Strauss was born on September 20, 1899, in the small town of Kirchhain in Hesse-Nassau, a province of the Kingdom of Prussia (part of the German Empire), to Hugo Strauss and Jennie Strauss, née David. According to Allan Bloom's 1974 obituary in Political Theory, Strauss "was raised as an Orthodox Jew", but the family does not appear to have completely embraced Orthodox practice. Strauss himself noted that he came from a "conservative, even orthodox Jewish home", but one which knew little about Judaism except strict adherence to ceremonial laws. His father and uncle operated a farm supply and livestock business that they inherited from their father, Meyer (1835–1919), a leading member of the local Jewish community.
Strauss's closest friend was Jacob Klein but he also was intellectually engaged with Gerhard Krüger—and also Karl Löwith, Julius Guttman, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Franz Rosenzweig (to whom Strauss dedicated his first book), as well as Gershom Scholem, Alexander Altmann, and the Arabist Paul Kraus, who married Strauss's sister Bettina (Strauss and his wife later adopted the Kraus's child when both parents died in the Middle East). With several of these friends, Strauss carried on vigorous epistolary exchanges later in life, many of which are published in the Gesammelte Schriften (Collected Writings), some in translation from the German. Strauss had also been engaged in a discourse with Carl Schmitt. However, after Strauss left Germany, he broke off the discourse when Schmitt failed to respond to his letters.
After receiving a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1932, Strauss left his position at the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin for Paris. He returned to Germany only once, for a few short days twenty years later. In Paris, he married Marie (Miriam) Bernsohn, a widow with a young child, whom he had known previously in Germany. He adopted his wife's son, Thomas, and later his sister's child, Jenny Strauss Clay, later a professor of classics at the University of Virginia; he and Miriam had no biological children of their own. At his death, he was survived by Thomas, daughter Jenny Strauss Clay, and three grandchildren. Strauss became a lifelong friend of Alexandre Kojève and was on friendly terms with Raymond Aron, Alexandre Koyré, and Étienne Gilson. Because of the Nazis' rise to power, he chose not to return to his native country. Strauss found shelter, after some vicissitudes, in England, where, in 1935 he gained temporary employment at University of Cambridge, with the help of his in-law, David Daube, who was affiliated with Gonville and Caius College. While in England, he became a close friend of R. H. Tawney, and was on less friendly terms with Isaiah Berlin.
Unable to find permanent employment in England, Strauss moved in 1937 to the United States, under the patronage of Harold Laski, who made introductions and helped him obtain a brief lectureship. After a short stint as Research Fellow in the Department of History at Columbia University, Strauss secured a position at The New School, where, between 1938 and 1948, he worked the political science faculty and also took on adjunct jobs. In 1939, he served for a short term as a visiting professor at Hamilton College. He became a U.S. citizen in 1944, and in 1949 he became a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, holding the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professorship until he left in 1969.
In 1954 he met Löwith and Gadamer in Heidelberg and delivered a public speech on Socrates. He had received a call for a temporary lectureship in Hamburg in 1965 (which he declined for health reasons) and received and accepted an honorary doctorate from Hamburg University and the Bundesverdienstkreuz (German Order of Merit) via the German representative in Chicago. In 1969 Strauss moved to Claremont McKenna College (formerly Claremont Men's College) in California for a year, and then to St. John's College, Annapolis in 1970, where he was the Scott Buchanan Distinguished Scholar in Residence until his death from pneumonia in 1973. He was buried in Annapolis Hebrew Cemetery, with his wife Miriam Bernsohn Strauss, who died on 1985.Psalm 114 was read in the funeral service at the request of family and friends.
For Strauss, politics and philosophy were necessarily intertwined. He regarded the trial and death of Socrates as the moment when political philosophy came into existence. Strauss considered one of the most important moments in the history of philosophy Socrates' argument that philosophers could not study nature without considering their own human nature, which, in the words of Aristotle, is that of "a political animal." However, he also held that the ends of politics and philosophy were inherently irreconcilable and irreducible to one another.
Strauss distinguished "scholars" from "great thinkers", identifying himself as a scholar. He wrote that most self-described philosophers are in actuality scholars, cautious and methodical. Great thinkers, in contrast, boldly and creatively address big problems. Scholars deal with these problems only indirectly by reasoning about the great thinkers' differences.
In Natural Right and History Strauss begins with a critique of Max Weber's epistemology, briefly engages the relativism of Martin Heidegger (who goes unnamed), and continues with a discussion of the evolution of natural rights via an analysis of the thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. He concludes by critiquing Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke. At the heart of the book are excerpts from Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. Much of his philosophy is a reaction to the works of Heidegger. Indeed, Strauss wrote that Heidegger's thinking must be understood and confronted before any complete formulation of modern political theory is possible, and this entails that political thought has to engage with issues of ontology and the history of metaphysics.
