On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:27 am


Notes to On Tyranny


1. Compare Social Research, v. 13, 1946, pp. 123-124. -- Hobbes, Leviathan, "A Review and Conclusion" (ed. by A. R. Waller, p. 523): " ... the name of Tyranny, signifieth nothing more, not lesse, than the name of Sovereignty, be it in one, or many men, saving that they that use the former word, are understood to be angry with them they call Tyrants...." -- Montesquieu, De l'Esprit des Lois, XI 9: "L'embarras d'Aristote parait visiblement quand il traite de la monarchie. Il en etablit cinq especes: il ne les distingue pas par la forme de la constitution, mais par des choses d'accident, comme les vertus ou les vices des princes...."

2. Principe, ch. 15, beginning; Discorsi I, beginning.

3. The most important reference to the Cyropaedia occurs in the Principe. It occurs a few lines before the passage in which Machiavelli expresses his intention to break with the whole tradition (ch. 14, toward the end). The Cyropaedia is clearly referred to in the Discorsi at least four times. If I am not mistaken, Machiavelli mentions Xenophon in the Principe and in the Discorsi more frequently than he does Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero taken together.

4. Discorsi II 2.

5. Classical political science took its bearings by man's perfection or by how men ought to live, and it culminated in the description of the best political order. Such an order was meant to be one whose realization was possible without a miraculous or nonmiraculous change in human nature, but its realization was not considered probable, because it was thought to depend on chance. Machiavelli attacks this view both by demanding that one should take one's bearings, not by how men ought to live but by how they actually live, and by suggesting that chance could or should be controlled. It is this attack which laid the foundation for all specifically modern political thought. The concern with a guarantee for the realization of the "ideal" led to both a lowering of the standards of political life and to the emergence of "philosophy of history": even the modern opponents of Machiavelli could not restore the sober view of the classics regarding the relation of "ideal" and "reality."

I. The Problem

1. Hiero 1.8-10; 2.3-6; 3.3-6; 8.1-7; 11.7-15.

2. Memorabilia II 1.21; Cyropaedia VIII 2.12. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1325a 34 ff. and Euripides, Phoenissae 524-5. 106

3. Memorabilia I 2.56.

4. Hiero 1.1; 2.5.

5. Hiero 8.1. Compare Memorabilia IV 2.23-24 with ibid. 16-17.

6. Hiero 1.14-15; 7.2. Compare Plato, Seventh Letter 332d6-7 and Isocrates, To Nicocles 3-4.

II. The Title and the Form

1. How necessary it is to consider carefully the titles of Xenophon's writings is shown most clearly by the difficulties presented by the titles of the Anabasis, of the Cyropaedia and, though less obviously, of the Memorabilia. Regarding the title of the Hiero, see also IV note 50, below.

2. There is only one more writing of Xenophon which would seem to serve the purpose of teaching a skill, the Image; we cannot discuss here the question why it is not entitled Image. The purpose of the Cyropaedia is theoretical rather than practical, as appears from the first chapter of the work.

3. Compare Cyropaedia I 3.18 with Plato, Theages 124e11-125e7 and Amatores 138b15 ff.

4. De vectigalibus 1.1. Compare Memorabilia IV 4.11-12 and Symposium 4. 1-2.

5. Hiero 4.9-11; 7.10, 12; 8.10; 10.8; 11.1.

6. Memorabilia I 2.9-11; III 9.10; IV 6.12 (compare IV 4). Oeconomicus 21.12. Resp. Lac. 10.7; 15.7-8. Agesilaus 7.2. Hellenica VI 4.33-35; VII 1.46 (compare V 4.1; VII 3.7-8). The opening sentence of the Cyropaedia implies that tyranny is the least stable regime. (See Aristotle, Politics 1315b10 ff.).

7. Hiero 4.5. Hellenica V 4.9, 13; VI 4.32. Compare Hiero 7.10 with Hellenica VII 3.7. See also Isocrates, Nicocles 24.

8. Plato, Republic 393C11.

9. Memorabilia III 4.7-12; 6.14; IV 2.11.

10. Oeconomicus 1.23; 4.2-19; 5.13-16; 6.5-10; 8.4-8; 9.13-15; 13.4-5; 14.310, 20.6-9; 21.2-12. The derogatory remark on tyrants at the end of the work is a fitting conclusion for a writing devoted to the royal art as such. Since Plato shares the "Socratic" view according to which the political art is not essentially different from the economic art, one may also say that it can only be due to secondary considerations that his Politicus is not entitled Oeconomicus.

11. Memorabilia IV 6.12.

12. Apologia Socratis 34.

13. Memorabilia I 2.31 ff.; III 7.5-6.

14. Plato, Hipparchus 228b-c (cf. 229b). Aristotle, Resp. Athen. 18.1.

15. Plato, Second Letter 310e5 ff.

16. Memorabilia I 5.6.

17. Aristophanes, Pax 698-9. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1391a8-11; 1405b24-28. See also Plato, Hipparchus 228c. Lessing called Simonides the Greek Voltaire.

18. Oeconomicus 6.4; 2.2, 12 ff. Compare Memorabilia IV 7.1 with ibid. III 1.1 ff. Compare Anabasis VI 1.23 with ibid. 110.12.

19. Hiero 9.7-11; 11.4, 13-14, Compare Oeconomicus 1.15.

20. Hiero 1.2, 10; 2.6.

21. Note the almost complete absence of proper names from the Hiero. The only proper name that occurs in the work (apart, of course, from the names of Hiero, Simonides, Zeus, and the Greeks) is that of Dailochus, Hiero's favorite. George Grote, Plato and the other companions of Socrates (London, 1888, v. I, 222), makes the following just remark: "When we read the recommendations addressed by Simonides, teaching Hiero how he might render himself popular, we perceive at once that they are alike well intentioned and ineffectual. Xenophon could neither find any real Grecian despot correspondingly to this portion ... nor could he invent one with any show of plausibility." Grote continues, however, as follows: "He was forced to resort to other countries and other habits different from those of Greece. To this necessity probably we owe the Cyropaedia." For the moment, it suffices to remark that, according to Xenophon, Cyrus is not a tyrant but a king. Grote's error is due to the identification of "tyrant" with "despot."

22. Simonides barely alludes to the mortality of Hiero or of tyrants in general (Hiero 10.4): Hiero, being a tyrant, must be supposed to live in perpetual fear of assassination. Compare especially Hiero 11.7, end, with Agesilaus 9.7 end. Compare also Hiero 7.2 and 7.7 ff. as well as 8.3 ff. (the ways of honoring people) with Hellenica VI 1.6 (honoring by solemnity of burial). Cf. Hiero 11.7, 15 with Plato, Republic 465d2-e2.

III. The Setting


1. Hiero 1.12; 2.8. Compare Plato, Republic 579b3-c3.

2. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1391a8-11.

3. Hiero 1.13; 6.13; 11.10.

4. Memorabilia I 2.33. Oeconomicus 7.2. Cyropaedia I 4.13; III 1.14; VIII 4.9.

5. Hiero 1.1-2.

6. Aristotle, Politics 1311a4-5. Compare the thesis of Callides in Plato's Gorgias.

7. Observe the repeated Image in Hiero 1.1-2. The meaning of this indication is revealed by what happens during the conversation. In order to know better than Simonides how the two ways of life differ in regard to pleasures and pains, Hiero would have to possess actual knowledge of both ways of life; i.e., Hiero must not have forgotten the pleasures and pains characteristic of private life; yet Hiero suggests that he does not remember them sufficiently (1.3). Furthermore, knowledge of the difference in question is acquired by means of calculation or reasoning (l.11, 3), and the calculation required presupposes knowledge of the different value, or of the different degree of importance, of the various kinds of pleasure and pain; yet Hiero has to learn from Simonides that some kinds of pleasure are of minor importance as compared with others (2.1; 7.3-4). Besides, in order to know better than Simonides the difference in question, Hiero would have to possess at least as great a power of calculating or reasoning as Simonides; yet Simonides shows that Hiero's alleged knowledge of the difference (a knowledge which he had not acquired but with the assistance of Simonides) is based on the fatal disregard of a most relevant factor (8.1-7). The thesis that a man who has experienced both ways of life knows the manner of their difference better than he who has experienced only one of them is then true only if important qualifications are added; in itself, it is the result of an enthymeme and merely plausible.

8. Hiero 1.8, 14, 16. Simonides says that tyrants are universally admired or envied (1.9), and he implies that the same is of course not true of private men as such. His somewhat more reserved statements in 2.1-2 and 7.1-4 about specific kinds of pleasure must be understood, to begin with, in the light of his general statement about all kinds of pleasure in 1.8. The statement that Simonides makes in 2.1-2 is understood by Hiero in the light of Simonides' general statement, as appears from 2.3-5; 4.6; and 6.12. (Compare also 8.7 with 3.3.) For the interpretation of Simonides' initial question, consider Isocrates, To Nicocles 4- 5.

9. Hiero 2.3-5. One should also not forget the fact that the author of the Hiero never was a tyrant. Compare Plato, Republic 577a-b and Gorgias 470d5-ell.

10. Memorabilia I 3.2; IV 8.6; 5.9-10. Compare Anabasis VI 1.17-21.

11. Memorabilia IV 6.1, 7; III 3.11; I 2.14.

12. Hiero 1.21, 31.

13. Compare Hiero 11.5-6 and Agesilaus 9.6-7 with Pindar, Ol. I and Pyth. I-III.

14. Hiero 1.14. The same rule of conduct was observed by Socrates. Compare the manner in which he behaved when talking to the "legislators" Critias and Charicles, with his open blame of the Thirty which he pronounced "somewhere, " i.e., not in the presence of the tyrants, and which had to be "reported" to Critias and Charicles (Memorabilia I 2.32-38; observe the repetition of Image. In Plato's Protagoras (345e-346b8) Socrates excuses Simonides for having praised tyrants under compulsion.

15. Hiero 1.9-10, 16-17; 2.3-5.

16. Hiero 1.10; 8.1.

17. Hiero 2.3-5.

18. While all men consider tyrants enviable, while the multitude is deceived by the outward splendor of tyrants, the multitude does not wish to be ruled by tyrants but rather by the just. Compare Hiero 2.3-5 with ibid. 5.1 and 4.5. Compare Plato, Republic 344b5- l.

19. Compare the end of the Oeconomicus with ibid. 6.12 ff. See also Memorabilia II 6.22 ff.

20. Hiero 5.1; 1.1.

21. Hiero 6.5. Aristotle, Politics 1314a10-13.

22. Hiero 4.2. See note 14 above.

23. Hiero 5.1-2.

24. Hiero mentions "contriving something bad and base" in 4.10, i.e., almost immediately before the crucial passage. Compare also 1.22-23.

25. Memorabilia I 2.31; IV 2.33; Symposium 6.6. Apologia Socratis 20-21. Cyropaedia III 1.39. Compare Plato, Apol. Socr. 23d4-7 and 28a6-bl, as well as Seventh Letter 344c1-3.

26. Memorabilia I 6.12-13.

27. Compare Oeconomicus 6.12 ff. and 11.1 ff with Memorabilia I 1.16 and IV 6.7. Compare Plato, Republic 489e3-490a3. The distinction between the two meanings of "gentleman" corresponds to the Platonic distinction between common or political virtue and genuine virtue.

28. Cyropaedia 11.1. Memorabilia I 2.56; 6.11-12. Compare Memorabilia IV 2.33 with Symposium 3.4. See Plato, Seventh Letter 333b3 ff. and 334al-3 as well as Gorgias 468e6- -9 and 469c3 (cf. 492d2-3); also Republic 493a6 ff.

29. Memorabilia I 2.31 ff.; IV 4.3. Symposium 4.13. Compare Plato, Apol. Socr. 20e8-21a3 and 32c4-d8 as well as Gorgias 480e6 ff.; also Protagoras 329e2-330a2. Cf. note 14 above.

30. Hellenica IV 4.6. Compare Symposium 3.4.

31. Whereas Hiero asserts that the tyrant is unjust, he does not say that he is foolish. Whereas he asserts that the entourage of the tyrant consists of the unjust, the intemperate, and the servile, he does not say that it consists of fools. Consider the lack of correspondence between the virtues mentioned in Hiero 5.1. and the vices mentioned in 5.2. Moreover, by proving that he is wiser than the wise Simonides, Hiero proves that the tyrant may be wise indeed.

32. According to Xenophon's Socrates, he who possesses the specific knowledge required for ruling well is eo ipso a ruler (Memorabilia III 9.10; 1.4). Hence he who possesses the tyrannical art is eo ipso a tyrant. From Xenophon's point of view, Hiero's distrust of Simonides is an ironic reflection of the Socratic truth. It is ironic for the following reason: From Xenophon's point of view, the wise teacher of the royal art, or of the tyrannical art, is not a potential ruler in the ordinary sense of the term, because he who knows how to rule does not necessarily wish to rule. Even Hiero grants by implication that the just do not wish to rule, or that they wish merely to mind their own business (cf. Hiero 5.1 with Memorabilia I 2.48 and II 9.1). If the wise man is necessarily just, the wise teacher of the tyrannical art will not wish to be a tyrant. But it is precisely the necessary connection between wisdom and justice which is questioned by Hiero's distinction between the wise and the just.

33. Hiero 2.3-5 (compare the wording with that used ibid. 1.9 and in Cyropaedia IV 2.28). It should be emphasized that in this important passage Hiero does not speak explicitly of wisdom. (His only explicit remark on wisdom occurs in the central passage, in 5.1). Furthermore, Hiero silently qualifies what he says about happiness in 2.3-5 in a later passage (7.9-10) where he admits that bliss requires outward or visible signs.

34. Hiero 2.6; 1.10.

35. Hiero states at the beginning that Simonides is a wise man (Image); but as Simonides explains in 7.3-4, [real] men (Image) as distinguished from [ordinary] human beings (Image) are swayed by ambition and hence apt to aspire to tyrannical power. (The Image at the end of 1.1 corresponds to the Image at the end of 1.2. Cf. also 7.9 beginning.) Shortly after the beginning, Hiero remarks that Simonides is "at present still a private man" (1.3), thus implying that he might well become a tyrant. Accordingly, Hiero speaks only once of "you [private men], " whereas Simonides speaks fairly frequently of "you [tyrants]": Hiero hesitates to consider Simonides as merely a private man (6.10. The "you" in 2.5 refers to the reputedly wise men as distinguished from the multitude. Simonides speaks of "you tyrants" in the following passages: 1.14, 16, 24, 26; 2.2; 7.2, 4; 8.7). For the distinction between "real men" and "ordinary human beings," compare also Anabasis 17.4; Cyropaedia IV 2.25; V 5.33; Plato, Republic 550a1; Protagoras 316c5-317b5.

36. Hiero 1.9; 6.12. Image, the term used by Simonides and later on by Hiero, designates jealousy, the noble counterpart of envy rather than envy proper (cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric II 11). That the tyrant is exposed to envy in the strict sense of the term appears from Hiero's remark in 7.10 and from Simonides' emphatic promise at the end of the dialogue: the tyrant who has become the benefactor of his subjects will be happy without being envied. Cf. also 11.6, where it is implied that a tyrant like Hiero is envied (cf. note 13 above). In Hiero 1.9, Simonides avoids speaking of "envy" because the term might suggest that all men bear ill- ill to the tyrant, and this implication would spoil completely the effect of his statement. Hiero's statement in 6.12, which refers not only to 1.9 but to 2.2 as well, amounts to a correction of what Simonides had said in the former passage; Hiero suggests that not all men, but only men like Simonides, are jealous of the tyrant's wealth and power. As for Simonides' distinction (in 1.9) between "all men" who are jealous of tyrants and the "many" who desire to be tyrants, it has to be understood as follows: many who consider a thing an enviable possession do not seriously desire it, because they are convinced of their inability to acquire it. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1311a29-31 and 1313a17-23.

37. By using the tyrant's fear as a means for his betterment, Simonides acts in accordance with a pedagogic principle of Xenophon; see Hipparchicus 1.8; Memorabilia III 5.5-6; Cyropaedia III 1.23-24.

38. Compare Hiero 1.14 with 1.16. Note the emphatic character of Simonides' assent to Hiero's reply. (1.16, beginning). Compare also 2.2 with 11.2-5.

39. Compare Hiero 4.5 with Hellenica VI 4.32 and VII 3.4-6.

40. Compare Hiero 6.14 with Hellenica VII 3.12.

41. Compare Hiero 6.1-3 with Cyropaedia 13.10, 18.

42. Compare Hiero 8.6 with ibid. 2.1. The statement is not contradicted by Hiero; it is prepared, and thus to a certain extent confirmed, by what Hiero says in 1.27 (Image) and 1.29. In 7.5, Hiero indicates that agreement had been reached between him and Simonides on the subject of sex.

43. Hiero 2.12-18.

44. By showing this, Hiero elaborates what we may call the gentleman's image of the tyrant. Xenophon pays a great compliment to Hiero's education by entrusting to him the only elaborate presentation of the gentleman's view of tyranny which he ever wrote. Compare p. 31 above on the relation between the Hiero and the Agesilaus. The relation of Hiero's indictment of tyranny to the true account of tyranny can be compared to the relation of the Athenian story about the family of Pisistratus to Thucydides' "exact" account. One may also compare it to the relation of the Agesilaus to the corresponding sections of the Hellenica.

45. Memorabilia IV 4.10. Agesilaus 1.6. As for the purpose of the Hellenica, compare IV 8.1 and V 1.4 with II 3.56 as well as with Symposium 1.1 and Cyropaedia VIII 7.24.

46. Memorabilia I 2.58-61. While Xenophon denies the charge that Socrates had interpreted the verses in question in a particularly obnoxious manner, he does not deny the fact that Socrates frequently quoted the verses. Why Socrates liked them, or how he interpreted them, is indicated ibid. IV 6.13-15: Socrates used two types of dialectics, one which leads to the truth and another which, by never leaving the dimension of generally accepted opinions, leads to (political) agreement. For the interpretation of the passage, compare Symposium 4.59-60 with ibid. 4.56-58.

47. Symposium 3.6. Compare Plato, Republic 378d6-8 and al-6.

48. To summarize our argument, " we shall say that if Hiero is supposed to state the truth or even merely to be completely frank, the whole Hiero becomes unintelligible. If one accepts either supposition, one will be compelled to agree with the following criticism by Ernst Richter ("Xenophon-Studien," Fleckeisen's Jahrbucher fur classische Philologie, 19. Supplementband, 1893, 149): "Einem solchen Manne, der sich so freimuthig uber sich selbst aussert, und diese lobenswerten Gesinnungen hegt, mochte man kaum die Schreckensthaten zutrauen, die er als von der Tyrannenherrschaft unzertrennlich hinstellt. Hat er aber wirklich soviel Menschen getotet und ubt er taglich noch soviel Ubelthaten aus, ist fur ihn wirklich das Beste der Strick -- und er musste es ja wissen --, so kommen die Ermahnungen des Simonides in zweiten Teil ganz gewiss zu spat.... Simonides gibt Ratschlage, wie sie nur bei einem Fursten vom Schlage des Kyros oder Agesilaos angebracht sind, nie aber bei einem Tyrannen, wie ihn Hieron beschreibt, der schon gar nicht mehr weiss, wie er sich vor seinen Todfeinden schutzen kann." Not to repeat what we have said in the text, the quick transition from Hiero's indictment of the tyrant's injustice (7.7-13)tohisremark that the tyrants punish the unjust (8.9) is unintelligible but for the fact that his account is exaggerated. If one supposes then that Hiero exaggerates, one has to wonder why he exaggerates. Now, Hiero himself makes the following assertions: that the tyrants trust no one; that they fear the wise; that Simonides is a real man; and that Simonides admires, or is jealous of, the tyrants' power. These assertions of Hiero supply us with the only authentic clue to the riddle of the dialogue. Some of the assertions referred to are without doubt as much suspect of being exaggerated as almost all other assertions of Hiero. But this very fact implies that they contain an element of truth, or that they are true if taken with a grain of salt.


1. Hiero 1.3. As for the duration of Hiero's reign, see Aristotle, Politics 1315b35 ff. and Diodorus Siculus XI 38. Hiero shows later on (Hiero 6.1-2) that he recalls very well certain pleasures of private men of which he had not been reminded by Simonides.

2. Hiero 1.4-5. The "we" in "we all know" in 1.4 refers of course to private men and tyrants alike. Compare 1.29 and 10.4.

3. Hiero 1.4-6. To begin with, i.e., before Simonides has aroused his opposition, Hiero does not find any difference between tyrants and private men in regard to sleep (1. 7). Later on, in an entirely different conversational situation, Hiero takes up "the pleasures of private men of which the tyrant is deprived"; in that context, while elaborating the gentleman's image of the tyrant (with which Simonides must be presumed to have been familiar from the outset), Hiero speaks in the strongest terms of the difference between tyrants and private men in regard to the enjoyment of sleep (6.3, 7-10).

4. Twelve out of fifteen classes of pleasant or painful things are unambiguously of a bodily nature. The three remaining classes are (1) the good things, (2) the bad things, and (3) sleep. As for the good and the bad things, Simonides says that they please or pain us sometimes through the working of the soul alone and sometimes through that of the soul and the body together. As regards sleep, he leaves open the question by means of what kind of organ or faculty we enjoy it.

5. Compare Hiero 2.1 and 7.3 with Memorabilia II 1.

6. Hiero 1.19. Compare Isocrates, To Nicocles 4.

7. Compare Hiero 4.8-9 with Memorabilia IV 2.37-38.

8. Hiero 1.7-10. Hiero's oath in 1.10 is the first oath occurring in the dialogue. Hiero uses the emphatic form Image

9. See in Hiero 1.10 the explicit reference to the order of Simonides' enumeration.

10. The proof is based on Image, i.e., on a comparison of data that are supplied by experience or observation. Compare Hiero 1.11 (Image) with the reference to Image in 1.10. Compare Memorabilia IV 3.11 and Hellenica VII 4.2.

11. The passage consists of five parts: (1) "sights" (Hiero contributes 163 words, Simonides is silent); (2) "sounds" (Hiero 36 words, Simonides 68 words); (3) "food" (Hiero 230 words, Simonides 76 words); (4) "odors" (Hiero is silent, Simonides 32 words); (5) "sex" (Hiero 411 words, Simonides 42 words). Hiero is most vocal concerning "sex"; Simonides is most vocal concerning "food. "

12. Compare III A, note 42, and III B, notes 11 and 19. As for the connection between sexual love and tyranny, cf. Plato, Republic 573e6.-7, 574e2 and 575a1-2.

13. Hiero 1.31-33.

14. Compare Hiero 1.16 with the parallels in 1.14, 24, 26.

15. Simonides' first oath (Image) occurs in the passage dealing with sounds, i.e., with praise (1.16).

16. Rudolf Hirzel, Der Dialog, I. Leipzig, 1895, 171, notes "die geringe Lebendigkeit des Gesprachs, die vorherrschende Neigung zu langeren Vortragen": all the more striking is the character of the discussion of "food."

17. Simonides grants this by implication in Hiero 1.26.

18. Mr. Marchant (Xenophon, Scripta Minora, Loeb's Classical Library, XV-XVI) says: "There is no attempt at characterization in the persons of the dialogue.... The remark of the poet at c.l.22 is singularly inappropriate to a man who had a liking for good living." In the passage referred to, Simonides declares that "acid, pungent, astringent and kindred things" are "very unnatural for human beings": he says nothing at all against "sweet and kindred things." The view that bitter, acid, etc., things are "against nature, " was shared by Plato (Timaeus 65c-66c), by Aristotle (Eth. Nic. 1153a5-6; cf. De anima 422b 10-14) and, it seems, by Alcmaeon (cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics 986a22-34). Moreover, Simonides says that acid, pungent, etc., things are unnatural for "human beings"; but "human beings" may have to be understood in contradistinction to "real men" (cf. III A, note 35 above). At any rate, the fare censured by Simonides is recommended as a fare for soldiers by Cyrus in a speech addressed to "real men" (Cyropaedia VI 2.31). (Compare also Symposium 4.9). Above all, Marchant who describes the Hiero as "a naive little work, not unattractive, " somewhat naively overlooks the fact that Simonides' utterances serve primarily the purpose, not of characterizing Simonides, but of influencing Hiero; they characterize the poet in a more subtle way than the one which alone is considered by Marchant: the fact that Simonides indicates, or fails to indicate, his likes or dislikes according to the requirements of his pedagogic intentions, characterizes him as wise.

19. Hiero 1.26. "Sex" is the only motive of which Simonides ever explicitly says that it could be the only motive for desiring tyrannical power. Compare note 12 above.

20. Hiero 7.5-6.

21. Hiero 8.6.

22. Note the increased emphasis on "(real) men" in Hiero 2.1. In the parallel passage of the first section (1.9), Simonides had spoken of "most able (real) men." Compare the corresponding change of emphasis in Hiero's replies (see the following note).

23. Compare Hiero 1.16-17 with 2.1, where Simonides declares that the bodily pleasures appear to him to be very minor things and that, as he observes, many of those who are reputed to be real men do not attach any great value to those pleasures. Hiero's general statement in 2.3-5, which is so much stronger than his corresponding statement in the first section (1.10), amounts to a tacit rejection of Simonides' claim: Hiero states that the view expressed by Simonides in 2.1-2, far from being nonvulgar, is the vulgar view.

24. Hiero 2.1-2. Simonides does not explicitly speak of "wealth and power." "Wealth and power" had been mentioned by Hiero in 1.27. (Compare Aristotle, Politics 1311a8-12.) On the basis of Simonides' initial enumeration (1.4-6), one would expect that the second section (ch. 2-6) would deal with the three kinds of pleasure that had not been discussed in the first section, viz. the objects perceived by the whole body, the good and bad things, and sleep. Only good and bad things and, to a lesser degree, sleep are clearly discernible as subjects of the second section. As for good and bad things, see the following passages: 2.6- 7, 3.1, 3, 5; 4.1; 5.2, 4. (Compare also 2.2 with Anabasis III 1.19-20.) As for sleep, see 6.3-9. As for objects perceived by the whole body, compare 1.5 and 2.2 with Memorabilia III 8.8-9 and 10.13. Sleep (the last item of the initial enumeration) is not yet mentioned in the retrospective summary at the beginning of the second section, whereas it is mentioned in the parallel at the beginning of the third section (cf. 2.1 with 7.3); in this manner Xenophon indicates that the discussion of the subjects mentioned in the initial enumeration is completed at the end of the second section: the third section deals with an entirely new subject.

25. Simonides merely intimates it, for he does not say in so many words that "they aspire to greater things, to power and wealth." Taken by itself, the statement with which Simonides opens the second section is much less far-reaching than the statements with which he had opened the discussion of the first section (1.8-9, 16). But one has to understand the later statement in the light of the earlier ones, if one wants to understand the conversational situation. Compare III A, note 8 above.

26. Simonides fails to mention above all the field or farm which occupies the central position among the objects desired by private men (Hiero 4.7) and whose cultivation is praised by Socrates as a particularly pleasant possession (Oeconomicus 5.11). Compare also Hiero 11.1-4 with ibid. 4.7 and Memorabilia III 11.4. Simonides pushes into the background the pleasures of private men who limit themselves to minding their own business instead of being swayed by political ambition (see Memorabilia 1. 2.48 and II 9.1) Farming is a skill of peace (Oeconomicus 4.12 and 1.17). Simonides also fails to mention dogs (compare Hiero 2.2 with Agesilaus 9.6). Compare De vectigalibus 4.8.

27. Whereas we find in the first section an explicit reference to the order of Simonides' enumeration (1.10), no such reference occurs in the second section. In the second section Hiero refers only once explicitly to the statement with which Simonides had opened the section, i.e., to 2.1-2; he does this, however, only after (and in fact almost immediately after) Simonides has made his only contribution to the discussion of the second section (6.12-13). An obvious, although implicit, reference to 2.2 occurs in 4.6-7. (Cf. especially the Image ... ... Image in 4.7 with the Image in 2.2). The Image in 2.7 (peace-war) refers to the last item mentioned in 2.2 (enemies-friends). These references merely underline the deviation of Hiero's speech from Simonides' enumeration. Simonides' silence is emphasized by Xenophon's repeated mention of the fact that Simonides has been listening to Hiero's speeches, i.e., that Simonides had not spoken (see 6.9; 7.1, 11). There is no mention of Hiero's listening to Simonides' statements.

28. See note 25 above.

29. As for Simonides, see p. 33 above. Hiero's concern with wealth is indicated by the fact that, deviating from Simonides, he explicitly mentions the receiving of gifts among the signs of honor (compare 7.7-9 with 7.2). To comply with Hiero's desire, Simonides promises him later on (11.12) gifts among other things. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1311a8 ff. and note 74 below. Consider also the emphatic use of "possession" in Simonides' final promise. Simonides' silence about love of gain as distinguished from love of honor (compare Hiero 7.1-4 with Oeconomicus 14.9-10) is remarkable. It appears from Hiero 9.11 and 11.12-13 that the same measures which would render the tyrant honored, would render him rich as well.

30. Friendship as discussed by Hiero in ch. 3 is something different from "helping friends" which is mentioned by Simonides in 2.2. The latter topic is discussed by Hiero in 6.12-13.

31. Compare 2.8 with 1.11-12; 3.7-9 with 1.38; 3.8 and 4.1-2 with 1.27-29; 4.2 with 1.17- 5. In the cited passages of ch. 1, as distinguished from the parallels in ch. 2 ff., no mention of "killing of tyrants" occurs. Compare also the insistence on the moral depravity of the tyrant, or on his injustice, in the second section (5.1-2 and 4.11) with the only mention of "injustice" in the first section (1.12): in the first section only the "injustice" suffered by tyrants is mentioned. As regards, 1.36, see note 41 below.

32. Marchant (loc. cit, XVI) remarks that Xenophon "makes no attempt anywhere to represent the courtier poet; had he done so he must have made Simonides bring in the subject of verse panegyrics on princes at c. 1.14." It is hard to judge this suggested improvement on the Hiero since Marchant does not tell us how far the remark on verse panegyrics on princes would have been more conducive than what Xenophon's Simonides actually says toward the achievement of Simonides' aim. Besides, compare Hiero 9.4 with 9.2. We read in Macauley's essay on Frederick the Great: "Nothing can be conceived more whimsical than the conferences which took place between the first literary man and the first practical man of the age, whom a strange weakness had induced to exchange their parts. The great poet would talk of nothing but treaties and guarantees, and the great king of nothing but metaphors and rhymes."

33. Hiero 3.6; 4.6; 5.1.

34. Note the frequent use of the second person singular in ch. 13, and the ascent from the Image in 3.1 to the Image in 3.6 and finally to the Image in 3.8.

35. Hiero 6.1-6.

36. Compare Hiero 6.7 with ibid. 6.3

37. Hiero 6.7-9. The importance of Simonides' remark is underlined by the following three features of Hiero's reply: First, that reply opens with the only oath that occurs in the second section. Second, that reply, being one of the three passages of the Hiero in which laws are mentioned (3.9; 4.4; 6.10), is the only passage in the dialogue in which it is clearly intimated that tyrannical government is government without laws, i.e., it is the only passage in Xenophon's only work on tyranny in which the essential character of tyranny comes, more or less, to light. Third, Hiero's reply is the only passage of the Hiero in which Hiero speaks of "you (private men)" (see III A, note 35 above). Compare also III B, note 27 above.

38. The character of Simonides' only contribution to the discussion of the second section can also be described as follows: While he was silent when friendship was being discussed, he talks in a context in which war is mentioned; he is more vocal regarding war than regarding friendship. See note 26 above.

39. The situation is illustrated by the following figures: In the first section (1.1038) Simonides contributes about 218 words out of about 1058; in the second section (2.3-6.16) he contributes 28 words out of about 2,000; in the third section (ch. 7) he contributes 220 words out of 522; in the fourth section (ch. 8-11) he contributes about 1, 475 words out of about 1, 600.-K. Lincke, "Xenophons Hiero und Demetrios von Phaleron," Philologus, v. 58, 1899, 226, correctly describes the "Sinnesanderung" of Hiero as "die Peripetie des Dialogs."

40. Compare note 24 above. The initial enumeration had dealt explicitly with the pleasures of "human beings" (see III a, note 35 above), but honor, the subject of the third section, is the aim, not of "human beings," but of "real men." One has no right to assume that the subject of the third section is the pleasures or pains of the soul, and the subject of the second section is the pleasures or pains common to body and soul. In the first place, the pleasures or pains of the soul precede in the initial enumeration the pleasures or pains common to body and soul; besides Image , which is mentioned in the enumeration that opens the second section (2.2), is certainly an activity of the soul alone; finally, the relation of honor to praise as well as the examples adduced by Simonides show clearly that the pleasure connected with honor is not meant to be a pleasure of the soul alone (compare 7.2-3 with 1.14). When Simonides says that no human pleasure comes nearer to the divine than the pleasure concerning honors, he does not imply that that pleasure is a pleasure of the soul alone, for, apart from other considerations, it is an open question whether Simonides, or Xenophon, considered the deity an incorporeal being. As for Xenophon's view on this subject, compare Memorabilia I 4.17 and context (for the interpretation consider Cicero, De natura deorum 112.30-31 and III 10.26-27) as well as ibid. IV 3.13- 4. Compare Cynegeticus 12.19ff.

41. Compare Hiero 7.1-4 with ibid. 2.1-2. See III A, note 8, and III B, note 22 above. The "many" (in the expression "tor many of those who are reputed to be real men") is emphasized by the insertion of "he said" after "for many" (2.1), and the purpose of this emphasis is to draw our attention to the still limited character of the thesis that opens the second section. This is not the only case in which Xenophon employs this simple device for directing the reader's attention. The "he said" after "we seem" in 1.5 draws our attention to the fact that Simonides uses here for the first time the first person when speaking of private men. The two redundant "he said" 's in 1.7-8 emphasize the "he answered" which precedes the first of these two "he said" 's, thus making it clear that Simonides' preceding enumeration of pleasures has the character of a question addressed to Hiero, or that Simonides is testing Hiero. The second "he said" in 1.31 draws our attention to the preceding (lV, i.e., to the fact that Hiero's assertion concerning tyrants in general is now applied by Simonides to Hiero in particular. The "he said" in 1.36 draws our attention to the fact that the tyrant Hiero hates to behave like a brigand. The redundant" he said" in 7.1 draws our attention to the fact that the following praise of honor is based on Image. The "he said" in 7.13 emphasizes the preceding Image, i.e., the fact that Hiero does not use in this context the normally used Image, for he is now describing in the strongest possible terms how bad tyranny is.

42. Hiero 7.5-10.

43. Compare Hiero 7.3 with ibid. 1.14-15.

44. In the third section, Simonides completely abandons the vulgar opinion in favor not of the gentleman's opinion but of the opinion of the real man. The aim of the real man is distinguished from that of the gentleman by the fact that honor as striven for by the former does not essentially presuppose a just life. Compare Hiero 7.3 with Oeconomicus 14.9.

45. Hiero 7.11-13. I have put in parentheses the thoughts which Hiero does not express. As for Simonides' question, compare Anabasis VII 7.28.

46. Hiero 1.12. As for the tyrant's fear of punishment, see ibid. 5.2.

47. Regarding strangers, see Hiero 1.28; 5.3; 6.5.

48. Compare Hiero 8.9 with ibid. 7.7 and 5.2.

49. Simonides continues asserting that tyrannical life is superior to private life; compare Hiero 8.1-7 with ibid. 1.8 ff.; 2.1-2; 7.1 ff.

50. Hiero 7.12-13.

51. When comparing Hiero 7.13 with Apologia Socratis 7 and 32, one is led to wonder why Hiero is contemplating such an unpleasant form of death as hanging: does he belong to those who never gave thought to the question of the easiest way of dying? Or does he thus reveal that he never seriously considered committing suicide? Compare also Anabasis II 6.29.

52. Memorabilia I 2.10-11, 14.

53. "You are out of heart with tyranny because you believe...." (Hiero 8.1).

54. Compare also the transition from "tyranny" to the more general "rule" in Hiero 8.1 ff. Regarding the relation of "tyranny" and "rule, " see Memorabilia IV 6.12; Plato, Republic 338d7-11; Aristotle, Politics 1276a2-4.

55. Hiero 7.5-6, 9; compare ibid. 1.37-38 and 3.8-9.

56. Hiero 8.1.

57. Hiero 8.1-7. Compare note 54 above.

58. Compare Hiero 1.36-38.

59. In this context (8.3), there occur allusions to the topics discussed in 1.10 ff: Image (sights), Image (sounds), Image (food). The purpose of this is to indicate the fact that Simonides is now discussing the subject matter of the first part from the opposite point of view.

60. Memorabilia II 1.27-28; 3.10-14; 6.10-16. Compare Anabasis 19.20 ff.

61. If Simonides had acted differently, he would have appeared as a just man, and Hiero would fear him. Whereas Hiero's fear of the just is definite, his fear of the wise is indeterminate (see pp. 41-45 above); it may prove to be unfounded in a given case. This is what actually happens in the Hiero: Simonides convinces Hiero that the wise can be friends of tyrants. One cannot help being struck by the contrast between Simonides' "censure" of the tyrant Hiero and the prophet Nathan's accusation of the Lord's anointed King David (II Samuel 12).

62. Hiero 8.8. The equally unique Image a in 9.1 draws our attention to the Image in 8.8.

63. Hiero 8.8-10. Compare ibid. 6.12-13.

64. Hiero 9.1. Observe the negative formulation of Simonides' assent to a statement dealing with unpleasant aspects of tyrannical rule.

65. Simonides' speech consists of two parts. In the fairly short first part (9.1-4), he states the general principle. In the more extensive second part (9.5-11), he makes specific proposals regarding its application by the tyrant. In the second part punishment and the like are no longer mentioned. The unpleasant aspects of tyranny, or of government in general, are also barely alluded to in the subsequent chapters. Probably the most charming expression of the poet's dignified silence about these disturbing things occurs in 10.8. There, Simonides refrains from mentioning the possibility that the tyrant's mercenaries, these angels of mercy, might actually punish the evildoers: he merely mentions how they should behave toward the innocent, toward those who intend to do evil and toward the injured. Compare the preceding note. Compare also the statement of the Athenian stranger in Plato's Laws 711 b4-c2 with the subsequent statement of Clinias.

66. As for bewitching tricks to be used by absolute rulers, see Cyropaedia VIII 1.40-42; 2.26; 3.1. These less reserved remarks are those of a historian or a spectator rather than of an adviser. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1314a40: the tyrant ought to play the king.

67. Ch. 9 and ch. 10 are the only parts of the Hiero in which "tyrant" and derivatives are avoided.

68. Compare especially Hiero 9.10 with ibid. 11.10.

69. Hiero 9.7, 11.

70. Hiero 9.6. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1315a31-40.

71. Hiero 8.10.

72. Hiero 10.1.

73. Hiero 10.2. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1314a33 ff.

74. Compare Hiero 4.9, 11 with 4.3 ("without pay") and 10.8.

75. Compare Hiero 11.1 with 9.7-11 and 10.8.

76. Hiero 11.1-6. Compare p. 38 above. One is tempted to suggest that the Hiero represents Xenophon's interpretation of the contest between Simonides and Pindar.

77. Hiero 11.7-15. Compare Plato, Republic 465d2-e2.

78. K. Lincke (loc. cit, 244), however, feels "dass Hiero eines Besseren belehrt worden ware, muss der Leser sich hinzudenken, obgleich es ... besser ware, wenn man die Zustimmung ausgesprochen sahe." The Platonic parallel to Hiero's silence at the end of the Hiero is Callicles' silence at the end of the Gorgias and Thrasymachus' silence in books II- of the Republic.


1.Marchant, loc. cit, XVI.

2. For instance, Nabis is called "principe" in Principe IX and "tiranno" in Discorsi I 40, and Pandolfo Petruzzi is called "principe" in Principe XX and XXII, and "tiranno" in Discorsi III 6. Compare also the transition from "tyrant" to "ruler" in the second part of the Hiero.

3. Compare Hellenica VI 3.8, end.

4. Hiero 9.6.

5. Hiero 11.6; 1.31. Compare Apologia Socratis 28, a remark which Socrates made "laughingly."

6.Compare the absence of courage (or manliness) from the lists of Socrates' virtues: Memorabilia IV 8.11 (cf. IV 4.1 ff.) and Apologia Socratis 14, 16. Compare Symposium 9.1 with Hiero 7.3. But consider also II, note 22 above.

7. Compare Hiero 9.8 on the one hand with 1.8, 19 and 5.1-2 on the other.

8. Hiero 10.1.
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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

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IV. The Teaching Concerning Tyranny

1. Aristotle, Politics 1313a33-38.

2. This explanation does not contradict the one suggested on pp. 32-33 above, for the difference between a wise man who does not care to discover, or to teach, the tyrannical art and a wise man who does remains important and requires an explanation.

