Thursday, December 31, 2009
As Tom mentioned, I recommended to him the book by Michael (and Catherine) Zuckert about Strauss and the Straussians. I recently attended a conference with Michael Zuckert and finally decided, after years of ignorance about Strauss, to read his book, The Truth about Leo Strauss. His discussion really opened up a new world to me. I was finally able to understand why the different Straussians I read from time to time were making the moves they were. Sudden understanding where bafflement previously prevailed.
For me, the best part of the book was the discussion of the Straussians and in particular the division between East Coast, West Coast, and Midwestern Straussians. The Zuckerts explain Strauss as believing three propositions that are in tension with one another:
- American is good;
- Modernity is bad; and
- American is modern.
The different Straussians schools each modify one of these propositions.
The West Coast Straussians, who seem to worship Harry Jaffa for some reason, believe that America is not modern. The founding was really based on Aristotle, not Locke.
The East Coast Straussians do not believe America is good. Alan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind is the best known example. Let me say that Zuckert's summary of Bloom's book (which I have not really read) made me detest Bloom.
Finally, the Midwestern Straussians believe that America modernity is good. It is this group, who were led by Martin Diamond until his untimely death, that I like. In this group you can find Darwinian Conservative Larry Arnhart, the folks at Powerline, and Michael Zuckert himself.