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Leo Strauss on Nietzsche’s "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

Although Leo Strauss published little on Nietzsche, his lectures and correspondence demonstrate a deep critical engagement with Nietzsche’s thought. One of the richest contributions is a seminar on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, taught in 1959 during Strauss’s tenure at the University of Chicago. In the lectures, Strauss draws important parallels between Nietzsche’s most important project and his own ongoing efforts to restore classical political philosophy.
With Leo Strauss on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” eminent Strauss scholar Richard L. Velkley presents Strauss’s lectures on Zarathustra with superb annotations that bring context and clarity to the critical role played by Nietzsche in shaping Strauss’s thought. In addition to the broad relationship between Nietzsche and political philosophy, Strauss adeptly guides readers through Heidegger’s confrontations with Nietzsche, laying out Heidegger’s critique of Nietzsche’s “will to power” while also showing how Heidegger can be read as a foil for his own reading of Nietzsche. The lectures also shed light on the relationship between Heidegger and Strauss, as both philosophers saw Nietzsche as a central figure for understanding the crisis of philosophy and Western civilization.

Strauss’s reading of Nietzsche is one of the important—yet little appreciated—philosophical inquiries of the past century, both an original interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought and a deep engagement with the core problems that modernity posed for political philosophy. It will be welcomed by anyone interested in the work of either philosopher.

304 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017

The Leo Strauss Transcript Series

Philosophy: Political Philosophy

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


“Nietzsche had a significance for Strauss that far exceeds the volume of his published comments. In these lectures on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Strauss does with Nietzsche what he did with Plato, Maimonides, Machiavelli, and other major figures in the Western philosophical tradition. He gives a detailed commentary on Nietzsche’s most important book, allowing Nietzsche his own manner of expression and working to understand why Nietzsche wrote this way. The result is an important contribution to our understanding of Zarathustra, a meticulous laying out of Nietzsche’s teachings made possible by Strauss’s determination to follow the drama of this most unusual book.”

Laurence Lampert, author of The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss

"In Leo Strauss on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the greatest philosopher of the 20th century shares his thoughts on the greatest philosopher of the 19th. . . . it is a deeply rewarding work."

Claremont Review of Books

"The overall effect of [the University of Chicago Press's Leo Strauss transcript series] is similar to the effect of the ongoing publication of courses and manuscripts by Martin Heidegger: we have something 'new' long after this seemed possible. The specific impact of Strauss’s volume on Zarathustra, moreover, goes beyond what it teaches us about Nietzsche: we are reminded again of the breadth of Strauss’s comprehension of the central figures of political philosophy, and of the depth of his understanding of the human soul."

The Review of Politics

Table of Contents

The Leo Strauss Transcript Project

Editor’s Introduction: Strauss, Nietzsche, and the History of Political Philosophy

Editorial Headnote

1 Introduction: Nietzsche’s Philosophy, Existentialism, and the Problem of Our Age

2 Restoring Nature as Ethical Principle: Zarathustra, Prologue

3 The Creative Self: Zarathustra, Part 1, 1–8 

4 The True Individual as the Highest Goal: Zarathustra, Part 1, 9–15

5 Postulated Nature and Final Truth: Zarathustra, Part 1, 16–22

6 Truth, Interpretation, and Intelligibility: Zarathustra, Part 2, 1–12

7 Will to Power and Self- Overcoming: Zarathustra, Part 2, 15–20

8 Summary and Review: Fusing Plato and the Creative Self

9 Greek Philosophy and the Bible; Nature and History: Zarathustra, Part 2, 20–22

10 Eternal Recurrence: Zarathustra, Part 2, 21; Part 3, 1–13

11 Survey: Nietzsche and Political Philosophy

12 The Goodness of the Whole, Socratic and Heideggerian Critiques: Zarathustra, Part 3, 4–12

13 Creative Contemplation: Zarathustra, Part 3, 13

14 Restoring the Sacred and the Final Question: Zarathustra, Part 4


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