3. Hiero 1.9-10; 2.3, 5.

4. Compare Hiero 5.2 with the situations in Cyropaedia VII 2.10 on the one hand, and ibid. VII 5.47 on the other.

5. Memorabilia IV 6.12. Compare Cyropaedia I 3.18 and 1.1; Hellenica VII 1.46; Agesilaus 1.4; De vectigalibus 3.11; Aristotle, Politics 1295aI5-18.

6. Hiero 11.12. Compare Hellenica V 1.3-4.

7. Compare pp. 64-65 and III B, note 37 above. In Hiero 7.2 Simonides says that all subjects of tyrants execute every command of the tyrant. Compare his additional remark that all rise from their seats in honor of the tyrant with Resp. Lac. 15.6: no ephors limit the tyrant's power. According to Rousseau (Contrat social III 10), the Hiero confirms his thesis that the Greeks understood by a tyrant not, as Aristotle in particular did, a bad monarch but a usurper of royal authority regardless of the quality of his rule. According to the Hiero, the tyrant is necessarily "lawless" not merely because of the manner in which he acquired his position, but above all because of the manner in which he rules; he follows his own will, which may be good or bad, and not any law. Xenophon's "tyrant" is identical with Rousseau's "despot" (Contrat social III 10 end). Compare Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois XI 9 and XIV 13 note.

8. Hiero 11.8, 15. Compare ibid. 8.9 with 7.10-12, 7 and 11.1. Compare also 1.11-14 with the parallel in the Memorabilia (II 1. 31). Regarding the fact that the tyrant may be just, compare Plato, Phaedrus 248e3-5.

9. Hiero 11.5, 7, 14-15.

10. Hiero 8.3 and 9.2-10.

11. Hiero 9.6 and 11.3, 12. Compare Hellenica II 3.41; also Aristotle, Politics 1315a32-40 and Machiavelli, Principe XX.

12. Hiero 10.6. Compare Hellenica IV 4.14.

13. As regards prizes, compare especially Hiero 9.11 with Hipparchicus 1.26. Ernst Richter (loc. cit, 107) goes so far as to say that "die Forderungen des zweiten (Teils des Hiero) genau die des Sokrates (sind)."

14. Hiero 11.14; compare ibid. 6.3 and 3.8.

15. Compare Cyropaedia VIII 1.1 and 8.1.

16. Compare Hiero 10.4 with ibid. 4.3.

17. Hiero 9.1 ff. Compare Machiavelli, Principe XIX and XXI, toward the end as well as Aristotle, Politics 1315a4-8. See also Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois XII 23-24. As for the reference to the division of the city into sections in Hiero 9.5-6 (cf. Machiavelli, Principe XXI, toward the end), one might compare Aristotle, Politics 1305a30-34 and Hume's "Idea of a perfect commonwealth" (toward the end).

18. Memorabilia III 4.8, Oeconomicus 4.7-8; 9.14-15; 12.19. Resp. Lac. 4.6 and 8.4. Cyropaedia V 1.13, AnaJJasis V 8.18 and II 6.19-20. Compare, however, Cyropaedia VIII 1.18.

19. Compare Hiero 9.7-8 with Resp. Lac. 7.1-2. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1305a18-22 and 1313b18-28 as well as Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois XIV 9.

20. Hiero 11.12-14. Compare Cyropaedia VIII 2.15, 19; 1.17 ff.

21. Compare Hiero 8.10 and 11.13 with Oeconomicus 14.9.

22. Hiero 1.16.

23. Plato, Republic 562b9-c3; Euthydemus 292b4-c1. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1131a2629 and 1161a6-9; Politics 1294a10-13; Rhetoric 1365b29 ff.

24. Compare p. 43 above.

25. Hiero 7.9 and 11.8. Compare ibid. 2.2 (horses), 6.15 (horses) and 11.5 (chariots). The horse is the example used for the indirect characterization of political virtue in the Oeconomicus (11.3-6); a horse can possess virtue without possessing wealth; whether a human being can possess virtue without possessing wealth, remains there an open question. The political answer to the question is given in the Cyropaedia (I 2.15) where it is shown that aristocracy is the rule of well-bred men of independent means. Compare page 70 above about the insecurity of property rights under a tyrant.

26. Resp. Lac. 10.4 (cf. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1180a24 ff.). Cyropaedia I 2.2 ff.

27. Hiero 9.6.

28. Hiero 5.1-2.

29. Compare Hiero 9.6 with ibid. 5.3-4, Anabasis IV 3.4 and Hellenica VI 1.12. Compare Hiero 9.6 with the parallel in the Cyropaedia (I 2.12). A reduced form of prowess might seem to be characteristic of eunuchs; see Cyropaedia VII 5.61 ff.

30. This is the kind of justice that might exist in a nonpolitical society like Plato's first city or city of pigs (Republic 371e12-372a4). Compare Oeconomicus 14.3-4 with Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1130b6, 30 ff.

31. Memorabilia IV 8.11. Apol Socr. 14, 16.

32. Compare Hiero 9.8 with Memorabilia IV 3.1 and Hellenica VII 3.6. Compare Plato, Gorgias 507a7-c3.

33. Anabasis VII 7.41.

34. Hiero 10.3. Compare Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois III 9: "Comme il faut de la vertu dans une republique, et dans une monarchie de l'honneur, il faut de la crainte dans un gouvernement despotique: pour la vertu, elle n 'y est pas necessaire, et l'honneur y serait dangereux." Virtue is then not dangerous to "despotism." (The italics are mine.)

35. Compare Hiero 10.3 with Cyropaedia III 1.16 ff. and VIII 4.14 as well as with Anabasis VII 7.30.

36. Anabasis 19.29.

37. Compare Hiero 11.5, 8 with Memorabilia III 2 and Resp. Lac. 1.2.

38. Memorabilia IV 4.12 ff. Compare ibid. IV 6.5-6 and Cyropaedia 13.17.

39. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1129b12.

40. Memorabilia IV 4.13.

41. Oeconomicus 14.6-7.

42. Memorabilia 12.39-47 and I 1.16.

43. Memorabilia I 2.31 ff.; IV 4.3.

44. Agesilaus 4.2. Compare Cyropaedia I 2.7.

45. Compare Memorabilia IV 8.11 with ibid. I 2.7 and Apol Socr. 26. See also Agesilaus 11.8. Compare Plato, Crito 49bl0 ff. (cf. Burnet ad loc.); Republic 335d11-13 and 486b10-12; Clitopho 410a7-b3; Aristotle, Politics 1255a17-18 and Rhetoric 1367b5-6.

46. Cyropaedia VIII 1.22. In Hiero 9.9-10 Simonides recommends honors for those who discover something useful for the city. There is a connection between this suggestion, which entails the acceptance of many and frequent changes, and the nature of tyrannical government as government not limited by laws. When Aristotle discusses the same suggestion which had been made by Hippodamus, he rejects it as dangerous to political stability and he is quite naturally led to state the principle that the "rule of law" requires as infrequent changes of laws as possible (Politics 1268a6-8, b 22 ff.). The rule of laws as the classics understood it can exist only in a "conservative" society. On the other hand, the speedy introduction of improvements of all kinds is obviously compatible with beneficent tyranny.

47. Hiero 11.10-11. Memorabilia III 9.10-13. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1313a9-10. It may be useful to compare the thesis of Xenophon with the thesis of such a convinced constitutionalist as Burke. Burke says (in his "Speech on a motion for leave to bring in a bill to repeal and alter certain acts respecting religious opinions"): " . . . it is not perhaps so much by the assumption of unlawful powers, as by the unwise or unwarrantable use of those which are most legal, that governments oppose their true end and object, for there is such a thing as tyranny as well as usurpation."

48. Cyropaedia 1. 3.18.

49. Compare Anabasis III 2.13. Incidentally, the fact mentioned in the text accounts for the way in which tyranny is treated in Xenophon's emphatically Greek work, the Hellenica.

50. Memorabilia III 9.12-13. Compare Plato, Laws 710c5-d1. We are now in a position to state more clearly than we could at the beginning (pp. 31-32 above) the conclusion to be drawn from the title of the Hiero. The title expresses the view that Hiero is a man of eminence (cf. III A, note 44 above), but of questionable eminence; that the questionable character of his eminence is revealed by the fact that he is in need of a teacher of the tyrannical art; and that this is due, not only to his particular shortcomings, but to the nature of tyranny as such. The tyrant needs essentially a teacher, whereas the king (Agesilaus and Cyrus, e.g.) does not. We need not insist on the reverse side of this fact, viz., that the tyrant rather than the king has any use for the wise man or the philosopher (consider the relation between Cyrus and the Armenian counterpart of Socrates in the Cyropaedia). If the social fabric is in order, if the regime is legitimate according to the generally accepted standards of legitimacy, the need for, and perhaps even the legitimacy of, philosophy is less evident than in the opposite case. Compare note 46 above and V, note 60 below.

51. For an example of such transformations, compare Cyropaedia 13.18 with ibid. 12.1.

52. Hiero 10.1-8. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1311a7-8 and 1314a34 ff.

53. Aristotle, Politics 1276b29-36; 1278b1-5; 1293b3-7.

54. Memorabilia I 2.9-11.

55. Compare pp. 56-57 above.

56. Memorabilia II 1.13-15.

57. Compare also the qualified praise of the good tyrant by the Athenian stranger in Plato's Laws (709d10 ff. and 735d). In 709d10 ff. the Athenian stranger declines responsibility for the recommendation of the use of a tyrant by emphatically ascribing that recommendation to "the legislator."

V. The Two Ways of Life

1. Memorabilia 11.8; IV 6.14.

2. Compare Hiero 1.2, 7 with Cyropaedia II 3.11 and VIII 3.35-48; Memorabilia II 1 and I 2.15-16; also Plato, Gorgias 500c-d.

3. Consider the twofold meaning of Image in Hiero 4.6. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1266a31-32. Whereas Hiero often uses "the tyrants" and "we" promiscuously, and Simonides often uses "the tyrants" and "you" promiscuously, Hiero makes only once a promiscuous use of "private men" and "you." Simonides speaks unambiguously of "we (private men)" in Hiero 1.5., 6 and 6.9. For other uses of the first person plural by Simonides see the following passages: 1.4, 6, 16; 8.2, 5; 9.4; 10.4; 11.2. Compare III a, note 35 and III b. notes 2 and 41 above. '

4. Rudolf Hirzel, loc cit., 170 n. 3: "Am Ende klingt aus allen diesen (im Umlauf befindlichen) Erzahlungen (uber Gesprache zwischen Weisen und Herrschern) ... dasselbe Thema wieder von dem Gegensatz, der zwischen den Machtigen der Erde und den Weisen besteht und in deren gesamter Lebansauffassung und Anschauungsweise zu Tage tritt." (Italics mine.)

5. Hiero 5.1. See p. 34 and III A, note 44 above.

6. Plato, Gorgias 500e-d. Aristotle, Politics 1324a24 ff.

7. Compare Hiero 9.2 with Memorabilia III 9.5, 10-11. Compare III A, note 32 above.

8. Memorabilia I 2.16, 39, 47-48; 6.15; II 9.1; III 11.16.

9. Hiero 7.13.

10. Compare Hiero 8.1-10.1 with ibid. 3.3-5 and 11.8-12.

11. Hiero 7.4. Compare ibid. 1.8-9 with 1.14, 16, 21-22, 24, 26 and 2.1-2.

12. The difference between Simonides' explicit statements and Hiero's interpretation of them appears most clearly from a comparison of Hiero 2.1-2 with the following passages: 2.3-5; 4.6; 6.12.

13. See pp. 39f and 51f and III B, notes 39 and 44 above. In the second part (i.e., the fourth section) to which he contributes about three times as much as to the first part, Simonides uses expressions like "it seems to me" or "I believe" much less frequently than in the first part, while he uses in the second part three times t')'w tPTJJ.Li which he never uses in the first part.

14. Hiero 7.2, 4. The ambiguity of Image in 7.4 ("above other men" or "differently from other men") is not accidental. Compare with Image in 7.4 the Image in 2.2, the Image in 1.29 and the Image in 1.8. Compare III A, note 8 and III B, notes 25 and 40 above.

15. Hiero 8.1-7. Compare III B, note 38 above.

16. Hiero 7.3-4.

17. See pp. 62 and 65 above. Regarding the connection between "honor" and "noble, " see Cyropaedia VII 1.13; Memorabilia III 1.1; 3.13; 5.28; Oeconomicus 21.6; Resp. Lac. 4.3-4; Hipparchicus 2.2.

18. Memorabilia II 7.7-14 and III 9.14-15. Cyropaedia VIII 3.40 ff.

19. Hiero 11.10; 1.13; 6.13. Compare Cyropaedia VII 2.26-29.

20. In Hiero 11.15, the only passage in which Simonides applies "happy" and "blessed" to individuals, he does not explain the meaning of these terms. In the two passages in which he speaks of the happiness of the city, he understands by happiness power, wealth, and renown (1I.5, 7. Cf Resp. Lac. 1.1-2). Accordingly, one could expect that he understands by the most noble and most blessed possession that possession of power, wealth, and renown which is not marred by envy. This expectation is, to say the least, not disproved by 11.13- 5. Compare also Cyropaedia VIII 7.6-7; Memorabilia IV 2.34-35; Oeconomicus 4.23-5.1; Hellenica IV 1.36.

21. It is Hiero who on a certain occasion alludes to this meaning of "happiness" (2.3-5). Compare III A, note 33 above.

22. Memorabilia IV 8.11; 16.14. Compare p. 42 and III A, note 25 above.

23. As for the danger of envy, see Hiero 11.6 and 7.10. As for the work and toil of the ruler, see 1I .15 (Image) and 7.1-2. Compare Memorabilia II 1.10.

24. De vectigalibus 4.5; Resp. Lac. 15.8; Symposium 3.9 and 4.2-3; Anabasis V 7.10. Compare also Cyropaedia I 6.24 and p. 62 above.

25. Memorabilia III 9.8; Cynegeticus 1.17. Compare Socrates' statements in the Memorabilia (IV 2.33) and the Apol. Socr. (26) with Xenophon's own statement in the Cynegeticus (1.1 1).

26. Compare note 23 above. Compare Memorabilia III 11.16; Oeconomicus 7.1 and 11.9; Symposium 4.44.

27. Memorabilia 1. 2.6; 5.6; 6.5; II 6.28-29; IV 1.2. Symposium 8.41. Compare Memorabilia IV 2.2 and Cyropaedia I 6.46. Consider the fact that the second part of the Hiero is characterized by the fairly frequent occurrence, not only of Image but of Image as well (see p. 65 above).

28. Memorabilia IV 5.2; Cyropaedia 15.12; Anabasis VII 7.41-42; Symposium 4.44.

29. Memorabilia II 4.5, 7; Oeconomicus 5.11. Compare III B, note 26 above.

30. As for the agreement between Simonides' final statement and the views expressed by Socrates and Xenophon, compare Hiero 11.5 with Memorabilia III 9.14, and Hiero 11.7 with Agesilaus 9.7.

31. Compare Oeconomicus 1.7 ff. with Cyropaedia I 3.17. Compare Isocrates, To Demonicus 28.

32. Memorabilia IV 5.6 and Apol. Socr. 21. Compare Memorabilia 112.3; 4.2; I 2.7. As regards the depreciating remark on wisdom in Memorabilia IV 2.33, one has to consider the specific purpose of the whole chapter as indicated at its beginning. Ruling over willing subjects is called an almost divine good, not by Socrates but by Ischomachus (Oeconomicus 21.11-12).

33. Memorabilia I 4 and 6.10; IV 2.1 and 6.7. Regarding the distinction between education and wisdom, see also Plato, Laws 653a5-c4 and 659c9 ff., and Aristotle, Politics 1282a3-8. Compare also Memorabilia II 1.27, where the Image of Heracles is presented as preceding his deliberate choice between virtue and vice.

34. Compare Hiero 3.2 (and 6.1-3) with the parallel in the Symposium (8.18).

35. Hiero 9.1-11. Simonides does not explain what the best things are. From 9.4 it appears that according to Xenophon's Simonides the things which are taught by the teachers of choruses do not belong to the best things: the instruction given by the teachers of choruses is not gratifying to the pupils, and instruction in the best things is gratifying to the pupils. Following Simonides, we shall leave it open whether the subjects mentioned in 9.6 (military discipline, horsemanship, justice in business dealings, etc.) meet the minimum requirements demanded of the best things, viz., that instruction in them is gratifying to the pupils. The fact that he who executes these things well is honored by prizes, does not prove that they belong to the best things (cf. 9.4 and Cyropaedia III 3.53). Whether the things Simonides teaches are the best things will depend on whether the instruction that he gives to the tyrant is gratifying to the latter. The answer to this question remains as ambiguous as Hiero's silence at the end of the dialogue. Xenophon uses in the Hiero the terms Image and Image fairly frequently (note especially the "meeting" of the two terms in 6.13 and 11.15). He thus draws our attention to the question of the relation of knowing and doing. He indicates his answer by the synonymous use of Image and Image in the opening passage (1.1-2; observe the density of Image). Knowledge is intrinsically good, whereas action is not (cf. Plato, Gorgias 467e ff.): to know to a greater degree is to know better, wheras to do to a greater degree is not necessarily to "do" better. Imageis as muchImage as is Image whereas Image is practically identical with not knowing at all. (See Cyroptudia III 3.9 and 113.13).

36. Hiero 9.9-10. The opposite view is stated by Isocrates in his To Nicocles 17.

37. The distinction suggested by Simonides between the wise and the rulers reminds one of Socrates' distinction between his own pursuit which consists in making people capable of political action on the one hand, and political activity proper on the other (Memorabilia I 6.15). According to Socrates, the specific understanding required of the ruler is not identical with wisdom, strictly speaking. (Compare the explicit definition of wisdom in Memorabilia IV 6.7-see also ibid. 6.1 and I 1.16 -- with the explicit definition of rule in III 9.10-13 where the term "wisdom" is studiously avoided.) In accordance with this, Xenophon hesitates to speak of the wisdom of either of the two Cyruses, and when calling Agesilaus "wise," he evidently uses the termina loose sense, not to say in the vulgar sense (Agesalaus 6.4-8 and 11.9). In the Cyropaedia, he adumbrates the relation between the ruler and the wise man by the conversations between Cyrus on the one hand, his father (whose manner of speaking is reminiscent of that of Socrates) and Tigranes (the pupil of a sophist whose fate is reminiscent of the fate of Socrates) on the other. Compare pp. 34 and 65 above. Compare IV, note 50 above.

38. See pp. 40-41 above. Compare Plato, Republic 620c3-d2.

39. See pp. 22-23 above. Compare Plato, Republic 581e6-582e9.

40. "Honor seems to be something great" and "no human pleasure seems to come nearer to divinity than the enjoyment connected with honors." (Hiero 7.1, 4). See also the Image in 7.2 and the Image in 7.4. Compare III B, note 41 above.

41. Since the preferences of a wise man are wise, we may say that Simonides reveals his wisdom in his statement on honor to a much higher degree than in his preceding utterances. The effect of that statement on Hiero would therefore ultimately be due to the fact that through it he faces Simonides' wisdom for the first time in the conversation. Without doubt, he interprets Simonides' wisdom, at least to begin with, in accordance with his own view -- the vulgar view -- of wisdom. Compare note 12 above.

42. Image (Hiero 7.3). Compare Cyropaedia I 2.1-2 and Oeconomicus 13.9.

43. In Hiero 8.5-6 (as distinguished from ibid. 7.1-4) Simonides does not suggest that rulers are honored more than private men. He does not say that only rulers, and not private men, are honored by the gods (cf. Apol. Socr. 14-18). He says that a given individual is honored more highly when being a ruler than when living as a private man; he does not exclude the possibility that that individual is in all circumstances less honored than another man who never rules. In the last part of 8.5 he replaces "ruler" by the more general "those honored above others" (cf. Apol. Socr. 21). The bearing of 8.6 is still more limited as appears from a comparison of the passage with 2.1 and 7.3. Love of honor may seem to be characteristic of those wise men who converse with tyrants. Plato's Socrates says of Simonides that he was desirous of honor in regard to wisdom (Protagoras 343b7-c3).

44. Hiero 3.1, 6, 8. Compare ibid. 1.19, 21-23, 29 and 4.8. See III B, note 34 above.

45. Compare Hiero 3.1-9 with ibid. 8.1 and 11.8 (the emphatic "you"). See also Hieros' last utterance in 10.1. Hiero's praise of honor in 7.9-10 is clearly not spontaneous but solicited by Simonides' praise of honor in 7.1-4. Hiero's praise of honor differs from Simonides' in this, that only according to the former is love a necessary element of honor. Furthermore, it should be noted that Hiero makes a distinction between pleasure and the satisfaction of ambition (1.27). Xenophon's characterization of Hiero does not contradict the. obvious fact that the tyrant is desirous of honors (cf. 4.6 as well as the emphasis on Hiero's concern with being loved with Aristotle's analysis in Eth. Nic. 1159a12 ff.). But Xenophon asserts by implication that the tyrant's, or the ruler's, desire for honor is inseparable from the desire fur being loved by human beings. The most obvious explanation of the fact that Hiero stresses "love" and Simonides stresses "honor" would of course be this: Hiero stresses the things which the tyrant lacks, whereas Simonides stresses the things which the tyrant enjoys. Now, tyrants are commonly hated (cf. Aristotle, Politics 1312b19-20) but they are honored. This explanation is correct but insufficient because it does not account fur Simonides' genuine concern with honor or praise and for his genuine indifference to being loved by human beings.

46. Compare Hiero 7.1-4 with ibid. 1.16 and the passages cited in the preceding note. The forms of honor other than praise and admiration partake of the characteristic features of love rather than of those of praise and admiration. The fact that Simonides speaks in the crucial passage (Hiero 7.1-4) of honor in general, is due to his adaptation to Hiero's concern with love. Consider also the emphasis on honor rather than on praise in ch. 9.

47. Plato, Gorgias 481d4-5 and 513c7-8. Compare also the characterization of the tyrant in the Republic (see III B, note 12 above). As regards the disagreement between Hiero and Simonides concerning the status of "human beings, " compare the disagreement between the politician and the philosopher on the same subject in Plato's Laws (804b5-cl).

48. This explains also the different attitude of the two types to envy. See p. 84 above.

49. Compare Plato, Gorgias 481d4-5.

50. Hiero 11.8-15. Compare Agesilaus 6.5 and 11.15.

51. Hiero 7.9. Compare Plato, Republic 330c3-6 and Laws 873c2-4; Aristotle, Politics 1262b22-24. Compare also p. 34 and II, note 22 above. Cf. 1 Peter 1.8 and Cardinal Newman's comment: "St. Peter makes it almost a description of the Christian, that he loves whom he has not seen."

52. Simonides fr. 99 Bergk.

53. Cf. the use of Image in the sense of fellow-citizens as opposed to strangers or enemies in Hiero 11.15, Memorabilia I 3.3, and Cyropaedia II 2.15.

54. Hiero 8.1-7. That this is not the last word of Xenophon on love, appears most clearly from Oeconomicus 20.29.

55. Compare Hiero 7.9 and 11.14-15 with Hellenica VII 3.12 (Cyropaedia III 3.4) and Memorabilia IV 8.7. The popular view is apparently adopted in Aristotle's Politics 1286b11-12 (cf. 1310b33 ff.). Compare Plato, Gorgias 513e5 ff. and 520e7-11.

56. Compare Hiero 7.9 with ibid. 7.1-4.

57. Men of excellence in an emphatic sense are Hesiod, Epicharmus, and Prodicus (Memorabilia II 1.20-21). Compare also Memorabilia I 4.2-3 and 6.14.

58. Memorabilia I 2.3 and 6.10. Simonides' statement that no human pleasure seems to come nearer to the divine than the enjoyment connected with honors (Hiero 7.4) is ambiguous. In particular, it may refer to the belief that the very gods derive pleasure from being honored (whereas they presumably do not enjoy the other pleasures
discussed in the dialogue) or it may refer to the connection between the highest ambition and godlike self-sufficiency. Compare VI note 6 below.

59. As for the connection between this kind of selfishness and wisdom, compare Plato, Gorgias 458a2-7 and the definition of justice in the Republic. Considerations which were in one respect similar to those indicated in our text seem to have induced Hegel to abandon his youthful "dialectics of love" in favor of the "dialectics of the desire for recognition." See A. Kojeve, Introduction a l'etude de Hegel, Paris (Gallimard), 1947, 187 and 510-12, and the same author's "Hegel, Marx et le Christianisme," Critique, 1946, 350-52.

60. Compare Simonides' disparaging remark on a kind of pleasure which is enjoyed by others rather than by oneself in Hiero 1.24 (cf. III B, note 11 above). Consider also the ambiguity of "food" (Memorabilia III 5.10; Plato, Protagoras 313c5-7). As regards the connection between friendship ("love") and sex, cf. Hiero 1.33, 36--38 and 7.6. The explanation suggested in the text can easily be reconciled with the fact that Hiero's concern with the pleasures of sex, if taken literally, would seem to characterize him, not as a ruler in general, but as an imperfect ruler. Xenophon's most perfect ruler, the older Cyrus, is characterized by the almost complete absence of concern with such pleasures. What is true of the perfect ruler, is still more true of the wise: whereas Cyrus does not dare to look at the beautiful Panthea, Socrates visits the beautiful Theodore without any hesitation (cf Cyropaedia V 1.7 ff. with Memorabilia III 11.1; Memorabilia 12.1 and 3.8- 5; Oeconomicus 12.13-14; Agesilaus 5.4-5). To use the Aristotelian terms, whereas Cyrus is continent, Socrates is temperate or moderate. In other words, Cyrus' temperance is combined with inability or unwillingness to look at the beautiful or to admire it (cf. Cyropaedia V 1.8 and VIII 1.42), whereas Socrates' temperance is the foundation for his ability and willingness to look at the beautiful and to admire it. To return to Hiero, he reveals a strong interest in the pleasures of sight (Hiero 1.11-13; cf. 11.10). He is concerned not so much with the pleasures of sex in general as with those of homosexuality. This connects him somehow with Socrates: love of men seems to bespeak a higher aspiration than love of women. (Symposium 8.2, 29; Cyropaedia II 2.28; Plato, Symposium 208d ff. Cf. Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois VII 9 note: "Quant au vrai amour, dit Plutarque, les femmes n'y ont aucune part. II parlait comme son siecle. Voyez Xenophon, au dialogue intitule Hieron.") Hiero is presented as a ruler who is capable of conversing with the wise and of appreciating them (cf. III A, note 44 above). Does Hiero's education explain why he is not a perfect ruler? Only the full understanding of the education of Cyrus would enable one to answer this question. Compare IV, note 50 above.

61. Hiero 11.7, 11-15. Memorabilia I 2.11.

62. Hiero 6.9. How little Simonides impresses Hiero, a good judge in this matter, as being warlike, is indicated by the latter's "if you too have experience of war" (6.7) as compared with his "I know well that you too have experience" regarding the pleasures of the table (1.19). Cf. also ibid. 1.29, 23. Consider Simonides' silence about "manliness" (p. 64 above), and compare III B, notes 18 and 38, and III C, note 6 above.

63. Hiero 11.7. In the parallel in the Agesilaus (9.7) the qualifying words "among human beings" are omitted.

64. Hiero 2.7-18. (Consider the conditional clauses in 2.7.) The emphasis in this passage is certainly on war. The passage consists of two parts: In the first part (2.7-11) in which Hiero shows that if peace is good and war bad, tyrants are worse off than private citizens, "peace" occurs three times and "war" (and derivations) seven times, in the second part (2.12-18) in which he shows that as regards the pleasures of war-or more specifically as regards the pleasures of wars waged against forcibly subjected people, i.e., against rebellious subjects-tyrants are worse off than private citizens, "peace" does not occur at all but "war" (and derivatives) occurs seven times.

65. Plato, Republic 566e6-567a9. Aristotle, Politics 1313b28-30 and 1305a18-22.

66. Cyropaedia I 4.24; VII 1.13. Memorabilia III 1.6. Compare Plato, Republic 375c1-2 and 537a6-7 with Aristotle, Politics 1327b38-1328a11.

67. Hiero 1.34-35. As regards the relation between Eros and Ares, compare Simonides fr. 43 Bergk and Aristotle, Politics 1269b24-32.

68. Hiero 6.5; compare ibid. 6.14.

69. Hiero 2.2; 6.12-14. Compare the use of the second person singular in 6.13 on the one hand, and in 6.14 on the other.

70. Hiero 5.1. Apol. Socr. 16. Memorabilia I 6.10. Socrates does not teach strategy whereas he does teach economics (compare Memorabilia III I and IV 7.1 with the Oeconomicus). Compare Plato, Republic 366c7-di and the passages indicated in IV, note 45 above.

VI. Pleasure and Virtue

1. Compare Memorabilia IV 8.11.

2. See pp. 45-48 and III a, note 44 above.

3. Compare Hiero 8.6 with ibid. 2.1 and 7.3. Compare Hiero 5.1-2 with ibid. 3.1-9 and 6.1- on the one hand, and with Memorabilia II 4 and I 6.14 on the other. Compare Hiero 1.11- 4 with Memorabilia II 1.31: Hiero does not mention one's own virtuous actions as the most pleasant sight. Compare Hiero 3.2 with Symposium 8.18: he does not mention the common enjoyment of friends about their noble actions among the pleasures of friendship. He replaces Simonides' Image by Image (Hiero 2.2 and 4.7).

4. Hiero 7.9-10.

5. Aristotle's suggestions for the improvement of tyrannical government (in the fifth book of the Politics) are more akin in spirit to Xenophon's suggestions than to Isocrates'; they are, however, somewhat more moralistic than those made in the Hiero.

6. Fr. 71 Bergk. When Xenophon's Simonides says that no human pleasure seems to come nearer to the divine than the enjoyment connected with honors, he may imply that "the divine" is pure pleasure. Compare V, note 58 above.

7. Compare Hiero 4.10 with frs. 5, 38, 39 and 42 Bergk. Compare Plato, Protagoras 346b5-8. Compare also Simonides' definition of nobility as old wealth with Aristotle's view according to which it is not so much wealth as virtue that is of the essence of nobility (Politics 1255a32 ff., 1283a33-38, 1301b3-4).

8. Lyra Graeca, ed. by J. M. Edmonds, vol. 2, revised and augmented edition, 258. Compare p. 64 above. See Hellenica II 3.19 and Apol. Socr. 30.

9. Lyra Graeca, ed. cit., 250, 256 and 260. Compare Plato, Protagoras 316d3-7, 338e6 ff. and 340e9 ff.; also Republic 331el-4 and context (Simonides did not say that to say the truth is of the essence of justice).

10. Compare pp. 34, 40, 5lf., 53, 55f., 76f.

11. Compare pp. 87 ff. above.

12. This would also explain why Simonides emphasizes somewhat later the pleasures connected with food: food is the fundamental need of all animals (Memorabilia II 1.1). In Hiero 7.3, where he hides his wisdom to a lesser degree than in the preceding sections, he does not call, as he did in 2.1, the pleasures of the body "small things."

13. Compare Memorabilia I 4.5 and IV 3.11.

14. Compare Plato, Theatetus 184c5-7 and 185e6-7.

15. Hiero 1.1. Compare the Image in 2.5 with the Image in 8.6.

16. Hiero 1.5. A remark which Simonides makes later on (9.10) might induce one to believe that he identified the good with the useful, and this might be thought to imply that the end for which the good things are useful, is pleasure. This interpretation would not take account of the facts which we discuss in the text. Simonides must therefore be presumed to have distinguished between the good which is good because it is useful for something else, and the good which is intrinsically good and not identical with the pleasant.

17. Hiero 1.22.

18. Hiero 1.9; 2.1; 7.3.

19. See the reference to the divine in Hiero 7.4.

20. Hiero 1.27; 3.3; 6.16.

21. The importance of the problem "fatherland-friendship" for the understanding of the Hiero is shown by the fact that that problem determines the plan of the bulk of the second section (ch. 3-6). This is the plan of ch. 3-6: I (a) friendship (3.1-9); (b) trust (4.1-2); (c) fatherland (4.3-5). II (a) possessions (4.6-11); (b) good men or the virtues (5.1-2); (c) fatherland (5.3-4). III (a) pleasures of private men (6.1-3); (b) fear, protection, laws (6.4- I); (c) helping friends and hurting enemies (6.12-15). The difference between "fatherland" and "trust" is not as clear-cut as that between either of them and "friendship": both fatherland and trust are good with regard to protection, or freedom from fear, whereas friendship is intrinsically pleasant. "Friendship" can be replaced by "possessions" for the reason given in Hiero 3.6, Memorabilia II 4.3-7 and Oeconomicus 1.14; "friendship" can be replaced by "pleasures of private men" for the reason given in Hiero 6.1-3. "Trust" can be replaced by "virtue" (cf. Plato, Laws 630b2-c6) as well as by "protection" (trustworthiness is the specific virtue of guards: Hiero 6.II). "Fatherland" can be replaced by "helping the friends and hurting the enemies" with a view to the fact that helping the friends, i.e., the fellow citizens, and hurting the enemies, i.e., the enemies of the city, is the essence of patriotism (cf. Symposium 8.38). The same distinction which governs the plan of ch. 36, governs the plan of ch. 8-II as well: (a) friendship (ch. 8-9; see 10.1); (b) protection (guards) (ch. 10); (c) fatherland or city (ch. 11; see 11.1).

22. Compare Hiero 3.3 with 4.1 on the one hand, and with 4.3-5 on the other. Compare 4.2 and 6.11.

23. Hiero 4.3-4. Compare 6.6, 10. In what may best be called the repetition of the statement on the fatherland (5.3-4), Hiero says it is necessary to be patriotic because one cannot be preserved or be happy without the city. Compare the Image in 5.3 with the Image in 4.1. From 5.3-4 it appears that the power and renown of the fatherland is normally pleasant. When speaking of friendship, Hiero had not spoken of the power and renown of friends; he had not implied that only powerful and renowned friends are pleasant (compare Agesilaus 11.3). Not the fatherland, but power and renown are pleasant, and the power and renown of one's city are pleasant because they contribute to one's own power and renown. Compare Hiero II.13. When speaking of the pleasures which he enjoyed while being a private man, Hiero mentions friendship; he does not mention the city or the fatherland (6.1-3).

24. Hiero 4.3-4 and 5.3.

25. Compare Hiero 4.3 and 10.4 with 6.10.

26. Hiero 9.2-4 (cf. 1.37; 5.2-3; 8.9). Compare also Hiero's emphasis (in his statement on friendship: 3.7-9) on the relations within the family, with the opposite emphasis in Xenophon's account of Socrates' character (Memorabilia II 2-10): the blood relations are "necessary" (Memorabilia II 1.14). Cyropaedia IV 2.11. Anabasis VII 7.29. Memorabilia II 1.18. Compare Aristotle, Rhetoric 1370a8-17 and Empedocles fr. 116 (Diels, Vorsakratiker, first ed.). See V, note 27 above.

27. Compare Hiero 5.3 and 4.9 with 3.1-9.

28. Observe that friendship and virtue occur in different columns of the plan of ch. 3-6 (see note 21 above). Compare Hiero's praise of the friend with Socrates' praise of the good friend (Memorabilia II 4 and 6).

29. Hiero II.14.

30. Hiero 11.1, 5-6. Compare pp. 87 ff. above.

31. Compare Hellenica I 7.21.

32. Compare Hiero 4.3 with Memorabilia II 3.2 and 1.13-15.

33. Only the fairly short first part of the Memorabilia (I 1-2) deals with "Socrates and the city, " whereas the bulk of the work deals with "Socrates' character"; see the two perorations: I 2.62-64 and IV 8.11. As regards the plan of the Memorabilia, see Emma Edelstein, Xenophontisches und Platonisches Bild des Sokrates, Berlin, 1935, 78-137.

34. Isocrates, Antidosis 155-56.

35. Anabasis III 1.4-9; V 6.15-37. Compare ibid. V 3.7 and VII 7.57. The sentiment of Proxenus is akin to that expressed by Hermes in Aristophanes' Plutus 1151 (Ubi bene ibi patria). (Compare Hiero 5.1 and 6.4 with Plutus 1 and 89.). Compare Cicero, Tusc. disput. V 37.106 ff.

36. Anabasis V 3.6 and Hellenica IV 3.15 (cf. IV 2.17).

37. B. G. Niebuhr, "Ueber Xenophons Hellenika," Kleine historische und philosophische Schriften, I, Bonn, 1828, 467: "Wahrlich einen ausgearteteren Sohn hat kein Staat jemals ausgestossen als diesen Xenophon. Plato war auch kein guter Burger, Athens wert war er nicht, unbegreifliche Schritte hat er getan, er steht wie ein Sunder gegen die Heiligen, Thukydides und Demosthenes, aber doch wie ganz anders als dieser alte Tor!"

38. Hiero 4.3-5 and 5.3.

39. See pp. 75f. above.

40. Cyropaedia II 2.24-26. Dakyns comments on the passage as follows: "Xenophon's breadth of view: virtue is not confined to citizens, but we have the pick of the whole world. Cosmopolitan Hellenism." Consider the conditional clauses in Agesilaus 7.4, 7. Compare Hipparchicus 9.6 and De vectigalibus 2.1-5.

41. Compare Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, Everyman's Library ed., p. 59, on the one hand, and Pascal, Provinciales XIII as well as Kant, "Uber den Gemeinspruch: Das mag in the Theorie richtig sein, taugt aber nicht fur die Praxis," on the other.

42. Socrates' statement that cities and nations are "the wisest of human things" (Memorabilia I 4.16) does not mean then that the collective wisdom of political societies is superior to the wisdom of wise individuals. The positive meaning of the statement cannot be established but by detailed interpretation of the conversation during which the statement is made.

43. The only special virtues of which Simonides speaks with some emphasis, are moderation and justice. Moderation may be produced by fear, the spoiler of all pleasures (Hiero 10.2-3 and 6.6; cf. IV, note 35 above), and it goes along with lack of leisure (9, 8). As for justice, Simonides speaks once of a special kind of justice, the justice in business relations, and twice of "doing injustice" (9.6 and 10.8). Now, the term "justice" designates in Xenophon's works a variety of kindred phenomena which range from the most narrow legalism to the confines of pure and universal beneficence. Justice may be identical with moderation, it may be a subdivision of moderation, and it may be a virtue apart from moderation. It is certain that Simonides does not understand by justice legality, and there is no reason to suppose that he identified justice with beneficence. He apparently holds a considerably more narrow view of justice than does Hiero. (For Hiero's view of justice, see especially 5.1-2 and 4.11.) He replaces Hiero's "unjust men" by "those who commit unjust actions" (for the interpretation consider Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1134a17 ff.). Whereas Hiero identifies justice and moderation by using Image and Image synonymously, Simonides distinguishes the two virtues from each other: he identifies Image and Image and he distinguishes between Image and Image (see 8.9; 9.8; 10.8, 2-4; cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1389b7-8 and 1390a17-18; Plato, Protagoras 326a4-5). It seems that Simonides understands by justice the abstaining from harming others (cf. Agesilaus 11.8 and Memorabilia IV 4.11-12; consider Symposium 4.15) and that he thus makes allowance for the problem inherent in benefiting "human beings" (as distinguished from "real men" or "men of excellence"). It is easy to see that justice thus understood, as distinguished from its motives and results, is not intrinsically pleasant.

44. Memorabilia 111.23, 26, 29.

45. Diogenes Laertius 1165-66.

46. Compare Memorabilia 111.34 with ibid 16.13, Symposium 1.5 and 4.62 and Cynegeticus 13.

47. Memorabilia 13.8-13.

48. Compare Hiero 11.15 with Anabasis VII 7.41. See Anabasis II 1.12 (cf. Simonides fr. 5 Bergk) and Cyropaedia I 5.8-10; also Agesilaus 10.3.

49. V. Brochard, Etudes de philosophie ancienne et de philosophie moderne, Paris (Vrin), 1926, 43.

50. Compare III A, note 27 and IV, note 25 above.

51. Memorabilia IV 6.15.

52. Memorabilia IV 8.6-8 (cf. 16.9 and IV 5.9-10). Apol. Socr. 5-6 and 32.

53. Compare Plato, Republic 357b4-358a3.

54. Apol. Socr. 5. Compare Memorabilia II 1.19. Regarding sibi ipsi placere see especially Spinoza, Ethics Ill, aff. deff. 25. As for the difference between Socrates and Simonides, compare also p. 94 above.