Strauss wrote that Friedrich Nietzsche was the first philosopher to properly understand historicism, an idea grounded in a general acceptance of Hegelian philosophy of history. Heidegger, in Strauss' view, sanitized and politicized Nietzsche, whereas Nietzsche believed "our own principles, including the belief in progress, will become as unconvincing and alien as all earlier principles (essences) had shown themselves to be" and "the only way out seems to be ... that one voluntarily choose life-giving delusion instead of deadly truth, that one fabricate a myth". Heidegger believed that the tragic nihilism of Nietzsche was a "myth" guided by a defective Western conception of Being that Heidegger traced to Plato. In his published correspondence with Alexandre Kojève, Strauss wrote that Hegel was correct when he postulated that an end of history implies an end to philosophy as understood by classical political philosophy.
Strauss's study of philosophy and political discourses produced by the Islamic civilization, above all those of Al-Farabi and Maimonides, was instrumental in the development of his theory of reading
In the late 1930s, Strauss called for the first time for a reconsideration of the "distinction between exoteric (or public) and esoteric (or secret) teaching". In 1952 he published Persecution and the Art of Writing, arguing that serious writers write esoterically, that is, with multiple or layered meanings, often disguised within irony or paradox, obscure references, even deliberate self-contradiction. Esoteric writing serves several purposes: protecting the philosopher from the retribution of the regime, and protecting the regime from the corrosion of philosophy; it attracts the right kind of reader and repels the wrong kind; and ferreting out the interior message is in itself an exercise of philosophic reasoning. Taking his bearings from his study of Maimonides and Al Farabi, and pointing further back to Plato's discussion of writing as contained in the Phaedrus, Strauss proposed that the classical and medieval art of esoteric writing is the proper medium for philosophic learning: rather than displaying philosophers' thoughts superficially, classical and medieval philosophical texts guide their readers in thinking and learning independently of imparted knowledge. Thus, Strauss agrees with the Socrates of the Phaedrus, where the Greek indicates that, insofar as writing does not respond when questioned, good writing provokes questions in the reader—questions that orient the reader towards an understanding of problems the author thought about with utmost seriousness. Strauss thus, in Persecution and the Art of Writing, presents Maimonides "as a closet nonbeliever obfuscating his message for political reasons."
Strauss's hermeneutical argument—rearticulated throughout his subsequent writings (most notably in The City and Man )—is that, before the 19th century, Western scholars commonly understood that philosophical writing is not at home in any polity, no matter how liberal. Insofar as it questions conventional wisdom at its roots, philosophy must guard itself especially against those readers who believe themselves authoritative, wise, and liberal defenders of the status quo. In questioning established opinions, or in investigating the principles of morality, philosophers of old found it necessary to convey their messages in an oblique manner. Their "art of writing" was the art of esoteric communication. This was especially apparent in medieval times when heterodox political thinkers wrote under the threat of the Inquisition or comparably obtuse tribunals.
Strauss's argument is not that the medieval writers he studies reserved one exoteric meaning for the many (hoi polloi) and an esoteric, hidden one for the few (hoi aristoi), but that, through rhetorical stratagems including self-contradiction and hyperboles, these writers succeeded in conveying their proper meaning at the tacit heart of their writings—a heart or message irreducible to "the letter" or historical dimension of texts.
Explicitly following Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's lead, Strauss indicates that medieval political philosophers, no less than their ancient counterparts, carefully adapted their wording to the dominant moral views of their time, lest their writings be condemned as heretical or unjust, not by "the many" (who did not read), but by those "few" whom the many regarded as the most righteous guardians of morality. It was precisely these righteous personalities who would be most inclined to persecute/ostracize anyone who was in the business of exposing the noble or great lie upon which the authority of the few over the many stands or falls.
According to his critics, especially Shadia Drury, Strauss wrongly assumes a distinction between an "exoteric" or salutary and an "esoteric" or "true" aspect of the philosophy of pre-modern political philosophers. Furthermore, Strauss is often accused of having himself written esoterically. The accusation would seem to rest upon the belief that in modern-era liberal societies and, especially in the United States, philosophers are not free to voice their philosophical views in public without being accused of impropriety.
According to Strauss, modern social science is flawed because it assumes the fact–value distinction, a concept which Strauss found dubious. He traced its roots in Enlightenment philosophy to Max Weber, a thinker whom Strauss described as a "serious and noble mind." Weber wanted to separate values from science but, according to Strauss, was really a derivative thinker, deeply influenced by Nietzsche's relativism. Strauss treated politics as something that could not be studied from afar. A political scientist examining politics with a value-free scientific eye, for Strauss, was self-deluded. Positivism, the heir to both Auguste Comte and Max Weber in the quest to make purportedly value-free judgments, failed to justify its own existence, which would require a value judgment.
While modern-era liberalism had stressed the pursuit of individual liberty as its highest goal, Strauss felt that there should be a greater interest in the problem of human excellence and political virtue. Through his writings, Strauss constantly raised the question of how, and to what extent, freedom and excellence can coexist. Strauss refused to make do with any simplistic or one-sided resolutions of the Socratic question: What is the good for the city and man?
