Between Athens and Jerusalem: Philosophy, Prophecy, and by David Janssens

By David Janssens

Praised as an incredible political philosopher of the 20 th century and vilified because the putative godfather of up to date neoconservatism, Leo Strauss (1899–1973) has been the article of heated controversy either within the usa and in a foreign country. This booklet deals a extra balanced appraisal by way of targeting Strauss’s early writings. via a detailed and accomplished examine of those texts, David Janssens reconstructs the genesis of Strauss’s inspiration from its earliest beginnings till his emigration to the USA in 1937. He discusses the 1st phases in Strauss’s grappling with the “theological-political problem,” from his doctoral dissertation on Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi to his contributions to Zionist periodicals, from his groundbreaking examine of Spinoza’s critique of faith to his study on Moses Mendelssohn, and from his rediscovery of medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy to his examine on Hobbes. all through, Janssens lines Strauss’s rediscovery of the Socratic lifestyle as a achievable replacement to either smooth philosophy and printed faith.

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Additional info for Between Athens and Jerusalem: Philosophy, Prophecy, and Politics in Leo Strauss’s Early Thought

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Since Spinoza aimed to criticize the protestant spiritual powers of his time, he was compelled to imitate this procedure. Thus, he deliberately presented his critique as an attempt to restore the original and pure meaning of the biblical teaching. In reality, his exegesis was directed against that of Protestant orthodoxy: its aim was to show that the original biblical teaching had no cognitive value whatsoever and thus did not have any power over autonomous reason. 8 A similar observation can be made regarding Cohen’s objection that the Treatise reduces the Jewish religion to a mere political instrument.

Cohen, for whom the legitimacy of the Enlightenment is a matter of course, incorrectly interprets Spinoza’s political and historical accommodations as a pointed attack against Judaism. The emergence of biblical science, however, should be regarded as a European event, Strauss asserts: Spinoza’s efforts to emancipate reason were not primarily aimed against Judaism, but against all forms of revealed religion insofar as they denied the autonomy of human reason. This more general orientation made Spinoza a founder of the Enlightenment.

34 Neoorthodoxy takes this argument one step further, asserting that putting Jewish faith first requires abandoning Zionism. ”35 Even more than for religious Zionism, for neoorthodoxy the Jewish Question is an absolute problem, a token of divine election. From this perspective, the establishment of the state of Israel can never be more than a relative solution that leaves intact the absolute character of the theological-political problem. However, Strauss’s effort to understand rigorously both political Zionism and Jewish religion reveals a profound tension.

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