Skip to main content

Leo Strauss’s Defense of the Philosophic Life

Reading "What Is Political Philosophy?"

Leo Strauss’s What Is Political Philosophy? addresses almost every major theme in his life’s work and is often viewed as a defense of his overall philosophic approach. Yet precisely because the book is so foundational, if we want to understand Strauss’s notoriously careful and complex thinking in these essays, we must also consider them just as Strauss treated philosophers of the past: on their own terms.
Each of the contributors in this collection focuses on a single chapter from What Is Political Philosophy? in an effort to shed light on both Strauss’s thoughts about the history of philosophy and the major issues about which he wrote. Included are treatments of Strauss’s esoteric method of reading, his critique of behavioral political science, and his views on classical political philosophy. Key thinkers whose work Strauss responded to are also analyzed in depth: Plato, Al-Farabi, Maimonides, Hobbes, and Locke, as well as twentieth-century figures such as Eric Voegelin, Alexandre Kojève, and Kurt Riezler. Written by scholars well-known for their insight and expertise on Strauss’s thought, the essays in this volume apply to Strauss the same meticulous approach he developed in reading others.
The first book-length treatment on a single book by Strauss, Leo Strauss’s Defense of the Philosophic Life will serve as an invaluable companion to those seeking a helpful introduction or delving deeper into the major themes and ideas of this controversial thinker.

232 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2012

Philosophy: General Philosophy

Political Science: Classic Political Thought, Political and Social Theory


“A searching examination of Leo Strauss’s defense of political philosophy and a fine, sure to be controversial, collection of essays by old hands and new.”

Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University

What is Political Philosophy? is Strauss’s most comprehensive, and arguably most introductory, work. But the fact that each chapter focuses on key themes more fully elaborated elsewhere creates the need for a systematic supplementary text. With this collection of essays, the reader is afforded helpful guidance to the way each of the chapters relates to, illuminates, and is illuminated by other major treatments of the same themes by Strauss. The book will attract a broad readership among the many who are involved in or attentive to the ongoing debate over Strauss’s controversial thought.”

Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas at Austin

“Lively interest in the work and legacy of Strauss continues as does controversy over what he did—and did not—argue for. This collection of essays demonstrates an expository thoroughness that will be of great interest to those who read them alongside the Strauss essays themselves. One doubts this will clear away the controversy, but one can hope that it will promote a more serious, engaged, and sympathetic debate.”

Timothy Fuller, Colorado College

“With Leo Strauss’s Defense of the Philosophic Life, Rafael Major has produced an outstanding volume distinctive among the many books treating Strauss’s thought for its attempts to read Strauss as closely as Strauss reads other philosophers. The essays accomplish expertly this task with one of the most interesting and revealing of Strauss’s books, What is Political Philosophy?, covering the entire range of Strauss’s interpretations from Xenophon to the twentieth century.”

Richard Velkley, Tulane University

“Rafael Major has put together a fitting tribute to the thought of Leo Strauss. Leo Strauss’s Defense of the Philosophic Life brings together excellent essays by major scholars on each of the chapters of Strauss’s book. Of the recent works on Strauss, this is among the best. . . . An essential element in any collection of works in politics and philosophy.”


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION. Thinking Through Strauss’s Legacy
Rafael Major

CHAPTER 1. Reading “What Is Political Philosophy?”
Nasser Behnegar

CHAPTER 2. “Political Philosophy and History”
Catherine Zuckert

CHAPTER 3. Leo Strauss’s “On Classical Political Philosophy”
Nathan Tarcov

CHAPTER 4. Philosophic Politics and Theology: Strauss’s “Restatement”
Christopher Nadon

CHAPTER 5. How Strauss Read Farabi’s Summary of Plato’s “Laws”
Daniel Tanguay

CHAPTER 6. Strauss on Maimonides’s Secretive Political Science
Joshua Parens

CHAPTER 7. Leo Strauss’s “On the Basis of Hobbes’s Political Philosophy”
Devin Stauffer

CHAPTER 8. Strauss on Locke and the Law of Nature
Michael Zuckert

CHAPTER 9. Fishing for Philosophers: Strauss’s “Restatement” on the Art of Writing
David Janssens

CHAPTER 10. “Kurt Riezler: 1882–1955” and the “Problem” of Political Philosophy
Susan Meld Shell

List of Contributors


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press