Encounters with Carl Schmitt and Alexandre Kojève
Two significant political-philosophical dialogues Strauss had with living thinkers were those he held with Carl Schmitt and Alexandre Kojève. Schmitt, who would later become, for a short time, the chief jurist of Nazi Germany, was one of the first important German academics to review Strauss's early work positively. Schmitt's positive reference for, and approval of, Strauss's work on Hobbes was instrumental in winning Strauss the scholarship funding that allowed him to leave Germany.
Strauss's critique and clarifications of The Concept of the Political led Schmitt to make significant emendations in its second edition. Writing to Schmitt in 1932, Strauss summarised Schmitt's political theology that "because man is by nature evil, he, therefore, needs dominion. But dominion can be established, that is, men can be unified only in a unity against—against other men. Every association of men is necessarily a separation from other men ... the political thus understood is not the constitutive principle of the state, of order, but a condition of the state."
Strauss, however, directly opposed Schmitt's position. For Strauss, Schmitt and his return to Thomas Hobbes helpfully clarified the nature of our political existence and our modern self-understanding. Schmitt's position was therefore symptomatic of the modern-era liberal self-understanding. Strauss believed that such an analysis, as in Hobbes's time, served as a useful "preparatory action", revealing our contemporary orientation towards the eternal problems of politics (social existence). However, Strauss believed that Schmitt's reification of our modern self-understanding of the problem of politics into a political theology was not an adequate solution. Strauss instead advocated a return to a broader classical understanding of human nature and a tentative return to political philosophy, in the tradition of the ancient philosophers.
With Kojève, Strauss had a close and lifelong philosophical friendship. They had first met as students in Berlin. The two thinkers shared boundless philosophical respect for each other. Kojève would later write that, without befriending Strauss, "I never would have known ... what philosophy is". The political-philosophical dispute between Kojève and Strauss centered on the role that philosophy should and can be allowed to play in politics.
Kojève, a senior civil servant in the French government, was instrumental in the creation of the European Economic Community. He argued that philosophers should have an active role in shaping political events. Strauss, on the contrary, believed that philosophers should play a role in politics only to the extent that they can ensure that philosophy, which he saw as mankind's highest activity, can be free from political intervention.
The first was a "brutal" nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Bolshevik regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type—the "gentle" nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies—was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic "permissive egalitarianism", which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.
In the belief that 20th-century relativism, scientism, historicism, and nihilism were all implicated in the deterioration of modern society and philosophy, Strauss sought to uncover the philosophical pathways that had led to this situation. The resultant study led him to advocate a tentative return to classical political philosophy as a starting point for judging political action.
Strauss's interpretation of Plato's Republic
According to Strauss, The Republic by Plato is not "a blueprint for regime reform" (a play on words from Karl Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies, which attacks The Republic for being just that). Strauss quotes Cicero: "The Republic does not bring to light the best possible regime but rather the nature of political things—the nature of the city."
Strauss argued that the city-in-speech was unnatural, precisely because "it is rendered possible by the abstraction from eros". Though skeptical of "progress", Strauss was equally skeptical about political agendas of "return"—that is, going backward instead of forward.
In fact, he was consistently suspicious of anything claiming to be a solution to an old political or philosophical problem. He spoke of the danger in trying finally to resolve the debate between rationalism and traditionalism in politics. In particular, along with many in the pre-World War II German Right, he feared people trying to force a world state to come into being in the future, thinking that it would inevitably become a tyranny. Hence he kept his distance from the two totalitarianisms that he denounced in his century, both fascists and communists.
Strauss and Karl Popper
Strauss actively rejected Karl Popper's views as illogical. He agreed with a letter of response to his request of Eric Voegelin to look into the issue. In the response, Voegelin wrote that studying Popper's views was a waste of precious time, and "an annoyance". Specifically about The Open Society and Its Enemies and Popper's understanding of Plato's The Republic, after giving some examples, Voegelin wrote:
Popper is philosophically so uncultured, so fully a primitive ideological brawler, that he is not able to even approximately to reproduce correctly the contents of one page of Plato. Reading is of no use to him; he is too lacking in knowledge to understand what the author says.
Strauss constantly stressed the importance of two dichotomies in political philosophy, namely Athens and Jerusalem (reason and revelation) and Ancient versus Modern. The "Ancients" were the Socratic philosophers and their intellectual heirs; the "Moderns" start with Niccolò Machiavelli. The contrast between Ancients and Moderns was understood to be related to the unresolvable tension between Reason and Revelation. The Socratics, reacting to the first Greek philosophers, brought philosophy back to earth, and hence back to the marketplace, making it more political.
The Moderns reacted to the dominance of revelation in medieval society by promoting the possibilities of Reason. They objected to Aquinas's merger of natural right and natural theology, for it made natural right vulnerable to sideshow theological disputes.Thomas Hobbes, under the influence of Francis Bacon, re-oriented political thought to what was most solid but also most low in man—his physical hopes and fears—setting a precedent for John Locke and the later economic approach to political thought, as in David Hume and Adam Smith.
