polity is not possible everywhere and therefore it cannot be just every­where: while kingship is the best and the most divine polity it would be most unjust to establish it among a popu­lace which does not possess a natural fitness for it. (E.N. 1160 a 35ff.,Politica 1289 b 40 and 1296 b 24 ff.)

You detract from the significance of the passage under consideration by stating that the division of right into natural and conventional right concerns only political right as distinguished from "right simply." You have in mind, I take it, EN. 1134 a 24-26. But I do not see how "right simply" can mean anything else except "political right." (This is incidentally also the opinion of Thomas - Commentary on EN. n. 1003.) "Supremely right" is used in the Politics in contradistinction to the two typical errors regarding right, namely, democratic right and oligarchic right (cf. 1280 a 22 and context). "Political right" is "right simply" because the relation of right bet­ween different men requires a mutual independence of the men who stand in a relation of right; to the extent to which a human being "belongs" to another human being he lacks that independence. Furthermore, political right is right simply because it is directed not merely to subordinate goods like the exchange of goods and services but towards the common pursuit of autarchy, i.e., of virtue: it is the fullest form of right (cf. Politics 1280 b 1-2 and 1337 a 22-27). The relation of right between a citizen and a stranger is of necessity less full or rich. By this I do not mean that it is beyond the distinction between right and wrong but it is inferior, qua relation of right, to that among fellow citizens (cf. Apology of Socrates 30 a 3-4; also Cicero, Offices 157, 50-51 and 53). While Aristotle makes the distinction between the natural and the conventional only in the case of "political right", i.e., of the right obtaining among male full fellow citizens he does not deny that there is natural right in regard to foreigners and in particular to foreign cities. After all, he himself does not speak of conventional right but of legal right, and different cities are not subject to the same laws strictly speaking: a city must be "autonomous." That he admits natural right as regards foreigners, appears most clearly from his teaching on slavery: it is unjust, i.e., unjust by nature, to enslave men who are not by nature meant for slavery. You admit this of course. But from this it fol­lows that if even the highest and fullest natural right is changeable, the less dense form of natural right (that ob­taining between different individual cities, e.g.) is also changeable. Besides, in considering natural right and its changeability I consider not merely the relation to foreign enemies but the relation to domestic enemies as well; and not only the relation to enemies ... I emphasize the relation to foreign enemies only because this is the most obvious and common case in which noble statesmen are not blamed for actions which under normal conditions would be unjust.

You seem to think that for Aristotle natural right resides chiefly in equity, in the fair interpretation of the written law of the particular political community. I am not so sure of this although I know that I have the author­ity of Thomas against me. However this may be, there can be no doubt that Aristotle developed the principles of natural right in his teaching regarding commutative and distributive justice, which so far from being dependent on legislative enactment, are the criteria of good legislation. Notions like the just price, fair wages and the condemna­tion of usury, are the most common examples. One could say that the part of commutative justice which deals with the exchange of goods is in itself sub-political (cf. Politics 1280 b 1-12 with the existence of this kind of right in the city of pigs of the Republic). But at any rate the great theme of natural political justice is the other part of commutative justice, punitive justice (hence the distinction between guilty and innocent transgressions as well as the concern for proper proportion between the various kinds of crime and the various kinds of punish­ment, etc.), and, above all distributive justice, the principles of which are the fundamental rules regarding the as­signment of public honor and authority to those worthy of it.

You contend that natural right proper in the full sense is characterized by the assumption that there is a univer­sal society comprising all men which is held together by a universal, rational law binding man as man, and that this notion was fully developed first by the Stoics. I am familiar with this view and I have given it some thought, just as I have considered the passages of the Rhetoric and the Ethics to which you refer in this context (pages 300-301). As for the passage in Plato to which you refer, it occurs not in the Gorgias but in the Protagoras, and it is ascribed not to Prodicus but to Hippias, the great fool. In addition, Hippias does not say that all men are by nature friends and fellow citizens but those engaged in the conversation and their likes, i.e., the wise. However this may be Plato did not believe in the possibility of a universal society as an actual society as appears from the myth of the Statesman and the noble he in the Republic. (414 d-e: the substitution of "country" for "earth"). Plato tacitly rejected the universal society as a solution of the political problem. But can one say that the Stoics regarded the universal society as a political society? The difference here concerns really the status of divine provi­dence and hence the question whether the universally valid "precepts" can be understood as laws proper. Whether the Stoics differed in this respect from Plato, cannot be decided on the basis of Cicero's Laws I and Republic III because it is necessary to distinguish between the strict and the popular teaching of the Stoa. At any rate, as you admit, Plato and Aristotle granted that there are obligations of every human being to every human being as such. They did not think however that these minimum obligations can be the root of all obligations: the end cannot be deduced from the beginning.

You seem to argue as follows: since Aristotle recognized the justice of slavery, e.g., he is very far indeed from the spirit of natural right thinking. I reply that Aristotle's admission of the justice of slavery - of a certain kind of slavery- proves that he was a natural right teacher, for according to him it is by nature right to enslave and to treat as slaves a certain kind of men. You do not hesitate to regard Cicero and Thomas as natural right teachers and they too did not reject slavery as simply unjust. It is equally a matter of course that no philosopher ever re­garded the social distinctions (kings, nobles, free men, slaves, exiles, strangers) as ultimately important; the social hierarchy is respectable only to the extent to which it is in tolerable harmony with the natural hierarchy. Whether there is or is not such a natural hierarchy, is controversial between egalitarian and non-egalitarian natural right. This issue is not even touched by remarks expressing a contempt for the merely social hierarchy. The natural hier­archy is clearly recognized through the distinction between the wise and the vulgar which plays such a great role in the Stoic teaching. The real question is whether the Stoics differed from Plato and Aristotle by asserting that every human being, including men of outstanding stupidity, can become wise. Hitherto I have not seen a clear proof that they made that assertion.

In conclusion I apologize for having bothered you with this long letter.

Sincerely yours,

Leo Strauss

Strauss on England

This is from letter 23 to Klein in 1934:

"As for Oxford, it is a wonder of the world (Tubingen is merely a distant
imitation). A city of cloisters, in which Prime Ministers, viceroys
from India, and chief bishops of York and Canterbury, among others,
have been educated. The aesthetic impression -- compared with
everything continental -- is grim, plump, of a kind of barbaric
magnificence; matching that, the cloudy heaven was always somewhat
nebulous - in a word, "form-less," therefore very much to my taste. In
the cathedral there was a remarkable saxon-style stained glass window. That
before the meals a Latin prayer would always be spoken, and so on, was
almost self-explanatory. No other people understands so well as do the
English the importance of preserving traditions, and they are always
prepared to make new ones -- they are empiricists in the best sense.
Failing to understand that, one would underestimate the meaning of the
English monarchy. -- There was recently a debate in the Commons
between Churchill and Baldwin, which would not have been entirely
unworthy of the Roman senate. To sum up: a wonderful people and
wonderful country."