Leo Strauss and the Recovery of Medieval Political Philosophy
University of Rochester Press 2016
New Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Islamic StudiesNew Books in Jewish StudiesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network April 13, 2018 Moses Lapin
In today’s episode, I am joined by Joshua Parens to discuss his innovative and engaging book Leo Strauss and the Recovery of Medieval Political Philosophy (University of Rochester Press, 2016). While one may easily confuse the book with something narrow or parochial—who is Leo Strauss and of what relevance is medieval political philosophy?—our discussion proved to be anything but. In arguing against the commonly held belief that Medieval Philosophy was simply a synthesis of Greek thought with the Bible, Parens reads the works of Alfarabi and Maimonides, two of the most influential pre-modern philosophers, through the works of Leo Strauss, the foremost political thinker of the 20th century. This subtle layering makes for an exciting braided text, cross-pollination between epochs that contextualizes these thinkers on their own terms as well as genealogically.
For Parens, the “theological-political problem” at the core of Leo Strauss’ work is neither strictly one of reason or of revelation but rather at the heart of metaphysics—of being and the relationship between morality and philosophy. In working out Strauss’ unfolding thinking on this problem the reader is guided through competing visions of the study of medieval philosophy and the manner in which Strauss re-centered the work of political thought from a scholastic setting to that of the Islamic world. At its heart lies the question of what Leo Strauss means by “political philosophy,” and thereby a long history from Plato through Maimonides and Alfarabi to the present day.
Joshua Parens is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts at the University of Dallas. He edits the series Rochester Studies in Medieval Political Thought.
Moses Lapin is a graduate student in the departments of History and Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He writes, shipwrecked, from a desert island somewhere in the Mediterranean.