VII. Piety and Law

1. De vectigalibus 6.2-3. Compare pp. 3lf. above.

2. When Simonides suggests to Hiero that he should spend money for the adornment of his city with temples inter alia (Hiero 11.1-2), he does not admonish him to practice piety; he merely advises him to spend his money in a way proper to a ruler. Aristotle's ethics which is silent about piety, mentions expenses for the worship of the gods under the heading "munificence." (Eth. Nic. 1122b19-23. Compare Politics 1321a35 ff. Cf. also J. F. Gronovius' note to Grotius' De jure belli ac pacis, Prolegg. §45: "Aristoteli ignoscendum, si inter virtutes morales non posuit religionem.... Nam illi ut veteribus omnibus extra Ecclesiam cultus deorum sub magnificentia ponitur.")

3. Agesilaus 1.34 and Anabasis III 2.13. Compare Plato, Republic 573c3-6.

4. Politics 1314b39 ff. No remark of this kind occurs in Aristotle's discussion of the preservation of the other regimes in the fifth book of the Politics. Cyropaedia VIII 1.23. Compare Isocrates, To Nicocles 20 and Machiavelli, Principle XVIII.

5. Memorabilia IV 6.2-4.

6. Memorabilia IV8.11; I 4; IV 3.

7. Hiero 3.9. Compare Oeconomicus 7.16, 29-30 (cf. 7.22-28).

8. Cicero, De natura deorum I 22.60.

9. Image and Image (or derivatives) occur in Hiero 1.22, 31, 33; 3.9; 7.3; 9.8 Image occurs in 3.5; 4.2; 8.5. To Image occurs in 7.4. Compare the remarks on Image in 4.5, 11 with Hellenica VI 4.30.

10. Compare Anabasis V 2.24-25 and Plato, Laws 709b7-8. Considering the relation between "nature" and "truth" (Oeconomicus 10.2 and Memorabilia II 1.22), the distinction between nature and law may imply the view that the law necessarily contains fictitious elements. In Riera 3.3 Hiero says: "It has not even escaped the cities that friendship is a very great good and most pleasant to human beings. At any rate, many cities have a law (Image) that only adulterers may be killed with impunity, evidently for this reason, because they believe (Image) that they (the adulterers) are the destroyers of the wives' friendship with their husbands." The law that adulterers may be killed with impunity is based on the belief that the adulterers as distinguished from the wives are responsible for the wives' faithlessness. The question arises whether this belief is always sound. Xenophon alludes to this difficulty by making Hiero take up the question of the possible guilt of the wife in the subsequent sentence: "Since when the wife has been raped, husbands do not honor their wives any less on that account, provided the wives' love remains inviolate." It seems that the men's belief in the modesty of women is considered conducive to that modesty. Compare Montesquieu, De l'esprit des lois VI 17: "Parce que les hommes sont mechants, la loi est obligee de les supposer meilleurs qu'ils ne sont. Ainsi ... on juge ... que tout enfant concu pendant le mariage est legitime; la loi a confiance en la mere comme si elle etait la pudicite meme." Cf also Rousseau, Emile V (ed. Garnier, vol. 2, 147-48) Similarly, by considering (Image) one's sons as the same thing as one's life or soul (Riera 11.14), whereas in truth one's sons are not one's life or soul, one will be induced to act more beneficently than one otherwise would.

11. Anabasis II 6.19-20 (cf Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1179b4 ff). Symposium 4.19.
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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:31 am


Alexandre Kojeve: Tyranny and Wisdom [1]

In my opinion it is not only Xenophon who is important in the book Strauss has devoted to him. Perhaps in spite of what its author may think about it, this book of Strauss's is truly important not because it purports to reveal to us the authentic and misunderstood thought of a contemporary and compatriot of Plato's, but because of the problem which it raises and discusses.

Xenophon's dialogue, as interpreted by Strauss, sets a disillusioned tyrant who claims to be discontented with his condition as a tyrant, against a wise man who has come from afar to advise him on how to govern his State in a way that will provide him with satisfaction from the exercise of tyranny. Xenophon makes these two characters speak, and he tells us between the lines what to think about what they say. Strauss fully spells out Xenophon's thought, and tells us between the lines what to think about it. More precisely, by presenting himself in his book not as a wise man in possession of knowledge but as a philosopher in quest of it, Strauss tells us not what to think about all this, but only what to think about when speaking of the relations between tyranny or government in general on the one hand, and Wisdom or philosophy on the other. In other words, he leaves it at raising problems; but he raises them with a view to solving them.

It is about some of these problems explicitly or implicitly raised by Strauss in the preceding pages that I should like to speak in what follows.

Let us first take up the question of tyranny.

Let us note that it is not Hiero who asks Simonides for advice on how to exercise tyranny. Simonides gives him that advice spontaneously. Still, the fact remains that Hiero listens to it (in a moment of leisure, it is true). And having heard it, he says nothing. That silence shows us that he has nothing to say in response. We may therefore conclude that he judges, as we ourselves do, following Xenophon and Strauss, that Simonides's advice is full of wisdom. But since he does not say so, and since he does not say that he will follow it, we assume that he will do nothing of the kind. And that was probably Simonides's own opinion, for according to Xenophon he does not even ask whether Hiero intends to implement the advice he has just given him.

Faced with this situation, we are naturally inclined to be shocked. We do, to be sure, understand why Hiero was willing to listen attentively to Simonides's advice since, by his own admission, he was unable to exercise his tyranny on his own in a way that was satisfying, if only to himself. But we, if we had been "in his place," would spontaneously have asked for advice just as soon as we became aware of our inability. We would even have done so "long ago;" and not in a moment of leisure, but "dropping everything." Above all, as soon as we had realized how excellent the advice was which we had received, we would have loudly proclaimed it, and done everything in our power to implement it. And, once again, we would have done so "dropping everything."

But before yielding to this natural impulse, I believe that we ought to reflect. Let us first ask ourselves whether it is really true that "in Hiero's place" we could have carried out our noble intentions by "dropping everything." Hiero himself does not think so, since he says to Simonides (end of ch. 7): "In this too is tyranny most miserable: it is not possible to be rid of it." And he may be right. For the tyrant always has some "current business" which it is impossible to drop without first completing it. And it may well be that the nature of this business is such that to attend to it proves incompatible with the measures that would have to be taken in order to implement the wise man's advice, or more exactly, in order to institute the ideal state of things which he recommends. It may also be that it takes more years to conclude "current business" than there are years in the tyrant's own life. And what if some of it required centuries of effort to conclude fully?

Hiero draws Simonides's attention to the fact that in order to come to power, the tyrant necessarily has to take, let us say, "unpopular" measures (in fact, Hiero considers them "criminal"). Simonides does not deny it, but he asserts that the tyrant could maintain himself in power without recourse to violence, by taking appropriate measures to achieve "popularity." But Simonides does not say how to go about abrogating the "unpopular" measures without immediately imperiling the tyrant's life or power (and hence also imperiling the very reforms which he was ready to introduce as a result of the wise man's intervention), or even the State's existence as such. Nor does he explain how the nonviolent "popular" regime could have been established without abrogating the measures in question.

Yet that is obviously what Simonides should have explained to Hiero if he had really wanted him to follow his advice. By not doing so, Simonides seems to have behaved not so much like a wise man as like a typical "Intellectual" who criticizes the real world in which he lives from the standpoint of an "ideal" constructed in the universe of discourse, an "ideal" to which one attributes an "eternal" value, primarily because it does not now exist and never has existed in the past. In fact, Simonides presents his "ideal" in the form of a "utopia." For the ideal presented in the form of a "utopia" differs from the same ideal presented as an "active" (revolutionary) idea precisely in this, that the utopia does not show us how, here and now, to begin to transform the given concrete reality with a view to bringing it into conformity with the proposed ideal in the future.

Strauss may therefore be right in telling us that Simonides, who believes he is a wise man, is really only a poet. Confronted by a poetical vision, a dream, a utopia, Hiero reacts not like a "tyrant," but simply like a statesman, and a "liberal" statesman at that. In order not to encourage his critics, he does not want to proclaim openly that he recognizes the "theoretical" value of the ideal Simonides depicts to him. He does not want to do so not only because he knows that he could not actualize this ideal (in the present state of things), but also, and above all, because he is not told what first step he would have to take in order to move toward it. Hence, like a good liberal, he leaves it at remaining silent: he does nothing, decides nothing, and allows Simonides to speak and to depart in peace.

According to Strauss, Xenophon was perfectly well aware of the necessarily utopian character of the sort of advice Simonides offers. He presumably thought that the "enlightened" and "popular" tyranny he has Simonides depict is an unrealizable ideal, and that the aim of his Dialogue is to convince us that it would therefore be better to renounce tyranny in any form before even having tried to establish it. Strauss and Xenophon thus appear to reject the very idea of "tyrannical" government. But that is another question entirely and, what is more, it is an extremely difficult question. Advice against tyranny would no longer have anything to do with the advice a wise man might give a tyrant with a view to an "ideal" tyranny.

In order to gauge the meaning and true import of this new advice, one would have to know whether, in certain specific cases, renouncing "tyranny" would not be tantamount to renouncing government altogether, and whether that would not entail either the ruin of the State, or abandoning any real prospect of progress in a particular State or for the whole of mankind (at least at a given historical moment). But before we take up that question, we have to see whether Hiero, Simonides, Xenophon, and Strauss are really right in asserting that the "ideal" tyranny sketched by Simonides is only a utopia.

Now, when one reads the last three chapters of the Dialogue, in which Simonides describes the "ideal" tyranny, one finds that what might have appeared utopian to Xenophon has nowadays become an almost commonplace reality. Indeed, here is what is said in those chapters. First of all, the tyrant should distribute all kinds of" prizes," especially honorific ones, in order to establish "Stakhanovite" emulation in his State in the fields of agriculture, industry, and commerce (ch. 9). Next, instead of maintaining a mercenary corps of bodyguards, the tyrant should organize a State police (which will "always be needed"), and a permanent armed force which would serve as the nucleus of the army mobilized in case of war (ch. 10). Besides, the tyrant should not disarm his subjects, but introduce compulsory military service, and resort to general mobilization if necessary. Finally, he should spend a part of his "personal" fortune for the common good and construct public buildings rather than palaces. Generally speaking, the tyrant would gain his subjects' "affection" by making them happier and by considering "the fatherland his estate, the citizens his comrades" (ch. 11).

It is understandable that Xenophon should have considered all this utopian. Indeed, he knew only tyrannies exercised for the benefit of an already established social class, or for the sake of personal or family ambitions, or with the vague idea of doing better than anyone else, though wanting the same thing they did. He had not seen "tyrannies" exercised in the service of truly revolutionary political, social, or economic ideas (that is to say, in the service of objectives differing radically from anything already in existence) with a national, racial, imperial, or humanitarian basis. But it is surprising to find our contemporary, Strauss, apparently sharing this way of looking at things. Personally, I do not accept Strauss's position in this matter, because in my opinion the Simonides-Xenophon utopia has been actualized by modern "tyrannies" (by Salazar, for example). It may even be that what was utopian in Xenophon's time could be actualized at a later time precisely because the time needed to conclude the "current business" I spoke about has elapsed, and that that "current business" had to be concluded before the measures needed to actualize the ideal advocated by Simonides could be taken. But does it follow that these modern "tyrannies" are (philosophically) justified by Xenophon's Dialogue? Are we to conclude that the modern "tyrant" could actualize the "philosophic" ideal of tyranny without recourse to the advice of the Wise or of the philosophers, or must we grant that he could do so only because a Simonides once advised a Hiero?

I will try to answer the second question below. As for the first, in order to answer it we will have to go to the heart of the matter.

At the culminating point of the Dialogue (ch. 7), Simonides explains to Hiero that his grievances against tyranny are worthless because men's supreme goal and ultimate motive is honor and, as regards honor, the tyrant is better off than anyone else.

Let us briefly pause at this argument. Simonides adopts, in full self-awareness, the "pagan" or even "aristocratic" existential attitude which Hegel will later call that of the "Master" (as opposed to the attitude of the "Slave," which is that of "Judeo-Christian" or even "bourgeois" man). And Simonides states this view in an extremely radical manner. Indeed, when he says that "honor is something great, and human beings undergo all toil and endure all danger striving for it," his point is not simply that man struggles and labors exclusively for the sake of glory. He goes very much further, asserting that "a real man differs from the other animals in this striving for honor." But like any consistent "pagan," "aristocrat," or "Master," Simonides does not believe that the quest for glory is the distinctive feature of all creatures with a human form. The quest for glory is specifically and necessarily characteristic only of born Masters, and it is irremediably missing in "servile" natures which, by that very fact, are not truly human (and deserve to be treated accordingly). "Those in whom love of honor and praise arises by nature are the ones who already far surpass the brutes, and who are also believed to be no longer human beings merely [in appearance only], but real men." And these "real" men who live for glory are to a certain extent "divine" beings. For, "no human pleasure comes closer to what is divine than the joy concerning honors."

This "aristocratic" and "pagan" profession of faith would no doubt have shocked the "bourgeois" who did (or do) live in the Judeo-Christian world. In that world neither philosophers nor even tyrants said such things, and insofar as they wanted to justify tyranny, they used other arguments. It would be vain to enumerate them all because, in my opinion, only one of them is really valid. But that one deserves our full attention. I think it would be false to say, with Simonides, that only the "desire to be honored" and the "joy which comes from honor" makes one "endure any labor and brave any danger." The joy that comes from labor itself, and the desire to succeed in an undertaking, can, by themselves alone, prompt a man to undertake painful and dangerous labors (as is already shown in the ancient myth of Hercules). A man can work hard risking his life for no other reason than to experience the joy he always derives from carrying out his project or, what is the same thing, from transforming his "idea" or even "ideal" into a reality shaped by his own efforts. A child, alone on a beach, makes sand-patties which he will perhaps never show anyone; and a painter may cover the cliffs of some desert island with drawings, knowing all the while that he will never leave it. Thus, although that is an extreme case, a man can aspire to tyranny in the same way that a "conscientious" and "enthusiastic" workman can aspire to adequate conditions for his labor. Indeed, a "legitimate" monarch who attains and retains power without effort and who is not susceptible to glory could, nevertheless, avoid sinking into a life of pleasure, and devote himself actively to the government of the State. But that monarch, and in general the "bourgeois" statesman who renounces glory on principle, will exercise his hard political "trade" only if he has a "laborer's" mentality. And he will want to justify his tyranny as nothing but a necessary condition for the success of his "labor."

In my opinion, this "bourgeois" way of looking at things and of justifying tyranny (a way that, to some extent and for some time, made it possible to live in the "Judeo-Christian" political world in which men were in theory asked to renounce glory) must complement the "aristocratic" theory of which Simonides makes himself the spokesman, and which only accounts for the attitude of the idle "aristocrat" devoting the best of his powers to (possibly bloody) struggles with other men for the sake of the honor victory will bring him.

But we should not isolate the "bourgeois" point of view by forgetting or denying the "aristocratic" theory. We should not forget that, to return to our examples, the "desire to be honored" and the joy that arises from "honors" come into play and become decisive as soon as the child makes his sand-patties in the presence of adults or of his friends, and as soon as the painter returns home and exhibits the reproduction of his cliff-drawings, as soon, generally speaking, as that emulation among men appears which, in fact, is never absent, and which, according to Simonides (ch. 9), is necessary even for agriculture, industry, and commerce truly to prosper. But for this proposition to apply to the statesman, there has to be a struggle for power and emulation in the exercise of power, in the strict sense of "struggle" and "emulation." To be sure, in theory the statesman could have done away with his rivals without thinking of glory, just as a laborer, absorbed in his labor and indifferent to what surrounds him, almost unconsciously does away with the objects that disturb him in his labor. But in fact, and this is particularly true of those who aspire to "tyranny," one does away with one's rivals because one does not want the goal attained, the job done, by another, even if this other could do it equally well. In cases involving "emulation" or "competition" one does in fact act for the sake of glory, and it is only in order to justify oneself from a "Christian" or "bourgeois" point of view, that one believes or claims that one is doing so exclusively because one is or imagines that one is more "capable" or "better equipped" than the others.

Be that as it may, Hiero, in his role as an authentic "pagan aristocrat," accepts Simonides's point of view without reservation. However, he rejects Simonides's argument as a justification of tyranny: while he grants that man's highest goal is honor, he holds that the tyrant never attains that goal.

Hiero explains to Simonides (ch. 7, second paragraph) that the tyrant rules by terror, and that therefore the honors paid him by his subjects are dictated only by the fear he inspires in them. Now, "services of those under fear are not honors. . . . [such acts] would probably be regarded as acts of slavery." And the acts of a Slave give no satisfaction to that aristocratic Master, the ancient tyrant.

In describing his situation, Hiero describes the tragedy of the Master analyzed by Hegel in the Phenomenology of Mind (ch. iv, section A). The Master enters into a struggle to the death in order to make his adversary recognize his exclusive human dignity. But if his adversary is himself a Master, he will be animated by the same desire for "recognition," and will fight to the death: his own or the other's. And if the adversary submits (through fear of death), he shows himself to be a Slave. His "recognition" is therefore worthless to the victorious Master in whose eyes the Slave is not a truly human being. The victor in this bloody struggle for pure prestige will therefore not be "satisfied" by his victory. His situation is thus essentially tragic, since there is no possible way out of it.

Truth to tell, Xenophon's text is less precise than Hegel's. Hiero confuses spontaneously granted "sexual love" with the "affection" of subjects who "recognize" him. Simonides corrects him by making him see that the tyrant as such is interested not in his "lovers" but in his subjects taken as citizens. But Simonides does retain the idea of "affection" (ch. 11). Moreover, Hiero would like to be happy by virtue of his tyranny and of "honors" in general, and Simonides, too, says that he will be "happy" (last sentence of the Dialogue) if he follows his advice, and thus gains his fellow citizens' "affection." Now, it is perfectly obvious that tyranny or political action in general cannot, as such, engender "love" or "affection" or "happiness," for these three phenomena involve elements that have nothing to do with politics: a mediocre politician can be the object of his fellow citizens' intense and authentic "affection," just as a great statesman may be universally admired without arousing love of any kind, and the most complete political success is perfectly compatible with a profoundly unhappy private life. It is therefore preferable to stay with Hegel's precise formulation, which refers not to "affection" or "happiness," but to "recognition" and to the "satisfaction" that comes from "recognition." For the desire to be "recognized" in one's eminent human reality and dignity (by those whom one "recognizes" in return) effectively is, I believe, the ultimate motive of all emulation among men, and hence of all political struggle, including the struggle that leads to tyranny. And the man who has satisfied this desire by his own action is, by that very fact, effectively "satisfied," regardless of whether or not he is happy or beloved.

We may, then, grant that tyrants (and Hiero himself) will seek Hegelian "recognition" above all else. We may also grant that Hiero, not having obtained this recognition, is not effectively "satisfied" in the strong sense of the term. We therefore understand why he listens to the advice of the wise man who promises him "satisfaction" by pointing out to him the means of obtaining "recognition."

In any case, both Hiero and Simonides know perfectly well what is at issue. Hiero would like his subjects "willingly to give way in the streets" (ch. 7, second paragraph) and Simonides promises him that if he follows his advice his subjects will be "willing men obeying." (ch. 11, twelfth paragraph). That is to say that both of them are concerned with authority. [2] For to get oneself "recognized" by someone without inspiring fear (in the final analysis, fear of violent death) or love in him, is to enjoy authority in his eyes. To acquire authority in someone's eyes, is to get him to recognize that authority. Now a man's authority (that is to say, in the final analysis, his eminently human value, though not necessarily his superiority), is recognized by another when that other follows or carries out his advice or his orders not because he cannot do otherwise (physically, or because of fear or of any other "passion"), but because he spontaneously considers them worthy of being followed or carried out, and he does so not because he himself recognizes their intrinsic value, but only because this particular person gives this advice or these orders (as an oracle might), that is to say, precisely because he recognizes the "authority" of the person who gives them to him. We may therefore grant that Hiero, like any political man, actively sought tyranny because (consciously or not) he wanted to impose his exclusive authority on his fellow citizens.

We may therefore believe Hiero when he says that he is not "satisfied." He has indeed failed in his enterprise, since he admits that he has to have recourse to force, that is to say that he has to exploit his subjects' fear (of death). But Hiero surely exaggerates (and, according to Strauss, he does so deliberately, in order to discourage potential rivals, and Simonides in particular, from tyranny) when he says that tyranny does not provide him any "satisfaction" because he enjoys no authority and governs solely through terror. For, contrary to a rather common prejudice, such a situation is absolutely impossible. Pure terror presupposes force alone, which, in the final analysis, is to say physical force. Now, by physical force alone a man can dominate children, old men, and some women, at the outside two or three adults, but he cannot in this way impose himself for long on a group of able-bodied men, however small it may be. That is to say that "despotism" properly so called is possible only within isolated families, and that the head of any State whatsoever always has recourse to something besides force. In fact, a political chief always has recourse to his authority, and it is to it that he owes his power. The whole question is to know by whom this authority is recognized, who "obeys him without constraint"? Indeed, the authority of a head of State may be recognized either by a more or less extensive majority of the citizens, or by a more or less restricted minority. Until very recently it was not thought possible that one could speak of "tyranny" in the pejorative sense of the term, except where a minority (guided by an authority it alone recognizes) rules the majority of the citizens by force or "terror" (that is to say, by exploiting their fear of death). Of course, only citizens recognized as such by the State were taken into account. For even nowadays, no one criticizes the governing of children or criminals or madmen by force, and in the past governing women, slaves, or aliens for example, by force, was not criticized. But this way of seeing things, while logically possible, does not in fact correspond to people's natural reactions. It was finally realized that it does not correspond to them, and recent political experiences, as well as the current polemics between "Western" and "Eastern" democrats, have enabled us to provide a more adequate definition of tyranny.

In fact, there is tyranny (in the morally neutral sense of the term) when a fraction of the citizens (it matters little whether it be a majority or a minority) imposes on all the other citizens its own ideas and actions, ideas and actions that are guided by an authority which this fraction recognizes spontaneously, but which it has not succeeded in getting the others to recognize; and where this fraction imposes it on those others without "coming to terms" with them, without trying to reach some "compromise" with them, and without taking account of their ideas and desires (determined by another authority, which those others recognize spontaneously). Clearly this fraction can do so only by "force" or "terror," ultimately by manipulating the others' fear of the violent death it can inflict on them. In this situation the others may therefore be said to be "enslaved," since they in fact behave like slaves ready to do anything to save their lives. And it is this situation that some of our contemporaries label tyranny in the pejorative sense of the term.

Be that as it may. It is clear that Hiero is not fully "satisfied," not because he has no authority and governs solely by force, but because his authority, recognized by some, is not recognized by all of those whom he himself considers to be citizens, that is to say men worthy of recognizing it, and hence supposed to do so. By behaving in this manner, Hiero, who symbolizes the ancient tyrant for us, is in full agreement with Hegel's analysis of "satisfaction" (achieved by emulation or action that is "political" in the broad sense of the term).

Hegel says that the political man acts in terms of the desire for "recognition," and that he can be fully "satisfied" only if he has completely satisfied this desire. Now this desire is by definition limitless: man wants to be effectively "recognized" by all of those whom he considers capable and hence worthy of "recognizing" him. To the extent that the citizens of a foreign State, animated by a "spirit of independence," successfully resist the head of some given State, he must necessarily recognize their human worth. He will therefore want to extend his authority over them. And if they do not resist him, it is because they already recognize his authority, if only the way the Slave recognizes his Master's authority. So that in the final analysis, the head of State will be fully "satisfied" only when his State encompasses the whole of mankind. But he will also want to extend his authority as far as possible within the State itself, by reducing to a minimum the number of those capable of only a servile obedience. In order to make it possible for him to be "satisfied" by their authentic "recognition," he will tend to "enfranchise" the slaves, "emancipate" the women, and reduce the authority of families over children by granting them their "majority" as soon as possible, to reduce the number of criminals and of the "unbalanced" of every variety, and to raise the "cultural" level (which clearly depends on the economic level) of all social classes to the highest degree possible.

At all events, he will want to be "recognized" by all those who resist him out of "disinterested" motives, that is to say out of "ideological" or "political" motives properly so called, because their very resistance is the measure of their human worth. He will want to be recognized by them as soon as such a resistance manifests itself, and he will give up wanting to be recognized by them (and give it up regretfully) only when, for one reason or another, he finds himself forced to kill the "resistants." In fact, the political man, acting consciously in terms of the desire for "recognition" (or for "glory") will be fully "satisfied" only when he is at the head of a State that is not only universal but also politically and socially homogeneous (with allowances for irreducible physiological differences), that is to say of a State that is the goal and the outcome of the collective labor of all and of each. If one grants that this State is the actualization of the supreme political ideal of mankind, then the "satisfaction" of the head of this State may be said to constitute a sufficient "justification" (not only subjective, but also objective) of his activity. Now, from this point of view, the modern tyrant, while in fact implementing Simonides's advice and thus achieving more "satisfying" results than those of which Hiero complained, is not fully "satisfied" either. He is not fully satisfied because the State he rules is in fact neither universal nor homogeneous, so that his authority, like Hiero's, is not recognized by all those who, according to him, could and should have recognized it.

Since he is not fully satisfied by his State or by his own political actions, the modern tyrant thus has the same reasons as Hiero for lending an ear to the advice of the Wise. But in order to avoid the tyrant's having the same reasons for not following that advice, or for reacting to it with a "silence" that might be infinitely less "liberal" than Hiero's, the new Simonides would have to avoid his "poetic" predecessor's error. He would have to avoid utopia.

The description, even the eloquent description, of an idyllic state of things lacking any real connections with the present state of things, will touch a tyrant or a statesman in general as little as would "utopian" advice that lacked any direct relation to current concerns and business. Such "advice" will interest the modern tyrant all the less as he, having perhaps been instructed by some wise man other than Simonides, might very well already know the ideal which the "advisor" is ready to reveal to him, and he might already be consciously working toward its actualization. It would be just as vain to try to oppose this "ideal" to the concrete measures this tyrant is taking with a view to actualizing it, as it would be to try and carry out a concrete policy (tyrannical or other) which explicitly or tacitly rejects the "ideal" on which it is based.

On the other hand, if the wise man, granting that the tyrant seeks "glory" and hence could only be fully "satisfied" by the recognition of his authority in a universal and homogeneous State, were prepared to give "realistic" and "concrete" advice by explaining to the tyrant who consciously accepts the ideal of "universal recognition" how, starting at the present state of things, one might attain that ideal, and attain it better and faster than one could by this tyrant's own measures, then the tyrant could perfectly well have accepted and followed this advice openly. In any event, the tyrant's refusal would then be absolutely "unreasonable" or "unjustified," and it would not raise any questions of principle.

The question of principle that remains to be resolved is whether or not the wise man, in his capacity as a wise man, can do anything but talk about a political "ideal," and whether he wants to leave the realm of "utopia" and "general" or even "abstract ideas," and to confront concrete reality by giving the tyrant "realistic" advice.

In order to answer this twofold question, we must carefully distinguish between the wise man properly so called, and the philosopher, for the situation is far from being the same in the two cases. In order to simplify things, I will speak only about the latter. Anyway, neither Xenophon nor Strauss seem to admit the existence of the wise man properly so called.

By definition, the philosopher does not possess Wisdom (that is to say full self- consciousness, or -- in fact -- omniscience); but (a Hegelian would have to specify: in a given epoch) he is more advanced on the road that leads to Wisdom than any non- philosopher or "uninitiate," including the tyrant. Also by definition, the philosopher is supposed to "dedicate his life" to the quest for Wisdom.

Taking this twofold definition as our point of departure, we must ask ourselves: "can the philosopher govern men or participate in their governance, and does he want to do so; in particular, can and does he want to do so by giving the tyrant concrete political advice?"

Let us first ask ourselves whether he can do so, or, more precisely, whether, as a philosopher, he enjoys any advantage over the "uninitiate" (and the tyrant is an uninitiate) when it comes to questions of government.

I believe that the negative answer that is usually given rests on a misunderstanding, on a total misconception of what philosophy is and of what the philosopher is.

For the purposes at hand, I need only recall three traits that are distinctive of the philosopher in contrast to the "uninitiate." In the first place, the philosopher is more expert in the art of dialectic or discussion in general: he sees better than his "uninitiate" interlocutor the inadequacies of the latter's argument, and he knows better how to make the most of his own arguments and how to refute the objections of others. In the second place, the art of dialectic enables the philosopher to free himself of prejudices to a greater extent than the "uninitiate": he is thus more open to reality as it is, and he is less dependent on the way in which men, at a given historical moment, imagine it to be. Finally, in the third place, since he is more open to the real, he comes closer to the concrete than does the "uninitiate," who confines himself to abstractions, without, however, being aware of their abstract, even unreal, character. [3]

Now these three distinctive traits of the philosopher are so many advantages he in principle enjoys over the "uninitiate" when it comes to governing.

Strauss points out that Hiero, realizing Simonides's dialectical superiority, mistrusts him, seeing in him a potential and formidable rival. And I think that Hiero is right. Indeed, governmental action within an already constituted State is purely discursive in origin, and whoever is a master of discourse or "dialectic" can equally well become master of the government. If Simonides was able to defeat Hiero in their oratorical joust, if he was able to "maneuver" him as he pleased, there is no reason at all why he could not defeat and outmaneuver him in the realm of politics, and in particular, why he could not replace him at the head of the government -- if he should ever desire to do so.

If the philosopher were to take power by means of his "dialectics," he would exercise it better, other things being equal, than any "uninitiate." And he would do so not only because of his greater dialectical skill. His government would be better because of a relative absence of prejudices and of the relatively more concrete character of his thought.

Of course, when it is simply a matter of maintaining an established state of things, without proceeding to "structural reforms" or to a "revolution," there is no particular disadvantage to unconsciously relying on generally accepted prejudices. That is to say that in such situations one can, without much harm, forego having philosophers in or near power. But where "structural reforms" or "revolutionary action" are objectively possible and hence necessary, the philosopher is particularly suited to set them in motion or to recommend them, since he, in contrast to the "uninitiate" ruler, knows that what has to be reformed or opposed is nothing but "prejudices," that is to say something unreal and hence relatively unresistant.

Finally, in "revolutionary" as well as in "conservative" periods, it is always preferable for the rulers not to lose sight of concrete reality. To be sure, that reality is extremely difficult and dense. That is why, in order to understand it with a view to dominating it, the man of action is compelled (since he thinks and acts in time) to simplify it by means of abstractions: he makes cuts and isolates certain parts or aspects by "abstracting" them from the rest and treating them "in themselves." But there is no reason to suppose that the philosopher could not do so as well. He would deserve the reproach commonly leveled at philosophers, that they have a predilection for "general ideas," only if these general ideas prevented him from seeing the particular abstractions which the "uninitiate" wrongly calls "concrete cases." But such a reproach, if it were justified, could only pertain to someone's contingent defects, not to the specific character of the philosopher. As a philosopher he handles abstractions as well as the "uninitiate," if not better. But since he is aware of the fact that he has performed an abstraction, he will be able to handle the "particular case" better than the "uninitiate" who believes that what is involved is a concrete reality which really is isolated from the rest, and can be treated as such. The philosopher will thus see the implications of the particular problem which escape the "uninitiate": he will see farther in space and in time.
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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:31 am


For all these reasons, to which many more could have been added, I believe, with Hiero, Xenophon, and Strauss, and contrary to a widely held opinion, that the philosopher is perfectly capable of assuming power, and of governing or participating in government, for example by giving political advice to the tyrant.

The whole question then is whether or not he wants to do so. Now, one need only to raise this question (keeping in mind the definition of the philosopher) in order to see that it is exceedingly complex, and even insoluble.

The complexity and the difficulty of the question are due to the banal fact that man needs time to think and to act, and that the time at his disposal is in fact very limited.

It is this twofold fact, namely, man's essential temporality and finitude, that forces him to choose among his various existential possibilities (and that accounts for the being of liberty by, incidentally, also making for its ontological possibility). In particular, it is on account of his own temporality and finitude that the philosopher is compelled to choose between the quest for Wisdom and, for example, political activity, even if only the political activity of advising the tyrant. Now, at first sight, and according to the very definition of the philosopher, the philosopher will devote "all of his time" to the quest for Wisdom, that being his supreme value and goal. He will therefore renounce not only "vulgar pleasures," but also all action properly so-called, including that of governing, either directly or indirectly. Such was, at all events, the attitude taken by the "Epicurean" philosophers. And it is this "Epicurean" attitude that has inspired the popular image of the philosophical life. According to this image, the philosopher lives "outside the world": he retires into himself, isolates himself from other men, and has no interest in public life; he devotes all his time to the quest for "truth," which is pure "theory" or "contemplation" with no necessary connections with "action" of any kind. To be sure, a tyrant can disturb this philosopher. Bur such a philosopher would not disturb the tyrant, for he has not the slightest desire to meddle in his affairs, even if only by giving him advice. All this philosopher asks of the tyrant, his only "advice" to him, is not to pay any attention to the philosopher's life, which is entirely devoted to the quest for a purely theoretical "truth" or an "ideal" of a strictly isolated life.

Two principal variants of this "Epicurean" attitude can be observed in the course of history. The pagan or aristocratic Epicurean, who is more or less wealthy or in any case does not work for a living (and as a rule finds a Maecenas to support him), isolates himself in a "garden," which he would like the government to treat as an inviolable castle, and from which he can be expected not to make any "sorties." The Christian or bourgeois Epicurean, the more or less poor intellectual who has to do something (write, teach, etc.) to secure his subsistence, cannot afford the luxury of the aristocratic Epicurean's "splendid isolation." He therefore replaces the private "garden" by what Pierre Bayle so aptly describes under the heading "the Republic of Letters." Here the atmosphere is less serene than it is in the "garden"; for here "the struggle for existence" and "economic competition" reign supreme. But the enterprise remains essentially "peaceful" in the sense that the "bourgeois republican," just like the "aristocratic castellan," is ready to renounce all active interference in public affairs in return for being "tolerated" by the government or the tyrant: the government or the tyrant would "leave him in peace" and permit him to exercise his trade of thinker, orator, or writer unimpeded, it being understood that his thoughts, speeches (lectures), and writings will remain purely "theoretical"; and that he will do nothing that could lead, directly or indirectly, to an action properly so called, and in particular to a political action of any kind.

Of course, it is practically impossible for the philosopher to keep this (generally sincere) promise of noninterference in the affairs of the State, and that is why rulers, and above all "tyrants," have always looked upon these Epicurean "republics" or "gardens" with suspicion. But that is of no interest to us at the present. What concerns us is the philosopher's attitude, and at first sight the Epicurean attitude appears to us irrefutable, and indeed even implied by the very definition of philosophy.

The politics of the Rota Club are primarily those seen in its founding. As a club dedicated to the popularization of Harrington's Oceana and republicanism it was primarily a place of discussion for democratic ideals. However the type of republicanism was important as not everyone agreed with Harrington's views. It was not unusual to hear a debate which contradicted Harrington's views. Samual Pepys records one debate where he heard "a good argument against Mr. Harrington's assertion that overbalance of propriety was the foundation of government." The building block on which the Rota Club styled its political debates was that of separating itself from practical politics. This was an arena distinct from the parliament in that it debated theoretical political philosophy. Harrington, in using the Rota club to propagate his ideas on government, felt that it was enough to simply allow his philosophy to enter the political debates of the day. He felt that once these theories were properly understood they would filter into the practical (parliamentary) government of their own accord. During his interrogation in 1661 Harrington "disavowed any practical political purpose to his Rota activities in 1659." It should not be misunderstood, however, as a disinterested debate club at least as far as Harrington himself. He did want to see his ideas enter into the parliamentary government.

-- Politics of the Rota Club, by Wikipedia

But at first sight only. For in fact the Epicurean attitude follows from the definition of philosophy as the quest for Wisdom or truth only if one assumes, regarding that quest, something that is not at all self-evident and that, from the perspective of the Hegelian conception, is even fundamentally mistaken. Indeed, in order to justify the philosopher's absolute isolation, one has to grant that Being is essentially immutable in itself and eternally identical with itself, and that it is completely revealed for all eternity in and by an intelligence that is perfect from the first; and this adequate revelation of the timeless totality of Being is, then, the Truth. Man (the philosopher) can at any moment participate in this Truth, either as the result of an action issuing from the Truth itself ("divine revelation"), or by his own individual effort to understand (the Platonic "intellectual intuition"), the only condition for such an effort being the innate "talent" of the one making this effort, independently of where he may happen to be situated in space (in the State) or in time (in history). If such is indeed the case, then the philosopher can and must isolate himself from the changing and tumultuous world (which is nothing but pure "appearance"), and live in a quiet "garden" or, if necessary, in a "Republic of Letters" where intellectual quarrels are at least less "unsettling" than are the political struggles on the outside. The quietude of this isolation, this total lack of interest in one's fellows and in any "society" whatever, offer the best prospects of attaining the Truth to the pursuit of which one has decided to devote one's entire life as an absolutely egoistical philosopher. [4]

But if one does not accept this theistic conception of Truth (and of Being), if one accepts the radical Hegelian atheism according to which Being itself is essentially temporal (Being=Becoming) and creates itself insofar as it is discursively revealed in the course of history (or as history: revealed Being=Truth=Man=History), and if one does not want to sink into the skeptical relativism which ruins the very idea of Truth and thus the quest for it or philosophy, then one has to flee the absolute solitude and isolation of the "garden" as well as the narrow society (the relative solitude and isolation) of the "Republic of Letters" and, like Socrates, frequent not the "trees and cicadas" but the "citizens of the City" (cf. Phaedrus). If Being creates itself ("becomes") in the course of History, then it is not by isolating oneself from History that one can reveal Being (transform it by Discourse into the Truth man "possesses" in the form of Wisdom). In order to reveal Being, the philosopher must, on the contrary, "participate" in history, and it is not clear why he should then not participate in it actively, for example by advising the tyrant, since, as a philosopher, he is better able to govern than any "uninitiate." The only thing that could keep him from it is lack of time. And so we come to the fundamental problem of the philosophical life, which the Epicureans wrongly believed they had disposed of.

I shall return later to this Hegelian problem of the philosophical life. For the moment we must take a somewhat closer look at the Epicurean attitude, for it is open to criticism, even allowing the theistic conception of Being and Truth. Indeed, it involves and presupposes a most questionable conception of Truth (although it is generally accepted by pre-Hegelian philosophy), according to which "subjective certainty" (Gewissheit) everywhere and always coincides with "objective truth" (Wahrheit): one is presumed to be effectively in possession of the Truth (or of a truth) as soon as one is subjectively "sure and certain" of having it (for example, by having a "clear and distinct idea").

In other words, the isolated philosopher necessarily has to grant that the necessary and sufficient criterion of truth consists in the feeling of "evidence" that is presumably prompted by the "intellectual intuition" of the real and of Being, or that accompanies "clear and distinct ideas" or even "axioms," or that immediately attaches to divine revelations. This criterion of "evidence" was accepted by all "rationalist" philosophers from Plato to Husserl, passing by way of Descartes. Unfortunately, the criterion itself is not at all "evident," and I think that it is invalidated by the sole fact that there have always been illuminati and "false prophets" on earth, who never had the least doubt concerning the truth of their "intuitions" or of the authenticity of the "revelations" they received in one form or another. In short, an "isolated" thinker's subjective "evidence" is invalidated as a criterion of truth by the simple fact that there is madness which, insofar as it is a correct deduction from subjectively "evident" premises, can be "systematic" or "logical."

Strauss seems to follow Xenophon (and the ancient tradition in general) in justifying (explaining) the isolated philosopher's indifference ("egoism") and pride by the fact that he knows something more -- and something different -- than does the "uninitiate" whom he despises. But the madman who believes that he is made of glass, or who identifies with God the Father or with Napoleon, also believes that he knows something the others do not know. And we can call his knowledge madness only because he is entirely alone in taking this knowledge (which, incidentally, is subjectively "evident") for a truth, and because even the other madmen refuse to believe it. So too, it is only by seeing our ideas shared by others (or at least by an other) or accepted by them as worth discussing (even if only because they are regarded as wrong) that we can be sure of not finding ourselves in the realm of madness (without being sure that we are in the realm of truth). Hence the Epicurean philosopher, living strictly isolated in his "garden," could never know whether he has attained Wisdom or sunk into madness, and as a philosopher he would therefore have to flee the "garden" and its isolation. In fact, the Epicurean, recalling his Socratic origins, does not live in absolute isolation, and he receives philosophical friends in his "garden" with whom he engages in discussion. From this point of view there is, then, no essential difference between the aristocratic "garden" and the bourgeois intellectual's "Republic of Letters": the difference consists only in the number of the "elect." Both the "garden" and the "Republic" where one "discusses" from morning till night, provide a sufficient guarantee against the danger of madness. Although by taste, and by virtue of their very profession, the "lettered citizens" never agree among themselves, they will always be unanimous when it rightly comes to sending one of their number to an asylum. One may therefore be confident that, perhaps in spite of appearances, one will meet in the "garden" or in the "Republic" only persons who, although they may occasionally be odd, are essentially of sound mind (and sometimes mimic madness only in order to appear "original").

