Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Right’s False Prophet

Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America, Paul Gottfried, Cambridge University Press, 182 pages
Review by Kenneth B. McIntyre

The three paragraphs below are actually the last three graphs of the review.  The whole thing is worth reading (Well, I think the Austrians [and Ayn Rand] are fools and moral cretins, so of course I would like Kenneth's thoughts on the subject.)  Regarding the last paragraph, Louis Bromfield, in 1939, coming from a different perspective, said pretty much the same thing about Americans.  Google Bromfield if he's a new name--I've been reading and re-reading his books for more than 50 years.  He was doing sustainable farming long before the term existed.  Fifty years ago his books were educational, brilliant and fun, today they are heartbreaking because we didn't learn anything and are now probably past the tipping point.  I have no children and no close relatives so I can die lamenting only all the other mammals who will become extinct after much suffering which results directly from our human stupidity and mostly American stupidity.  Think James Inhofe, Mitch McConnell and all the other climate change deniers and science haters.  Our congresses for the last 30 years are responsible for most of what's wrong with the natural world.  Don't tell anyone but it's probably too late to correct for them.

Strauss was at best a mediocre scholar whose thought expressed a confused bipolarity between a very German and ahistorical Grecophilia on the one hand and a scattered, dogmatic, and unsophisticated apology for an American version of liberal universalism on the other. Amongst prominent European philosophers, Strauss was taken seriously only by Hans-Georg Gadamer, until Gadamer concluded that Strauss was a crank, and by Alexandre Kojève, whose work reads today as if it were a parody of trendy French Marxism. In Britain, neither Strauss nor the Straussians have ever been taken seriously.
Strauss’s argument about esotericism is both historically and philosophically incoherent and useless in any methodological sense. It calls to mind something that Umberto Eco called cogito interruptus:
cogito interruptus is typical of those who see the world inhabited by symbols or symptoms. Like someone who, for example, points to the little box of matches, stares hard into your eyes, and says, ‘You see, there are seven…,’ then gives you a meaningful look, waiting for you to perceive the meaning concealed in that unmistakable sign.  (Omigod, I'm so in love with Umberto)
Finally, regarding the phenomenon of Straussianism, the cult took hold here for the same reasons that cults generally succeed in the U.S.: ignorance, inexperience, and a desire to have a simple answer to complex problems.

For the entire review, click on link below: