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date: 25 April 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter evaluates the arguments and intentions of Leo Strauss’s most ambitious political text, Natural Right and History. Strauss’s stated purpose is to rehabilitate the ancient Greek and Roman conceptions of “natural right”—a term of art by which he referred to the justice inherent in the rational order of nature. His express motivation was to rebut the relativism and historicism that, in his view, characterized twentieth-century political thought. This chapter contends that the book’s core lies in its implicit presentation of philosophical inquiry as the highest human vocation. This idea is presented less through systematic argument than through Strauss’s own engagement with canonical political texts—an engagement designed to illustrate both the excitement and the fulfillment of philosophical dialogue. The political virtues, while defended on the surface of the text, remain as unsettled by the end as they were in the introduction.

Keywords: Leo Strauss, natural right, historicism, relativism, esotericism

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