But the fact that one is never alone in the "garden" is not the only feature it has in common with the "Republic." There is also the fact that the "many" are excluded from it. To be sure, a "Republic of Letters" is generally more populated than an Epicurean "garden." But both are populated by a relatively small "elite" with a marked tendency to withdraw into itself and to exclude the "uninitiated."

Here again Strauss seems to follow Xenophon (who conforms to the ancient tradition) and to justify this kind of behavior. The wise man, he says, "is satisfied with the approval of a small minority." He seeks only the approval of those who are "worthy," and this can only be a very small number. The philosopher will therefore have recourse to esoteric (preferably oral) instruction which permits him, among other things, to select the "best" and to eliminate those "of limited capacity" who are incapable of understanding hidden allusions and tacit implications.

I must say that here again I differ from Strauss and the ancient tradition he would like to follow, which, in my opinion, rests on an aristocratic prejudice (perhaps characteristic of a conquering people). For I believe that the idea and the practice of the "intellectual elite" involves a very serious danger which the philosopher as such should want to avoid at any cost.

The danger to which the inhabitants of various "gardens," "academies," "lyceums," and "Republics of Letters" are exposed stems from what is called the "cloistered mind." To be sure, the "cloister," which is a society, does exclude madness) which is essentially asocial. But far from excluding prejudices, it tends, on the contrary, to foster them by perpetuating them: it can easily happen that only those are admitted in its midst, who accept the prejudices on which the "cloister" believes it can pride itself. Now, Philosophy is, by definition, something other than Wisdom: it necessarily involves "subjective certainties" that are not the Truth, in other words "prejudices." The philosopher's duty is to turn away from these prejudices as quickly and as completely as possible. Now, any closed society that adopts a doctrine, any "elite" selected in terms of a doctrinal teaching, tends to consolidate the prejudices entailed by that doctrine. The philosopher who shuns prejudices therefore has to try to live in the wide world (in the "market place" or "on the street," like Socrates) rather than in a "cloister" of any kind, "republican" or "aristocratic." [5]

The "cloistered" life, while dangerous on any hypothesis, is strictly unacceptable for the philosopher who with Hegel, acknowledges that reality (at least human reality), is not given once and for all, but creates itself in the course of time (at least in the course of historical time). For if that is the case, then the members of the "cloister," isolated from the rest of the world and not really taking part in public life in its historical evolution, will, sooner or later, be "left behind by events." Indeed, even what at one time was "true," can later become "false," change into a "prejudice," and only the "cloister" will fail to notice what has happened.

But the question of the philosophical "elite" can be dealt with fully only in the context of the general problem of "recognition," as that problem bears on the philosopher. Indeed, that is the perspective in which Strauss himself raises the question. And it is about this aspect of the question that I should now like to speak.

According to Strauss, the essential difference between Hiero, the tyrant, and Simonides, the philosopher, consists in this: Hiero would like "to be loved by human beings as such," while Simonides "is satisfied by the admiration, the praise, the approval of a small minority." It is to win his subjects' love that Hiero must become their benefactor; Simonides lets himself be admired without doing anything to gain this admiration. In other words, Simonides is admired solely for his own perfection, while Hiero would like to be loved for his benefactions, even without being himself perfect. That is why the desire for admiration, independently of the desire for love, is "the natural foundation for the predominance of the desire for one's own perfection," whereas the need for love does not impel one to self-perfection and hence is not a "philosophical" desire.

This conception of the difference between the philosopher and the tyrant (which is, indeed, neither Strauss's nor, according to him, Xenophon's) does not seem to me to be satisfactory.

If one accepts (with Goethe and Hegel) that man is loved solely because he is, and independently of what he does (a mother loves her son in spite of his faults), while "admiration" or "recognition" are a function of the actions of the person one "admires" or "recognizes," it is clear that the tyrant, and the statesman in general, seeks recognition and not love: love thrives in the family, and the young man leaves his family and devotes himself to public life in search not of love, but of recognition by the State's citizens. Simonides rather <than Hiero> would have to be said to seek love, if he truly wanted to have a positive (even absolute) value attributed, not to his actions, but to his (perfect) being. But, in fact, it is simply not the case that he does. Simonides wants to be admired for his perfection and not for his being pure and simple, whatever that may be. Now love is specifically characterized by the fact that it attributes a positive value to the beloved or to the being of the beloved without reason. So that what Simonides seeks is, indeed, the recognition of his perfection and not the love of his being: he would like to be recognized for his perfection and therefore desires his perfection. Now, desire is actualized by action (negating action, since the aim is to negate existing imperfection, perfection being only desired and not yet attained). Hence it is by virtue of his actions (of self-perfection) that Simonides in fact is and wants to be recognized, just as Hiero is and wants to be recognized by virtue of his actions.

It is not true that the tyrant and the statesman in general are by definition content with a "gratuitous" admiration or recognition: just like the philosopher, they wish to "deserve" this admiration and recognition by truly being or becoming such as they appear to others to be. Hence the tyrant seeking recognition will also make an effort at self-perfection, if only for safety's sake, since an impostor or hypocrite always runs the risk of being "unmasked" sooner or later.

From this perspective there is therefore in principle no difference whatsoever between the statesman and the philosopher: both seek recognition, and both act with a view to deserving it (imposture can, in fact, be met with in both cases).

There remains the question of knowing whether it is true that the statesman seeks recognition by the "many," while the philosopher seeks to be recognized only by the "elect" few.

First of all, it does not seem that this is necessarily so with respect to the statesman as such. It is, indeed, for the most part so with respect to "democratic" leaders, who are dependent on the opinion of the majority. But "tyrants" have not always sought "popularity" (Tiberius, for example), and they have often had to be satisfied with the approval of a small circle of "political friends." Besides, there is no reason why the acclaim of the "many" should be incompatible with the approval of competent judges, and there is no reason why the statesman should prefer that acclaim to this approval. Conversely, it is not at all evident why the philosopher should systematically eschew the praise of the "many" (which undoubtedly gives him pleasure). What matters is that the philosopher not sacrifice the approval of the "elect" to "popular" acclaim, and that he not adapt his conduct to the demands of the "worst." But if a statesman (tyrant or not) were to behave differently in this matter than the philosopher, he would immediately be called a "demagogue"; and nothing says that statesmen are, by definition, "demagogues."

In fact, a man is fully satisfied only by the recognition of those he himself recognizes as worthy of recognizing him. And that is as true of the statesman as it is of the philosopher.

Now, to the extent that a man seeks recognition, he should do everything in his power to make the number of those "worthy" of recognizing him as large as possible. Consciously or not, statesmen have often assumed this task of political pedagogy (the "enlightened despot," the "pedagogical" tyrant). And philosophers have generally done the same, by devoting a portion of their time to philosophical pedagogy. Now, it is not clear why the number of the philosopher's initiates or disciples necessarily has to be limited or, for that matter, smaller than the number of the political man's competent admirers. If a philosopher artificially limited this number by proclaiming that he does not, under any circumstances want many initiates, he would only prove that he is less conscious of himself than the "uninitiated" political man who consciously strives for an unlimited extension of his recognition by competent judges. And if he maintained a priori and without empirical evidence that the number of people to whom philosophy is accessible is smaller than the number of people who can knowledgeably judge a political doctrine or a political action, he would be speaking on the basis of an undemonstrated "opinion" and thus be prey to a "prejudice" that is at best valid under certain social conditions and at a particular historical moment. In either case he would, therefore, not truly be a philosopher.

Besides, the prejudice in favor of an "elite" is all the more serious as it can bring about a total reversal of the situation. In principle the philosopher should only seek the admiration or approval of those he deems worthy of "recognizing" him. But if he never leaves the intentionally narrow circle of a deliberately recruited "elite" or of carefully chosen "friends," he runs the risk of considering ''worthy" those and only those who approve of him or admire him. And it has to be acknowledged that this particularly disagreeable form of limited reciprocal recognition has always prevailed in Epicurean "gardens" and intellectual "cloisters."

Be that as it may. If, with Simonides, one grants that the philosopher seeks recognition (or admiration), and if, with Hegel, one recognizes that the statesman does so as well, then one has to conclude that, from this perspective, there is no essential difference between the tyrant and the philosopher. That is probably why Xenophon (according to Strauss), and Strauss himself, do not side with Simonides. According to Strauss, Xenophon contrasts Simonides with Socrates, who is not in the least interested in "the admiration or the praise of others," whereas Simonides is interested in nothing else. And one has the impression that Strauss agrees with this "Socratic" attitude: to the extent that the philosopher seeks recognition and admiration, he should exclusively give thought to his own recognition of his own worth and to his admiration for himself.

As for myself, I confess that I do not understand this very well, and I do not see how it could enable us to find an essential difference between the philosopher (or the wise man) and the tyrant (or the statesman in general).

If one takes the attitude of the Xenophon-Strauss Socrates literally, one is brought back to the case of the isolated philosopher who is utterly uninterested in other people's opinion of him. That is not a self-contradictory ("absurd") attitude, if the philosopher is prepared to grant that he may attain the Truth by some direct personal vision of Being or by an individual revelation proceeding from a transcendent God. But if he does grant this, then he will have no philosophically valid reason to communicate his knowledge (orally or in writing) to others (unless it be with a view to gaining their "recognition" or admiration, which is excluded by definition), and he will therefore not do so if he is truly a philosopher (who does not act "without reason"). We will therefore not know anything about him; we will not even know whether he exists, and hence whether he is a philosopher or simply a madman. What is more, in my opinion he will not even know it himself since he will be deprived of every social control, which is the only way to weed out "pathological" cases. In any event, his "solipsist" attitude, excluding as it does all "discussion," would be fundamentally anti-Socratic.

Let us therefore grant that "Socrates," who does engage in "discussion" with others, is in the highest degree interested in the opinion they have or will have about what he says and does, at least to the extent to which they are, in his view, "competent." If "Socrates" is a true philosopher, he makes progress in Wisdom (which implies knowledge and "virtue"), and he is conscious of his progress. If he is not perverted by the prejudice of Christian humility to the point of being hypocritical with himself, he will be more or less satisfied with his progress, that is to say with himself: let us say, without being afraid of the word, that he will have more or less self-admiration (above all if he considers himself more "advanced" than the others). If those who express opinions about him are "competent," they will appreciate him in the same way he appreciates himself (on the assumption that he is not deluding himself), that is to say that, if they are not blinded by envy, they will admire him to the same extent that he admires himself. And if "Socrates" is not a "Christian," he will acknowledge (to himself and to others) that being admired by others brings (a certain) "satisfaction" and (a certain) "pleasure." Admittedly, that does not mean that the mere fact of (consciously) making progress on the road to Wisdom gives "Socrates" no other "pleasure" and "satisfaction" than he gets from being able to admire himself and being admired by others: everyone knows the "pure joy" one derives from the acquisition of knowledge, and the "disinterested satisfaction" that comes with the feeling of "having done one's duty." Nor does it follow that it is in principle impossible to seek knowledge and do one's duty without being motivated by the resulting "pleasure." Indeed, is it not possible to engage in sports just for the "love" of it, and without particularly seeking the "pleasure" of the "victor's crown" in a competition?

On the contrary, it is evident that, in fact, all these things are absolutely inseparable. It is certainly possible to draw subtle distinctions "in theory," but "in practice" it is impossible to eliminate one of the elements while retaining the others. That is to say that there can be no verifying experiment in this realm, and that therefore nothing regarding this question can be known in the "scientific" sense of the term.

It is known that there are pleasures that have nothing to do with knowledge or virtue. It is also known that men have at times renounced these pleasures in order to devote themselves fully to the quest for truth or to the exercise of virtue. But since this quest and this exercise are in fact inseparably linked with sui generis "pleasures," there is absolutely no way of knowing whether what makes men act that way is in fact a choice between different "pleasures," or a choice between "pleasure" and "duty" or "knowledge." Now these sui generis "pleasures" are in turn inseparably linked with the specific "pleasure" that comes from self-satisfaction or self-admiration: regardless of what Christians may say, one cannot be wise and virtuous (that is to say, in fact wiser and more virtuous than all, or at least than some others) without deriving a certain "satisfaction" and a sort of "pleasure" from it. [5] There is therefore no knowing whether, in fact, the "primary motive" of conduct is the "pure" joy that comes from Wisdom (knowledge + virtue), or whether it is the sometimes condemned "pleasure" that comes from the wise man's self-admiration (regardless of whether it is influenced by other people's admiration of him or not).

The same ambiguity is apparent when one considers "Socrates" in his relations with others. We have granted that he is interested in the opinion others have of him to the extent that it enables him to test whether or not the opinion he has of himself is well founded. But everything else is ambiguous. One can maintain, as Xenophon-Strauss seem to do, that Socrates is interested only in other people's "theoretical" judgments of him, and that he is completely uninterested in their admiration of him: he derives his "pleasure" solely from self-admiration (which either determines his philosophical activity, or merely accompanies it). But one can just as well say that the self-admiration of a man who is not mad, necessarily implies and presupposes admiration by others; that a "normal" person cannot be truly "satisfied" with himself without being not only judged, but also "recognized" by all or at least some others. One might even go further, and say that the pleasure involved in self-admiration is relatively worthless when compared with the pleasure one gets from being admired by someone else. These are some possible psychological analyses of the phenomenon of "recognition," but since it is impossible to perform experiments that separate its various aspects, it is impossible to settle the issue conclusively in favor of any one of these analyses.

It would certainly be wrong to suppose that "Socrates" seeks knowledge and practices virtue solely for the sake of "recognition" by others. For experience shows that one can pursue science for the pure love of it on a desert island without hope of return, and be "virtuous" without witnesses (human or even divine), simply out of fear of falling short in one's own eyes. But nothing prevents our asserting that, when "Socrates" communicates with others and practices his virtue in public, he does so not only in order to test himself, but also (and perhaps even above all) with a view to external "recognition." By what right can we maintain that he does not seek this "recognition," since he necessarily finds it in fact?

Truth to tell, all these distinctions make sense only if one accepts the existence of a God who sees clearly into men's hearts and judges them according to their intentions (which may, of course, be unconscious). If one is truly an atheist, none of this any longer makes sense. For it is evident that in that case only introspection could provide the elements of an answer. Now, as long as a man is alone in knowing something, he can never be sure that he truly knows it. If, as a consistent atheist, one replaces God (understood as consciousness and will surpassing individual human consciousness and will) by Society (the State) and History, one has to say that whatever is, in fact, beyond the range of social and historical verification, is forever relegated to the realm of opinion (doxa).

That is why I do not agree with Strauss when he says that Xenophon posed the problem of the relationship between pleasure and virtue in a radical way. I do not agree for the simple reason that I do not think that (from the atheistic point of view) there is a problem there which could be resolved by some form of knowledge (epistime). More exactly, the problem admits of several possible solutions, none of which is truly certain. For it is impossible to know whether the philosopher (the wise man) seeks knowledge and practices virtue "for their own sakes" (or "out of duty"), or whether he seeks it for the sake of the "pleasure" (joy) he experiences in doing so, or, finally, whether he acts this way in order to experience self-admiration (influenced or not by other people's admiration). This question obviously cannot be settled "from outside," and there is therefore no way to assess the "subjective certainty" achieved by introspection, nor to decide among these "certainties" if they should disagree. [7]

What is worth retaining from what has gone so far, is that some philosophers' "Epicurean" conception is not in any way justified by a comprehensive and consistent system of thought. That conception becomes questionable as soon as one takes the problem of "recognition" into account, as I have just done, and it is problematic even when one restricts oneself to the problem of the criterion of truth, as I did at first.

To the extent that the philosopher looks upon "discussion" (dialogue, dialectic) as a method of investigation and a criterion of truth, he necessarily has to "educate" his interlocutors. And we have seen that he has no reason to place an a priori limit on the number of his possible interlocutors. That is to say that the philosopher has to be a pedagogue and has to try to extend his (direct or indirect) pedagogical activity indefinitely. But in so doing, he will always sooner or later encroach on the field of action of the statesman or of the tyrant, who themselves also are (more or less consciously) "educators."

As a rule, the interference of the philosopher's pedagogical activity with the tyrant's takes the form of a more or less acute conflict. Thus "corrupting the young" was the principal charge brought against Socrates. The philosopher-pedagogue will therefore be naturally inclined to try to influence the tyrant (or the government in general) with a view to getting him to create conditions that permit the exercise of philosophical pedagogy. But in fact the State is itself a pedagogical institution. The pedagogy practiced and controlled by the government is an integral part of governmental activity in general, and it is a function of the very structure of the State. Hence to want to influence the government with a view to introducing or to administering a philosophical pedagogy is to want to influence the government in general, it is to want to determine or to co-determine its policy as such. Now, the philosopher cannot give up pedagogy. Indeed, the "success" of his philosophical pedagogy is the sole "objective" criterion of the truth of the philosopher's "doctrine": the fact of his having disciples (either in a narrow or in a broad sense) is his guarantee against the danger of madness, and his disciples' "success" in private and public life is the objective" proof of the (relative) "truth" of his doctrine, at least in the sense of its adequacy to the given historical reality.

So that if one does not want to leave it at the merely subjective criteria of "evidence" or of "revelation" (which do not exclude the danger of madness), one cannot be a philosopher without at the same time wanting to be a philosophical pedagogue. And if the philosopher does not want artificially or unduly to restrict the scope of his pedagogical activity (and thereby risk being subject to the prejudices of the "cloister"), he will necessarily be strongly inclined to participate, in one way or another, in government as a whole, so that the State might be organized and governed in a way that makes his philosophical pedagogy both possible and effective.

It is probably for this (more or less consciously acknowledged) reason that most philosophers, including the greatest, gave up their "Epicurean" isolation and engaged in political activity, either by personal interventions or through their writings. Plato's voyages to Syracuse, and the collaboration between Spinoza and De Witt, are familiar examples of direct intervention. And it is well known that nearly all philosophers have published works dealing with the State and with government. [8]

But here the conflict that stems from man's temporality and finitude, and about which I spoke earlier, comes into play. On the one hand, the philosopher's supreme goal is the quest for Wisdom or Truth, and this quest, which a philosopher by definition never completes, is supposed to take all of his time. On the other hand, it also takes time, and even a great deal of time, to govern a State, however small it may be. Truth to tell, governing a State also takes all of a man's time.

Since they cannot devote all of their time both to philosophy and to government, philosophers have generally looked for a compromise solution. While they wanted to be involved in politics, they did not give up their strictly philosophical involvement, but only agreed to limit somewhat the time they devoted to it. They therefore gave up the idea of taking over the governance of the State, and left it at devoting the little time they set aside from philosophy to giving the rulers of the day (oral or written) advice.

Unfortunately, this compromise has proven unworkable. To be sure, Philosophy has not particularly suffered from the philosophers' political "distractions." But the direct and immediate effect of their political advice has been strictly nil.

Truth to tell, the philosophers who left it at giving written, indeed "bookish" advice, did not look upon their failure as a tragedy. For the most part they had enough good sense not to expect the powers that be to read their writings, and to expect even less that they would be guided by them in their daily work. In resigning themselves to being active exclusively through writing, they resigned themselves to being politically ineffectual in the short run. However, those who did deign to go to some personal trouble in order to give political advice may have taken the lack of readiness to follow that advice rather ill, and they may have had the impression of really having "wasted their time."

Of course, we do not know Plato's reactions after his Sicilian failure. The fact that he renewed his abortive attempt suggests that, in his view, both sides were to blame for it, and that if he had acted differently, he could have done better and accomplished more. But in general, the common opinion of more or less philosophical intellectuals heaps opprobrium and contempt on reluctant rulers. I nevertheless persist in believing that it is entirely wrong to do so.

First of all, there is a tendency to blame the "tyrannical" character of a government unresponsive to philosophical advice. Yet it seems to me that the philosopher is in a particularly poor position to criticize tyranny as such. On the one hand the philosopher-advisor is, by definition, in a great hurry: he is entirely prepared to contribute to the reform of the State, but he would like to lose as little time as possible in the process. Now, if he wants to succeed quickly he has to address himself to the tyrant rather than to the democratic leader. Indeed, philosophers who wanted to act in the political present have, at all times, been drawn to tyranny. Whenever there has been a powerful and effective tyrant contemporary with the philosopher, it is precisely on him that the philosopher lavished his advice, even if the tyrant lived in a foreign country. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine a philosopher himself (per impossibile) becoming a statesman, except as some sort of "tyrant." In a hurry "to have done" with politics and to return to more noble occupations, he will scarcely be endowed with exceptional political patience. Despising the "great mass," indifferent to its praise, he will not want patiently to play the role of a "democratic" ruler, solicitous of the opinions and desires of the "masses" and the "militants." Besides, how could he implement his reform programs, which are necessarily radical and opposed to the commonly received ideas, rapidly, without resorting to political procedures that have always been taxed with being "tyrannical"? In fact, as soon as a philosopher who was not himself involved in affairs of State steered one of his disciples in that direction, the disciple -- for example Alcibiades -- did immediately resort to typically "tyrannical" methods. Inversely, whenever a statesman openly acted in the name of a philosophy, he did so as a "tyrant," just as "tyrants" of a certain grandeur have generally had more or less direct and more or less conscious and acknowledged philosophical origins.

In short, of all possible statesmen, the tyrant is unquestionably the most likely to receive and to implement the philosopher's advice. If, having received it, he does not implement it, he must have very good reasons for not doing so. What is more, in my opinion these reasons would be even more cogent in the case of a non-"tyrannical" ruler.

I have already indicated what these reasons are. A statesman, regardless of whether he is or not a tyrant, simply cannot follow "utopian" advice: since he can act only in the present, he cannot take into account ideas that have no direct connection with the concrete given situation. So that in order to obtain a hearing, the philosopher would have had to give advice about "current business." But in order to give such advice, one has to keep up with current business on a daily basis, and hence to devote all of one's time to it. Yet that is precisely what the philosopher does not want to do. In his capacity as a philosopher he even cannot do so. For to do so would mean to abandon the very quest for truth that makes him a philosopher and that, in his eyes, is his only authentic claim to being the tyrant's philosophical advisor, that is to say to being an advisor entitled to something more than and different from an "uninitiated" advisor, regardless of how intelligent and capable that uninitiated advisor might otherwise be. To devote all of one's time to government is to cease to be a philosopher and hence to lose any advantage one might have over the tyrant and his "uninitiated" advisors.

As a matter of fact, that is not the only reason why the philosopher's every attempt at directly influencing the tyrant is necessarily ineffectual. For example, let us suppose that Plato had remained in Syracuse to the end of his days, that he had climbed (rapidly, of course) the various rungs leading to a position whose holder may make decisions and hence influence the general political direction. It is practically certain that, in that case, Plato would have had the tyrant's ear, and could in effect have guided his policy. But what would happen in that case? On the one hand, Dionysius, eager to carry out the "radical" reforms suggested by Plato, would surely have had to intensify the "tyrannical" character of his government more and more. His philosophical advisor would then soon have found himself faced with "cases of conscience" as his quest for an "objective truth" embodied in the "ideal" State came into conflict with his conception of a "virtue" at odds with "violence," which he would nevertheless like to continue to practice. On the other hand, Plato, conscious (in contrast to Dionysius) of the limits of his own knowledge, would soon have become aware of having reached these limits: whereupon he would grow hesitant in his advice, and hence unable to give it in time. Now, these theoretical uncertainties and moral conflicts, against the background of the "guilty conscience" aroused by the fact that he no longer has the time to devote himself to philosophy, will soon have disgusted the philosopher with all direct and concrete political action. And since, in the meantime, he will have understood that it is either ridiculous or hypocritical to offer the tyrant "general ideas" or "utopian" advice, the philosopher, upon submitting his resignation, would leave the tyrant "in peace," and spare him any advice as well as any criticism: most particularly if he knew that the tyrant is pursuing the same goal he himself had been pursuing during his -- voluntarily aborted -- career as advisor.
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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:31 am


Which is as much as to say that the conflict of the philosopher confronted with the tyrant is nothing else than the conflict of the intellectual faced with action, or, more precisely, faced with the inclination, or even the necessity, to act. According to Hegel, that conflict is the only authentic tragedy that takes place in the Christian or bourgeois world: the tragedy of Hamlet and of Faust. It is a tragic conflict because it is a conflict with no way out, a problem with no possible resolution.

Faced with the impossibility of acting politically without giving up philosophy, the philosopher gives up political action. But has he any reasons for giving it up?

The preceding considerations can in no way be invoked to "justify" such a choice. And by definition the philosopher should not reach a decision without "sufficient reason," nor assume a position that "can not be justified" within the framework of a coherent system of thought. It therefore remains for us to see how, in his own judgment, the philosopher could "justify" giving up political action in the precise sense of the term.

The first "justification" one might be tempted to offer is easy. The fact that he has not solved a problem need not disturb the philosopher. Since he is not a wise man, he, by definition, lives in a world of questions which, for him, remain open. All that is required for him to be a philosopher, is that he be aware of the existence of these questions, and that he ... seek to solve them. The best method to use in that search (at least according to the Platonists), is "dialectics," that is to say "meditation" tested and stimulated by "dialogue." In other words, the best method is "discussion." So that, in our case, instead of giving the tyrant of the day political advice or, alternatively, abstaining from all criticism of the government in power, the philosopher could leave it at "discussing" the question of whether he himself should govern, or whether he should only advise the tyrant, or whether he should not rather abstain from all political action and even from all concrete criticism of the government by devoting all his time to theoretical pursuits of a more "elevated" and less "mundane" kind. Now, discussing this question is what philosophers have been doing forever. In particular, that is what Xenophon did in his dialogue, what Strauss does in his book, and what I myself am doing in the present critical essay. Thus everything seems to be in order. Yet one cannot help being somewhat disappointed by the fact that this "discussion" of the problem at hand, after having gone on for more than two thousand years, has not resulted in some kind of solution.

Perhaps one might try to resolve the question by going beyond discussion with philosophers and using the "objective" method Hegel used in order to reach "indisputable" solutions.

That is the method of historical verification.

For Hegel, the outcome of the classical "dialectic" of the "dialogue," that is, the victory won in a purely verbal "discussion," is not a sufficient criterion of the truth. In other words, discursive "dialectic" as such cannot, according to him, lead to the definitive solution of a problem (that is to say, a solution that remains unchanging for all time to come), for the simple reason that, if one leaves it at talking, one will never succeed in definitively "eliminating" the contradictor or, consequently, the contradiction itself; for to refute someone is not necessarily to convince him. "Contradiction" or "controversy" (between Man and Nature on the one hand or, on the other hand, between man and man, or even between a man and his social and historical milieu) can be "dialectically done away with" (that is to say, done away with insofar as they are "false," but preserved insofar as they are "true," and raised to a higher level of "discussion") only to the extent that they are played out on the historical plane of active social life where one argues by acts of Work (against Nature) and of Struggle (against men). Admittedly, Truth emerges from this active "dialogue," this historical dialectic, only once it is completed, that is to say once history reaches its final stage <terme final> in and through the universal and homogeneous State which, since it implies the citizens' "satisfaction," excludes any possibility of negating action, hence of all negation in general, and, hence, of any new "discussion" of what has already been established. But, even without wishing to assume, with the author of the Phenomenology of Mind, that history is already virtually "completed" in our time, one can assert that if the "solution" to a problem has, in fact, been historically or socially "valid" throughout the entire period that has elapsed since, then, short of (historical) proof to the contrary, one has the right to regard it as philosophically "valid," in spite of the philosophers' ongoing "discussion" of the problem. In so regarding it, one may assume that, at the opportune moment, History itself will take care to put an end to the endlessly ongoing "philosophical discussion" of a problem it has virtually "resolved."

Let us therefore see whether understanding our historical past enables us to resolve the problem of the relation between Wisdom and Tyranny, and thus to decide what should be the Philosopher's "reasonable," that is to say "philosophical," conduct with respect to government.

A priori it seems plausible that history could resolve the question or conflict which the philosophers' individual meditations (including mine) have so far been unable to settle. Indeed, we have seen that the conflict itself, as well as its "tragic" character, are due to the finitude, that is to say to the finite temporality of man in general and of the philosopher in particular. If he were eternal, in the sense of not needing time to act and to think, or if he had unlimited time to act and to think, the question would not even arise (as it does not arise for God). Now, history transcends the finite duration of man's individual existence. To be sure, it is not "eternal" in the classical sense of the term, since it is only the integration with respect to time of temporal acts and thoughts. But if, with Hegel, one grants (and anyone who would like to be able to grant, as Hegel does, that there is a meaning to history and historical progress, should have agreed with him on this point), that history can reach completion in and by itself, and that the "Absolute Knowledge" (=discursive Wisdom or Truth) that results from "understanding" or "explaining" integral history (or history integrated in and by this very Knowledge) by a "coherent discourse" (Logos) that is "circular" or "uni-total" in the sense of exhausting all the possibilities (assumed to be finite) of "rational" (that is to say of inherently noncontradictory) thought, if one grants all this, I say, then one can equate History (completed and integrated in and by this "absolute" discursive Knowledge) with eternity understood as the totality of time (historical, that is to say of human time, that is to say of time capable of containing any "discussion" whatsoever, in deed or in speech), beyond which no one single man could go, anymore than could Man as such. In short, if an individual properly so-called has not yet been able to solve the problem that interests us because it is insoluble on the individual level, there is no a priori reason why the "great individual" of whom Pascal speaks (who will not always learn, but who does learn some things in the strict sense of the term), might not have solved it long ago and "definitively" (even if not a single individual has as yet noticed it).

Let us then see what history teaches us about the relations between tyrants and philosophers (on the premise that so far there has not been a wise man on earth).

At first sight history confirms common opinion. Not only has no philosopher so far in fact ever governed a State, but all political men, and "tyrants" foremost among them, have always despised the philosophers' "general ideas," and dismissed their political "advice." The political action of philosophers thus appears to have been nil, and the lesson they might draw from history would seem to encourage them to devote themselves to "contemplation" or "pure theory," without concern for what "men of action," and in particular "rulers" of every kind might be doing in the meantime.

But upon closer examination, the lesson to be drawn from history appears to be an entirely different one. Within the geographic realm of Western philosophy, perhaps the greatest Statesman, and certainly the one whom the great tyrants of our world have imitated for centuries (and who was only recently again imitated by an imitator of Napoleon who imitated Caesar, who was himself an imitator) was Alexander the Great. Now Alexander had perhaps read the dialogues of Xenophon. He had certainly been a student of Aristotle, who had been a student of Plato, a student of Socrates. So that Alexander, without a doubt, indirectly received the same teaching as Alcibiades. Either because he was politically more gifted than Alcibiades, or simply because he came "at the right time," Alexander succeeded where Alcibiades failed. But both wanted the same thing, and both tried to go beyond the rigid and narrow confines of the ancient City. Nothing prevents our assuming that these two political attempts, only one of which met with failure, can be traced back to the philosophical teaching of Socrates.

Admittedly this is no more than a simple historical hypothesis. But an analysis of the facts about Alexander renders this hypothesis plausible.

What characterizes the political action of Alexander in contrast to the political action of all of his Greek predecessors and contemporaries, is that it was guided by the idea of empire, that is to say of a universal State, at least in the sense that this State had no a priori given limits (geographic, ethnic, or otherwise), no pre-established "capital," nor even a geographically and ethnically fixed center destined to exercise political dominion over its periphery. To be sure, there have at all times been conquerors ready to extend the realm of their conquests indefinitely. But as a rule they sought to establish the same type of relation between conquerors and conquered as that between Master and Slave. Alexander, by contrast, was clearly ready to dissolve the whole of Macedonia and of Greece in the new political unit created by his conquest, and to govern this unit from a geographical point he would have freely (rationally) chosen in terms of the new whole. Moreover, by requiring Macedonians and Greeks to enter into mixed marriages with "Barbarians," he was surely intending to create a new ruling stratum that would be independent of all rigid and given ethnic support.

Now, what might account for the fact that it should have been the head of a national State (and not of a "city" or a polis) with a sufficiently broad ethnic and geographic base to allow him to exercise over Greece and the Orient a one-sided political dominion of the traditional type, who conceived of the idea of a truly universal State or of an Empire in the strict sense of the term, in which conqueror and conquered are merged? It was an utterly new political idea that only began to be actualized with the Edict of Caracalla, that is still not anywhere actualized in all its purity, having in the meantime (and only lately) suffered some spectacular eclipses, and that is still a subject of "discussion." What might account for the fact that it was a hereditary monarch who consented to expatriate himself and who wanted to merge the victorious nobility of his native land with the newly vanquished? Instead of establishing the domination of his race and imposing the rule of his fatherland over the rest of the world, he chose to dissolve the race and to eliminate the fatherland itself for all political intents and purposes.

One is tempted to ascribe all this to Aristotle's education and to the general influence of "Socratic-Platonic" philosophy (which is also the foundation of the Sophists' properly political teaching to which Alexander was exposed). A student of Aristotle's might have thought it necessary to create a biological foundation for the unity of the Empire (by means of mixed marriages). But only the disciple of Socrates-Plato could have conceived of this unity by taking as his point of departure the "idea" or the "general notion" of Man that had been elaborated by Greek philosophy. All men can become citizens of one and the same State (=Empire) because they have (or acquire as a result of biological unions) one and the same "essence." And in the last analysis this single "essence" common to all men is "Logos" (language-science), that is to say what nowadays we call (Greek) "civilization" or "culture." The Empire which Alexander had projected is not the political expression of a people or a caste. It is the political expression of a civilization, the material actualization of a "logical" entity, universal and one, just as the Logos itself is universal and one.

Long before Alexander, the Pharaoh Ikhnaton also probably conceived the idea of Empire in the sense of a trans-ethnic (trans-national) political unit. Indeed, an Amarnian bas-relief depicts the traditional Asiatic, Nubian, and Libyan not as shackled by the Egyptian, but as worshiping with him, as equals, one and the same god: Aton. Only here the unity of the Empire had a religious (theistic), not a philosophical (anthropological), origin: its basis was a common god and not the "essential" unity of men in their capacity as humans (= rational). It was not the unity of their reason and of their culture (Logos), but the unity of their god and the community of their worship that united the citizens.

Since Ikhnaton, who failed woefully, the idea of an Empire with a transcendent (religious) unifying basis has frequently been taken up again. Through the intermediary of the Hebrew prophets it was adopted by St. Paul and the Christians, on the one hand, and by Islam on the other (to speak only of the most spectacular political attempts). But what has stood the test of history by lasting up to the present is not Muslim theocracy, nor the Germanic Holy Empire, nor even the Pope's secular power, but the universal Church, which is something altogether different from a State properly so called. One may therefore conclude that, in the final analysis, it is exclusively the philosophical idea going all the way back to Socrates that acts politically on earth, and that continues in our time to guide the political actions and entities striving to actualize the universal State or Empire.

But the political goal humanity is pursuing (or fighting) at present is not only that of the politically universal State; it is just as much that of the socially homogeneous State or of the "classless Society."

Here again the remote origins of the political idea are found in the religious universalist conception that is already present in Ikhnaton and that culminates in St. Paul. It is the idea of the fundamental equality of all who believe in the same God. This transcendent conception of social equality differs radically from the Socratic-Platonic conception of the identity of all the beings that have the same immanent "essence." For Alexander, the disciple of the Greek philosophers, Greek and Barbarian have the same claim to political citizenship in the Empire in so far as they HAVE the same human (i.e. rational, logical, discursive) "nature" (= essence, idea, form, etc.), or that they identify "essentially" with one another as a result of a direct (= "immediate") "mixture" of their innate qualities (achieved by biological union). For St. Paul there is no "essential" (irreducible) difference between Greek and Jew because both can BECOME Christians, and they would do so not by "mixing" Greek and Jewish "qualities" but by negating and "synthesizing" them in and by this very negation into a homogeneous unity that is not innate or given but (freely) created by "conversion." Because of the negating character of this Christian "synthesis," no incompatible or even "contradictory" (=mutually exclusive) "qualities" remain. For Alexander, the Greek philosopher, no "mixture" of Masters and Slaves was possible, because they were "contraries." Thus his universal State, which did away with races, would not be homogeneous in the sense of also doing away with "classes." For St. Paul, on the other hand, the negation (which is active inasmuch as "faith" is an act and is "dead" without "acts") of the opposition between pagan Mastery and Slavery could engender an "essentially" new Christian unity (which, moreover, is also active or acting, and even "affective," rather than purely rational or discursive, that is to say "logical") capable of providing the basis not only of the State's political universality but also of its social homogeneity.

But in fact, universality and homogeneity on a transcendent, theistic, religious basis did not and could not engender a State properly so called. They only served as the basis of the universal and homogeneous Church's "mystical body" and are supposed to be fully actualized only in the beyond (the "Kingdom of Heaven," provided one abstracts from the permanent existence of hell). In fact, the universal State is the one goal which politics, entirely under the twin influence of ancient pagan philosophy and Christian religion, has pursued, although it has so far never attained it.

But in our day the universal and homogeneous State has become a political goal as well. Now here again, politics is derivative from philosophy. To be sure, this philosophy (being the negation of religious Christianity) is in turn derivative from St. Paul (whom it presupposes since it "negates" him). But the religious Christian idea of human homogeneity could achieve real political import only once modern philosophy succeeded in secularizing it (= rationalizing it, transforming it into coherent discourse).

As regards social homogeneity, the filiation between philosophy and politics is less direct than it is as regards political universality, but, in return, it is absolutely certain. In the case of universality, we only know that the Statesman who took the first effective step toward actualizing it was educated by a disciple twice removed from its theoretical initiator, and we can only assume the filiation of ideas. By contrast, in the case of homogeneity we know that there was a filiation of ideas, although we have no direct oral tradition to confirm it. The tyrant who here initiates the real political movement toward homogeneity consciously followed the teaching of the intellectual who deliberately transformed the idea of the philosopher so that it might cease to be a "utopian" ideal (which, incidentally, was erroneously thought to describe an already existing political reality: the Empire of Napoleon) and become, instead, a political theory in terms of which one might give tyrants concrete advice, advice which they could follow. Thus, while recognizing that the tyrant has "falsified" (verkehrt) the philosophical idea, we know that he has done so only in order to "transpose it (verkehren) from the realm of abstraction into that of reality."

I leave it at citing these two historical examples, although it would be easy to multiply their number. But these two examples for all intents and purposes exhaust the great political themes of History. And if one grants that, in these two cases, all that the "tyrannical" king and the tyrant properly so-called did was to put into political practice the philosophers' teaching (meanwhile suitably prepared by intellectuals), then one can conclude that the philosophers' political advice has essentially been followed.

To be sure, the philosophers' teaching, even when it has a political cast, could never be implemented directly or "immediately." One might therefore view it as by definition inapplicable because it lacked direct or "immediate" connections with the concrete political reality prevailing at the time it appears. But "intellectual mediators" have always taken hold of it and confronted it with contemporary reality by trying to discover or to construct a bridge between the two. This purely intellectual labor of bringing the philosophical idea and the political reality more closely together could go on for a more or less long time. But sooner or later some tyrant always sought guidance in his day-to-day actions from the usable (oral or written) advice issuing from these "mediators." When history is viewed in this light, it appears as a continuous succession of political actions guided more or less directly by the evolution of philosophy.

From the Hegelian perspective, based on the understanding of history, the relations between Tyranny and Wisdom may therefore be described as follows.

As long as man has not become fully conscious of a given political situation at a given historical moment by discursive philosophical reflection, he has no "distance" with respect to it. He cannot "take a stand," he cannot consciously and freely decide for or against it. He is simply "passive" with respect to the political world, just as the animal is passive with respect to the natural world in which it lives. But once he has achieved full philosophical consciousness, man can distinguish between the given political reality and his idea of it "in his head," an idea that can then serve as an "ideal." However, if man leaves it at philosophically understanding (=explaining or justifying) the given political reality, he will never be able to go beyond this reality or the philosophical idea that corresponds to it. For a "going beyond" or for philosophical progress toward Wisdom (=Truth) to occur, the political given (which can be negated) must actually be negated by Action (Struggle and Work), so that a new historical or political (that is to say human) reality be, first of all, created in and by this active negation of the already existing and philosophically understood real, and, then, understood within the framework of a new philosophy. This new philosophy will preserve only that part of the old which has survived the test of the creative political negation of the historical reality that corresponded to it, and it will transform or "sublimate" this preserved part by synthesizing it (in and by a coherent discourse) with its own revelation of the new historical reality. Only by proceeding in this fashion will philosophy make its way toward absolute Knowledge or Wisdom, which it will be in a position to attain only once all possible active (political) negations have been accomplished.

