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The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss

The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss takes on the crucial task of separating what is truly important in the work of Leo Strauss from the ephemeral politics associated with his school. Laurence Lampert focuses on exotericism: the use of artful rhetoric to simultaneously communicate a socially responsible message to the public at large and a more radical message of philosophic truth to a smaller, more intellectually inclined audience. Largely forgotten after the Enlightenment, exotericism, he shows, deeply informed Strauss both as a reader and as a philosophic writer—indeed, Lampert argues, Strauss learned from the finest practitioners of exoteric writing how to become one himself.

Examining some of Strauss’s most important books and essays through this exoteric lens, Lampert reevaluates not only Strauss but the philosophers—from Plato to Halevi to Nietzsche—with whom Strauss most deeply engaged. Ultimately Lampert shows that Strauss’s famous distinction between ancient and modern thinkers is primarily rhetorical, one of the great examples of Strauss’s exoteric craft. Celebrating Strauss’s achievements while recognizing one main shortcoming—unlike Nietzsche, he failed to appreciate the ramifications of modern natural science for philosophy and its public presentation—Lampert illuminates Strauss as having even greater philosophic importance than we have thought before. 

360 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Philosophy: General Philosophy, History and Classic Works

Political Science: Classic Political Thought


The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss offers a major and provocative contribution to Strauss scholarship, but this is not the most important thing it offers. Laurence Lampert makes a persuasive case for the ‘new history of philosophy,’ which invites us to radically rethink the whole ‘tradition.’”

David Janssens, Tilburg University

“Laurence Lampert has put every serious student of Leo Strauss’s challenging writings in his debt. Lampert deploys an acumen, clarity, and patience that singly and together are exemplary and remarkable. He attends to puzzling details without ever losing sight of the broad arc of Strauss’s scholarly trajectory. Not least to be admired is the way he carries all this off with a beautiful blend of uncompromising independence of mind and genuine gratitude and respect.  This study, too, will endure.”

Ralph Lerner

“A valuable book for students of political philosophy. . . . Highly recommended.”


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Part One. Strauss’s Recovery of Exotericism
Chapter 1. Exotericism Exposed: Letters to Jacob Klein
Chapter 2. Exotericism Embraced: “The Law of Reason in the Kuzari”

Part Two. The Socratic Enlightenment
Chapter 3. The Peculiarly Socratic Philosophizing: Xenophon’s Gynaikologia
Chapter 4. Socrates, the Real Real Man: Xenophon’s Andrologia
Chapter 5. Platonic Political Philosophy: “Ministerial Poetry”
Chapter 6. Extending the History of Philosophy Back to Homer: Seth Benardete’s Odyssey

Part Three. The Modern Enlightenment
Chapter 7. Attacking the Enlightenment on Behalf of Orthodoxy: The Introduction to Philosophy and Law
Chapter 8. Attacking the Enlightenment on Behalf of Socrates: “What Is Political Philosophy?”
Chapter 9. Advancing the Enlightenment: Strauss’s Recovery of Nietzsche’s Theological-Political Program

Epilogue: Strauss’s Farewell
Works Cited

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