Strauss and Zionism
As a youth, Strauss belonged to the German Zionist youth group, along with his friends Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin. Both were admirers of Strauss and would continue to be throughout their lives. When he was 17, as he said, he was "converted" to political Zionism as a follower of Vladimir Jabotinsky. He wrote several essays about its controversies but left these activities behind by his early twenties.
While Strauss maintained a sympathetic interest in Zionism, he later came to refer to Zionism as "problematic" and became disillusioned with some of its aims.
Political Zionism is problematic for obvious reasons. But I can never forget what it achieved as a moral force in an era of complete dissolution. It helped to stem the tide of "progressive" leveling of venerable, ancestral differences; it fulfilled a conservative function.
Although Strauss accepted the utility of religious belief, there is some question about his religious views. On one hand he was openly disdainful of atheism and disapproved of contemporary dogmatic disbelief, which he considered intemperate and irrational. On the other hand, like Thomas Aquinas, he felt that revelation must be subject to examination by reason. At the end of The City and Man, Strauss invites us to "be open to ... the question quid sit deus ["What is God?"]" (p. 241), and Edward Feser writes that:
Strauss was not himself an orthodox believer, neither was he a convinced atheist. Since whether or not to accept a purported divine revelation is itself one of the "permanent" questions, orthodoxy must always remain an option equally as defensible as unbelief.
In Natural Right and History Strauss distinguishes a Socratic (Platonic, Ciceronian, Aristotelian) from a conventionalist (materialistic, Epicurean) reading of divinity, and argues that "the question of religion" (what is religion?) is inseparable from the question of the nature of civil society and civil authority. Throughout the volume he argues for the Socratic reading of civil authority and rejects the conventionalist reading (of which atheism is an essential component). This is incompatible with interpretations by Shadia Drury and other scholars who argue that Strauss viewed religion purely instrumentally.
Strauss has also been criticized by some conservatives. According to Claes G. Ryn, Strauss's anti-historicist thinking creates an artificial contrast between moral universality and "the conventional," "the ancestral," and "the historical." Strauss, Ryn argues, wrongly and reductively assumes that respect for tradition must undermine reason and universality. Contrary to Strauss's criticism of Edmund Burke, the historical sense may be indispensable to an adequate apprehension of universality. Strauss's abstract, ahistorical conception of natural right distorts genuine universality, Ryn contends. Strauss does not consider the possibility that real universality becomes known to human beings in a concretized, particular form. Strauss and the Straussians have paradoxically taught philosophically unsuspecting American conservatives, not least Roman Catholic intellectuals, to reject tradition in favor of ahistorical theorizing, a bias that flies in the face of the central Christian notion of the Incarnation, which represents a synthesis of the universal and the historical. According to Ryn, the propagation of a purely abstract idea of universality has contributed to the neoconservative advocacy of allegedly universal American principles, which neoconservatives see as justification for American intervention around the world—bringing the blessings of the "West" to the benighted "rest". Strauss's anti-historical thinking connects him and his followers with the French Jacobins, who also regarded tradition as incompatible with virtue and rationality. What Ryn calls the "new Jacobinism" of the "neoconservative" philosophy is, writes Paul Edward Gottfried, also the rhetoric of Saint-Just and Trotsky, which the philosophically impoverished American Right has taken over with mindless alacrity. Republican operators and think tanks apparently believe they can carry the electorate by appealing to yesterday's leftist clichés.
Journalists such as Seymour Hersh have opined that Strauss endorsed noble lies, "myths used by political leaders seeking to maintain a cohesive society." In The City and Man, Strauss discusses the myths outlined in Plato's Republic that are required for all governments. These include a belief that the state's land belongs to it even though it may have been acquired illegitimately and that citizenship is rooted in something more than the accidents of birth.
Response to criticism
In his 2009 book, Straussophobia, Peter Minowitz provides a detailed critique of Drury, Xenos, and other critics of Strauss whom he accuses of "bigotry and buffoonery." In his 2006 book review of Reading Leo Strauss, by Steven B. Smith, Robert Alter writes that Smith "persuasively sets the record straight on Strauss's political views and on what his writing is really about." Smith rejects the link between Strauss and neoconservative thought, arguing that Strauss was never personally active in politics, never endorsed imperialism, and questioned the utility of political philosophy for the practice of politics. In particular, Strauss argued that Plato's myth of the philosopher king should be read as a reductio ad absurdum, and that philosophers should understand politics, not in order to influence policy but to ensure philosophy's autonomy from politics. Additionally, Mark Lilla has argued that the attribution to Strauss of neoconservative views contradicts a careful reading of Strauss' actual texts, in particular On Tyranny. Lilla summarizes Strauss as follows:
Philosophy must always be aware of the dangers of tyranny, as a threat to both political decency and the philosophical life. It must understand enough about politics to defend its own autonomy, without falling into the error of thinking that philosophy can shape the political world according to its own lights.