In short, if philosophers gave Statesmen no political "advice" at all, in the sense that no political teaching whatsoever could (directly or indirectly) be drawn from their ideas, there would be no historical progress, and hence no History properly so called. But if the Statesmen did not eventually actualize the philosophically based "advice" by their day-to- day political action, there would be no philosophical progress (toward Wisdom or Truth) and hence no Philosophy in the strict sense of the term. So-called "philosophical" books would of course get written indefinitely, but we would never have the book ("Bible") of Wisdom that could definitively replace the book by that title which we have had for nearly two thousand years. Now, wherever it has been a matter of actively negating a given political reality in its very "essence," we have always, in the course of history, seen political tyrants arise. One may therefore conclude that while the emergence of a reforming tyrant is not conceivable without the prior existence of the philosopher, the coming of the wise man must necessarily be preceded by the revolutionary political action of the tyrant (who will realize the universal and homogeneous State).

The Philosophical Rationale of the Tenet.

(1) Imagine, for illustration's sake, the one homogeneous, absolute and omnipresent Essence, above the upper step of the "stair of the seven planes of worlds," ready to start on its evolutionary journey. As its correlating reflection gradually descends, it differentiates and transforms into subjective, and finally into objective matter. Let us call it at its north pole Absolute Light; at its south pole, which to us would be the fourth or middle step, or plane, counting either way, we know it esoterically as the One and Universal Life. Now mark the difference. Above, LIGHT; below, Life. The former is ever immutable, the latter manifests under the aspects of countless differentiations. According to the occult law, all potentialities included in the higher become differentiated reflections in the lower; and according to the same law, nothing which is differentiated can be blended with the homogeneous.

Again, nothing can endure of that which lives and breathes and has its being in the seething waves of the world, or plane of differentiation. Thus Buddhi and Manas being both primordial rays of the One Flame, the former the vehicle, upadhi or vahana, of the one eternal essence, the latter the vehicle of Mahat or Divine Ideation (Maha-Buddhi in the Puranas), the Universal Intelligent Soul -- neither of them, as such, can become extinct or be annihilated, either in essence or consciousness. But the physical personality, with its Linga Sarira, and the animal soul, with its Kama, can and do become so. They are born in the realm of illusion, and must vanish like a fleecy cloud from the blue and eternal sky.

He who has read the Secret Doctrine with any degree of attention, must know the origin of the human Egos, called Monads, generically, and what they were before they were forced to incarnate in the human animal. The divine beings whom Karma led to act in the drama of Manvantaric life, are entities from higher and earlier worlds and planets, whose Karma had not been exhausted when their world went into Pralaya. Such is the teaching; but whether it is so or not, the Higher Egos are -- as compared to such forms of transitory, terrestrial mud as ourselves - Divine Beings, Gods, immortal throughout the Mahamanvantara, or the 311,949,000.000.000 years during which the Age of Brahma lasts. And as the Divine Egos, in order to re-become the One Essence, or be indrawn again into the AUM, have to purify themselves in the fire of suffering and individual experience, so also have the terrestrial Egos, the personalities, to do likewise, if they would partake of the immortality of the Higher Egos. This they can achieve by crushing in themselves all that benefits only the lower personal nature of their "selves" and by aspiring to transfuse their thinking Kamic principle into that of the Higher Ego. We (i.e., our personalities) become immortal by the mere fact of our thinking moral nature being grafted on our divine triune Monad, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the three in one and one in three (aspects). For the Monad manifested on earth by the incarnating Ego is that which is called the Tree of Life Eternal, that can only be approached by eating the fruit of Knowledge, the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or of GNOSIS, Divine Wisdom.

In the esoteric teachings, this Ego is the fifth principle in man. But the student who has read and understood the first two Instructions, knows something more. He is aware that the seventh is not a human, but a universal principle in which Man participates; but so does equally every physical and subjective atom, and also every blade of grass and everything that lives or is in Space, whether it is sensible of it or not. He knows, moreover, that if man is more closely connected with it, and assimilates it with a hundredfold more power, it is simply because he is endowed with the highest consciousness on this earth; that man, in short, may become a Spirit, a Devi, or a God in his next transformation, whereas neither a stone nor a vegetable, nor an animal can do so before they become men in their proper turn.

-- The Esoteric Papers of Madame Blavatsky

Be that as it may. When I compare the reflections prompted by Xenophon's Dialogue and by Strauss's interpretation with the lessons that emerge from history, I have the impression that the relations between the philosopher and the tyrant have always been "reasonable" in the course of historical evolution: on the one hand the philosophers' "reasonable" advice has always been actualized by tyrants sooner or later; on the other hand, philosophers and tyrants have always behaved toward each other "in accordance with reason."

The tyrant is perfectly right not to try to implement a utopian philosophical theory, that is to say a philosophical theory without direct connections with the political reality with which he has to deal: for he has no time to fill the theoretical gap between utopia and reality. As for the philosopher, he too is right when he refrains from elaborating his theories to the point where they speak directly to the questions raised by current political affairs: if he did, he would have no time left for philosophy, he would cease to be a philosopher and hence would cease to have any claim to giving the tyrant politico- philosophical advice. The philosopher is right to leave the responsibility for bringing about a convergence on the theoretical plane between his philosophical ideas and political reality to a constellation of intellectuals of all shades (more or less spread out in time and space); the intellectuals are right to dedicate themselves to this task and, if the occasion arises, to give the tyrant direct advice when, in their theories, they have reached the level of the concrete problems raised by current political affairs; the tyrant is right not to follow (and not to listen) to such advice until it has reached this level. In short, they all behave reasonably within historical reality, and it is by behaving reasonably that, in the end, all of them directly or indirectly achieve real results.

On the other hand, it would be perfectly unreasonable for the Statesman to want to deny the philosophical value of a theory solely because it cannot be implemented "as is" in a given political situation (which, of course, does not mean that the Statesman may not have politically valid reasons for prohibiting this theory within the context of that situation). It would be equally unreasonable for the philosopher to condemn Tyranny as such "on principle," since a "tyranny" can be "condemned" or "justified" only within the context of a concrete political situation. Generally speaking, it would be unreasonable if, solely in terms of his philosophy, the philosopher were in any way whatsoever to criticize the concrete political measures taken by the statesman, regardless of whether or not he is a tyrant, especially when he takes them so that the very ideal advocated by the philosopher might be actualized at some future time. In both cases the judgments passed on philosophy or on politics would be incompetent. As such, they would be more excusable (but no more justified) in the mouth of an "uninitiated" statesman or tyrant, than in that of the philosopher who is by definition "rational." As for the "mediating" intellectuals, they would be unreasonable if they did not recognize the philosopher's right to judge the philosophical value of their theories, or the statesman's right to choose the theories which he regards as capable of being actualized in the given circumstances and to discard the rest, even "tyrannically."

In general terms, it is history itself that attends to "judging" (by "achievement" or "success") the deeds of statesmen or tyrants, which they perform (consciously or not) as a function of the ideas of philosophers, adapted for practical purposes by intellectuals.



1. Kojeve's essay first appeared under the title "L'action politique des philosophes," in Critique (1950, 6: 46-55, 138-155). The expanded version subsequently published under the title "Tyranny and Wisdom" omits the opening paragraphs of the original article.

In a brilliant and impassioned book, but in the guise of a calmly objective work of scholarship, Leo Strauss interprets Xenophon's dialogue in which a tyrant and a wise man discuss the advantages and disadvantages of exercising tyranny. He shows us wherein the interpretation of a work differs from a mere commentary or an analysis. Through his interpretation Xenophon appears to us as no longer the somewhat dull and flat author we know, but as a brilliant and subtle writer, an original and profound thinker. What is more, in interpreting this forgotten dialogue, Strauss lays bare great moral and political problems that are still ours.

He has searched through the maze of the dialogue for the true meaning of Xenophon's teaching. Xenophon presumably took care to hide it from the view of the vulgar. Strauss therefore had to resort to the method of the detective who, by a subtle interpretation of the apparent facts, finally finds the criminal. . .

Truth to tell, the temptation is great in the end to deny the discovery. Indeed, the book cannot end as detective novels do, with the unmasked "criminal's" confession. Let the reader judge. . .

However, it matters only incidentally to know whether the interpretation is irrefutable, for the importance of Strauss's book goes well beyond Xenophon's authentic and perhaps unknown thought. It owes its importance to the importance of the problem which it raises and discusses.

2. Hiero (ibid.), it is true, would like his subjects to "crown him for his public virtue" and he believes that at the present time they condemn him "for his injustice." But "injustice" disturbs him only to the extent that it prevents his being "recognized," and it is only in order to obtain "recognition" that he would practice "virtue." In other words, "virtue" and "justice" are for him only means by which to impose his authority on his subjects, and not ends in themselves. The sequel shows that Simonides's attitude is exactly the same: the tyrant must be "virtuous" and "just" in order to win his subjects' "affection"; in order, that is, to do the thing that will make his subjects obey "without being constrained," and -- ultimately -- in order to be "happy without being envied." This attitude is surely not "Socratic." We may grant, with Strauss, that Simonides, as an advisor to a tyrant, adopts Hiero's point of view for pedagogical reasons only, and without himself sharing it (in his capacity as a wise man).

3. This assertion appears paradoxical only if one fails to think about the specific meaning of the words "concrete" and "abstract." One reaches the "abstract" when one "neglects" or abstracts some features implied in the "concrete," that is to say the real. Thus, for example, when in speaking of a tree one abstracts everything that is not it (the earth, the air, the planet Earth, the solar system, etc.), one is speaking of an abstraction that does not exist in reality (for the tree can exist only if there is the earth, the air, the rays of the sun, etc.). Hence all the particular sciences deal, in varying degrees, with abstractions. Similarly, an exclusively "national" politics is necessarily abstract (as is a "pure" politics that would, for example, abstract from religion or art). The isolated "particular" is by definition abstract. It is precisely in seeking the concrete that the philosopher rises to the "general ideas" which the "uninitiate" claims to scorn.

4. Strauss, in agreement with Xenophon, seems to grant this radical egoism of the philosophical life. Indeed he says that "the wise man is as self-sufficient as is humanly possible." The wise man is thus absolutely "uninterested" in other men.

5. As Queneau has reminded us in les Temps Modernes, the philosopher is essentially a "voyou." <i.e. a hooligan: "Philosophes et voyous," Temps Modernes, 1951, No. 63, pp. 1193-1205; Kojeve's reference involves a pun: the root of voyou is voie, street or road; so that "the philosopher who lives 'in the street'" would be a voyou. >

6. As a matter of fact, Christians only succeeded in "spoiling this pleasure" by playing on the disagreeable sentiment that manifests itself in the form of "jealousy" or "envy," among others: one is dissatisfied with oneself (sometimes one even despises oneself) when one is "worse than someone else." Now a Christian always has at his disposal an other who is better than himself, this Other being God himself, who made himself man in order to facilitate the comparison. To the extent that this man to whom he compares himself and whom he tries in vain to imitate is for him a God, the Christian experiences neither "envy" nor "jealousy" toward him, but only an "inferiority complex" pure and simple, which does, however, suffice to keep him from recognizing his own wisdom or virtue and from "enjoying" that recognition.

7. Observation of "conduct" cannot settle the question. But the fact remains that in observing philosophers (for want of wise men) one really does not get the impression that they are insensitive to praise, or even to flattery. One can even say that, like all intellectuals, they are on the whole more vain than men of action. Indeed, it is readily understandable why they would be. Men do the specific things they do in order to succeed or "to achieve success" (and not to fail). Now, the "success" of an undertaking involving action can be measured by its objective "outcome" (a bridge that does not collapse, a business that makes money, a war won, a state that is strong and prosperous, etc.), independently of other people's opinion of it, while the "success" of a book or of an intellectual discourse is nothing but other people's recognition of its value. So that the intellectual depends very much more than does the man of action (including the tyrant) on other people's admiration, and he is more sensitive than the man of action to the absence of such admiration. Without it, he has absolutely no valid reason to admire himself, while the man of action can admire himself on account of his objective (even solitary) "successes." And that is why, as a general rule, the intellectual who does nothing but talk and write is more "vain" than the man who acts, in the strong sense of the term.

8. The case of Descartes is too complicated to discuss here.
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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:34 am


Leo Strauss: Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero [1]

A social science that cannot speak of tyranny with the same confidence with which medicine speaks, for example, of cancer, cannot understand social phenomena as what they are. It is therefore not scientific. Present-day social science finds itself in this condition. If it is true that present-day social science is the inevitable result of modern social science and of modern philosophy, one is forced to think of the restoration of classical social science. Once we have learned again from the classics what tyranny is, we shall be enabled and compelled to diagnose as tyrannies a number of contemporary regimes which appear in the guise of dictatorships. This diagnosis can only be the first step toward an exact analysis of present-day tyranny, for present-day tyranny is fundamentally different from the tyranny analyzed by the classics.

But is this not tantamount to admitting that the classics were wholly unfamiliar with tyranny in its contemporary form? Must one not therefore conclude that the classical concept of tyranny is too narrow and hence that the classical frame of reference must be radically modified, i.e., abandoned? In other words, is the attempt to restore classical social science not utopian since it implies that the classical orientation has not been made obsolete by the triumph of the biblical orientation?

This seems to be the chief objection to which my study of Xenophon's Hiero is exposed. At any rate, this is the gist of the only criticisms of my study from which one could learn anything. Those criticisms were written in complete independence of each other and their authors, Professor Eric Voegelin and M. Alexandre Kojeve, have, so to speak, nothing in common. Before discussing their arguments, I must restate my contention.

The fact that there is a fundamental difference between classical tyranny and present-day tyranny, or that the classics did not even dream of present-day tyranny, is not a good or sufficient reason for abandoning the classical frame of reference. For that fact is perfectly compatible with the possibility that present-day tyranny finds its place within the classical framework, i.e., that it cannot be understood adequately except within the classical framework. The difference between present-day tyranny and classical tyranny has its root in the difference between the modern notion of philosophy or science and the classical notion of philosophy or science. Present-day tyranny, in contradistinction to classical tyranny, is based on the unlimited progress in the "conquest of nature" which is made possible by modern science, as well as on the popularization or diffusion of philosophic or scientific knowledge. Both possibilities -- the possibility of a science that issues in the conquest of nature and the possibility of the popularization of philosophy or science -- were known to the classics. (Compare Xenophon, Memorabilia I 1.15 with Empedocles, fr. 111; Plato, Theaetetus 180c7-d5.) But the classics rejected them as "unnatural," i.e., as destructive of humanity. They did not dream of present-day tyranny because they regarded its basic presuppositions as so preposterous that they turned their imagination in entirely different directions.

Voegelin, one of the leading contemporary historians of political thought, seems to contend (The Review of Politics, 1949, pp. 241-44) that the classical concept of tyranny is too narrow because it does not cover the phenomenon known as Caesarism: when calling a given regime tyrannical, we imply that "constitutional" government is a viable alternative to it; but Caesarism emerges only after "the final breakdown of the republican constitutional order"; hence Caesarism or "post-constitutional" rule cannot be understood as a subdivision of tyranny in the classical sense of tyranny. There is no reason to quarrel with the view that genuine Caesarism is not tyranny, but this does not justify the conclusion that Caesarism is incomprehensible on the basis of classical political philosophy: Caesarism is still a subdivision of absolute monarchy as the classics understood it. If in a given situation "the republican constitutional order" has completely broken down, and there is no reasonable prospect of its restoration within all the foreseeable future, the establishment of permanent absolute rule cannot, as such, be justly blamed; therefore it is fundamentally different from the establishment of tyranny. Just blame could attach only to the manner in which that permanent absolute rule that is truly necessary is established and exercised; as Voegelin emphasizes, there are tyrannical as well as royal Caesars. One has only to read Coluccio Salutati's defense of Caesar against the charge that he was a tyrant -- a defense which in all essential points is conceived in the spirit of the classics -- in order to see that the distinction between Caesarism and tyranny fits perfectly into the classical framework.

But the phenomenon of Caesarism is one thing; the current concept of Caesarism is another. The current concept of Caesarism is certainly incompatible with classical principles. The question thus arises whether the current concept or the classical concept is more nearly adequate. More particularly, the question concerns the validity of the two implications of the current concept which Voegelin seems to regard as indispensable, and which originated in nineteenth-century historicism. In the first place, he seems to believe that the difference between "the constitutional situation" and "the post-constitutional situation" is more fundamental than the difference between the good king or the good Caesar on the one hand and the bad king or the bad Caesar on the other. But is not the difference between good and bad the most fundamental of all practical or political distinctions? Secondly, Voegelin seems to believe that "post-constitutional" rule is not per se inferior to "constitutional" rule. But is not "post-constitutional" rule justified by necessity or, as Voegelin says, by "historical necessity"? And is not the necessary essentially inferior to the noble or to what is choiceworthy for its own sake? Necessity excuses: what is justified by necessity is in need of excuse. The Caesar, as Voegelin conceives of him, is "the avenger of the misdeeds of a corrupt people." Caesarism is then essentially related to a corrupt people, to a low level of political life, to a decline of society. It presupposes the decline, if not the extinction, of civic virtue or of public spirit, and it necessarily perpetuates that condition. Caesarism belongs to a degraded society, and it thrives on its degradation. Caesarism is just, whereas tyranny is unjust. But Caesarism is just in the way in which deserved punishment is just. It is as little choiceworthy for its own sake as is deserved punishment. Cato refused to see what his time demanded because he saw too clearly the degraded and degrading character of what his time demanded. It is much more important to realize the low level of Caesarism (for, to repeat, Caesarism cannot be divorced from the society which deserves Caesarism) than to realize that under certain conditions Caesarism is necessary and hence legitimate.

While the classics were perfectly capable of doing justice to the merits of Caesarism, they were not particularly concerned with elaborating a doctrine of Caesarism. Since they were primarily concerned with the best regime, they paid less attention to "post-constitutional" rule or to late kingship, than to "pre-constitutional" rule or to early kingship: rustic simplicity is a better soil for the good life than is sophisticated rottenness. But there was another reason which induced the classics to be almost silent about "post-constitutional" rule. To stress the fact that it is just to replace constitutional rule by absolute rule, if the common good requires that change, means to cast a doubt on the absolute sanctity of the established constitutional order. It means encouraging dangerous men to confuse the issue by bringing about a state of affairs in which the common good requires the establishment of their absolute rule. The true doctrine of the legitimacy of Caesarism is a dangerous doctrine. The true distinction between Caesarism and tyranny is too subtle for ordinary political use. It is better for the people to remain ignorant of that distinction and to regard the potential Caesar as a potential tyrant. No harm can come from this theoretical error which becomes a practical truth if the people have the mettle to act upon it. No harm can come from the political identification of Caesarism and tyranny: Caesars can take care of themselves.

The classics could easily have elaborated a doctrine of Caesarism or of late kingship if they had wanted, but they did not want to do it. Voegelin however contends that they were forced by their historical situation to grope for a doctrine of Caesarism, and that they failed to discover it. He tries to substantiate his contention by referring to Xenophon and to Plato. As for Plato, Voegelin was forced by considerations of space to limit himself to a summary reference to the royal ruler in the Statesman. As for Xenophon, he rightly asserts that it is not sufficient to oppose "the Cyropaedia as a mirror of the perfect king to the Hiero as a mirror of the tyrant," since the perfect king Cyrus and the improved tyrant who is described by Simonides "look much more opposed to each other than they really are." He explains this fact by suggesting that "both works fundamentally face the same historical problem of the new [sc. post-constitutional] rulership," and that one cannot solve this problem except by obliterating at the first stage the distinction between king and tyrant. To justify this explanation he contends that "the very motivation of the Cyropaedia is the search for a stable rule that will make an end to the dreary overturning of democracies and tyrannies in the Hellenic polis." This contention is not supported by what Xenophon says or indicates in regard to the intention of the Cyropaedia. Its explicit intention is to make intelligible Cyrus' astonishing success in solving the problem of ruling human beings. Xenophon conceives of this problem as one that is coeval with man. Like Plato in the Statesman, he does not make the slightest reference to the particular "historical" problem of stable rule in "the post-constitutional situation." In particular, he does not refer to "the dreary overturning of democracies and tyrannies in the Hellenic polis": he speaks of the frequent overturning of democracies, monarchies, and oligarchies and of the essential instability of all tyrannies. As for the implicit intention of the Cyropaedia, it is partly revealed by the remark, toward the end of the work, that "after Cyrus died, his sons immediately quarreled, cities and nations immediately revolted, and all things turned to the worse." If Xenophon was not a fool, he did not intend to present Cyrus' regime as a model. He knew too well that the good order of society requires stability and continuity. (Compare the opening of the Cyropaedia with the parallel in the Agesilaus, 1. 4.) He rather used Cyrus' meteoric success and the way in which it was brought about as an example for making intelligible the nature of political things. The work, which describes Cyrus' whole life, is entitled The Education of Cyrus: the education of Cyrus is the clue to his whole life, to his astonishing success, and hence to Xenophon's intention. A very rough sketch must here suffice. Xenophon's Cyrus was' the son of the king of Persia, and until he was about twelve years old he was educated according to the laws of the Persians. The laws and the policy of Xenophon's Persians, however, are an improved version of the laws and polity of the Spartans. The Persia in which Cyrus was raised was an aristocracy superior to Sparta. The political activity of Cyrus -- his extraordinary success -- consisted in transforming a stable and healthy aristocracy into an unstable "Oriental despotism" whose rottenness showed itself at the latest immediately after his death. The first step in this transformation was a speech which Cyrus addressed to the Persian nobles and in which he convinced them that they ought to deviate from the habit of their ancestors by practicing virtue no longer for its own sake, but for the sake of its rewards. The destruction of aristocracy begins, as one would expect, with the corruption of its principle. (Cyropaedia I 5.5-14; compare Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 1248b 38 ff., where the view of virtue which Xenophon's Cyrus instills into the minds of the Persian gentlemen is described as the Spartan view.) The quick success of Cyrus' first action forces the reader to wonder whether the Persian aristocracy was a genuine aristocracy; or more precisely, whether the gentleman in the political or social sense is a true gentleman. This question is identical with the question which Plato answers explicitly in the negative in his story of Er. Socrates says outright that a man who has lived in his former life in a well-ordered regime, participating in virtue by habit and without philosophy, will choose for his next life "the greatest tyranny," for "mostly people make their choice according to the habits of their former life" (Republic 619b6-620a3). There is no adequate solution to the problem of virtue or happiness on the political or social plane. Still, while aristocracy is always on the verge of declining into oligarchy or something worse, it is the best possible political solution of the human problem. It must here suffice to note that Cyrus' second step is the democratization of the army, and that the end of the process is a regime that might seem barely distinguishable from the least intolerable form of tyranny. But one must not overlook the essential difference between Cyrus' rule and tyranny, a distinction that is never obliterated. Cyrus is and remains a legitimate ruler. He is born as the legitimate heir to the reigning king, a scion of an old royal house. He becomes the king of other nations through inheritance or marriage and through just conquest, for he enlarges the boundaries of Persia in the Roman manner: by defending the allies of Persia. The difference between Cyrus and a Hiero educated by Simonides is comparable to the difference between William III and Oliver Cromwell. A cursory comparison of the history of England with the history of certain other European nations suffices to show that this difference is not unimportant to the well-being of peoples. Xenophon did not even attempt to obliterate the distinction between the best tyrant and the king because he appreciated too well the charms, nay, the blessings of legitimacy. He expressed this appreciation by subscribing to the maxim (which must be reasonably understood and applied) that the just is identical with the legal.

Voegelin might reply that what is decisive is not Xenophon's conscious intention, stated or implied, but the historical meaning of his work, the historical meaning of a work being determined by the historical situation as distinguished from the conscious intention of the author. Yet opposing the historical meaning of Xenophon's work to his conscious intention implies that we are better judges of the situation in which Xenophon thought than Xenophon himself was. But we cannot be better judges of that situation if we do not have a clearer grasp than he had of the principles in whose light historical situations reveal their meaning. After the experience of our generation, the burden of proof would seem to rest on those who assert rather than on those who deny that we have progressed beyond the classics. And even if it were true that we could understand the classics better than they understood themselves, we would become certain of our superiority only after understanding them exactly as they understood themselves. Otherwise we might mistake our superiority to our notion of the classics for superiority to the classics.

According to Voegelin, it was Machiavelli, as distinguished from the classics, who "achieved the theoretical creation of a concept of rulership in the post-constitutional situation," and this achievement was due to the influence on Machiavelli of the Biblical tradition. He refers especially to Machiavelli's remark about the "armed prophets" (Prina VI). The difficulty to which Voegelin's contention is exposed is indicated by these two facts: he speaks on the one hand of "the apocalyptic [hence thoroughly non-classical] aspects of the 'armed prophet' in the Prince," whereas on the other hand he says that Machiavelli claimed "for [the] paternity" of the "armed prophet" "besides Romulus, Moses and Theseus, precisely the Xenophontic Cyrus." This amounts to an admission that certainly Machiavelli himself was not aware of any non-classical implication of his notion of "armed prophets." There is nothing unclassical about Romulus, Theseus, and Xenophon's Cyrus. It is true that Machiavelli adds Moses; but, after having made his bow to the Biblical interpretation of Moses, he speaks of Moses in exactly the same manner in which every classical political philosopher would have spoken of him; Moses was one of the greatest legislators or founders (fondatori: Discorsi I 9) who ever lived. When reading Voegelin's statement on this subject, one receives the impression that in speaking of armed prophets, Machiavelli put the emphasis on "prophets" as distinguished from nonprophetic rulers like Cyrus, for example. But Machiavelli puts the emphasis not on "prophets," but on "armed." He opposes the armed prophets, among whom he counts Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus as well as Moses, to unarmed prophets like Savonarola. He states the lesson which he intends to convey with remarkable candor: "All armed prophets succeed and the unarmed ones come to ruin." It is difficult to believe that in writing this sentence Machiavelli should have been completely oblivious of the most famous of all unarmed prophets. One certainly cannot understand Machiavelli's remark on the "unarmed prophets" without taking into consideration what he says about the "unarmed heaven" and "the effeminacy of the world" which, according to him, are due to Christianity. (Discorsi II 2 and III 1.) The tradition which Machiavelli continues, while radically modifying it, is not, as Voegelin suggests, that represented by Joachim of Floris, for example, but the one which we still call, with pardonable ignorance, the Averroistic tradition. Machiavelli declares that Savonarola, that unarmed prophet, was right in saying that the ruin of Italy was caused by "our sins," "but our sins were not what he believed they were," namely, religious sins, "but those which I have narrated," namely, political or military sins (Prince XII). In the same vein Maimonides declares that the ruin of the Jewish kingdom was caused by the "sins of our fathers," namely, by their idolatry; but idolatry worked its effect in a perfectly natural manner: it led to astrology and thus induced the Jewish people to devote themselves to astrology instead of to the practice of the arts of war and the conquest of countries. But apart from all this, Voegelin does not give any indication of what the armed prophets have to do with "the post-constitutional situation." Certainly Romulus, Theseus, and Moses were "pre-constitutional" rulers. Voegelin also refers to "Machiavelli's complete drawing of the savior prince in the Vita di Castruccio Castracani" which, he says, "is hardly thinkable without the standardized model of the Life of Timur." Apart from the fact that Voegelin has failed to show any connection between the Castruccio and the Life of Timur and between the Life of Timur and the Biblical tradition, the Castruccio is perhaps the most impressive document of Machiavelli's longing for classical virtu as distinguished from, and opposed to, Biblical righteousness. Castruccio, that idealized condottiere who preferred in so single-minded a manner the life of the soldier to the life of the priest, is compared by Machiavelli himself to Philip of Macedon and to Scipio of Rome.

Machiavelli's longing for classical virtu is only the reverse side of his rejection of classical political philosophy. He rejects classical political philosophy because of its orientation by the perfection of the nature of man. The abandonment of the contemplative ideal leads to a radical change in the character of wisdom: Machiavellian wisdom has no necessary connection with moderation. Machiavelli separates wisdom from moderation. The ultimate reason why the Hiero comes so close to the Prince is that in the Hiero Xenophon experiments with a type of wisdom which comes relatively close to a wisdom divorced from moderation: Simonides seems to have an inordinate desire for the pleasures of the table. It is impossible to say how far the epoch-making change that was effected by Machiavelli is due to the indirect influence of the Biblical tradition, before that change has been fully understood in itself.

The peculiar character of the Hiero does not disclose itself to cursory reading. It will not disclose itself to the tenth reading, however painstaking, if the reading is not productive of a change of orientation. This change was much easier to achieve for the eighteenth-century reader than for the reader in our century who has been brought up on the brutal and sentimental literature of the last five generations. We are in need of a second education in order to accustom our eyes to the noble reserve and the quiet grandeur of the classics. Xenophon, as it were, limited himself to cultivating exclusively that character of classical writing which is wholly foreign to the modern reader. No wonder that he is today despised or ignored. An unknown ancient critic, who must have been a man of uncommon discernment, called him most bashful. Those modern readers who are so fortunate as to have a natural preference for Jane Austen rather than for Dostoievski, in particular, have an easier access to Xenophon than others might have; to understand Xenophon, they have only to combine the love of philosophy with their natural preference. In the words of Xenophon, "it is both noble and just, and pious and more pleasant to remember the good things rather than the bad ones." In the Hiero, Xenophon experimented with the pleasure that comes from remembering bad things, with a pleasure that admittedly is of doubtful morality and piety.

For someone who is trying to form his taste or his mind by studying Xenophon, it is almost shocking to be suddenly confronted by the more than Machiavellian bluntness with which Kojeve speaks of such terrible things as atheism and tyranny and takes them for granted. At least on one occasion he goes so far as to call "unpopular" certain measures which the very tyrant Hiero had declared to be criminal. He does not hesitate to proclaim that present-day dictators are tyrants without regarding this in the least as an objection to their rule. As for reverence for legitimacy, he has none. But the nascent shock is absorbed by the realization, or rather the knowledge of long standing, that Kojeve belongs to the very few who know how to think and who love to think. He does not belong to the many who today are unabashed atheists and more than Byzantine flatterers of tyrants for the same reason for which they would have been addicted to the grossest superstitions, both religious and legal, had they lived in an earlier age. In a word, Kojeve is a philosopher and not an intellectual.

Since he is a philosopher, he knows that the philosopher is, in principle, more capable of ruling than other men and hence will be regarded by a tyrant like Hiero as a most dangerous competitor for tyrannical rule. It would not occur to him for a moment to compare the relationship between Hiero and Simonides with the relationship, say, between Stefan George or Thomas Mann and Hitler. For, to say nothing of considerations too obvious to be mentioned, he could not overlook the obvious fact that the hypothesis of the Hiero demanded a tyrant of whom it was at least imaginable that he could be taught. In particular, he knows without having to be reminded of the Seventh Letter that the difference between a philosopher who is a subject of the tyrant and a philosopher who merely visits the tyrant is immaterial as far as the tyrant's fear of philosophers is concerned. His understanding does not permit him to rest satisfied with the vulgar separation of theory from practice. He knows too well that there never was and there never will be reasonable security for sound practice except after theory has overcome the powerful obstacles to sound practice which originate in theoretical misconceptions of a certain kind. Finally, he brushes aside in sovereign contempt the implicit claim of current, i.e., running or heedless thought to have solved the problems that were raised by the classics -- a claim that is only implicit because current thought is unaware of the existence of those problems.

Yet while admitting and even stressing the absolute superiority of classical thought to current thought, Kojeve rejects the classical solution of the basic problems. He regards unlimited technological progress and universal enlightenment as essential for the genuine satisfaction of what is human in man. He denies that present-day social science is the inevitable outcome of modern philosophy. According to him, present day social science is merely the inevitable product of the inevitable decay of that modern philosophy which has refused to learn the decisive lesson from Hegel. He regards Hegel's teaching as the genuine synthesis of Socratic and Machiavellian (or Hobbian) politics, which, as such, is superior to its component elements. In fact, he regards Hegel's teaching, as in principle, the final teaching.

Kojeve directs his criticism in the first place against the classical notion of tyranny. Xenophon reveals an important part of that notion by making Hiero answer with silence to Simonides' description of the good tyrant. As Kojeve rightly judges, Hiero's silence signifies that he will not attempt to put into practice Simonides' proposals. Kojeve suggests, at least provisionally, that this is the fault of Simonides, who did not tell Hiero what the first step is which the tyrant must take in order to transform bad tyranny into good tyranny. But would it not have been up to Hiero if he seriously desired to become a good tyrant, to ask Simonides about the first step? How does Kojeve know that Simonides was not waiting in vain for this very question? Or perhaps Simonides has answered it already implicitly. Yet this defense of Simonides is insufficient. The question returns, for, as Kojeve again rightly observes, the attempt to realize Simonides' vision of a good tyrant is confronted with an almost insurmountable difficulty. The only question which Hiero raises while Simonides discusses the improvement of tyranny concerns the mercenaries. Hiero's imperfect tyranny rests on the support of his mercenaries. The improvement of tyranny would require a shift of part of the power from the mercenaries to the citizens. By attempting such a shift, the tyrant would antagonize the mercenaries without being at all certain that he could regain by that concession, or by any concession, the confidence of the citizens. He would end by sitting between two chairs. Simonides seems to disregard this state of things and thus to reveal a poor understanding of Hiero's situation or a lack of wisdom. To save Simonides' reputation, one seems compelled to suggest that the poet himself did not believe in the viability of his improved tyranny, that he regarded the good tyranny as a utopia, or that he rejected tyranny as a hopelessly bad regime. But, Kojeve continues, does this suggestion not imply that Simonides' attempt to educate Hiero is futile? And a wise man does not attempt futile things.

This criticism may be said to be based on an insufficient appreciation of the value of utopias. The utopia in the strict sense describes the simply good social order. As such it merely makes explicit what is implied in every attempt at social improvement. There is no difficulty in enlarging the strict meaning of utopia in such a manner that one can speak of the utopia of the best tyranny. As Kojeve emphasizes, under certain conditions the abolition of tyranny may be out of the question. The best one could hope for is that the tyranny be improved, i.e., that the tyrannical rule be exercised as little inhumanely or irrationally as possible. Every specific reform or improvement of which a sensible man could think, if reduced to its principle, forms part of the complete picture of the maximum improvement that is still compatible with the continued existence of tyranny, it being understood that the maximum improvement is possible only under the most favorable conditions. The maximum improvement of tyranny would require, above all, the shift of part of the power from the mercenaries to the citizens. Such a shift is not absolutely impossible, but its actualization is safe only in circumstances which man cannot create or which no sensible man would create (e.g., an extreme danger threatening equally the mercenaries and the citizens, like the danger of Syracuse being conquered, and all its inhabitants being put to the sword, by barbarians). A sensible man like Simonides would think that he had deserved well of his fellow men if he could induce the tyrant to act humanely or rationally within a small area, or perhaps even in a single instance, where, without his advice, the tyrant would have continued an inhuman or irrational practice. Xenophon indicates an example: Hiero's participating at the Olympian and Pythian games. If Hiero followed Simonides' advice to abandon this practice, he would improve his standing with his subjects and in the world at large, and he would indirectly benefit his subjects. Xenophon leaves it to the intelligence of his reader to replace that particular example by another one which the reader, on the basis of his particular experience, might consider to be more apt. The general lesson is to the effect that the wise man who happens to have a chance to influence a tyrant should use his influence for benefiting his fellow men. One may say that the lesson is trivial. It would be more accurate to say that it was trivial in former ages, for today such little actions like that of Simonides are not taken seriously because we are in the habit of expecting too much. What is not trivial is what we learn from Xenophon about how the wise man has to proceed in his undertaking, which is beset with great difficulties and even with dangers.

Kojeve denies our contention that the good tyranny is a utopia. To substantiate his denial, he mentions one example by name: the rule of Salazar. I have never been to Portugal, but from all that I have heard about that country, I am inclined to believe that Kojeve is right, except that I am not quite certain whether Salazar's rule should not be called "post- constitutional" rather than tyrannical. Yet one swallow does not make a summer, and we never denied that good tyranny is possible under very favorable circumstances. But Kojeve contends that Salazar is not an exception. He thinks that circumstances favorable to good tyranny are easily available today. He contends that all present-day tyrants are good tyrants in Xenophon's sense. He alludes to Stalin. He notes in particular that the tyranny improved according to Simonides' suggestions is characterized by Stakhanovistic emulation. But Stalin's rule would live up to Simonides' standards only if the introduction of Stakhanovistic emulation had been accompanied by a considerable decline in the use of the NKVD or of "labor" camps. Would Kojeve go so far as to say that Stalin could travel outside of the Iron Curtain wherever he liked in order to see sights without having anything to fear? (Hiero 11.10 and 1.12.). Would Kojeve go so far as to say that everyone living behind the Iron Curtain is an ally of Stalin, or that Stalin regards all citizens of Soviet Russia and the other "people's democracies" as his comrades? (Hiero II. II and 11.14.)

However this may be, Kojeve contends that present-day tyranny, and perhaps even classical tyranny, cannot be understood on the basis of Xenophon's principles, and that the classical frame of reference must be modified radically by the introduction of an element of Biblical origin. He argues as follows. Simonides maintains that honor is the supreme or sole goal of the tyrant in particular and of the highest type of human being (the Master) in general. This shows that the poet sees only half of the truth. The other half is supplied by the Biblical morality of Slaves or Workers. The actions of men, and hence also the actions of tyrants, can be, and frequently are, prompted by desire for the pleasure deriving from the successful execution of their work, their projects, or their ideals. There is such a thing as devotion to one's work, or to a cause, "conscientious" work, into which no thought of honor or glory enters. But this fact must not induce us to minimize hypocritically the essential contribution of the desire for honor or prestige to the completion of man. The desire for prestige, recognition, or authority is the primary motive of all political struggles, and in particular of the struggle that leads a man to tyrannical power. It is perfectly unobjectionable for an aspiring statesman or a potential tyrant to try for no other reason than for the sake of his preferment to oust the incumbent ruler or rulers although he knows that he is in no way better equipped for the job than they are. There is no reason to find fault with such a course of action, for the desire for recognition necessarily transforms itself, in all cases which are of any consequence, into devotion to the work to be done or to a cause. The synthesis of the morality of Masters with the morality of Slaves is superior to its component elements.

Simonides is very far from accepting the morality of Masters or from maintaining that honor is the supreme goal of the highest human type. In translating one of the crucial passages (the last sentence of Hiero 7.4), Kojeve omits the qualifying dokei ("no human pleasure seems to come closer to what is divine than the joy concerning honors"). Nor does he pay attention to the implication of the fact that Simonides declares the desire for honor to be the dominating passion of andres (whom Kojeve calls Masters) as distinguished from anthropoi (whom he calls Slaves). For, according to Xenophon, and hence according to his Simonides, the aner is by no means the highest human type. The highest human type is the wise man. A Hegelian will have no difficulty in admitting that, since the wise man is distinguished from the Master, he will have something important in common with the Slave. This was certainly Xenophon's view. In the statement of the Master's principle, which he entrusted to Simonides, the poet cannot help admitting implicitly the unity of the human species which his statement explicitly denies. And the unity of the human species is thought to be more easily seen by the Slave than by the Master. One does not characterize Socrates adequately by calling him a Master. Xenophon contrasts him with Ischomachus, who is the prototype of the kalos te kagathos aner. Since the work and the knowledge which is best for the type represented by Ischomachus is agriculture and Socrates was not an agriculturist, Socrates was not a kalos te kagathos aner. As Lycon explicitly says, Socrates was a kalos te kagathos anthropos (Symposium 9.1; Oeconomicus 6.8, 12). In this context we may note that in the passage of the Hiero which deals with gentlemen living under a tyrant (10.3), Simonides characteristically omits andres: kaloi te kagathoi andres could not live happily under a tyrant however good (compare Hiero 9.6 and 5.1-2). Xenophon indicates his view most succinctly by failing to mention manliness in his two lists of Socrates' virtues. He sees in Socrates' military activity a sign not of his manliness, but of his justice (Memorabilia IV 4.1).

Since Xenophon or his Simonides did not believe that honor is the highest good, or since they did not accept the morality of Masters, there is no apparent need for supplementing their teaching by an element taken from the morality of Slaves or Workers. According to the classics, the highest good is a life devoted to wisdom or to virtue, honor being no more than a very pleasant, but secondary and dispensable, reward. What Kojeve calls the pleasure deriving from doing one's work well or from realizing' one's projects or one's ideals was called by the classics the pleasure deriving from virtuous or noble activity. The classical interpretation would seem to be truer to the facts. Kojeve refers to the pleasure which a solitary child or a solitary painter may derive from executing his projects well. But one can easily imagine a solitary safecracker deriving pleasure from executing his project well, and without a thought of the external rewards (wealth or admiration of his competence) which he reaps. There are artists in all walks of life. It does make a difference what kind of a "job" is the source of disinterested pleasure: whether the job is criminal or innocent, whether it is mere play or serious, and so on. By thinking through this observation one arrives at the view that the highest kind of job, or the only job that is truly human, is noble or virtuous activity, or noble or virtuous work. If one is fond of this manner of looking at things, one may say that noble work is the synthesis effected by the classics between the morality of workless nobility and the morality of ignoble work (cf. Plato, Meno 81d3 ff.).

