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Leo Strauss (1899 – 1973)


German-Jewish philosopher who specialized in the study of classical political philosophy.
Leo Strauss
By becoming aware of the dignity of the mind, we realize the true ground of the dignity of man and therewith the goodness of the world, whither we understand it as created or uncreated, which is the home of man because it is the home of the human mind.
Strauss quotes
Science, as the positivist understands it, is susceptible of infinite progress. That you learn in every elementary school today, I believe. Every result of science is provisional and subject to future revision, and this will never change. In other words, fifty thousand years from now there will still be results entirely different from those now, but still subject to revision. Science is susceptible of infinite progress. But how can science be susceptible of infinite progress if its object does not have an inner infinity? The belief admitted by all believers in science today — that science is by its nature essentially progressive, and eternally progressive — implies, without saying it, that being is mysterious. And here is the point where the two lines I have tried to trace do not meet exactly, but where they come within hailing distance. And, I believe, to expect more in a general way, of people in general, would be unreasonable.
Strauss
The character, or tone, of a society depends on what the society regards as the most respectable or most worthy of admiration. But by regarding certain habits or attitudes as most respectable, a society admits the superiority, the superior dignity, of those human beings who most perfectly embody the habits or attitudes in question. That is to say, every society regards a specific human type (or a specific mixture of human types) as authoritative. When the authoritative type is the common man, everything has to justify itself before the tribunal of the common man; everything which cannot be justified before that tribunal becomes, at best, merely tolerated, if not despised or suspect. And even those who do not recognize that tribunal are, willy-nilly, molded by its verdicts.




Strauss Leo quotes
The sophist, in contradistinction to the philosopher, is not set in motion and kept in motion by the sting of the awareness of the fundamental difference between conviction or belief and genuine insight.
Strauss Leo
The kingdom is Yours, and You will reign in glory for all eternity. As it is written in Your Torah: "The Lord shall reign for ever and ever." And it is said: " And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: on that day the Lord shall be One, and His name One."
No nobler dream was ever dreamt. It is surely nobler to be a victim of the most noble dream than to profit from a sordid reality and to wallow in it. Dream is akin to aspiration. And aspiration is a kind of divination of an enigmatic vision. And an enigmatic vision in the emphatic sense is the perception of the ultimate mystery, of the truth of the ultimate mystery. The truth of the ultimate mystery — the truth that there is an ultimate mystery, that being is radically mysterious — cannot be denied even by the unbelieving Jew of our age. That unbelieving Jew of our age, if he has any education, is ordinarily a positivist, a believer in Science, if not a positivist without any education.
Leo Strauss quotes
When speaking of a “body of knowledge” or of “the results of research,” e.g., we tacitly assign the same cognitive status to inherited knowledge and to independently acquired knowledge. To counteract this tendency a special effort is required to transform inherited knowledge into genuine knowledge by revitalizing its original discovery, and to discriminate between the genuine and the spurious elements of what claims to be inherited knowledge.
Leo Strauss
Men must always have distinguished (e.g. in judicial matters) between hearsay and seeing with one’s own eyes and have preferred what one has seen to what he has merely heard from others. But the use of this distinction was originally limited to particular or subordinate matters. As regards the most weighty matters—the first things and the right way—the only source of knowledge was hearsay.
Strauss Leo quotes
Philosophizing means, then, to ascend from public dogma to essentially private knowledge.
Strauss
The most superficial fact regarding the Discourses, the fact that the number of its chapters equals the number of books of Livy's History, compelled us to start a chain of tentative reasoning which brings us suddenly face to face with the only New Testament quotation that ever appears in Machiavelli's two books and with an enormous blasphemy.
Strauss Leo
We cannot exert our understanding without from time to time understanding something of importance; and this act of understanding may be accompanied by the awareness of our understanding, by the understanding of understanding, by noesis noesos, and this is so high, so pure, so noble an experience that Aristotle could ascribe it to his God.
Leo Strauss
The Jewish people and their fate are the living witness for the absence of redemption. This, one could say, is the meaning of the chosen people; the Jews are chosen to prove the absence of redemption.




Leo Strauss quotes
The problem inherent in the surface of things, and only in the surface of things, is the heart of things.
Leo Strauss
We somehow believe that our point of view is superior, higher than those of the greatest minds—either because our point of view is that of our time, and our time, being later than the time of the greatest minds, can be presumed to be superior to their times; or else because we believe that each the greatest minds was right from his point of view, but not, as he claims, simply right.
Strauss quotes
The silence of a wise man is always meaningful.
Strauss Leo
The emancipation of the scholars and scientists from philosophy is according to [Nietzsche] only a part of the democratic movement, i.e. of the emancipation of the low from subordination to the high. … The plebeian character of the contemporary scholar or scientist is due to the fact that he has no reverence for himself.
Strauss Leo quotes
We are confronted with the incompatible claims of Jerusalem and Athens to our allegiance. We are open to both and willing to listen to each. We ourselves are not wise but we wish to become wise. We are seekers for wisdom, philo-sophoi.
Leo Strauss
Even by proving that a certain view is indispensable for living well, one proves merely that the view in question is a salutary myth: one does not prove it to be true.
Leo Strauss quotes
It is as absurd to expect members of philosophy departments to be philosophers as it is to expect members of art departments to be artists.
Leo Strauss
Liberal education is liberation from vulgarity. The Greeks had a beautiful word for “vulgarity”; they called it apeirokalia, lack of experience in things beautiful. Liberal education supplies us with experience in things beautiful.
Strauss Leo
Liberal education, which consists in the constant intercourse with the greatest minds, is a training in the highest form of modesty. … It is at the same time a training in boldness. … It demands from us the boldness implied in the resolve to regard the accepted views as mere opinions, or to regard the average opinions as extreme opinions which are at least as likely to be wrong as the most strange or least popular opinions


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