Finally, responding to charges that Strauss's teachings fostered the neoconservative foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration, such as "unrealistic hopes for the spread of liberal democracy through military conquest," Professor Nathan Tarcov, director of the Leo Strauss Center at the University of Chicago, in an article published in The American Interest, asserts that Strauss as a political philosopher was essentially non-political. After an exegesis of the very limited practical political views to be gleaned from Strauss's writings, Tarcov concludes that "Strauss can remind us of the permanent problems, but we have only ourselves to blame for our faulty solutions to the problems of today." Likewise Strauss's daughter, Jenny Strauss Clay, in a New York Times article defended Strauss against the charge that he was the "mastermind behind the neoconservative ideologues who control United States foreign policy." "He was a conservative," she says, "insofar as he did not think change is necessarily change for the better." Since contemporary academia "leaned to the left," with its "unquestioned faith in progress and science combined with a queasiness regarding any kind of moral judgment," Strauss stood outside of the academic consensus. Had academia leaned to the right, he would have questioned it, too—and on certain occasions did question the tenets of the right.
Straussianism is the name given "to denote the research methods, common concepts, theoretical presuppositions, central questions, and pedagogic style (teaching style) characteristic of the large number of conservatives who have been influenced by the thought and teaching of Leo Strauss." While it "is particularly influential among university professors of historical political theory ... it also sometimes serves as a common intellectual framework more generally among conservative activists, think tank professionals, and public intellectuals." Within the discipline of political theory the method calls for its practitioners to use "a 'close reading' of the 'Great Books' of political thought; they strive to understand a thinker 'as he understood himself'; they are unconcerned with questions about the historical context of, or historical influences on, a given author" and strive to be open to the idea that they may find something timelessly true in a great book. The approach "resembles in important ways the old New Criticism in literary studies."
There is some controversy in the approach over what distinguishes a great book from lesser works. Great books are held to be written by authors/philosophers "of such sovereign critical self-knowledge and intellectual power that they can in no way be reduced to the general thought of their time and place," with other works "understood as epiphenomenal to the original insights of a thinker of the first rank." This approach is seen as a counter "to the historicist presuppositions of the mid-twentieth century, which read the history of political thought in a progressivist way, with past philosophies forever cut off from us in a superseded past." Straussianism puts forward the possibility that past thinkers may have "hold of the truth—and that more recent thinkers are therefore wrong."
Harvey Mansfield has argued that there is no such thing as "Straussianism" yet there are Straussians and a school of Straussians. Mansfield describes the school as "open to the whole of philosophy" and without any definite doctrines that one has to believe to belong to it.
Almost the entirety of Strauss's writings has been translated into Chinese; and there even is a school of Straussians in China, the most prominent being Liu Xiaofeng (Renmin University). "Chinese Straussians" (who often are also fascinated by Carl Schmitt) represent a remarkable example of the hybridization of Western political theory in a non-Western context. As the editors of a recent volume write, "the reception of Schmitt and Strauss in the Chinese-speaking world (and especially in the People's Republic of China) not only says much about how Schmitt and Strauss can be read today, but also provides important clues about the deeper contradictions of Western modernity and the dilemmas of non-liberal societies in our increasingly contentious world."
Gesammelte Schriften. Ed. Heinrich Meier. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1996. Four vols. published to date: Vol. 1, Die Religionskritik Spinozas und zugehörige Schriften (rev. ed. 2001); vol. 2, Philosophie und Gesetz, Frühe Schriften (1997); Vol. 3, Hobbes' politische Wissenschaft und zugehörige Schrifte – Briefe (2001); Vol. 4, Politische Philosophie. Studien zum theologisch-politischen Problem (2010). The full series will also include Vol. 5, Über Tyrannis (2013) and Vol. 6, Gedanken über Machiavelli. Deutsche Erstübersetzung (2014).
Leo Strauss: The Early Writings (1921–1932). (Trans. from parts of Gesammelte Schriften). Trans. Michael Zank. Albany: SUNY Press, 2002.
Die Religionskritik Spinozas als Grundlage seiner Bibelwissenschaft: Untersuchungen zu Spinozas Theologisch-politischem Traktat. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1930.
Spinoza's Critique of Religion. (English trans. by Elsa M. Sinclair of Die Religionskritik Spinozas, 1930.) With a new English preface and a trans. of Strauss's 1932 German essay on Carl Schmitt. New York: Schocken, 1965. Reissued without that essay, Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1997.
"Anmerkungen zu Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen". Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 67, no. 6 (August–September 1932): 732–49.
"Comments on Carl Schmitt's Begriff des Politischen". (English trans. by Elsa M. Sinclair of "Anmerkungen zu Carl Schmitt", 1932.) 331–51 in Spinoza's Critique of Religion, 1965. Reprinted in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, ed. and trans. George Schwab. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers U Press, 1976.
"Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political". (English trans. by J. Harvey Lomax of "Anmerkungen zu Carl Schmitt", 1932.) In Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue, trans. J. Harvey Lomax. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995. Reprinted in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, ed. and trans. George Schwab. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996, 2007.
Philosophie und Gesetz: Beiträge zum Verständnis Maimunis und seiner Vorläufer. Berlin: Schocken, 1935.
Philosophy and Law: Essays Toward the Understanding of Maimonides and His Predecessors. (English trans. by Fred Baumann of Philosophie und Gesetz, 1935.) Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987.
Philosophy and Law: Contributions to the Understanding of Maimonides and His Predecessors. (English trans. with introd. by Eve Adler of Philosophie und Gesetz, 1935.) Albany: SUNY Press, 1995.
The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis. (English trans. by Elsa M. Sinclair from German manuscript.) Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936. Reissued with new preface, Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1952.
Hobbes' politische Wissenschaft in ihrer Genesis. (1935 German original of The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, 1936.) Neuwied am Rhein: Hermann Luchterhand, 1965.
What Is Political Philosophy? and Other Studies. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1959. Reissued Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1988.
On Plato's Symposium . Ed. Seth Benardete. (Edited transcript of 1959 lectures.) Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001.
" 'Relativism' ". 135–57 in Helmut Schoeck and James W. Wiggins, eds., Relativism and the Study of Man. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1961. Partial reprint, 13–26 in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, 1989.
"The Crisis of Our Time", 41–54, and "The Crisis of Political Philosophy", 91–103, in Howard Spaeth, ed., The Predicament of Modern Politics. Detroit: U of Detroit P, 1964.
"Political Philosophy and the Crisis of Our Time". (Adaptation of the two essays in Howard Spaeth, ed., The Predicament of Modern Politics, 1964.) 217–42 in George J. Graham, Jr., and George W. Carey, eds., The Post-Behavioral Era: Perspectives on Political Science. New York: David McKay, 1972.
The City and Man. (Based on the 1962 Page-Barbour lectures.) Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964.
Socrates and Aristophanes. New York: Basic Books, 1966. Reissued Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980.
Liberalism Ancient and Modern. New York: Basic Books, 1968. Reissued with foreword by Allan Bloom, 1989. Reissued Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995.
Xenophon's Socratic Discourse: An Interpretation of the Oeconomicus. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1970.
Xenophon's Socrates. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1972.
The Argument and the Action of Plato's Laws. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1975.
Political Philosophy: Six Essays by Leo Strauss. Ed. Hilail Gilden. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.
An Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays by Leo Strauss. (Expanded version of Political Philosophy: Six Essays by Leo Strauss, 1975.) Ed. Hilail Gilden. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1989.
Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy. Introd. by Thomas L. Pangle. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983.
The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism: An Introduction to the Thought of Leo Strauss – Essays and Lectures by Leo Strauss. Ed. Thomas L. Pangle. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989.
Faith and Political Philosophy: the Correspondence Between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934–1964. Ed. Peter Emberley and Barry Cooper. Introd. by Thomas L. Pangle. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State UP, 1993.
Hobbes's Critique of Religion and Related Writings. Ed. and trans. Gabriel Bartlett and Svetozar Minkov. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011. (Trans. of materials first published in the Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 3, including an unfinished manuscript by Leo Strauss of a book on Hobbes, written in 1933–1934, and some shorter related writings.)
Leo Strauss on Moses Mendelssohn. Edited and translated by Martin D. Yaffe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. (Annotated translation of ten introductions written by Strauss to a multi-volume critical edition of Mendelssohn's work.)
"Exoteric Teaching" (Critical Edition by Hannes Kerber). In Reorientation: Leo Strauss in the 1930s. Edited by Martin D. Yaffe and Richard S. Ruderman. New York: Palgrave, 2014, pp. 275–86.
"Lecture Notes for 'Persecution and the Art of Writing'" (Critical Edition by Hannes Kerber). In Reorientation: Leo Strauss in the 1930s. Edited by Martin D. Yaffe and Richard S. Ruderman. New York: Palgrave, 2014, pp. 293–304.
Leo Strauss on Political Philosophy: Responding to the Challenge of Positivism and Historicism. Edited by Catherine H. Zuckert. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.
Writings about Maimonides and Jewish philosophy
Spinoza's Critique of Religion (see above, 1930).
Philosophy and Law (see above, 1935).
"Quelques remarques sur la science politique de Maïmonide et de Farabi". Revue des Etudes juives 100 (1936): 1–37.
"Der Ort der Vorsehungslehre nach der Ansicht Maimunis". Monatschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 81 (1936): 448–56.
"The Literary Character of The Guide for the Perplexed" . 38–94 in Persecution and the Art of Writing. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1952.
 "How to Study Medieval Philosophy" [. Interpretation 23, no. 3 (Spring 1996): 319–338. Previously published, less annotations and fifth paragraph, as "How to Begin to Study Medieval Philosophy" in Pangle (ed.), The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, 1989 (see above).