He grants to Hiero that tyranny is as toilsome and as dangerous as the latter had asserted; yet, he says, those toils and dangers are reasonably borne because they lead to the pleasure deriving from honors, and no other human pleasure comes nearer to divinity than this kind of pleasure: tyrants are honored more than any other men.
Now he openly declares that the desire for honor is characteristic of real men as such, i.e., as distinguished from ordinary "human beings. "There seems to be no longer any doubt that Simonides, who is admittedly a real man, longs for tyrannical power.
After Hiero has finished his long speech, Simonides declares that in spite of everything that the tyrant has said, tyranny is highly desirable because it leads to supreme honor.
As for Simonides, he seems to esteem nothing as highly as honor or praise.
But he seems to maintain that tyrannical life is superior to private life in the most important respect: he praises nothing so highly as honor, and he asserts that tyrants are honored above other men.
"You (sc. the tyrants) are honored above (all) other men."
We start again from the crucial fact that Simonides praises nothing as highly as honor.
From what has been said it may be inferred that Simonides' emphatic praise of honor cannot possibly mean that he preferred honor as such to all other things. [??!!!]
His intention is to show Hiero, who reveals a remarkable indifference to virtue, a way to virtuous rule by appealing, not to virtue or the noble, but to the pleasant; and the pleasure deriving from honor seems to be the natural substitute for the pleasure deriving from virtue.
We may take it then that by extolling honor Simonides reveals his own preferences rather than those of his pupil.
He considered the desire for honor the highest because it is the foundation of the desire for any excellence.
Such virtue is productive of the highest honor and of unimpaired happiness.
He does not speak of the noblest and grandest, or most splendid possession ("virtue and justice and gentility"): he reserves his highest praise, not for virtue, but for happiness unmarred by envy, and, above all, for honor.
Seeing that he praises nothing as highly as honor, and honor is most pleasant to real men as distinguished from ordinary human beings, we may say that the ultimate and complete principle of preference to which Simonides refers in the Hiero is the pleasure which agrees with the nature of real men.
It is hardly necessary to repeat that his spontaneous praise of honor is concerned exclusively with the benefit of him who is honored or praised and is silent about the benefits to be rendered to others or the duties to others.
Simonides replaces the praise of virtue by a praise of honor.
To point, therefore, to facts which are perhaps less ambiguous, Xenophon no more than his Simonides contends that virtue is the most blessed possession; he indicates that virtue is dependent on external goods and, far from being an end in itself, ought to be in the service of the acquisition of pleasure, wealth, and honors.

-- "On Tyranny," by Leo Strauss

Simonides is therefore justified in saying that the desire for honor is the supreme motive of men who aspire to tyrannical power. Kojeve seems to think that a man may aspire to tyrannical power chiefly because he is attracted by "objective" tasks of the highest order, by tasks whose performance requires tyrannical power, and that this motive will radically transform his desire for honor or recognition. The classics denied that this is possible. They were struck by the similarity between Kojeve's tyrant and the man who is more attracted to safecracking by its exciting problems than by its rewards. One cannot become a tyrant and remain a tyrant without stooping to do base things; hence, a self-respecting man will not aspire to tyrannical power. But, Kojeve might object, this still does not prove that the tyrant is motivated chiefly or exclusively by a desire for honor or prestige. He may be motivated, e.g., by a misguided desire to benefit his fellow men. This defense would hold good if error in such matters were difficult to avoid. But it is easy to know that tyranny is base; we all learn as children that one must not give others bad examples and that one must not do base things for the sake of the good that may come out of them. The potential or actual tyrant does not know what every reasonably well-bred child knows, because he is blinded by passion. By what passion? The most charitable answer is that he is blinded by desire for honor or prestige.

Syntheses effect miracles. Kojeve's or Hegel's synthesis of classical and Biblical morality effects the miracle of producing an amazingly lax morality out of two moralities both of which made very strict demands on self-restraint. Neither Biblical nor classical morality encourages us to try, solely for the sake of our preferment or our glory, to oust from their positions men who do the required work as well as we could. (Consider Aristotle, Politics 1271a10-19.) Neither Biblical nor classical morality encourages all statesmen to try to extend their authority over all men in order to achieve universal recognition. It does not seem to be sound that Kojeve encourages others by his speech to a course of action to which he himself would never stoop in deed. If he did not suppress his better knowledge, it would be given him to see that there is no need for having recourse to a miracle in order to understand Hegel's moral and political teaching. Hegel continued, and in a certain respect radicalized, the modern tradition that emancipated the passions and hence "competition." That tradition was originated by Machiavelli and perfected by such men as Hobbes and Adam Smith. It came into being through a conscious break with the strict moral demands made by both the Bible and classical philosophy; those demands were explicitly rejected as too strict. Hegel's moral or political teaching is indeed a synthesis: it is a synthesis of Socratic and Machiavellian or Hobbian politics. Kojeve knows as well as anyone living that Hegel's fundamental teaching regarding master and slave is based on Hobbes' doctrine of the state of nature. If Hobbes' doctrine of the state of nature is abandoned en pleine connaissance de cause (as indeed it should be abandoned), Hegel's fundamental teaching will lose the evidence which it apparently still possesses for Kojeve. Hegel's teaching is much more sophisticated than Hobbes', but it is as much a construction as the latter. Both doctrines construct human society by starting from the untrue assumption that man as man is thinkable as a being that lacks awareness of sacred restraints or as a being that is guided by nothing but a desire for recognition.

But Kojeve is likely to become somewhat impatient with what, as I fear, he might call our Victorian or pre-Victorian niaiseries. He probably will maintain that the whole previous discussion is irrelevant because it is based on a dogmatic assumption. We assume indeed that the classical concept of tyranny is derived from an adequate analysis of the fundamental social phenomena. The classics understand tyranny as the opposite of the best regime, and they hold that the best regime is the rule of the best or aristocracy. But, Kojeve argues, aristocracy is the rule of a minority over the majority of citizens or of adult residents of a given territory, a rule that rests, in the last resort, on force or terror. Would it then not be more proper to admit that aristocracy is a form of tyranny? Yet Kojeve apparently thinks that force or terror are indispensable in every regime, while he does not think that all regimes are equally good or bad and hence equally tyrannical. If I understand him correctly, he is satisfied that "the universal and homogeneous state" is the simply best social order. Lest we get entangled in a merely verbal difficulty, I shall state his view as follows: the universal and homogeneous state is the only one which is essentially just; the aristocracy of the classics in particular is essentially unjust.

To see the classical view in the proper light, let us make the assumption that the wise do not desire to rule. The unwise are very unlikely to force the wise to rule over them. For the wise cannot rule as wise if they do not have absolute power or if they are in any way responsible to the unwise. No broil in which the unwise may find themselves could be great enough to induce them to surrender absolute control to the wise, whose first measure would probably be to expel everyone above the age of ten from the city (Plato, Republic 540d-541a). Hence, what pretends to be absolute rule of the wise will in fact be absolute rule of unwise men. But if this is the case, the universal state would seem to be impossible. For the universal state requires universal agreement regarding the fundamentals, and such agreement is possible only on the basis of genuine knowledge or of wisdom. Agreement based on opinion can never become universal agreement. Every faith that lays claim to universality, i.e., to be universally accepted, of necessity provokes a counter-faith which raises the same claim. The diffusion among the unwise of genuine knowledge that was acquired by the wise would be of no help, for through its diffusion or dilution, knowledge inevitably transforms itself into opinion, prejudice, or mere belief. The utmost in the direction of universality that one could expect is, then, an absolute rule of unwise men who control about half of the globe, the other half being ruled by other unwise men. It is not obvious that the extinction of all independent states but two will be a blessing. But it is obvious that absolute rule of the unwise is less desirable than their limited rule: the unwise ought to rule under law. In addition, it is more probable that in a situation that is favorable to radical change, the citizen body will for once follow the advice of a wise man or a founding father by adopting a code of laws which he has elaborated, than that they will ever submit to perpetual and absolute rule of a succession of wise men. Yet laws must be applied or are in need of interpretation. The full authority under law should therefore be given to men who, thanks to their good upbringing, are capable of "completing" the laws (Memorabilia IV 6.12) or of interpreting them equitably. "Constitutional" authority ought to be given to the equitable men (epieikeis), i.e., to gentlemen -- preferably an urban patriciate which derives its income from the cultivation of its landed estates. It is true that it is at least partly a matter of accident -- of the accident of birth -- whether a given individual does or does not belong to the class of gentlemen and has thereby had an opportunity of being brought up in the proper manner. But in the absence of absolute rule of the wise on the one hand, and on the other hand of a degree of abundance which is possible only on the basis of unlimited technological progress with all its terrible hazards, the apparently just alternative to aristocracy open or disguised will be permanent revolution, i.e., permanent chaos in which life will be not only poor and short but brutish as well. It would not be difficult to show that the classical argument cannot be disposed of as easily as is now generally thought, and that liberal or constitutional democracy comes closer to what the classics demanded than any alternative that is viable in our age. In the last analysis, however, the classical argument derives its strength from the assumption that the wise do not desire to rule.

In discussing the fundamental issue which concerns the relation of wisdom to rule or to tyranny, Kojeve starts from the observation that at least up to now there have been no wise men but at best men who strove for wisdom, i.e., philosophers. Since the philosopher is the man who devotes his whole life to the quest for wisdom, he has no time for political activity of any kind: the philosopher cannot possibly desire to rule. His only demand on the political men is that they leave him alone. He justifies his demand by honestly declaring that his pursuit is purely theoretical and does not interfere in any way with the business of the political men. This simple solution presents itself at first glance as the strict consequence from the definition of the philosopher. Yet a short reflection shows already that it suffers from a fatal weakness. The philosopher cannot lead an absolutely solitary life because legitimate "subjective certainty" and the "subjective certainty" of the lunatic are indistinguishable. Genuine certainty must be "intersubjective." The classics were fully aware of the essential weakness of the mind of the individual. Hence their teaching about the philosophic life is a teaching about friendship: the philosopher is as philosopher in need of friends. To be of service to the philosopher in his philosophizing, the friends must be competent men: they must themselves be actual or potential philosophers, i.e., members of the natural "elite." Friendship presupposes a measure of conscious agreement. The things regarding which the philosophic friends must agree cannot be known or evident truths. For philosophy is not wisdom but quest for wisdom. The things regarding which the philosophic friends agree will then be opinions or prejudices. But there is necessarily a variety of opinions or prejudices. Hence there will be a variety of groups of philosophic friends: philosophy, as distinguished from wisdom, necessarily appears in the form of philosophic schools or of sects. Friendship as the classics understood it offers then no solution to the problem of "subjective certainty." Friendship is bound to lead to, or to consist in, the cultivation and perpetuation of common prejudices by a closely knit group of kindred spirits. It is therefore incompatible with the idea of philosophy. The philosopher must leave the closed and charmed circle of the "initiated" if he intends to remain a philosopher. He must go out to the market place; the conflict with the political men cannot be avoided. And this conflict by itself, to say nothing of its cause or its effect, is a political action.
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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:34 am


The whole history of philosophy testifies that the danger eloquently described by Kojeve is inevitable. He is equally right in saying that that danger cannot be avoided by abandoning the sect in favor of what he regards as its modern substitute, the Republic of Letters. The Republic of Letters indeed lacks the narrowness of the sect: it embraces men of all philosophic persuasions. But precisely for this reason, the first article of the constitution of the Republic of Letters stipulates that no philosophic persuasion must be taken too seriously or that every philosophic persuasion must be treated with as much respect as any other. The Republic of Letters is relativistic. Or if it tries to avoid this pitfall, it becomes eclectic. A certain vague middle line, which is perhaps barely tolerable for the most easy-going members of the different persuasions if they are in their drowsiest mood, is set up as The Truth or as Common Sense; the substantive and irrepressible conflicts are dismissed as merely "semantic." Whereas the sect is narrow because it is passionately concerned with the true issues, the Republic of Letters is comprehensive because it is indifferent to the true issues: it prefers agreement to truth or to the quest for truth. If we have to choose between the sect and the Republic of Letters, we must choose the sect. Nor will it do that we abandon the sect in favor of the party or more precisely -- since a party which is not a mass party is still something like a sect -- of the mass party. For the mass party is nothing but a sect with a disproportionately long tail. The "subjective certainty" of the members of the sect, and especially of the weaker brethren, may be increased if the tenets of the sect are repeated by millions of parrots instead of by a few dozens of human beings, but this obviously has no effect on the claim of the tenets in question to "objective truth." Much as we loathe the snobbish silence or whispering of the sect, we loathe even more the savage noise of the loudspeakers of the mass party. The problem stated by Kojeve is not then solved by dropping the distinction between those who are able and willing to think and those who are not. If we must choose between the sect and the party, we must choose the sect.

But must we choose the sect? The decisive premise of Kojeve's argument is that philosophy "implies necessarily 'subjective certainties' which are not 'objective truths' or, in other words, which are prejudices." But philosophy in the original meaning of the term is nothing but knowledge of one's ignorance. The "subjective certainty" that one does not know coincides with the "objective truth" of that certainty. But one cannot know that one does not know without knowing what one does not know. What Pascal said with anti- philosophic intent about the impotence of both dogmatism and skepticism, is the only possible justification of philosophy which as such is neither dogmatic nor skeptic, and still less "decisionist," but zetetic (or skeptic in the original sense of the term). Philosophy as such is nothing but genuine awareness of the problems, i.e., of the fundamental and comprehensive problems. It is impossible to think about these problems without becoming inclined toward a solution, toward one or the other of the very few typical solutions. Yet as long as there is no wisdom but only quest for wisdom, the evidence of all solutions is necessarily smaller than the evidence of the problems. Therefore the philosopher ceases to be a philosopher at the moment at which the "subjective certainty" of a solution becomes stronger than his awareness of the problematic character of that solution. At that moment the sectarian is born. The danger of succumbing to the attraction of solutions is essential to philosophy which, without incurring this danger, would degenerate into playing with the problems. But the philosopher does not necessarily succumb to this danger, as is shown by Socrates, who never belonged to a sect and never founded one. And even if the philosophic friends are compelled to be members of a sect or to found one, they are not necessarily members of one and the same sect: Amicus Plato.

At this point we seem to get involved in a self-contradiction. For, if Socrates is the representative par excellence of the philosophic life, the philosopher cannot possibly be satisfied with a group of philosophic friends but has to go out to the market place where, as everyone knows, Socrates spent much or most of his time. However, the same Socrates suggested that there is no essential difference between the city and the family, and the thesis of Friedrich Mentz, Socrates nec officiosus maritus nec laudandus paterfamilias (Leipzig 1716), is defensible: Xenophon goes so far as not to count the husband of Xanthippe among the married men (Symposium, in fine).

The difficulty cannot be discussed here except within the context of a limited exegetic problem. Xenophon indicates in the Hiero that the motivation of the philosophic life is the desire for being honored or admired by a small minority, and ultimately the desire for "self- admiration," whereas the motivation of the political life is the desire for love, i.e., for being loved by human beings irrespective of their qualities. Kojeve rejects this view altogether. He is of the opinion that the philosopher and the ruler or tyrant are equally motivated by the desire for satisfaction, i.e., for recognition (honor) and ultimately for universal recognition, and that neither of the two is motivated by a desire for love. A human being is loved because he is and regardless of what he does. Hence love is at home within the family rather than in the public spheres of politics and of philosophy. Kojeve regards it as particularly unfortunate that Xenophon tries to establish a connection between the "tyrannical" desire and sexual desire. He is equally averse to the suggestion that whereas the tyrant is guided by the desire for recognition by others, the philosopher is concerned exclusively with "self-admiration"; the self-satisfied philosopher is as such not distinguishable from the self-satisfied lunatic. The philosopher is then necessarily concerned with approval or admiration by others and he cannot help being pleased with it when he gets it. It is practically impossible to say whether the primary motive of the philosopher is the desire for admiration or the desire for the pleasures deriving from understanding. The very distinction has no practical meaning unless we gratuitously assume that there is an omniscient God who demands from men a pure heart.

What Xenophon indicated in the Hiero about the motivations of the two ways of life is admittedly incomplete. How can any man in his senses ever have overlooked the role played by ambition in political life? How can a friend of Socrates ever have overlooked the role played by love in the philosophic life? Simonides' speech on honor alone, to say nothing of Xenophon's other writings, proves abundantly that what Xenophon indicates in the Hiero about the motivations of the two ways of life is deliberately incomplete. It is incomplete because it proceeds from a complete disregard of everything but what one may call the most fundamental difference between the philosopher and the ruler. To understand this difference, one must start from the desire which the philosopher and the ruler have in common with each other and indeed with all men. All men desire "satisfaction." But satisfaction cannot be identified with recognition and even universal recognition; The classics identified satisfaction with happiness. The difference between the philosopher and the political man will then be a difference with respect to happiness. The philosopher's dominating passion is the desire for truth, i.e., for knowledge of the eternal order, or the eternal cause or causes of the whole. As he looks up in search for the eternal order, all human things and all human concerns reveal themselves to him in all clarity as paltry and ephemeral, and no one can find solid happiness in what he knows to be paltry and ephemeral. He has then the same experience regarding all human things, nay, regarding man himself, which the man of high ambition has regarding the low and narrow goals, or the cheap happiness, of the general run of men. The philosopher, being the man of the largest views, is the only man who can be properly described as possessing megaloprepreia (which is commonly rendered by "magnificence") (Plato, Republic 486a). Or, as Xenophon indicates, the philosopher is the only man who is truly ambitious. Chiefly concerned with eternal beings, or the "ideas," and hence also with the "idea" of man, he is as unconcerned as possible with individual and perishable human beings and hence also with his own "individuality," or his body, as well as with the sum total of all individual human beings and their "historical" procession. He knows as little as possible about the way to the market place, to say nothing of the market place itself, and he almost as little knows whether his very neighbor is a human being or some other animal (Plato, Theaetetus 173c8-dl, 174bl-6). The political man must reject this way altogether. He cannot tolerate this radical depreciation of man and of all human things (Plato, Laws 804b5-c1). He could not devote himself to his work with all his heart or without reservation if he did not attach absolute importance to man and to human things. He must "care" for human beings as such. He is essentially attached to human beings. This attachment is at the bottom of his desire to rule human beings, or of his ambition. But to rule human beings means to serve them. Certainly an attachment to beings which prompts one to serve them may well be called love of them. Attachment to human beings is not peculiar to the ruler; it is characteristic of all men as mere men. The difference between the political man and the private man is that in the case of the former, the attachment enervates all private concerns; the political man is consumed by erotic desire, not for this or that human being, or for a few, but for the large multitude, for the demos (Plato, Gorgias 481d1-5, 513d7-8; Republic 573e6-7, 574e2, 575al-2), and in principle, for all human beings. But erotic desire craves reciprocity: the political man desires to be loved by all his subjects. The political man is characterized by the concern with being loved by all human beings regardless of their quality.

Kojeve will have no difficulty in granting that the family man can be characterized by "love" and the ruler by "honor." But if, as we have seen, the philosopher is related to the ruler in a way comparable to that in which the ruler is related to the family man, there can be no difficulty in characterizing the ruler, in contradistinction to the philosopher, by "love" and the philosopher by "honor." Furthermore, prior to the coming of the universal state, the ruler is concerned with, and cares for, his own subjects as distinguished from the subjects of other rulers, just as the mother is concerned with, and cares for, her own children as distinguished from the children of other mothers; and the concern with, or care for, what is one's own is what is frequently meant by "love." The philosopher on the other hand is concerned with what can never become private or exclusive property. We cannot then accept Kojeve's doctrine regarding love. According to him, we love someone "because he is and independently of what he does." He refers to the mother who loves her son in spite of all his faults. But, to repeat, the mother loves her son, not because he is, but because he is her own, or because he has the quality of being her own. (Compare Plato, Republic 330c3-6).

But if the philosopher is radically detached from human beings as human beings, why does he communicate his knowledge, or his questionings, to others? Why was the same Socrates, who said that the philosopher does not even know the way to the market place, almost constantly in the market place? Why was the same Socrates, who said that the philosopher barely knows whether his neighbor is a human being, so well informed about so many trivial details regarding his neighbors? The philosopher's radical detachment from human beings must then be compatible with an attachment to human beings. While trying to transcend humanity (for wisdom is divine) or while trying to make it his sole business to die and to be dead to all human things, the philosopher cannot help living as a human being who as such cannot be dead to human concerns, although his soul will not be in these concerns. The philosopher cannot devote his life to his own work if other people do not take care of the needs of his body. Philosophy is possible only in a society in which there is "division of labor." The philosopher needs the services of other human beings and has to pay for them with services of his own if he does not want to be reproved as a thief or fraud. But man's need for other men's services is founded on the fact that man is by nature a social animal or that the human individual is not self-sufficient. There is therefore a natural attachment of man to man which is prior to any calculation of mutual benefit. This natural attachment to human beings is weakened in the case of the philosopher by his attachment to the eternal beings. On the other hand, the philosopher is immune to the most common and the most powerful dissolvent of man's natural attachment to man, the desire to have more than one has already and in particular to have more than others have; for he has the greatest self-sufficiency which is humanly possible. Hence the philosopher will not hurt anyone. While he cannot help being more attached to his family and his city than to strangers, he is free from the delusions bred by collective egoisms; his benevolence or humanity extends to all human beings with whom he comes into contact. (Memorabilia 12.60-61; 6.10; IV 8.11.) Since he fully realizes the limits set to all human action and all human planning (for what has come into being must perish again), he does not expect salvation or satisfaction from the establishment of the simply best social order. He will therefore not engage in revolutionary or subversive activity. But he will try to help his fellow man by mitigating, as far as in him lies, the evils which are inseparable from the human condition. (Plato, Theaetetus 176a5-b1; Seventh Letter 331c7-d5; Aristotle, Politics 130la39-b2.) In particular, he will give advice to his city or to other rulers. Since all advice of this kind presupposes comprehensive reflections which as such are the business of the philosopher, he must first have become a political philosopher. After this preparation he will act as Simonides did when he talked to Hiero, or as Socrates did when he talked to Alcibiades, Critias, Charmides, Critobulus, the younger Pericles and others.

The attachment to human beings as human beings is not peculiar to the philosopher. As philosopher, he is attached to a particular type of human being, namely to actual or potential philosophers or to his friends. His attachment to his friends is deeper than his attachment to other human beings, even to his nearest and dearest, as Plato shows with almost shocking clarity in the Phaedo. The philosopher's attachment to his friends is based in the first place on the need which arises from the deficiency of "subjective certainty." Yet we see Socrates frequently engaged in conversations from which he cannot have benefited in any way. We shall try to explain what this means in a popular and hence unorthodox manner. The philosopher's attempt to grasp the eternal order is necessarily an ascent from the perishable things which as such reflect the eternal order. Of all perishable things known to us, those which reflect that order most, or which are most akin to that order, are the souls of men. But the souls of men reflect the eternal order in different degrees. A soul that is in good order or healthy reflects it to a higher degree than a soul that is chaotic or diseased. The philosopher who as such has had a glimpse of the eternal order is therefore particularly sensitive to the difference among human souls. In the first place, he alone knows what a healthy or well-ordered soul is. And secondly, precisely because he has had a glimpse of the eternal order, he cannot help being intensely pleased by the aspect of a healthy or well-ordered soul, and he cannot help being intensely pained by the aspect of a diseased or chaotic soul, without regard to his own needs or benefits. Hence he cannot help being attached to men of well-ordered souls: he desires "to be together" with such men all the time. He admires such men not on account of any services which they may render to him but simply because they are what they are. On the other hand, he cannot help being repelled by ill-ordered souls. He avoids men of ill-ordered souls as much as he can, while trying of course not to offend them. Last but not least, he is highly sensitive to the promise of good or ill order, or of happiness or misery, which is held out by the souls of the young. Hence he cannot help desiring, without any regard to his own needs or benefits, that those among the young whose souls are by nature fitted for it, acquire good order of their souls. But the good order of the soul is philosophizing. The philosopher therefore has the urge to educate potential philosophers simply because he cannot help loving well-ordered souls.

But did we not surreptitiously substitute the wise man for the philosopher? Does the philosopher of whom we have spoken not possess knowledge of many most important things? Philosophy, being knowledge of our ignorance regarding the most important things, is impossible without some knowledge regarding the most important things. By realizing that we are ignorant of the most important things, we realize at the same time that the most important thing for us, or the one thing needful, is quest for knowledge of the most important things, or philosophy. In other words, we realize that only by philosophizing can man's soul become well-ordered. We know how ugly or deformed a boaster's soul is; but everyone who thinks that he knows, while in truth he does not, is a boaster. Still, observations of this kind do not prove the assumption, for example, that the well-ordered soul is more akin to the eternal order, or to the eternal cause or causes of the whole, than is the chaotic soul. And one does not have to make that assumption in order to be a philosopher, as is shown by Democritus and other pre-Socratics, to say nothing of the moderns. If one does not make the assumption mentioned, one will be forced, it seems, to explain the philosopher's desire to communicate his thoughts by his need for remedying the deficiency of "subjective certainty" or by his desire for recognition or by his human kindness. We must leave it open whether one can thus explain, without being forced to use ad hoc hypotheses, the immediate pleasure which the philosopher experiences when he sees a well-ordered soul or the immediate pleasure which we experience when we observe signs of human nobility.

We may have explained why the philosopher is urged, not in spite of but because of his radical detachment from human beings as such, to educate human beings of a certain kind. But cannot exactly the same, be said of the tyrant or ruler? May a ruler not likewise be penetrated by a sense of the ultimate futility of all human causes? It is undeniable that detachment from human beings, or what is popularly known as the philosophic attitude toward all things which are exposed to the power of chance, is not a preserve of the philosopher. But a detachment from human concerns which is not constantly nourished by genuine attachment to eternal things, i.e., by philosophizing, is bound to wither or to degenerate into lifeless narrowness. The ruler too tries to educate human beings and he too is prompted by love of some kind. Xenophon indicates his view of the ruler's love in the Education of Cyrus, which is, at any rate at first glance, his description of the greatest ruler. Xenophon's Cyrus is a cold or unerotic nature. That is to say, the ruler is not motivated by true or Socratic eros because he does not know what a well-ordered soul is. The ruler knows political virtue, and nothing prevents his being attracted by it; but political virtue, or the virtue of the non-philosopher, is a mutilated thing; therefore it cannot elicit more than a shadow or an imitation of true love. The ruler is in fact dominated by love based on need in the common meaning of need, or by mercenary love; for "all men by nature believe they love those things by which they believe they are benefited" (Oeconomicus 20.29). In the language of Kojeve, the ruler is concerned with human beings because he is concerned with being recognized by them. This explains incidentally why the indications of the Hiero about love are so strikingly incomplete; the purpose of the work required the disregard of nonmercenary love just as it required that wisdom be kept in its ordinary ambiguity.

We cannot agree then with Kojeve's contention that the educative tendency of the ruler has the same character or scope as that of the philosopher. The ruler is essentially the ruler of all his subjects; his educative effort must therefore be directed toward all his subjects. If every educative effort is a kind of conversation, the ruler is forced by his position to converse with every subject. Socrates, however, is not compelled to converse with anyone except those with whom he likes to converse. If the ruler is concerned with universal recognition, he must be concerned with enlarging universally the class of competent judges of his merits. But Kojeve does not seem to believe that all men are capable of becoming competent judges in political matters. He limits himself to contending that the number of men of philosophic competence is not smaller than the number of men of political competence. Yet contrary to what he seems to say in the text of his essay as distinguished from his note number five, many more men are capable of judging competently of the greatness of a ruler than of the greatness of a philosopher. This is the case not merely because a much greater intellectual effort is required for competent judgment of a philosophic achievement than for competent judgment of a political achievement. Rather is it true because philosophy requires liberation from the most potent natural charm whose undiminished power in no way obstructs political competence as the ruler understands political competence: from that charm that consists in unqualified attachment to human things as such. If the philosopher addresses himself, therefore, to a small minority, he is not acting on the basis of an a priori judgement. He is following the constant experience of all times and countries and, no doubt, the experience of Kojeve himself. For try as one may to expel nature with a hayfork, it will always come back. The philosopher will certainly not be compelled, either by the need to remedy the deficiency of "subjective certainty" or by ambition, to strive for universal recognition. His friends alone suffice to remedy that deficiency, and no shortcomings in his friends can be remedied by having recourse to utterly incompetent people. And as for ambition, as a philosopher, he is free from it.

According to Kojeve, one makes a gratuitous assumption in saying that the philosopher as such is free from ambition or from the desire for recognition. Yet the philosopher as such is concerned with nothing but the quest for wisdom and kindling or nourishing the love of wisdom in those who are by nature capable of it. We do not have to pry into the heart of anyone in order to know that, insofar as the philosopher, owing to the weakness of the flesh, becomes concerned with being recognized by others, he ceases to be a philosopher. According to the strict view of the classics he turns into a sophist. The concern with being recognized by others is perfectly compatible with, and in fact required by, the concern essential to the ruler who is the ruler of others. But concern with being recognized by others has no necessary connection with the quest for the eternal order. Therefore, concern with recognition necessarily detracts from the singleness of purpose which is characteristic of the philosopher. It blurs his vision. This fact is not at variance with the other fact that high ambition is frequently a sign by which one can recognize the potential philosopher. But to the extent to which high ambition is not transformed into full devotion to the quest for wisdom, and to the pleasures which accompany that quest, he will not become an actual philosopher. One of the pleasures accompanying the quest for truth comes from the awareness of progress in that quest. Xenophon goes so far as to speak of the self-admiration of the philosopher. This self-admiration or self-satisfaction does not have to be confirmed by the admiration of others in order to be reasonable. If the philosopher, trying to remedy the deficiency of "subjective certainty," engages in conversation with others and observes again and again that his interlocutors, as they themselves are forced to admit, involve themselves in self-contradictions or are unable to give any account of their questionable contentions, he will be reasonably confirmed in his estimate of himself without necessarily finding a single soul who admires him. (Consider Plato, Apology of Socrates 21d1-3.) The self-admiration of the philosopher is in this respect akin to "the good conscience" which as such does not require confirmation by others.

The quest for wisdom is inseparable from specific pleasures just as the quest for these pleasures is inseparable from the quest for wisdom. Thus it might seem possible to understand the quest for wisdom in terms of the quest for pleasure. That this is in fact possible is asserted by all hedonists. In the Hiero, Xenophon (or his Simonides) is forced to argue on the basis of the hedonistic thesis. Hence the argument of the Hiero implies the question whether the philosophic life can be understood in hedonistic terms. It implies the answer that it cannot be so understood because the rank of the various kinds of pleasure ultimately depends upon the rank of the activities to which the pleasures are related. Neither the quantity nor the purity of the pleasures determines in the last resort the rank of human activities. The pleasures are essentially secondary; they cannot be understood but with reference to the activities. The question as to whether the activities or the pleasure are in themselves primary has nothing to do with the question as to whether someone who engages in an activity is prompted to do so primarily by the intrinsic value of the activity or by the pleasure which he expects to enjoy as a consequence of the activity. Kojeve may be perfectly right in saying that the latter question does not permit a responsible answer and is unimportant from the point of view of philosophy. But the consideration is irrelevant to Xenophon's argument, which is concerned exclusively with the former question.

While I must disagree with a considerable part of Kojeve's reasoning, I agree with his conclusion that the philosopher has to go to the market place, or in other words, that the conflict between the philosopher and the city is inevitable. The philosopher must go to the market place in order to fish there for potential philosophers. His attempts to convert young men to the philosophic life will necessarily be regarded by the city as an attempt to corrupt the young. The philosopher is therefore forced to defend the cause of philosophy. He must therefore act upon the city or upon the ruler. Up to this point Kojeve is in perfect agreement with the classics. But does the final consequence mean, as he maintains, that the philosopher must desire to determine or codetermine the politics of the city or of the rulers? Must the philosopher desire "to participate, in one way or another, in the total direction of public affairs, so that the State be organized and governed in such a manner that the philosopher's philosophic pedagogy be possible and effectual"? Or must we conceive of philosophic politics, i.e., of the philosopher's action on behalf of philosophy, in entirely different terms?

Contrary to what Kojeve apparently implies it seems to us that there is no necessary connection between the philosopher's indispensable philosophic politics and the efforts which he might or might not make to contribute toward the establishment of the best regime. For philosophy and philosophic education are possible in all kinds of more or less imperfect regimes. One may illustrate this by an example taken from the eighth book of Plato's Republic. There Plato contends that the Spartan regime is superior to the Athenian, although he knows that the Athenian is more favorable than the Spartan regime to the possibility and the survival of philosophic education (consider 557c6 and d4). It is true that it was in Athens that Socrates was compelled to drink the hemlock. But he was permitted to live and engage in philosophic education until he was seventy: in Sparta he would have been exposed as an infant. Plato could not have decided, however provisionally, in favor of the Spartan regime, if the philosopher's concern with a good political order were absolutely inseparable from the concern guiding his philosophic politics. In what then does philosophic politics consist? In satisfying the city that the philosophers are not atheists, that they do not desecrate everything sacred to the city, that they reverence what the city reverences, that they are not subversives, in short, that they are not irresponsible adventurers but good citizens and even the best of citizens. This is the defense of philosophy which was required always and everywhere, whatever the regime might have been. For, as the philosopher Montesquieu says, "dans tous les pays du monde, on veut de la morale" [Google translate: in all countries of the world, we want the moral] and "les hommes, fripons en dètail, sont en gros de très honnètes gens; ils aiment la morale." [Google translate: men scoundrels in detail, are basically very good people, they love morality.] This defense of philosophy before the tribunal of the city was achieved by Plato with a resounding success (Plutarch, Nicias ch. 23). The effects have lasted down to the present throughout all ages except the darkest ones. What Plato did in the Greek city and for it was done in and for Rome by Cicero, whose political action on behalf of philosophy has nothing in common with his actions against Catiline and for Pompey, for example. It was done in and for the Islamic world by Farabi and in and for Judaism by Maimonides. Contrary to what Kojeve seems to suggest, the political action of the philosophers on behalf of philosophy has achieved full success. One sometimes wonders whether it has not been too successful.

Kojeve, I said, fails to distinguish between philosophic politics and that political action which the philosopher might undertake with a view to establishing the best regime or to the improvement of the actual order. He thus arrives at the conclusion that on the one hand the philosopher does not desire to rule, and on the other hand he must desire to rule, and that this contradiction involves a tragic conflict. The classics did not regard the conflict between philosophy and the city as tragic. Xenophon at any rate seems to have viewed that conflict in the light of Socrates' relation to Xanthippe. At least in this point there appears then something like an agreement between Xenophon and Pascal. For the classics, the conflict between philosophy and the city is as little tragic as the death of Socrates.

Kojeve's argument continues as follows: Since the philosopher does not desire to rule because he has no time for ruling, but on the other hand is forced to rule, he has been satisfied with a compromise solution; with devoting a little time to giving advice to tyrants or rulers. Reading the chronicles, one receives the impression that this action of the philosophers has been wholly ineffectual -- as ineffectual as Simonides' action that consisted in his conversation with Hiero. This conclusion does not entitle one, however, to infer that the philosopher should abstain from mingling in politics, for the strong reason for mingling in politics remains in force. The problem of what the philosopher should do in regard to the city remains, therefore, an open question, the subject of an unfinishable discussion. But the problem which cannot be solved by the dialectics of discussion may well be solved by the higher dialectics of History. The philosophic study of our past shows that philosophy, far from being politically ineffectual, has radically revolutionized the character of political life. One is even entitled to say that philosophic ideas alone have had significant political effect. For what else is the whole political history of the world except a movement toward the universal and homogeneous state? The decisive stages in the movement were actions of tyrants or rulers (Alexander the Great and Napoleon, e.g.). But these tyrants or rulers were and are pupils of philosophers. Classical philosophy created the idea of the universal state. Modern philosophy, which is the secularized form of Christianity, created the idea of the universal and homogeneous state. On the other hand, the progress of philosophy and its eventual transmutation into wisdom requires the "active negation" of the previous political states, i.e., requires the action of the tyrant: only when "all possible active [political] negations" have been effected and thus the final stage of the political development has been reached, can and will the quest for wisdom give way to wisdom.

I need not examine Kojeve's sketch of the history of the Western world. That sketch would seem to presuppose the truth of the thesis which it is meant to prove. Certainly the value of the conclusion which he draws from his sketch depends entirely on the truth of the assumption that the universal and homogeneous state is the simply best social order. The simply best social order, as he conceives of it, is the state in which every human being finds his full satisfaction. A human being finds his full satisfaction if his human dignity is universally recognized and if he enjoys "equality of opportunity," i.e., the opportunity, corresponding to his capacities, of deserving well of the state or of the whole. Now if it were true that in the universal and homogeneous state, no one has any good reason for being dissatisfied with that state, or for negating it, it would not yet follow that everyone will in fact be satisfied with it and never think of actively negating it, for men do not always act reasonably. Does Kojeve not underestimate the power of the passions? Does he not have an unfounded belief in the eventually rational effect of the movements instigated by the passions? In addition, men will have very good reasons for being dissatisfied with the universal and homogeneous state. To show this, I must have recourse to Kojeve's more extensive exposition in his Introduction of a lecture de Hegel. There are degrees of satisfaction. The satisfaction of the humble citizen, whose human dignity is universally recognized and who enjoys all opportunities that correspond to his humble capacities and achievements, is not comparable to the satisfaction of the Chief of State. Only the Chief of State is "really satisfied." He alone is "truly free" (p. 146). Did Hegel not say something to the effect that the state in which one man is free is the Oriental despotic state? Is the universal and homogeneous state then merely a planetary Oriental despotism? However this may be, there is no guarantee that the incumbent Chief of State deserves his position to a higher degree than others. Those others then have very good reason for dissatisfaction: a state which treats equal men unequally is not just. A change from the universal homogeneous monarchy into a universal-homogeneous aristocracy would seem to be reasonable. But we cannot stop here. The universal and homogeneous state, being the synthesis of the Masters and the Slaves, is the state of the working warrior or of the war-waging worker. In fact, all its members are warrior workers (pp. 114, 146). But if the state is universal and homogeneous, "wars and revolutions are henceforth impossible" (pp. 145, 561). Besides, work in the strict sense, namely the conquest or domestication of nature, is completed, for otherwise the universal and homogeneous state could not be the basis for wisdom (p. 301). Of course, work of a kind will still go on, but the citizens of the final state will work as little as possible, as Kojeve notes with explicit reference to Marx (p. 435). To borrow an expression which someone used recently in the House of Lords on a similar occasion, the citizens of the final state are only so-called workers, workers by courtesy. "There is no longer fight nor work. History has come to its end. There is nothing more to do" (pp. 385, 114). This end of History would be most exhilarating but for the fact that, according to Kojeve, it is the participation in bloody political struggles as well as in real work or, generally expressed, the negating action, which raises man above the brutes (pp. 490-492, 560, 378n.) The state through which man is said to become reasonably satisfied is, then, the state in which the basis of man's humanity withers away, or in which man loses his humanity. It is the state of Nietzsche's "last man." Kojeve in fact confirms the classical view that unlimited technological progress and its accompaniment, which are indispensable conditions of the universal and homogeneous state, are destructive of humanity. It is perhaps possible to say that the universal and homogeneous state is fated to come. But it is certainly impossible to say that man can reasonably be satisfied with it. If the universal and homogeneous state is the goal of History, History is absolutely "tragic." Its completion will reveal that the human problem, and hence in particular the problem of the relation of philosophy and politics, is insoluble. For centuries and centuries men have unconsciously done nothing but work their way through infinite labors and struggles and agonies, yet ever again catching hope, toward the universal and homogeneous state, and as soon as they have arrived at the end of their journey, they realize that through arriving at it they have destroyed their humanity and thus returned, as in a cycle, to the prehuman beginnings of History. Vanitas vanitatum. Recognitio recognitionum. Yet there is no reason for despair as long as human nature has not been conquered completely, i.e., as long as sun and man still generate man. There will always be men (andres) who will revolt against a state which is destructive of humanity or in which there is no longer a possibility of noble action and of great deeds. They may be forced into a mere negation of the universal and homogeneous state, into a negation not enlightened by any positive goal, into a nihilistic negation. While perhaps doomed to failure, that nihilistic revolution may be the only action on behalf of man's humanity, the only great and noble deed that is possible once the universal and homogeneous state has become inevitable. But no one can know whether it will fail or succeed. We still know too little about the workings of the universal and homogeneous state to say anything about where and when its corruption will start. What we do know is only that it will perish sooner or later (see Friedrich Engels' Ludwig Feuerbach, ed. by Hans Hajek, p. 6). Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process -- a new lease of life for man's humanity -- not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again? Kojeve does seem to leave an outlet for action in the universal and homogeneous state. In that state the risk of violent death is still involved in the struggle for political leadership (p. 146). But this opportunity for action can exist only for a tiny minority. And besides, is this not a hideous prospect: a state in which the last refuge of man's humanity is political assassination in the particularly sordid form of the palace revolution? Warriors and workers of all countries, unite, while there is still time, to prevent the coming of "the realm of freedom." Defend with might and main, if it needs to be defended, "the realm of necessity."

“Someone might say that this notion of liberal education [about human greatness] is merely political, that it dogmatically assumes the goodness of modern democracy. Can we not turn our backs on modern society? Can we not return to nature, to the life of preliterate tribes? Are we not crushed, nauseated, degraded by the mass of printed material, the graveyards of so many beautiful and majestic forests? It is not sufficient to say that this is mere romanticism, that we today cannot return to nature: may not coming generations, after a man-wrought cataclysm, be compelled to live in illiterate tribes? Will our thoughts concerning thermonuclear wars not be affected by such prospects? Certain it is that the horrors of mass culture (which include guided tours of integer nature [sic]) render intelligible the longing for a return to nature." (pp. 5-6)

-- "Liberalism Ancient and Modern," by Leo Strauss

But perhaps it is not war nor work but thinking that constitutes the humanity of man. Perhaps it is not recognition (which for many men may lose in its power to satisfy what it gains in universality) but wisdom that is the end of man. Perhaps the universal and homogeneous state is legitimated by the fact that its coming is the necessary and sufficient condition for the coming of wisdom: in the final state all human beings will be reasonably satisfied, they will be truly happy, because all will have acquired wisdom or are about to acquire it. "There is no longer fight nor work; History is completed; there is nothing more to do": man is at last free from all drudgery and for the highest and most divine activity, for the contemplation of the unchangeable truth (Kojeve, op. cit., p. 385). But if the final state is to satisfy the deepest longing of the human soul, every human being must be capable of becoming wise. The most relevant difference among human beings must have practically disappeared. We understand now why Kojeve is so anxious to refute the classical view according to which only a minority of men are capable of the quest for wisdom. If the classics are right, only a few men will be truly happy in the universal and homogeneous state and hence only a few men will find their satisfaction in and through it. Kojeve himself observes that the ordinary citizens of the final state are only "potentially satisfied" (p. 146). The actual satisfaction of all human beings, which allegedly is the goal of History, is impossible. It is for this reason, I suppose, that the final social order, as Kojeve conceives of it, is a State and not a stateless society: the State, or coercive government, cannot wither away because it is impossible that all human beings should ever become actually satisfied.

The classics thought that, owing to the weakness or dependence of human nature, universal happiness is impossible, and therefore they did not dream of a fulfillment of History and hence not of a meaning of History. They saw with their mind's eye a society within which that happiness of which human nature is capable would be possible in the highest degree: that society is the best regime. But because they saw how limited man's power is, they held that the actualization of the best regime depends on chance. Modern man, dissatisfied with utopias and scorning them, has tried to find a guarantee for the actualization of the best social order. In order to succeed, or rather in order to be able to believe that he could succeed, he had to lower the goal of man. One form in which this was done was to replace moral virtue by universal recognition, or to replace happiness by the satisfaction deriving from universal recognition. The classical solution is utopian in the sense that its actualization is improbable. The modern solution is utopian in the sense that its actualization is impossible. The classical solution supplies a stable standard by which to judge of any actual order. The modern solution eventually destroys the very idea of a standard that is independent of actual situations.

It seems reasonable to assume that only a few, if any, citizens of the universal and homogeneous state will be wise. But neither the wise men nor the philosophers will desire to rule. For this reason alone, to say nothing of others, the Chief of the universal and homogeneous state, or the Universal and Final Tyrant will be an unwise man, as Kojeve seems to take for granted. To retain his power, he will be forced to suppress every activity which might lead people into doubt of the essential soundness of the universal and homogeneous state: he must suppress philosophy as an attempt to corrupt the young. In particular he must in the interest of the homogeneity of his universal state forbid every teaching, every suggestion, that there are politically relevant natural differences among men which cannot be abolished or neutralized by progressing scientific technology. He must command his biologists to prove that every human being has, or will acquire, the capacity of being a philosopher or a tyrant. The philosophers in their turn will be forced to defend themselves or the cause of philosophy. They will be obliged, therefore, to try to act on the Tyrant. Everything seems to be a re-enactment of the age-old drama. But this time, the cause of philosophy is lost from the start. For the Final Tyrant presents himself as a philosopher, as the highest philosophic authority, as the supreme exegete of the only true philosophy, as the executor and hangman authorized by the only true philosophy. He claims therefore that he persecutes not philosophy but false philosophies. The experience is not altogether new for philosophers. If philosophers were confronted with claims of this kind in former ages, philosophy went underground. It accommodated itself in its explicit or exoteric teaching to the unfounded commands of rulers who believed they knew things which they did not know. Yet its very exoteric teaching undermined the commands or dogmas of the rulers in such a way as to guide the potential philosophers toward the eternal and unsolved problems. And since there was no universal state in existence, the philosophers could escape to other countries if life became unbearable in the tyrant's dominions. From the Universal Tyrant however there is no escape. Thanks to the conquest of nature and to the completely unabashed substitution of suspicion and terror for law, the Universal and Final Tyrant has at his disposal practically unlimited means for ferreting out, and for extinguishing, the most modest efforts in the direction of thought. Kojeve would seem to be right although for the wrong reason: the coming of the universal and homogeneous state will be the end of philosophy on earth.

The utmost I can hope to have shown in taking issue with Kojeve's thesis regarding the relation of tyranny and wisdom is that Xenophon's thesis regarding that grave subject is not only compatible with the idea of philosophy but required by it. This is very little. For the question arises immediately whether the idea of philosophy is not itself in need of legitimation. Philosophy in the strict and classical sense is quest for the eternal order or for the eternal cause or causes of all things. It presupposes then that there is an eternal and unchangeable order within which History takes place and which is not in any way affected by History. It presupposes in other words that any "realm of freedom" is no more than a dependent province within "the realm of necessity." It presupposes, in the words of Kojeve, that "Being is essentially immutable in itself and eternally identical with itself." This presupposition is not self-evident. Kojeve rejects it in favor of the view that "Being creates itself in the course of History," or that the highest being is Society and History, or that eternity is nothing but the totality of historical, i.e., finite time. On the basis of the classical presupposition, a radical distinction must be made between the conditions of understanding and the sources of understanding, between the conditions of the existence and perpetuation of philosophy (societies of a certain kind, and so on) and the sources of philosophic insight. On the basis of Kojeve's presupposition, that distinction loses its crucial significance: social change or fate affects being, if it is not identical with Being, and hence affects truth. On the basis of Kojeve's presuppositions, unqualified attachment to human concerns becomes the source of philosophic understanding: man must be absolutely at home on earth, he must be absolutely a citizen of the earth, if not a citizen of a part of the inhabitable earth. On the basis of the classical presupposition, philosophy requires a radical detachment from human concerns: man must not be absolutely at home on earth, he must be a citizen of the whole. In our discussion, the conflict between the two opposed basic presuppositions has barely been mentioned. But we have always been mindful of it. For we both apparently turned away from Being to Tyranny because we have seen that those who lacked the courage to face the issue of Tyranny, who therefore et humiliter serviebant et superbedominabantur, [2] were forced to evade the issue of Being as well, precisely because they did nothing but talk of Being.



1. From Leo Strauss, What Is Political Philosophy? (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1959).

2. <themselves obsequiously subservient while arrogantly lording it over others. Livy XXIV.25.viii>
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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:53 am




We included all of the letters between Strauss and Kojeve that we could find. Unfortunately some letters have been lost, and at least one important letter is preserved only in part.

We have corrected occasional minor misspellings of proper names: e.g. Quesneau for Queneau, and obvious slips of the pen: e.g. Sophist 361 alongside a passage from Sophist 261, without calling attention to them. In later years Strauss sometimes dictated his letters, and he did not always catch minor errors by secretaries who were unacquainted with the concepts, texts, or names he was mentioning. We silently corrected these few misspellings. But we never altered references that seemed doubtful without indicating the change. Both Strauss and Kojeve often abbreviated titles and names. We consistently spelled them out. But we let stand idiosyncratic spellings of titles or names, e.g. Phaidros, Phailebos ... ; and we saw no need to italicize titles more consistently than the writers did in their letters.

Strauss's handwriting is notoriously difficult to decipher. His correspondents had to reconstruct his letters as they would assemble a puzzle: copying what they could make out, and leaving blanks to be filled in on subsequent attempts. That is also how we proceeded with most of the letters included here. We wish to record our very special gratitude to the late Professor P. H. v. Blanckenhagen for helping us with some particularly difficult passages at a time when his health was already failing.

Lacunae due either to the fact that one or several words remained illegible even after repeated attempts by various competent readers, or to the fact that the original or the copy from which we were working is defective, are indicated by <...> for each missing word or portion of a word.

The writers' frequent, easy shuttling back and forth between languages imparts to this exchange an added liveliness which unfortunately but inevitably gets lost in translation.

The inclusion in this volume of the correspondence between Strauss and Kojeve calls for a few brief remarks about them.

They were close contemporaries. Strauss was born in 1899 in Kirchhain, a small town in western Germany; Kojeve in 1902 in Moscow. They first met in Berlin in the 1920s. At the time, they both happened to be engaged in studies of religious thought. Strauss's first book is devoted to Spinoza's Criticism of Religion (1930), and his second book, Philosophy and Law (1935), brings together his early studies of medieval Jewish and Muslim thinkers.

According to Strauss, Spinoza's philosophical work should not be considered as the result of his Jewish heritage. Although Spinoza was born and grew up within Amsterdam's Sephardic community , and although Spinoza's philosophical education began by reading the writings of medieval Jewish philosophers, Strauss maintains that he belongs to the European-Mediterranean tradition as a whole rather than to a parochially Jewish one:

"Good European" that he is, Spinoza takes from the Jewish tradition the common property of European ideas that it conveyed to him-and nothing else. Thus we believe we have answered the question of whether the Jew as a Jew is entitled to venerate Spinoza. Spinoza belongs not to Judaism, but to the small band of superior minds whom Nietzsche called the "good Europeans." To this community belong all the philosophers of the seventeenth century, but Spinoza belongs to it in a special way. Spinoza did not remain a Jew, while Descartes, Hobbes, and Leibniz remained Christians. Thus it is not in accordance with Spinoza's wishes that he be inducted into the pantheon of the Jewish nation.

Thus, according to Strauss, Jews should relinquish their claim on Spinoza, noticing that this wouldn't mean surrendering him to the enemies of the Jewish nation, but rather "leave him to that distant and strange community of 'neutrals' whom one can call, with considerable justice, the community of the 'good Europeans'". Strauss argues that one may or may not venerate Spinoza; nonetheless, one should respect his last will, "and his last will was neutrality toward the Jewish nation, based on his break with Judaism."

The statement about Spinoza's neutrality toward Judaism is the result of Strauss's historical-critical analysis of the TPT, which he began with "Cohen's Analysis of Spinoza's Bible Science" and completed in his book on Spinoza's Critique of Religion. In the latter work, Strauss highlighted the distance between Spinoza and his original community as a peculiar and essential component of his philosophical work. In this respect, Strauss argues that Cohen was wrong to maintain that Spinoza had a vengeful attitude towards Judaism because of the ban of the Amsterdam community, but at the same time Cohen was right that Spinoza had no legitimate place within the Amsterdam community, and therefore the Amsterdam community was justified in sanctioning Spinoza's distance through a public ban. As to Spinoza's neutrality, Strauss infers it from Spinoza's well known statement in the third chapter of the TPT that "(i)f the foundations of the Jewish religion have not rendered the minds of the Jews effeminate (…), then I would absolutely believe that someday, given the opportunity and human affairs being so changeable, they (the Jews) will once again establish their empire and God will elect them anew". This is, according to Strauss, Spinoza's "political testament" and a "neutral consideration of the possibility condition [Möglichkeitsbedingung] for the restoration of the Jewish state". In other words, with this statement Spinoza did not express any wish or desire for a possible restoration of the Jewish state, but merely discussed the condition of its possibility. Spinoza's attitude is thus judged by Strauss as a sort of condescension "from the height of his philosophical neutrality", which leaves to the Jews the decision whether or not to liberate themselves from their religion to reestablish a Jewish state. Furthermore, "he voiced this view not as a Jew, but as a neutral; and he did not even voice it, but rather just tossed it off".

--Leo Strauss and Hermann Cohen's "Arch-Enemy:" A Quasi-Cohenian Apology of Baruch Spinoza, by Irene Abigail Piccinini

Kojeve, for his part, wrote his doctoral dissertation under Karl Jaspers in Heidelberg on Vladimir Soloviev's philosophy of religion.

In 1929 Kojeve moved to Paris. Strauss came to Paris on a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1932. They clearly saw a great deal of each other at the time. Their early letters convey something of the difficulties and uncertainties they faced in those troubled years, and the correspondence incidentally traces the main stages in their subsequent careers: Strauss moved to England in 1934, and in 1938 finally obtained a teaching position, his first, at the New School for Social Research in New York. He went on to teach at the University of Chicago from 1949 to 1968. At the time of his death, in 1973, he was the Scott Buchanan Distinguished Scholar in Residence at St. John's College in Annapolis.

In 1933 Kojeve took over a seminar on "Hegel's Philosophy of Religion," which Alexandre Koyre had taught at the Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes the previous academic year. Koyre had focused on Hegel's early, so-called Jena manuscripts that had only recently been discovered and published. Kojeve focused on the Phenomenology of Mind. He continued to teach the Hegel seminar every year until 1939, the year the Second World War broke out. In the course of this series of seminars he analyzed and interpreted the text in minute detail, and then went on to discuss a number of key issues in Hegel's teaching. The material for and from these seminars was published in 1947 under the modest title Introduction a la lecture de Hegel. As Kojeve himself remarks in the letter to Strauss in which he announces the publication of the Introduction, it is not a book in the usual sense of the term at all. It combines outlines, notes, exhaustive commentaries, and the transcripts of several series of formal lectures. But this variety, and the fact that sections in which one can almost hear the rhythm of oral delivery alternate with sections that are so clearly written that they have to be seen in order to be understood, only adds to its impact. It was immediately recognized as a work of uncommon brilliance and penetration. Its pervasive and lasting influence on philosophical thought in France, in the rest of Europe, and in America, cannot be exaggerated.

Kojeve did not return to academic life after the War. He entered the French Ministry of Economic Affairs as an Assistant to Robert Marjolin, who had been a participant in the Hegel seminar. He rose very rapidly to a position of eminence in the Ministry, and continued to play an influential role in French international economic policy until his death in 1968. He was the main French architect of the GATT treaty, he actively participated in the establishment of the European Economic Community, and he was widely noted for the special interest he took in what has come to be known as the North-South dialogue.

The correspondence between the two men only confirms what had been perfectly evident from their public exchange on tyranny -- that for all of the profound philosophical and political differences that divided them, they had the very highest regard for one another. They valued each other's seriousness and enjoyed each other's intellectual power. Each regarded the other's position as perhaps the only significant philosophical alternative to his own, and each regarded the other as the most intransigent spokesman for that alternative. Superficially they could not have been more different. Strauss was the very embodiment of the scholar and thinker, although he was certainly not as unworldly as he sometimes liked to appear. He was utterly direct and unassuming in manner and bearing. His expression was open, intensely alert, often accompanied by a slightly quizzical, amused twinkle. When he spoke, especially when he rose to speak on formal occasions, he was a commanding presence. He had an uncommon capacity to meet others on their own terms and at their level. The young people who flocked to his courses were at least as much attracted by his ability to listen or to speak directly to their deepest concerns, and by his common sense and sobriety, as they were by his great learning. Yet I believe that even those who knew him well, even those who became his most devoted disciples, only gradually recognized the full range, penetration, and power of his thought. Kojeve, by contrast, was worldly and immediately fascinating in the many senses of that term. He, too, was utterly direct. He was a man of wide learning, and his Introduction alone gives ample proof of his capacity to combine scrupulous scholarship with bold thinking. But he was not in any way an academic. Strauss may have been right to challenge his remark that the conflict between being a man of action and a philosopher is a tragic conflict. Still, it is not a conflict of which Strauss appears to have had any direct experience, whereas Kojeve was living it. He alludes to it in several of his letters, and now and then he spoke of it, though always with irony and detachment. For the most part his conversation simply sparkled with intelligence and a certain playfulness. He could be rather disconcerting and, as he admits in his last letter in this correspondence, occasionally he rather enjoyed being outrageous. At times I experienced in his presence an intellectual power and concentration I have otherwise experienced only in the presence of great works of the mind.


23 rue Racine
Mr. Kochevnikoff
15 Bd. du Lycee

December 6, 1932

Dear Mr. Kochevnikoff,

In case this card reaches you in time, would you care to come by to our place today (Tuesday), in connection with the main business, but also and above all "in general." And in case this card reaches you too late, then on Wednesday evening. We will be expecting you on Tuesday or Wednesday between 8 and 9 o'clock.


With best regards
Leo Strauss


M. Alexandre Kochevnikoff
15 Bd. du Lycee

December 13, 1932

Dear friend,

As we are in the process of moving, I write just these few lines in order to give you our new address.

Rue de la Glaciere runs between the Boulevard Port-Royal and the Boulevard Arago. There is a metro station "Glaciere."

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday evening.

Please accept, Monsieur, the expression of my most cordial sentiments.

Leo Strauss


December 17, 1932

Dear Mr. Kochevnikoff,

First, regarding business: enclosed please find the second section of my article; please excuse the stains on the paper and the envelope. I had nothing else handy, and I wanted to get this matter ready for you just as soon as possible.

Then, regarding personal matters: we very much look forward to seeing you and Miss Basjo at our house on Wednesday evening. If you and the records don't mind, could you bring along a few records on Wednesday? As you can imagine, this request comes more from my wife than it does from me. Still, my opposition to music received its first shock last night. Perhaps we can talk about it some day.

So, until Wednesday evening.


With best regards, also from my wife, to Miss Basjo and yourself,


Leo Strauss



Address: 47 Montague Street, Russell Square, London

Dear friend -- I am very thirsty in this moment and I have not the good and cheap French wine. But instead of it we have the wonderful English breakfast -- the hams taste too good as to consist of pork, and therefore they are allowed by the M<osaic> law according to atheistic interpretation -- the wonderful E<nglish> puddings and sweets; and, besides it, the English people is <much> politer than the Frenchmen. I cannot realize a greater difference than that between the Prefecture de Police and the Aliens Registration Office. We feel much better here than in Paris -- except only that we ha<ve> here no friends: we know only Herr <Hoganer> with his red <...> ; however we don't see him very often.

How do you do? How is Miss Basjo? Did your beard b<ecome> greater and stronger? Do not forget to send us as often <as> possible photos showing the progresses you made in th<is> regard. Our boarding house is facing the British Museum. I hope I ob<tain> the card in the beginning of the next week so that I can begin to <use it>. Up to now I only heard two lessons about English phonetics read by two oldish spectacled Misses singing the English wo<rds> in a very funny manner.

I would be very glad if you could write me what is happen<ing> with you since we did not see us.

Yours sincerely,

Leo Strauss


London, January 16th, 1934

Dear friend --

Meanwhile I have acclimatized myself here. I go each day in the British Museum (half a minute's walk) in order to study the English Hobbes-literature and the Hobbes-Mss. The English cooking is much more according to my taste than the French. The most important fact: I saw Downing Street, the seat of the greatest power of the world -- much, much smaller than the Wilhelmstrasse. I had a very strong impression.

The address you want is: Dr. Kl. [1] c.o. Dr. Gadamer, [2] [alias Moldauer], Marburg an d. Lahn, Ockershauser Allee 39, Germany. The quotation you want is: Heidegger, Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen Universitat, Breslau 1933, p. 12. [3]

I am sorry -- I have not the time to write a real letter. But you want the address and the quotation at once.

I hope, you will write me as soon as possible, and perhaps a little more of "details" of this memorable discussion.

What was the impression you had from Herr Landsberg? [4]

Yours sincerely,

L. Strauss

Did you hear anything from Mr. Koyre? [5]

P.S. It is not necessary to be or become Aristotelian or <...> sufficient to become Platonist.



Dear Mr. Kochevnikoff,

I am deep in work and worries -- in other words in a situation similar to yours. Nothing will come of Palestine: Guttman [1] is going there. So far, prospects are the same as in France. But one must not lose courage.

Be that as it may. Could you please send me Koyre's address right away. I want to write to him very soon.

Saturday I am going to Oxford.

Be well!

With best regards to yourself and Miss Basjo,



My wife sends best regards

New address:
2 Elsworthy Road
St. John's Wood, London


2 Elsworthy Road, London NW3

London, April 9, 1934

Dear Mr. Kochevnikoff,

Why do I never hear anything from you? I have not the least idea of how you are, what has happened to your work, your hopes and your worries. Do write me sometime, even if only a card.

Regarding myself, I can only report that I am quite well. I like this country, about which one might say what Diderot said about Hobbes: dry (the pubs close at 10 p.m. sharp here, and the stuff is expensive!), austere and forceful, much more than I do France. And by contrast to the Bibliotheque Nationale, the British Museum is a place to which one enjoys going.

I have become a real Hobbes philologist: Mss., etc. The Hobbes edition project (do, please, try to be discreet) is not entirely hopeless -- the Master of an Oxford College is prepared to sponsor it -- and hence also myself. In the most recent Hobbes book, by John Laird, Prof<essor> in Aberdeen, to which Gibson called my attention -- the book is better than Lubienski's, [1] but not good, not as good as that by Tonnies [2] -- I am described in connection to our joint Recherches article, as "a very competent writer," [3] in which I <mis>use Gibson's introduction. Most important: I may perhaps(!) have found Hobbes's hitherto entirely unknown first writing -- a collection of 10 essays, the first five of which deal with vanity and related phenomena. In the worst case, the ms. was written under Hobbes's influence by one of his disciples. The decision will be reached in about a week.

We have a few acquaintances here -- but none with whom we enjoy spending time as much as we do with you.

So write again, so that we don't lose track of one another.

My wife and Thomas [4] send "Uncle" Basjo warm greetings, and I greet you no less warmly.


Leo Strauss [5]


May 1, 1934

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Many thanks for your letter.

Please excuse me for not writing all this time. But I have not written to anyone except to my wife and to Miss Basio -- not even to Koyre.

That has a romantic reason. This time my July-August moods arose in April. For a change, an "Arian" girl.

During the Easter vacation I did absolutely nothing. 1cancelled the first lecture. The second -- delivered entirely unprepared (it was by no means the worst). Now my life is becoming more normal, at least I prepare my lectures, and today I write to you and to Koyre.

I am very pleased that you are well, and that you have made your decision. I never had any doubt about the most favorable prospects for your future.

It would give me great pleasure to have more precise details (discretion assured: after all, I do -- as a human being -- have my eternal nature!).

With me, nothing new, nothing good.

The Ecole has not yet paid anything, and I have become very sceptical on this score.

My application (the equivalence of a licence on top of the doctorate, on the basis of my German Ph.D.) was rejected. Hitler is responsible (12 similar applications!). I can therefore not announce my courses, and hence cannot request a research grant.

Naturalization has now (Stavisky [1]) become very difficult. Letters of recommendation are now strictly prohibited. An old debtor has paid me 3000 Francs (such things do happen!). That is what I live off, but it, too, soon comes to an end.

So that I am in a rather somber mood.

As yet I work very little. Almost exclusively at my lectures.

Gordin lectures on medieval philosophy at the Ecole rabbinique. [2] I have never heard anything like it! Heinemann gives lectures at the Sorbonne for Rey, [3] unpaid. Also drivel.

"My" Gurevitsch has become a professor in Bordeaux. [4] I hear nothing interesting from Koyre.

Please write me again soon.

With best regards to yourself and your wife,



P.S. Enclosed a picture of Hitler which -- in my opinion -- explains a great deal: the man is really very congenial and "cozy."

Did your wife receive Miss Basio's letter?


Address: 26 Primrose Hill Road, London NW3

London, June 3, 1934

Dear Mr. Kochevnikoff,

Many thanks for your letter. Please excuse me for not having answered it, and be so kind as to regard this writing as a letter.

I write you in a similar mood as you do to me -- namely somber. Some influential English professors do, I believe, take an interest in me -- but whether and how that interest will manifest itself in terms of bread, cigarettes, and the like, is another matter entirely. And soon it is summer, that is to say a time when it is impossible to undertake anything. I don't want to detail all this for you more fully -- after all, you know about it from your own experience.

If I had a modest income, I could be the happiest man in the world. I have already written you about my Hobbes-find. In the meantime I have copied the manuscript, read and studied it, and it is now absolutely certain that it is H<obbes>'s first writing. That is rather nice for all kinds of incidental reasons -- but to me it means more: namely the refutation of your own and Koyre's objection, that my Hobbes interpretation is a willful construction. No, now I can prove that I did not construct. Naturally, reality always looks somewhat different than even the most conscientious, complete texts-in-hand reconstruction. That is obvious. But it does help me to render my H<obbes> interpretation concrete in a way I would never have dared to dream possible. I should like briefly to outline this for you:

In his "youth," i.e. until he was 41, that is to say before he became acquainted with Euclid and thereafter with Galileo etc., H<obbes> had been influenced by four forces: Scholasticism, Puritanism, Humanism, and the aristocratic atmosphere in which he lived. Relatively early -- let us say at the age of 22 -- he broke with Scholasticism. But the break with Scholasticism does not mean he broke with Aristotle. Aristotle, albeit not the scholastic Arist<otle>, still remains the philosopher for him. But the center of gravity has already shifted: from physics and metaphysics to ethics and rhetoric (the teaching about the passions). The place of theory is taken by "heroic virtue" (modified Aristotelian magnanimity), that is to say, virtue (beauty, strength, courage, openness of being, striving after great goals, grand way of life). That is the first point. The second is that, (under Bacon's influence), while he in principle acknowledges ancient, Aristotelian ethics and the inquiry into virtue,<his focus shifts to> the function of virtue and the inquiry into the use and life with others [1] in <...> <virtue>. Hence history, which exhibits instances of moral life, assumes greater importance than does philosophical doctrine with its exclusively abstract precepts. This provides a radical explanation of H<obbes>'s <historical> studies in his ''youth."

<...> in this way H<obbes>'s later break with Aristotle <becomes radically> intelligible. For his later teaching is nothing else than the attempt to understand<...> on the basis of life with others [2], that is to say on the basis of human "nature" as it now is, that is to say of the ordinary, "average" human being <...............>

The concrete way in which he did this, the passion with which he did it <...............> of this concrete criticism of that modified, distorted Aristot<elian> ethics, that is to say of aristocratic virtue, <...> a criticism that was already noticeable in the Essays. The aristocratic principle is honor, fame, pride. This criticism, the principle of which is of puritanical origin, by which honor, fame, and vanity are singled out and devalued, requires a revolution in basic moral concepts that results in the antithesis vanity-fear.

The further, most important and most difficult task is then to show how the project of a mechanistic-deterministic account of nature arises from this new moral principle. The essential middle term here is the significance attached on a priori grounds to the sense of touch, which now becomes the most important sense. That is simply the as-it-were "epistemological" expression of the <the fact> that the fear of (violent) death becomes the moral principle. (That is my London discovery.)

Please excuse this higher nonsense, which is intended to make up to you for the sober gloom of the beginning of this letter: if you wept then, you may now laugh.

My wife received Miss Basjo's letter, and has written to her in the meantime.

Thomas grows and thrives, he develops morally under my modest moral influence -- he often recalls "Uncle Basjo's" table-manners with us.

It is a pity that we never meet. Perhaps it will be possible to do so in Autumn. In a fortnight my sister arrives from Egypt for a visit with us. My father would like to meet with his children outside of Germany -- perhaps in Paris.

For you, the most sensational news will be that (perhaps!) Klein will join us. He, too, is "resolved" to leave Germany.

Be well -- delight in the wines of France which we miss more and more -- and best regards, also in my wife's name.



Leo Strauss


May 9, 1935

Dear Mr. Kochevnikoff,

I was delighted with your letter -- in the first place simply because I once again had news of you, and in the second place because precisely this letter gave me great satisfaction. Most immediately that is so with respect to the Parisian "philosophes" whom you now -- finally! -- judge just as I had judged them from the first. I know only one truly intelligent man in Paris, and that is -- Kochevnikoff. I do not deny that there are cleverer "dialecticians" than you in Paris -- but since when has sterile "sharpness" (which, incidentally, invariably proves extremely dull on-closer inspection) had anything to do with understanding, with insight. Understanding is virtue (virtue = knowledge); whoever has insight into what matters, deals with the issues, is "passionately" interested in the issues and not the busyness -- and you are the only person I know in Paris who has an interest in the issues, and therefore you are the brightest of all. (But if you tell this to others, I send your letter with your judgments to Paris!) Of course some are harder-working than you -- for example Klein, who has published an absolutely first-rate analysis of Plato's and Aristotle's philosophy of mathematics [1] -- indeed -- which you have naturally not read -- because of your erotic adventures -- adventures that of course are more comfortable than the intellectual risks, the experimental shift in perspective to which you too will some day have to resolve yourself if you do not want to sink into a Parisian life of ease. This brings me to the second point, regarding which your letter gratified me and, I should add, my wife: I refer to your remark about Miss Basjo, that your relationship with her is not "resolved," in other words not broken off in the way we were told by some people who are ill-disposed toward Miss Basjo. I need say nothing on this point, since you know my opinion very precisely. If my wife did not have so much work, she would long ago have written Miss Basjo, and invited her to visit us. When you write to her, do please tell her that it would give my wife great pleasure to hear from her, and even greater pleasure if she came to visit her.

Of course we must speak. But since I am no longer a Rockefeller Fellow, there is only one way in which that is possible, that you come here. We have a small house all to ourselves, and so have enough room even for so distinguished a guest as yourself. So come at Whitsun, for example. The trip cannot be beyond reach.

I am really angry with you for loaning my book [2] to that fool Gordin who is not capable of understanding a single line of it, instead of reading it yourself. Just read the Introduction, and the first essay. The Introduction is very daring and will interest you if only because of that. And then write me your reaction. In my view it is the best thing I have written.

In the meantime my study of "Hobbes's Political Science in its Genesis" is finished. I believe that it is good. Other than the study by Klein which I have already mentioned, it is the first attempt at a radical liberation from the modern prejudice. On several occasions I refer to Hegel, and do not fail to mention your name. The study will appear in the first volume of my posthumous works, since no German publisher or English translator can be found. [i]

This morning I got the definitive rejection from the English!

The economic situation is serious. I have a grant until October 1, which does not exceed the minimum for bare existence. It remains an open question whether it will be renewed for another year. After that it is certainly over. Where we turn then, only the gods know. I have no luck, dear Mr. Kochevnikoff.

So: write right away, and come soon.

With best regards, also in my wife's name.


Leo Strauss


Vanves, November 2, 1936

Dear Mr. Strauss:

Many, many thanks for your Hobbes book, [1] which I have already read through. To say so right away: it is one of the best history of philosophy books I have read, and it is altogether a very good book. I have learned much from it. Admittedly, I do not know Hobbes. But your interpretation is compelling: it cannot be otherwise, and one has no wish to take issue with you.

I did not answer immediately because I intended to write you a very long letter, both about the Hobbes-Hegel problem, and about the progress of my own reflections. I miss our conversations more than ever. Well -- the intention remained and remains unfulfilled: I really have no time for it. In addition to which my arm gives me trouble. I have written too much, and now have a bursitis. In principle I should take two weeks' rest. But that is impossible. I must therefore at least drop all writing that is not absolutely necessary. Hence this brief and inadequate letter --


Everything you write is correct. Hegel undoubtedly takes Hobbes as his point of departure. A comparison is surely worthwhile, and I would have liked to make it -- with you.

Major difference: Hegel consciously wants to "return" to the Ancients ("dialectically," that is to say by way of "Hobbes.") There is a summum bonum, namely full self-understanding through philosophy. But one can only understand (and thus "satisfy") oneself fully in an ideal state (just as according to Plato). That state can only be actualized by means of history and at the end of history. For it is the "reality of the kingdom of heaven." That means, it is this-worldly, like the ancient state; but in this-world, the (Christian) other-world is actualized. That is why the state presupposes not only "knowledge" but also "action" ("volonte!"). Although its final cause is also philosophical knowledge, this knowledge is a knowledge of action, through action (man's "negative," that is to say creative, and not merely uncovering <or revealing> activity). Struggle → the dialectic of master and slave in history → synthesis of the two (master and slave) in the citizen of the ideal state.

Concrete difference: Hobbes fails to see the value of work. The fear of death is not enough to lead man "to reason." The fearing slave attains knowledge (and the idea of freedom → Stoicism → Scepticism → Christianity) only if he also works (in and out of fear), and works for the master, that is to say only if he performs services. This accounts for history as a "class-struggle," that is to say as a master-slave dialectic with a final synthesis.

Natural science (Galileo-Newton's, that is to say also Hobbes's) is a pseudo sci<ence> of the working slave. The ex-slave liberated by the rev<olution> (1789) gives it up; his science becomes the phil<osophy> (Hegel's) on the basis of which man can understand himself as man (but to that end, the transition through <the stage of> slave labor and its ideology is necessary!). Slave sci<ence> leads 1. to transcendentalism, 2. to subj<ective> idealism, 3. to "phrenology," that is to say to material<ist> anthropology (so, too, in Hobbes). Why? Because the slave who does not want to struggle (Hobbes's bourgeois), necessarily flees into the beyond ("belief"), and seeks his satisfaction there (without ever finding it). The purely theoretical cancellation of the beyond yields subj<ective> idealism (more generally: the intellectuals' ideology of "the thing itself," of "pure" science, etc., that is to say the flight into "absolute" values "pure insight," that is to say 17th century rationalism]). But in fact these purely intuited values are merely given givens, [2] that is to say nature. The whole process therefore ends up in materialism. The way out: recognition of values-as-duties. [3] Initially that leads to "utopia" ("insanity"). But if man is ready to struggle for them, it leads to revolution. That is the final synthesis (of master and slave): the worker's struggle leads to the struggler's work (univ<ersal> military service as the major consequence of the Fr<ench> revolution, according to Hegel!) That is the "action of each and all" = ideal state, in which everyone is a citizen, that is to say {soldier- civilian} civil servant, and thus creates and preserves the state by his own actions.

In sum:

Hobbes fails to appreciate the value of work and therefore underestimates the value of struggle ("vanity"). According to Hegel, the working slave realizes 1. the idea of freedom, 2. the actualization of this idea through struggle. Thus: initially "man" is always master or slave; the "full human being" -- at the "end" of history -- is master and slave (that is to say both and neither). Only this can satisfy his "vanity," in that he is recognized by those he recognizes, and understands himself as such (in [Hegel<'s >] philosophy). Nothing short of this understanding of satisfaction constitutes the summum bonum. But one can understand only satisfaction; and satisfaction presupposes work and struggle. [Fear of death alone can only lead to religion (= unhappiness)]. The master does nor kill the slave only so that he might work for him! The gen<uine> master is never afraid.

In the meantime, I have re-read Plato. I continue to believe that you underestimate the Timaeus.

1. Plato wants to teach Dion geometry first (and not "virtue" itself).

2. It seems to me that Plato later found "dialectics" inadequate, and went over to the "method of division;" that method implies the primacy of physics (mathem<atical> physics).

3. The "Statesman" presupposes the "Timaeus."

Thus: the "idea" = "ideal" of man cannot be seen in man himself. He has to be grasped as "a place in the cosmos." That place is his "ideal." The organization of the state presupposes the (or some) knowledge of the org<anization> of the cosmos.

What do you think of that?

Now, regarding personal matters.

I have been promised that I would get French citizenship soon. Then I may perhaps receive a fellowship. Until then, much meaningless work in order to earn money. Library (5 hours) + the crazy Frenchman (ghostwriting) (2 hours) + 2 courses. One on Hegel (Chapter VI, B and C); and a second one on Bayle. (I am replacing Koyre, who is in Egypt), I chose Bayle because I am interested in the problem of tolerance. What for him was Prot<estantism> Cathol<icism>, is today fasc<ism> comm<unism>. I believe that in Bayle the motives and the meaning of the middle position are clearer than among modern "democrats."

I regret that we write each other so seldom. It is of course due to slovenliness on my part. But do believe me that it has nothing to do with "intrinsic reasons." "Humanly" and "philosophically" I continue to value and cherish you greatly.

Write me soon, and with best regards also to your wife.




Paris, June 22, 1946

Dear Mr. Strauss:

Many thanks for your Farabi essay. [1] I am in no way a specialist in the field. I can therefore not pass an expert judgment on your interpretation. But to a layman it seems most plausible. In any case, the essay is most amusing.

But the problem interests me much more than the historical issues.

I have thought much about wisdom myself, in the course of the past years. My last course was devoted to this problem. I am now bringing out a book. A compendium of my Hegel course by one of those who attended it (Queneau), [2] and transcripts of some lectures. Among others, the full text of the last course about wisdom. The book is very bad. I had no time to work it out. But it contains some interesting things. Above all, about wisdom, fulfillment, and happiness (I follow Hegel in saying: satisfaction.) I would like to know what you think of it. I will send you a copy as soon as it comes out.

I would like to have the opportunity for discussions with you. As well as with Klein. Here I have almost no one. Weil [3] is very intelligent, but he lacks something, I don't quite know what. Koyre is completely dotty. Last year Klein wrote me about the possibility of being invited to St. John's College. [4] At the time I could not do it. Now I would gladly come. But Klein no longer writes anything about it.

I do not want to ask him directly. Perhaps he does not want to submit my name a second time. But I would be grateful to you, if you raised this question with him.

With best regards to yourself and to your wife





April 8, 1947

Dear Strauss,

I received your 1943 and 1945 essays [1] almost at the same time. The essay about ancient political philosophies interests me intensely. In any case -- many thanks.

I have the impression that basically we do not think as differently as it appears. What a pity that we no longer have the opportunity to talk with one another at length. Because it is not really possible by way of letters. And still less by way of essays and books.

By the way -- my book has still not come out. I will send it to you as soon as it does.

Koyre was very affected by your critical attitude toward his Plato book. [2] I mentioned only purely "material" criticism. But he evidently has a "bad conscience" ...

Surely you can arrange a "research trip" to Europe: after all, there is a lot of money for this sort of thing in the U.S.! For it is scarcely possible for me to come to America for a mere trip.

I have still not written the Lowith review. Nor have I any particular desire to do so.

On May 1 I probably will go to Geneva (Conference), where I may remain 4-6 weeks.

What do you hear from Klein? Will he come to Europe? It would be nice if the two of you could come together.

Weil has finished his big book. [3] Very impressive. Also, very "Hegel-Marxist," and certainly influenced by my course. But it ends ala Schelling: Poetry, philosophy, and wisdom as silence. You will finally have to read it. And I regret I did not write the book myself.

Perhaps I will still do it, if I drop administration ... and find a little money "to do nothing"!

With very best regards to you and yours,


A. Kojeve.


3202 Oxford Ave., New York 63, N.Y.


Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff:

Finally I get to write to you. Before I turn to the primary object of this letter, I should like to thank you for getting me the Malebranche (how much do I owe you?), and to ask you whether you would be prepared to review my forthcoming small book, On Tyranny: An Interpretation Of Xenopbon 's Hiero, [1] in France. I know no one besides yourself and Klein who will understand what I am after (I am one of those who refuse to go through open doors when one can enter just as well through a keyhole), and Klein is endlessly lazy. In any case, I will send you my opusculum. -- Now to the issue.

Only now, during the vacation, did I find time to work through your Introduction. [2] It is an extraordinary book, by which I also mean this, that it is an uncommonly good and interesting book. With the exception of Heidegger there is probably not a single one of our contemporaries who has written as comprehensive and at the same time as intelligent a book. In other words, no one had made the case for modern thought in our time as brilliantly as you. Quite aside from this general merit, your book has the truly not negligible merit of having made the Phenomenology of Mind accessible, not only to myself, I am sure.

The account as a whole leaves the impression that you regard Hegel's philosophy as absolute knowledge, and reject the philosophy of nature together with its implications as a dogmatic and dispensable residue. One is therefore all the more surprised to find you admit that the demonstrative power of the Hegelian argument (the circularity of the system) is absolutely dependent on the philosophy of nature (291 at the bottom; 400, paragraph 3; 64). Indeed, it is evident that the philosophy of nature is indispensable. How else can the uniqueness of the historical process (349 n. 2; 391) be accounted for? It can only be necessarily unique if there can be only one "earth" of finite duration in infinite time. (By the way, are there any explicit statements in Hegel about the earth's beginning and end? In Lasson's edition of the Encyclopedia I found nothing on this score, other than the rejection of evolutionary theories. How can that be reconciled with the earth's temporal finiteness?) Besides, why should the one, temporal, finite earth not be subject to cataclysms (every 100,000,000 years), with total or partial repetitions of the historical process? Only a teleological concept of nature can help out here. If nature is not structured or ordered with a view to history, then one is led to a contingency even more radical than Kant's transcendental contingency (which Hegel rejects). (Cp. 397 bottom-398 top, as well as 301 paragraph 2 and 434 middle, with 404 n. 1 and 432 paragraph 2.). But if the philosophy of nature is necessary, it follows that atheism has to be rejected (378).