. Modern Judaism 1, no. 1 (May 1981): 17–45. Reprinted Chap. 1 (I–II) in Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, 1997 (see below).
. Independent Journal of Philosophy 3 (1979), 111–18. Reprinted Chap. 1 (III) in Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, 1997 (see below).
"Maimonides' Statement on Political Science". Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 22 (1953): 115–30.
. L'Homme 21, n° 1 (janvier–mars 1981): 5–20. Reprinted Chap. 8 in Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, 1997 (see below).
"How to Begin to Study The Guide of the Perplexed". In The Guide of the Perplexed, Volume One. Trans. Shlomo Pines. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1963.
 "On the Plan of the Guide of the Perplexed" . Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee. Volume (Jerusalem: American Academy for Jewish Research), pp. 775–91.
"Notes on Maimonides' Book of Knowledge". 269–83 in Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to G. G. Scholem. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1967.
Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought. Ed. Kenneth Hart Green. Albany: SUNY P, 1997.
Leo Strauss on Maimonides: The Complete Writings. Edited by Kenneth Hart Green. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
^Peter Graf Kielmansegg, Horst Mewes, Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt (eds.), Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss: German Émigrés and American Political Thought After World War II, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 97: "Many commentators think that [Strauss's] exposition of the true Platonist was meant as a self-description of Strauss."
^ abBatnitzky, Leora. Leo Strauss, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
^ abWinfried Schröder (ed.), Reading between the lines – Leo Strauss and the history of early modern philosophy, Walter de Gruyter, 2015, p. 39, "According to Robert Hunt, '[t]he Straussian hermeneutic ... sees the course of intellectual history as an ongoing conversation about important philosophical questions'."
^Pangle, Thomas L., Leo Strauss: An Introduction to His Thought and Intellectual Legacy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2006, p. 43: "In the massive foreground of Strauss's lifework stands his resuscitation of classical republican political theory, understood as emanating from the intellectual revolution effected in and by Socratic political philosophy."
^Peter Graf Kielmansegg, Horst Mewes, Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt (eds.), Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss: German Émigrés and American Political Thought After World War II, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 189: "Horst Mewes: Strauss represented a type [of democracy], and that is the Federalist's democratic republic. The type of democracy that is essentially based on a representative republic governed by an elected, natural aristocracy of merit. ... I regard that to be a genuine type of democracy in the self-undestanding of the founders. ... [Strauss] is providing the most profound theory at the moment that is available for that type of democracy."
^William H. F. Altman, "Leo Strauss on "German Nihilism": Learning the Art of Writing", Journal of the History of Ideas68(4), Oct. 2007, pp. 587–612.
^Strauss, Leo (1989). "Interpretation of Genesis". Jewish Political Studies Review. 1 (1/2): 77–92. JSTOR25834148?seq=1.
^Rechnitzer, Haim (2008). "Judaism and the Idea of the Law: Leo Strauss and Yeshayahu Leibowitz's Philosophical and Ideological Interpretations of Maimonides". Hebrew Union College Annual. 79: 165–191. JSTOR23509732?seq=1.
^Rosen, Stanley (2000). "Leo Strauss and the Possibility of Philosophy". The Review of Metaphysics. 53 (3): 541–564. JSTOR20131398?seq=1.
^Strauss, Leo (1939). "The Spirit of Sparta or The Taste of Xenophon". Social Research. 6 (4): 502–536. JSTOR40981694?seq=1.
^Strauss, Leo (1983). Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 89–104. ISBN0-226-77703-0.
^Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964) 139-242.
^Joachim Lüders and Ariane Wehner, Mittelhessen – eine Heimat für Juden? Das Schicksal der Familie Strauss aus Kirchhain (Central Hesse – a Homeland for Jews? The Fate of the Strauss Family from Kirchhain) 1989.
^In "A Giving of Accounts", published in The College 22 (1) and later reprinted in Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity.
^ ab Jewish philosophy and the crisis of modernity (SUNY 1997), Leo Strauss as a Modern Jewish thinker, Kenneth Hart Green, Leo Strauss, page 55
^ abScholem, Gershom. 1981. Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship. Trans. Harry Zohn, p. 201
^ abThe Correspondence of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem, 1932–40, New York 1989, pp. 155–58
^Laurence Lampert, The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss, University of Chicago Press, 2013, p. 126.
^"From these things it is evident, that the city belongs among the things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal" (Aristotle, The Politics, 1253a1–3).
^Steven B. Smith, Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism, University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 13.
^Pangle, Thomas L., Leo Strauss: An Introduction to His Thought and Intellectual Legacy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2006, p. 51: "Classical political philosophy is not concerned to rule, but it is concerned to understand, political society—and to share its understanding, in a constructive fashion, with political society, as much as possible."
^Leo Strauss, "An Introduction to Heideggerian Existentialism", 27–46 in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, ed. Thomas L. Pangle (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989) 29–30.
^Leo Strauss, "Relativism", 13–26 in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, ed. Thomas L. Pangle, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 25.
^Mansfield, Harvey (1975). "Strauss's Machiavelli". Political Theory. JSTOR190834. ... a book containing much that is appreciably esoteric to any reader stated in a manner either so elusive or so challenging as to cause him to give up trying to understand it.
^Voegelin, Eric; Strauss, Leo (20 August 2004). "Letter 30: April 18, 1950". In Emberley, Peter; Cooper, Barry (eds.). Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964. University of Missouri. p. 68. ISBN978-0826215512.
^Strauss felt that one should either be "the philosopher open to the challenge of theology or the theologian open to the challenge of philosophy." See Deutsch, Kenneth L. and Walter Nicgorski Leo Strauss: Political Philosopher and Jewish Thinker pp. 11–12, 1994 Rowman & Littlefield
^ Note however that where Aquinas saw an amicable interplay between reason and revelation, Strauss saw two impregnable fortresses. See Schall S.J., James V. A Latitude for Statesmanship: Strauss on St. Thomas in Leo Strauss: Political Philosopher and Jewish Thinker, ed. Kenneth L. Deutsch and Walter Nicgorski, pp. 212–15, 1994 Rowman & Littlefield. For an early treatment of Aquinas' understanding of the relation between philosophy and sacred, revealed law, see Strauss's early Philosophy and Law (Philosophie und Gesetz), where Christian medieval theology testifies to a less than amicable opposition between pagan (though not necessarily Platonic or political) philosophy and Biblical morality.
^Feser, Edward, "Leo Strauss 101" (a review of Steven B. Smith's Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism), National Review Online, May 22, 2006. Archived November 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
^See Natural Right and History, especially p. 119A and Chapter III: "The Origin of the Idea of Natural Right"
^Shadia B. Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right (Palgrave Macmillan; 1999)
^ Peter Minowitz, Straussophobia: Defending Leo Strauss and Straussians against Shadia Drury and Other Accusers (Lexington Books; 2009)
^ abcdApproaches to Political Thought, edited by William L. Richter, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 16 Mar 2009), p. 56
^Peter Minowitz, Straussophobia: Defending Leo Strauss and Straussians against Shadia Drury and Other Accusers (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009). Also see "Straussophobia: Six Questions for Peter Minowitz," Harper's Magazine, 9/29/09 
^Steven B. Smith, excerpt from "Why Strauss, Why Now?", 1–15 in Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006), online posting, press.uchicago.edu. Retrieved June 1, 2007.
^Mark Lilla, The Reckless Mind (New York: NY Review of Books, 2001) 133.
^Nathan Tarcov, "Will the Real Leo Strauss Please Stand Up" in The American Interest September–October 1986, at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2009-06-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
Tarcov, Nathan. "On a Certain Critique of 'Straussianism' ". Review of Politics 53, no. 1 (Winter 1991): 3–18.
———. "Philosophy and History: Tradition and Interpretation in the Work of Leo Strauss". Polity 16, no. 1 (Autumn 1983): 5–29.
——— and Thomas L. Pangle, "Epilogue: Leo Strauss and the History of Political Philosophy". 907–38 in History of Political Philosophy. Ed. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey. 3rd ed. 1963; Chicago and London, U of Chicago P, 1987.
Thompson, Bradley C. (with Yaron Brook). Neoconservatism. An Obituary for an Idea. Boulder/London: Paradigm Publishers, 2010. pp. 55–131. ISBN978-1-59451-831-7.
West, Thomas G. "Jaffa Versus Mansfield: Does America Have a Constitutional or a "Declaration of Independence" Soul?" Perspectives on Political Science 31, no. 4 (Fall 2002): 35–46.
Xenos, Nicholas. Cloaked in virtue: Unveiling Leo Strauss and the Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy. New York, Routledge Press, 2008.
Zuckert, Catherine H. Postmodern Platos. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996.
Zuckert, Catherine H., and Michael Zuckert. The Truth about Leo Strauss. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006.
Lüders, Joachim and Ariane Wehner. Mittelhessen – eine Heimat für Juden? Das Schicksal der Familie Strauss aus Kirchhain. Marburg: Gymnasium Philippinum, 1989. (In German; English translation: Central Hesse – a Homeland for Jews? The Fate of the Strauss Family from Kirchhain.)
West, Thomas G. "Jaffa Versus Mansfield: Does America Have a Constitutional or a 'Declaration of Independence' Soul?" Perspectives on Political Science 31 (September 2002). "Jaffa Versus Mansfield". ("What were the original principles of the American Constitution? Are those principles true?") Online posting. The Claremont Institute, November 29, 2002. Accessed June 1, 2007.
Zuckert, Catherine, and Michael Zuckert. "Introduction: Mr. Strauss Goes to Washington?" 1–26 in The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006. ISBN978-0-226-99332-4. Online posting of "Excerpt" (1–20), www.press.uchicago.edu. (Book website updated May 21, 2007. Accessed June 1, 2007.)
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