The deduction of the desire for recognition is convincing if one presupposes that every philosophy consists in grasping the spirit of its time in thought, that is to say if one presupposes everything that is at issue. Otherwise, that deduction is arbitrary. Why should self-consciousness and the striving for recognition not be understood as derivative from the zoon logon echon? [3] Self-consciousness presupposes desire? But is the striving for contemplation not a desire? All desire is directed at what-is not, but only the desire for desire is directed at non-being as such -- but is not recognition (for example of parents by their children, of the stronger by the weaker), always a given?

What makes human beings into human beings is the striving for recognition. Hence human beings are fully satisfied when and only when they are universally recognized. I see an ambiguity here: a) they should be satisfied, dissatisfaction with universal recognition is irrational; b) they are satisfied. Regarding a) human beings are irrational; they manage to destroy the simply rational communal life (implied on p. 400, paragraph 2). Regarding b) human beings are not satisfied; they want to be happy; their happiness is not identical with their being recognized (cp. 334 with 435n).

The recognition for which great men of action strive, is admiration. That recognition is not necessarily satisfied by the End-State. The fact that great deeds are impossible in the End-State, can lead precisely the best to a nihilistic denial of the End-State. There is only one way of avoiding that consequence, namely by the Platonic-Hegelian assumption that "the best" are somehow ruled by the purely rational, the philosophers. Differently stated, only if the striving for recognition is a veiled form of the striving for full self-consciousness or for full rationality, in other words only if a human being, insofar as he is not a philosopher, is not really a human being, if someone who leads a life of action is essentially subordinate to the philosopher -- that is to say if one follows Hegel even where (in my view for bad reasons) you diverge from him: cp. 398, paragraph 1, with 398-400, 275-279, 286-291. (Regarding these passages and regarding 293, I should like to remark -- and this is only another way of saying what I have just said -- that you seem to underestimate the fact that in Hegel's view the Enlightenment refuted the Christian dogma as such. Hegel would rightly reject what you call mysticism as a nonconcept inapplicable to Biblical religion.) Hence it is not recognition but only wisdom that can truly satisfy a human being (which you naturally also say). Hence the end state owes its privilege to wisdom, to the rule of wisdom, to the popularization of wisdom (414a., 385, 387), and not to its universality and homogeneity as such. But if wisdom does not become common property, the mass remains in the thrall of religion, that is to say of an essentially particular and particularizing power (Christianity, Islam, Judaism ...), which means that the decline and fall of the universal homogeneous state is unavoidable.

In any case, if not all human beings become wise, then it follows that for almost all human beings the end state is identical with the loss of their humanity (490,491 and 492), and they can therefore not be rationally satisfied with it. The basic difficulty also shows itself in this, that on the one hand the End-State is referred to as the State of warrior-workers (114, 146, 560 f.), and on the other hand it is said that at this stage there are no more wars, and as little work as possible (indeed, in the strict sense of the term, there is no more work at all (145, 385 ,435 n, 560), since nature will have been definitively conquered (301 paragraph 3, et passim). Besides: the masses are only potentially satisfied (145 f.)

If I had more time than I have, I could state more fully, and presumably more clearly, why I am not convinced that the End State as you describe it, can be either the rational or the merely-factual satisfaction of human beings. For the sake of simplicity I refer today to Nietzsche's "last men." [4]

When do your travels again bring you this way? In any case, let me hear from you soon. With best regards from


Leo Strauss

I have re-read your last two letters -- containing among other things, your judgement of Weil. I can only repeat: I have seldom seen such an empty human being. You say: he lacks something -- I say: he lacks substance, he is nothing but an idle chatterer.


organized under the New School for Social Research
66 West 12th Street New York 11, Grammercy 7-8464

December 6, 1948

M. Alexandre Kojeve
15 Boulevard Stalingrad
Vanves (Seine)

Dear Kojeve:

I am sending you under separate cover my study on Xenophon. Would it be possible for you to review it in Critique or, for that matter, in any other French periodical. I am very anxious to have a review by you because you are one of the three people who will have a full understanding of what I am driving at.

Sincerely yours,

Leo Strauss


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

May 13, 1949

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff:

I was very pleased to see in an earlier issue of Critique that you plan to review my Xenophon. Now I see on the back-cover of the April issue that your name has disappeared, and that instead, M. Weil announces an article on Machiavelli. Did you abandon your plan? I would regret it very much -- among other things also because I should have liked to take your account as the occasion for an essay to which I intended to devote the month of July, and in which I would discuss our differences. Please let me know where things stand.

A further request: Could you have your friends at Critique henceforth send me Critique at the above address. You probably know that at the end of January I went to the University of Chicago as "Professor of Political Philosophy."

When will you come to these parts again? And how are you and your Philosophy of Right? [1]

With best regards,


Leo Strauss


Vanves, May 26, 1949

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Thank you so much for your letter of the 13th. I very much apologize for still not having answered your first, already very old letter.

Really because it poses too many important questions that cannot be dealt with properly in a short answer. I have thought about the questions, and have much to say in answer to them, but I never find the time to get it all down in writing.

Be that as it may -- a thousand thanks for the really very friendly judgment about a book which, as regards its form, is beneath all criticism.

I have read your Xenophon very attentively, and have learned much from it.

I have not abandoned the idea of reviewing the book (but the cover of Critique mentions forthcoming items only once). I have even written 22 (!) pages about it. But that is only about 2/3. Now: in the first place, I do not know when I will write the remaining 10-15 pages; in the second place, the article seems to me too long for Critique (although Bataille is ready to print everything I write).

In any event, I will send you a typed copy as soon as I have one. I have another idea. A volume could be brought out (possibly by NRF) that would combine the French translation of the dialogue, a translation of your book (without the notes, or rather the "technical" notes), and my article (which deals with your book). What do you think of that idea?

Naturally you have to see my article in order to be able to decide. But what do you think "in principle?" I believe that it would in any event be better to bring out the translation of your book together with the French text of the dialogue.

Otherwise, I am not especially well: tired, kidneys, heart.

Very much work, much personal success, but really very few results.

I spent a month in Egypt: very impressive.

I am very pleased that the material question is finally solved for you. And how are the students?

With best regards to you and yours,

Your Kojeve

P.S. I will speak to Weil regarding your Critique.


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

June 27, 1949

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

Thank you ever so much for your letter. I was so busy, I could not answer. Today, just before the beginning of the summer semester, in terrible heat and humidity, I find a free moment.

I restrict myself to the practical problem. What matters most to me is to get to see your critique in any legible form whatsoever. I very much hope that in the meantime you have written the last third -- the rest of your 22 pages.

As for the publication, I wonder whether both might not be possible: a) your review in Critique, and b) the book you suggest (translation of the Hiero, my interpretation, and your criticism). I fully agree with the idea for the book, even before having read your criticism. I would be most grateful to you for an early report about where things stand.

I am very sorry to hear that you are physically not well. That (Image Image [1] makes itself felt more and more unpleasantly every year -- to myself as well. What is of course depressing is the fact that the older one grows, the more clearly one sees how little one understands: the darkness gets increasingly dense. It is perhaps a questionable compensation that one sees through the lack of clarity in the ideas of chatterers and cheats more easily and quickly than in earlier years. The Image of Image is really available only Image , ut philosophus dixit. [2]

When will you again come to these parts?

With best regards, also in my wife's name, from


Leo Strauss

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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

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Vanves, August 15, 1949

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Please excuse that I reply only today to your letter of June 27. But I wanted first to fulfill your request, and give the manuscript a legible form.

That was done only yesterday: I have corrected a typed copy, and sent it to you (c/o the University, with the request to forward). I hope it is not too late, although you wanted to have it at the beginning of August.

Critique is broke: the September issue is the last one.

Perhaps I will publish my review in Sartre's Temps Modernes, although I do not much care to do so.

As for the article, I am rather dissatisfied with it. I had to write it in bits and pieces, and the structure is therefore very defective.

Regarding the book (Xenophon -- Strauss -- Kojeve), it will have to wait until the end of the vacation. That way you can let me know whether the idea appeals to you.

With best regards to yourself and to your wife,




Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

September 4, 1949

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

My warmest thanks for your review essay, which, as you can imagine, I immediately read with the most intense interest. The mere fact that you invested as much work as you did, is the greatest compliment ever paid me. I cannot speak to your substantive criticism in haste: I firmly intend to discuss your position with the utmost thoroughness and decisiveness in a public setting just as soon as your article has appeared. I am glad to see, once again, that we agree about what the genuine problems are, problems which are nowadays on all sides either denied or trivialized.
↓ ↓

Existentialism Marxism and Thomism

Besides that I am glad that finally someone represents the modern position intelligently and in full knowledge -- and without Heidegger's cowardly vagueness.

I therefore eagerly look forward to the moment when it will be possible to join the battle. [1] In the coming weeks I am totally taken up with the preparation of a series of public lectures on Natural Right and History -- Mr. Maritain delivered a series of lectures under the same auspices! -- which are then to be published next year.

Now to the question about publication. For a variety of reasons, I would very much welcome it if the Xenophon-Strauss-Kojeve book appeared. If you have secured a publisher, let me know, so that the business side (a formality) -- copyright -- can get settled right away. Regarding the translation of the Hiero, I would like to make sure that the crucial passages are translated literally, and if necessary the translation be changed (I assume that you want to proceed on the basis of an already published French translation -- hence, too, the copyright problem would have to be resolved). Regarding my contribution, some notes really are essential. If you wish, I can put a list of them together for you. -- But all that will require a stretch of time. Therefore I wonder whether it might not be practical to have you go ahead and publish your portion in the Temps Modernes now. I would prefer that. Immediately upon its publication I would then work out my reply (and in this connection include a series of other additions to On Tyranny), and publish it. It would then be up to you to decide whether you wish to add a reply and possibly a "final word" to the French edition.

In any event, let me know your intentions and plans soon.

By chance I happened upon Jaspers' History (1949): [2] a well-intentioned North-German Protestant Pastor, full of unction and earnestness even in sexual relations, and who for that very reason never achieves clarity or decisiveness.

Let me hear from you again soon.

With warm greetings from my wife and myself,


Leo Strauss


Vanves, October 10, 1949

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Please excuse me for answering your two letters only today. I was on holidays in Spain and came back only the day before yesterday.

To the matter:

I have not yet done anything about my article. But I will try to have it published as soon as possible in some journal. (Critique is now definitely dead.)

At the same time I will speak with Gallimard about the "X-St-K" book. I had thought of using some old translation, in order not to have to pay any copyright. Of course some of your notes will have to be translated as well. I really thought that only the strictly technical notes, references, etc., should be omitted. Personally, I would very much welcome it if your reply to my criticism could also be reprinted. But that depends on the publisher (number of pages, etc.)

Your Chicago suggestion interests me very much. I believe that regular contact with you will not only be personally extremely pleasant, but that at least as far as I am concerned it will also be philosophically extremely stimulating.

(Please excuse the blemished first sheet -- I had not noticed it.) I will work out my curriculum, discuss it with Koyre, and send it to you. I know no "big shots." But I could have myself recommended by

1. Professor Wilcox (Economics), Chairman of the American Delegation in London, New York, Geneva, Havana, etc.

2. The local ECA ("Marshall Plan") people.

Would that be useful?

Koyre says that he does not want to intervene on his own. But if someone from the University of Chicago asks him about me, he will write favorably.

The Quai d'Orsay is very interested. But Koyre tells me that any official French intervention could only hurt my prospects. Is that so?

A visiting summer appointment lasts about ten weeks? What is the pay for something like that? It is not so much a question of money as of prestige.

In any event -- many thanks for the suggestion, and for everything you will undertake on my behalf.

Regarding the articles and the book, I will keep you informed.

With best regards to yourself and your wife,

Your Kojeve


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

October 14, 1949

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

In the utmost haste:

Regarding your article and "X-St-K," I do see that the inclusion of my Reply both increases the cost, and greatly delays it because of my terrible slowness. So: go ahead. [1]

Regarding your vita, etc. -- feel free to mention Wilcox and the Paris ECA people. Provided they are not notorious communists -- every other foolishness is pardonable. -- K<oyre> is perfectly right that an unsolicited initiative on the part of the Quai d'Orsay can only hurt. But a statement about you addressed To Whom It May Concern (or, preferably, the French equivalent), written in French by one of the big shots in the "Affaires Etrangeres" would surely be useful: because it would show that you are politically not entirely inexperienced.

Summer course: this should not be a matter of prestige. Everyone, including the prima donnas, prostitutes himself this way. I believe you would get the same that Koyre got. (How much that is I do not know.) I cannot undertake anything further until I have your vita.

Best regards from us both,


Leo Strauss


Vanves, December 26, 1949

Merry Christmas, dear Mr. Strauss,

After much reflection (which it would be too tedious to reproduce) I have decided to drop the Chicago project. Among other reasons, because it is a ''delicate subject." I hope that you will not hold it against me. In any event, many thanks for the suggestion.

The only thing I really regret is that there is no prospect of a face-to-face discussion with you about the issues that interest us in the foreseeable future. Here I have, for all intents and purposes, no occasion for philosophical discussion.

As regards our book:

Queneau has read your book (+ Xenophon) and is enthusiastic. He also finds my article suitable for publication and interesting. So that he absolutely wants to publish the book, and he expects it to be a great success.

However, he has spoken about the book with such enthusiasm, that Gallimard himself wants to read it, together with my article. But the article has to be corrected, because the only corrected copy is with Merleau-Ponty (for Temps Modernes). It will therefore be some time before the official contract is submitted to us.

Queneau is ready to reprint the notes as well, in case you insist. However, it would considerably increase costs (because of the Greek). And he fears that the notes will scare away some readers, and so restrict the circulation of the book.

On the other hand, he (and I) would very much welcome an "Afterword."

A translator still has to be found for the Hiero, as well as one for your book. The translator's honorarium will probably come out of your honorarium. As for the two of us, we will divide the honorarium in proportion to the number of pages. Have you any objections to that suggestion?

I would like to know what you think of my essay. I myself am quite dissatisfied. I wrote it under difficult circumstances, with massive interruptions: as a result it is wide-ranging, and at the same time unclear. But I have neither the time nor the inclination to work on it more. Or do you believe that it is really necessary that I do so?

With best regards to you and yours.



Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

January 18, 1950

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

I just received your letter of December 26.

I very much regret that we will not see each other for the time being. I, too, never have the opportunity for discussions Image. [1]

I was very pleased by the news about our book. To begin with business-questions: My publisher owns the rights, not I. The situation is different regarding the Afterword, since I am writing it on my own. For reasons that are too tedious, I would propose that you get the honorarium for the Afterword in your name, and after subtracting taxes and so on transferred it to one of my relatives in Paris.

I found your criticism clear and meaningful; stylistic revisions may be desirable, but that is something about which I have no opinion, because I do not know French well enough.

The notes can for the most part be omitted, except some few that are interesting.

As soon as the matter is settled and I have some leisure, I will write the Afterword in English. I assume that the publisher will have no objection to my publishing the Afterword in an American journal: after all, it would also be a bit of publicity for the book.

In the meantime I have begun to prepare six public lectures on Natural Right and History. Progress is extremely slow. I am working on the first lecture, a summary criticism of historicism ( = existentialism).

Have you ever read Prescott's Conquest of Mexico and Conquest of Peru? A story more fabulous than any fairy-tale.

With best regards from my wife and myself,


Leo Strauss


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

March 24, 1950

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

My publisher sent me the letter that Gallimard (Mascole) wrote to him. It will be a little while before the formalities are settled (another publisher is just in the process of taking over publication of my book). But this formality should not delay the substantive procedure. I personally attach importance to only two things: (a) I should like to see the translation of my share before it is typeset; (b) translation rights are limited to the translation into French. (That is to say, no translations from the French translation into any other languages are permitted.) It would be desirable not to delay getting the translation out. The financial aspect of this business (a flat fee of $150.00) is o.k.

Have you seen Heidegger's Holzwege? Most interesting, much that is outstanding, and on the whole bad: the most extreme historicism.

How are you? Write soon.


Leo Strauss




Paris, April 9, 1950

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Please excuse me for only now answering your letter of March 24.

I saw Queneau. He says that your two conditions go without saying.

Koyre has a translator in view. I hope work begins soon.

Could you indicate the notes that should be translated and printed?

On the other hand, Merleau-Ponty does not want to publish my article in Temps Modernes. The pretext is that T<emps> M<odernes> does not publish reviews. In fact he refuses publication for substantive reasons, as is evident from his letter to Weil.

I can understand that. In effect I say in the article that what Merleau-Ponty, among others, does, is politically as well as philosophically senseless.

I have not yet read Holzwege. But I will do so.

I assume that the legal issue between your publisher and Gallimard will be settled, and that I do not need to be concerned with it.

With best regards,

Your Kojeve


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

June 26, 1950

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

Please excuse my long silence -- but all hell was loose. In the meantime I have signed the contract with Gallimard. I now come to you with the suggestion for a translator. Victor Gourevitch, one of my students, who will be attending the Sorbonne with a University of Chicago Fellowship this fall, and apparently knows French very well, has offered to undertake the translation -- independently of how much he gets from the publisher. I would of course regard it as absolutely proper that he receive the usual compensation from the publisher, and I would be most grateful to you if you would arrange for this -- in case a translator has not yet been found and begun work. Gourevitch would have the following great advantage: he will be in Chicago for another few weeks, and I could discuss the problems of translation with him in detail. In any event, I earnestly request that you let me know right away whether this arrangement is acceptable. Also for the following reason: in case the translation is completed soon, I would have to start work on my criticism of your criticism quite soon. I have three or four urgent commitments this summer, and therefore have to plan.

How much I would enjoy talking with you Image (as well as Image Image). [1] I have once again been dealing with Historicism, that is to say, with Heidegger, the only radical historicist, and I believe I see some light. On the <... >, that is to say, ultimately uninteresting plane, Heidegger's position is the last refuge of nationalism: the state, even "culture", is done with -- all that remains is language -- of course with the modifications that became necessary as a consequence of 1933-1945.

Have you seen Lukacz, The Young Hegel? Orthodox-Stalinist in thought and writing, but useful as a corrective to Wilheiminian Hegel studies. I have looked into Lenin and Engels -- unpalatable and comical.

With best regards,


Leo Strauss


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

July 28, 1950

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff:

Thank you so much for the information regarding Stephano.

As far as my Conclusion or Afterword is concerned, I intended to write it in August, because during the academic year it is too difficult to concentrate on one subject. However, since I also have to attend to a number of other things, I would like to turn to the Afterword only once it is reasonably certain that the whole thing will be completed and come out in the academic year 1950-1951. Otherwise I would postpone the writing of the Afterword until next Summer (1951). Where do things stand (a) regarding the translation of Xenophon's Hiero? Is there not one in the Collection Bude, for example? (b) When does Stephano expect to be done? (c) Is the version of your critique which you sent me, the definitive version? If it is not, I would have to wait until I have the definitive version. In any event, I very much ask you please to answer these three questions by air mail -- at my expense, so that I know how to plan my time in August.

It may interest you to learn that Klein has married Husserl's daughter-in-law.

I hope that you are well.

Best regards as ever,


Leo Strauss


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

August 5, 1950

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

On the reverse side of this sheet, you will find the list of the notes I would like to have included in the translation. I would very much appreciate it if the translator could indicate in his Preface or elsewhere that the English original contains a great many notes that are omitted in the French translation.

I plan to begin work on the Afterword tomorrow.

Best regards.


Leo Strauss


Introduction: note 5
III The Setting
A. The characters and their identities: notes 14, 31, 32, 44, 46
B. The action: notes 51 , 61, 65
C. The use of characteristic terms: note 6 omit the last sentence
IV The Teaching Concerning Tyranny: notes 25, 34, 46; 57; 50 change reference "cf. IIIA, note 44 above," and omit reference at the end of note
V The Two Ways of Life: note 47 omit "(see IIIB, note 12 above)"; 59; 70 omit "and the passages indicated in IV, note 45 above.")
VI Pleasure, Virtue: note 49
VII Piety and Law: note 10


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

September 14, 1950

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

Enclosed, the Afterword. I have called it Restatement, because I regard the problem as entirely open -- "Afterword" would create the impression of an apparent finality -- and, above all, because I would very much like you to answer. You must clarify the difficulties in which the reader of your Introduction gets entangled. If my attack succeeds in getting you to clarify what is unclear, I will be very satisfied.

Unfortunately, I again have a couple of requests. In the first place, I should like Gallimard's assurance that I retain the copyright of the English original of the Restatement, or more precisely, that he requires only the rights to its French translation. In the second place, for various reasons it is necessary that the dedication and the motto (from Macaulay) be retained in the French edition.

I assume that Stephanopoulos will let me see the translation of the Restatement as well.

I would be much obliged to you for an early reply.

How are you?

Best regards,


Leo Strauss


Vanves, September 19, 1950


Dear Mr. Strauss,

Many thanks for your letter and the Restatement. (I very much like the title; only I don't know how to translate it into French!)

I was in Spain for three weeks, and got your letter on the day of my return to Paris.

I read your reply immediately, and with great interest. Naturally, I would have much to say, but one also has to leave something for the reader: he should go on to think on his own.

I am in full agreement with the conclusion. It might be even clearer to say that the fundamental difference with respect to the question of being pertains not only to the problem of the criterion of truth but also to that of good and evil. You appeal to moral conscience in order to refute my criterion-argument. But the one is as problematic as the other. Did Torquemada or Dzerzhinski have "bad consciences"?! [1] The universal and homogeneous state is "good" only because it is the last (because neither war not revolution are conceivable in it: -- mere "dissatisfaction" is not enough, it also takes weapons!).

Besides, "not human" can mean "animal" (or, better -- automaton) as well as "God." In the final state there naturally are no more" human beings" in our sense of an historical human being. The "healthy" automata are "satisfied" (sports, art, eroticism, etc.), and the "sick" ones get locked up. As for those who are not satisfied with their "purposeless activity" (art, etc.), they are the philosophers (who can attain wisdom if they "contemplate" enough). By doing so they become "gods." The tyrant becomes an administrator, a cog in the "machine" fashioned by automata for automata.

All this seems to me rather "classical." With the one difference that according to Hegel all this is not right from the start, but only becomes right at the end.

Now, in the meantime I have come to understand something new better than before.

Human beings really act only in order to be able to speak about it (or to hear it spoken about) [conversely: one can speak only about action; about nature one can only be [mathematically, aesthetically, etc.] silent. Historical action necessarily leads to a specific result (hence: deduction), but the ways that lead to this result, are varied (all roads lead to Rome!). The choice between these ways is free, and this choice determines the content of the speeches about the action and the meaning of the result. In other words: materially <i.e., factually> history is unique, but the spoken <i.e., narrated> story can be extremely varied, depending on the free choice of how to act. For example: If the Westerners remain capitalist (that is to say, also nationalist), they will be defeated by Russia, and that is how the End-State will come about. If, however, they "integrate" their economies and policies (they are on the way to doing so), then they can defeat Russia. And that is how the End-State will be reached (the same universal and homogeneous State). But in the first case it will be spoken about in "Russian" (with Lysenko, etc.), and in the second case -- in "European."

As regards myself, I came to Hegel by way of the question of criteria. I see only three possibilities:

(a) Plato's -- Husserl's "intuition of essences" (which I do not believe [for one has to believe it]); (b) relativism (in which one cannot live); (c) Hegel and "circularity." If, however, one assumes circularity as the only criterion of truth (including the moral), then everything else follows automatically.

For a time I believed in a fourth possibility: nature is "identical," hence the classical criterion can be retained for nature. But now I believe that one can only be silent about nature (mathematics). Hence: either one remains "classically" silent (cp. Plato's Parmenides and Seventh Epistle), or one chatters "in the modern manner" (Pierre Bayle), or one is an Hegelian.

But -- as I said -- all this can be left up to the reader. In itself your Restatement seems to me very sensible and useful. There is only one passage in your text I would ask you to alter or to strike.

I refer to p. 13: "Kojeve denies ... (Hiero II.11 and 11.14)." [2]

The passage rests on a misunderstanding, and I am perfectly ready to improve my text in order to [3]


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

September 28, 1950

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

Many thanks for your letter. Could "restatement" not be translated with something like "reformulation"? Or with a composite expression corresponding to "A Second Statement"? If there is no alternative, 1 would accept "Replique" or something like it.

I was aware that some of your arguments are rather exoteric, and I replied to them exoterically. Quite aside from that, the question remains whether I have understood you or you me on all points. Thus, for example, I do not believe that the considerations you adduce in your letter to me were sufficient. But that would lead too far just now (beginning of the academic year).

As regards p. 13 of the Restatement (Hitler), I am perfectly ready to strike the three sentences in the middle of the paragraph: "As is shown by his reference ... under his rule." But I cannot accept your suggestion to replace "good tyranny" with some other expression. I naturally knew that Stalin was comrade: you see how modern Xenophon is even in this.


16. The Tower -- Misery, distress, indigence, adversity, calamity, disgrace, deception, ruin. Reversed: According to one account, the same in a lesser degree; also oppression, imprisonment, tyranny.

-- The Rider Tarot Deck, by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Please do not forget to remind Queneau about the copyright of the Restatement.

One of my students -- Gourevitch -- will try to get in touch with you. He is very impressed by your Introduction.

Have you seen the things by Lukacz?

Best regards,


Leo Strauss


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

January 19, 1951

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff,

In all haste -- What has happened to the translation? And: where do things stand with my right to publish the English original of the Restatement now? I do not doubt I have that right, but would like to have it confirmed by the publisher.

How are things with you? I heard about you and your political outlook from Bertrand de Jouvenel, [1] who is here just now, esteems you greatly, and also esteems your book, but did not know that you, the official, are one and the same as you, the author of the book.

May I ask you for a prompt reply.

Best regards,


Leo Strauss


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

February 22, 1951

M. Alexandre Kojeve
15 Bd. Stalingrad
Vanves (Seine), France

Dear M. Kojeve:

Many thanks for your letter of February 5th. It is impossible to open again in a letter the long controversy between us. We must try it again in print.

I am writing to you today in connection with our publication. The NRF confirmed what you wrote in your letter. Thanks very much for that. But another problem has now arisen. I am very much pressed with my time, and I am wondering whether I could not delegate the correction of the translation to Victor Gourevitch. I have full faith in his command of the language as well as in his diligence. This procedure would have the additional value that in case of obvious blunders made by the translator, the thing would be taken care of immediately in a cafe, and one would not have to bother trans-Atlantic facilities for this problem. Gourevitch could write to me in the very few cases where he himself did not feel quite certain as to the proper translation. (His address is American Wing, Cite Universitaire, University of Paris, Paris, France). If this could be arranged, a great load would be taken off my chest. No problem of a financial nature would bother us in connection with this arrangement. Gourevitch told me that he would enjoy doing this job. I would be very grateful if you would let me know what you think of my idea.

Very sincerely yours,

Leo Strauss



Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

July 17, 1952

Dear Mr. Kojevnikoff:

Yesterday I sent you an essay and my small book Persecution and the Art of Writing. You are acquainted with some of the contents. Would you do me the favor of calling attention to it in Critique or somewhere else. [1]

How is La tyrannie et la sagesse?

I was very amused by your review of Queneau. [2] I particularly liked your sensible comment about the old women or the adolescents who call themselves philosophers and savor their "tragic" condition instead of making an effort like reasonable people.

Best regards,


Leo Strauss



Paris, August 11, 1952

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Thank you so much for your letter and the book which arrived the day before yesterday.

I have read the review; [1] the man does not seem to have been a great philosopher; with what you say, I am in complete agreement.

Regarding the Tyranny I know nothing. One of your plenipotentiaries should deal with it. The book will surely get published sooner or later. And where "eternal questions" are involved, excessive haste is out of place!

I am in the process of transforming my lecture ''The Concept and Time" into a book. I have already written about 150 pages, but that is barely half of it. Up to now it has gone more or less smoothly, because I was dealing with "great unknowns": Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Hegel. But now it is Mr. Kojeve's turn, and that is a rather delicate matter.

At least I have three weeks of quiet. The rest of the time I can work on it (write) only on Sundays, and make progress by setting down only 12-15 pages every Sunday. It will again be an unreadable book. If only there were something in it!

With best regards,





Paris, October 29, 1953

Dear Mr. Strauss.

Thank you so much for your Natural Law. [1] (I have entrusted the Critique matters to Mr. Weil.) I got the book just a few days ago, and have not yet read it in its entirety. But I already see that it is excellent. One really sees in it what is at stake. I would have liked to review the book in Critique. But I am writing a book myself, and have only the weekends at my disposal. Hence....

Regarding the issue, I can only keep repeating the same thing. If there is something like "human nature," then you are surely right in everything. But to deduce from premisses is not the same as to prove these premisses. And to infer premisses from (anyway questionable) consequences is always dangerous.

Your Bible quote about the land of the fathers [2] is already most problematic. From it one can of course deduce a condemnation of collectivization in the USSR and elsewhere. But with it one also justifies permanently preserving a Chinese peasant's animal-like starvation-existence (before Mao-Tse-Tung). Etc., etc.

But all this is hardly philosophy. The task of philosophy is to resolve the fundamental question regarding "human nature." And in that connection the question arises whether there is not a contradiction between speaking about "ethics" and "ought" on the one hand, and about conforming to a "given" or "innate" human nature on the other. For animals, which unquestionably have such a nature, are not morally "good" or "evil," but at most healthy or sick, and wild or trained. One might therefore conclude that it is precisely ancient anthropology that would lead to mass-training and eugenics. [3]

"Modern" anthropology leads to moral anarchy and tasteless "existentialism" only if one assumes, God knows why, that man can give human values. But if, with Hegel, one assumes that at some time he returns to his beginning (by deducing what he says from the mere fact that he speaks), then there indeed is an "ethics" that prescribes that one do everything that leads to this end (= wisdom), and that condemns everything that impedes it -- also in the political realm of progress toward the "universal and homogeneous State."

With best greetings,

Your Kojeve


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

April 28, 1954

M. Alexandre Kojeve
15 Blvd. Stalingrad
Vanves (Seine)

Dear Kojeve:

I received our book. [1] I looked at the translation of my sections and it is sometimes very satisfactory and sometimes less satisfactory. Who is Helene anyway, and what became of Stephano? I suggest that you ask Queneau to send a review copy to Professor Karl Loewith, Philosophisches Seminar, Heidelberg University. Loewith would have an understanding of the issue controversial between you and me. [2]

I plan to be in Paris during the second half of June. I am anxious to see you. I hope you will be there.

Sincerely yours,

Leo Strauss


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

June 4, 1956

Dear M. Kojeve,

I heard from Tommy that you too are not well. I myself am just recovering slowly from a coronary thrombosis, so our state is similar and so I suppose many similar thoughts are passing through our minds. It is a pity that we have lost contact almost completely. The only link at the moment is Allan Bloom [1] who reminds me on proper occasions of our considerable disagreements as well as our more fundamental agreement. I deplored that I could not talk to you in June 1954, when I was in Paris. But apart from the fact that we had to rush to Switzerland, I was rather disgusted by the company in which I met you, a fellow who is really one of the most unpleasant people I have ever come across. I mean of course Weil not Koyre. At the suggestion of Pines [2] I read his book which restates in a sometimes somewhat more orderly fashion your thesis but with a complete absence of intellectual honesty: the difference between Hegel and your neo-Hegelianism is nowhere mentioned. I would call the book: Prolegomena zu einer jeden kiinftigen Chuzpa die als absolutes Wissen wird auftreten konnen. [3] You see that while possibly about to die I'm still trying to keep the flag flying. I wish you a speedy and complete recovery and I hope that it will be given to us to see each other either alone or else in good company. The possible localities of our meeting, if any, are in your opinion, if it has not changed, restricted to a certain part of the surface of the earth. I am more open-minded in this respect. If you see Koyre please give him my regards.


Leo Strauss


Vanves, June 8, 1956

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Your letter brought an unpleasant surprise: I did not know that you were -- or still are -- ill. Although I have seen Gildin [1] several times (I delivered several longish "lectures" to him), he told me nothing about it. Nor did Koyre, who may not have known anything about it himself.

Anyway, I am very glad the danger is now behind you.

Yes, you are right, we must surely have thought about the same things. And I am sure we fully agree that in this situation, philosophy -- if not "consoling" -- is nevertheless as reliable and satisfying as ever. In any case, I felt no desire for lectures in dead tongues, with or without musical accompaniment.

Incidentally, my doctor seems to have given up the cancer hypothesis in favor (?!) of a tuberculosis.

Be that as it may, I may no longer go to the Ministry (if only because of the official doctor's refusal to let me work there.) I therefore restrict myself to telephone conversations and a few official visits. That way I again have more leisure and -- in conformity with the ancient model -- I devote them to philosophy (which I never entirely abandoned anyway). I again work 4-5 hours a day at my book, or rather at its Introduction, or more precisely still, at its Third Introduction, which is intended, as a kind of general history of philosophy.

I have talked philosophy only with your two American (?) students. I must say that as regards philosophical "eros" and human "decency," the two young people are OK. They must owe that to you.

As regards Weil, you are right. For a long time now, I have been unable to "discuss" with him; and also have no interest in doing so.

I, too, very much regret that we did not speak with one another. The atmosphere was most disagreeable indeed, and so was I ...

As for when and where, it is impossible to say anything for the time being: I am tied to my room for 5-6 months (if all goes ''well.'') If you think of coming to Paris, it would naturally be very easy to get together.

Bloom may have spoken to you about the Third Part of my book ("Logic," or however else it might be called). In the meantime, I make some progress. Anyway, on my part there is material for "discussion"....

With best greetings,




Paris, April 11, 1957

Dear Mr. Strauss,

A few days ago I read a transcript of your St. John's lecture on the Euthyphro, [1] which Mr. Hazo had loaned me. Although I had not reread the Euthyphro for a long time, I remembered the text quite well. I had the impression that your interpretation is entirely correct. But on one point in your lecture, I noted a possible difference of opinion between us. Specifically, at the point where you mention the famous portrait of the philosopher in the Thaetetus. Admittedly you do say, in connection with it, that the text is not altogether univocal. But it seems to me that you do not share my "ironic" interpretation of the entire passage.

As I have already written you [by the way: did you ever get my long Plato letter; I sent it registered by surface mail, probably at the beginning of the year or at the end of '56], it seems to me that Plato sides completely with the "Thracian Maid" (who, by the way, is a pretty girl and laughs so prettily) [the ironic remark about "looking upward" is also found, setting aside the Republic, in Alcibiades I]. And that interpretation seems to me to fit very well with your interpretation of the Euthyphro. Namely, this way: "Justice without Knowledge" (in the manner of Euthyphro) is just as objectionable or unphilosophical as "Knowledge without Justice" (in the manner of "Thales," that is to say the "learned" or the "theoreticians" in general, people like Thaetetus and Eudoxus, and even Aristotle; people who do not know who their neighbor is and how he lives can naturally not practice justice; but at the end of the Thales passage Socrates says that everything depends on justice); for, philosophy is "knowing justice" or "just knowing." [That is to say: only the philosophy that accounts for the "evident" and "immediate" distinction between right and wrong, can be true; now, neither the Sophists (Heraclitus) nor Aristotle do so because of the middle terms in their diairesis [2], to which Plato's diairesis [2] opposes A with a firm non-A and thus excludes the amoral as-well-as or neither-nor].

In the meantime I have reread the Alcibiades I (indeed!) The dialogue seems to me not only to be authentic, but also very successful in literary terms. I understand the content as follows [incidentally, it contains a deliciously ironic passage about Sparta and Persia, completely in the style of the Lacedaemonian Republic [3] you so brilliantly interpreted: In Sparta two ephors are needed in order to prevent adultery on the part of the queen, and the Persian queen remains faithful only out of fear of others; etc.]: every human being (including Alcibiades) has (even as a child) an "intuition" of right and wrong, which is neither learned nor taught; it is "natural" for human beings to do what is right and avoid what is wrong (passively as well as actively); as long as one simply does not speak, one is a "naturally" decent human being (such as for example Crito or, perhaps also Cephalus in the Republic); but when one speaks or hears others speak, one can fail to hear "the voice of conscience": that is the danger of sophists and rhetoricians, and also of "theology"; indeed it looks as if (cp. Republic where it is not the father Cephalus, but his "sophisticated" son who gives impetus to the conversation about justice which the father avoids) philosophy is needed only as a (pedagogical) answer to "sophistry": it is a "dialectical" defence of "natural" justice against the "sophistic" attacks on it. However, Plato evidently does not quite mean it that way. For in the Phaedo it is (evidently seriously) said that misology is the worst thing. That would mean that one should speak about justice in spite of the danger of sophistic errors. As regards Alcibiades, responsibility has to be understood in the following way: (Heraclitus → Sophists→ Rhetoricians → Politicians → the Populace corrupted by the Politicians → Alcibiades corrupted by the people. If he had spent enough time speaking with Socrates, he would have been cured. But the conversation in Alcibiades I was insufficient because Alcibiades did not understand anything: for he believes that he does not know what is right and wrong and that that is what Socrates first has to teach him about, instead of trying (with Socrates's help) to become discursively conscious about what he already knows "intuitively," and to draw important ("logical") conclusions from it. If he had understood this, he would not have been "jealous" of Socrates (as he says at the end of the dialogue). For the rest, Socrates argues ad hominem, from the perspective of Alcibiades's "master-morality," by presenting justice and temperance as courage, and "sensuality" as slavish cowardice. Plato may wish to suggest by this that it is very dangerous to present ("aristocratic") courage as the principal virtue; that the principal virtue is, rather, ("democratic") justice. ["Anamnesis," which is implicit in Alc<ibiades> I, is a "mythical" interpretation of the psychological fact of "conscience," that is to say, of the "immediate," "innate" knowledge of good and evil.]

I have also reread the Phaedrus, but not yet the Symposium. What, in your opinion, is the sequence? Sym<posium> → Ph<aedrus> → Phaedo, or Phaedrus → S<ymposium> → Ph<aedo>? Usually it is said: at the end of the Symposium the tragicomical character of philosophy is indicated, and then the philosophical comedy (Phaedrus) and tragedy (Phaedo) are exhibited. But perhaps one could also say: the Phaedrus already says that Phil<osophy> = com<edy > + trag<edy>; Socrates's first speech was a comical tragedy, his second speech a tragic comedy (in which case the interpretation of the two speeches at the end <of the dialogue> would be philosophical). The Symp<osium> would then be the philosophical comedy in which Socrates is 100% alive (at the end all but Socrates are asleep [= are dead]; in the Ph<aedo> all but Socrates are ''alive''), while he alone is dying in the Ph<aedo>. [4] And what is "better": to live solitary among the "drunk" (= dead), or to die (joking!) in the company of such ''beastly-earnest" pseudo-philosophers as Simmias-Cebes? The Ph<aedo> ends with the cock to Aesclepius! And yet Aristoph[anes] falls asleep before Agathon; does that mean the joke disappears "at the end"??

Some points in "confirmation(?)" of my earlier letter:

1. Parmenides

In his Plato biography, Diogenes Laertius mentions Plato's two brothers, but appears not to know anything about his presumed "half-brother." (Antiphon [Antiphon was a Sophist, an enemy of Socrates, whose disciples he wanted to attract to himself.] = Euclides →Th<eodorus >/ Eu<clides> → Arist<otle>)

According to tradition, the dialogue bears the subtitle: P<armenides> or About the Ideas. It is scarcely credible that the dialogue would have been given that subtitle if it had really contained only the purely negative-critical passages against the theory of Ideas, and not also their "refutation."

In Alc<ibiades> I, '"Pythodorus" is mentioned: "ironically"; in any event not as a genuine philosopher! Even if he is a historical person, nothing stands in the way of using his name "synthetically" (for Theo-dorus).

2. Timaeus

In Diogenes Laertius the chapter about Endoxus comes at the end of the book about the ... Pythagoreans! Now, Plato also presents "Timaeus" as an arch-"Pythagorean."

3. Diairesis [6] → Ordinal numbers

In a neo-pythagorean fragment it is said: "He [Pythagoras] said not that everything arose from number, but that everything was fashioned in conformity to number, since essential order resides in number, and it is only in participating in that order that the very things that can be numbered are placed first, second, and so on. "Theano" in Stob<aeus > Eel. pol. I, 10,13.

In Philo (for example, De origine mundi (ed. Cohen) 91-102), the ideal numbers are also interpreted as ordinal numbers. He further says (in conformity with the tradition) that a distinction has to be drawn between the (ideal) numbers of the same type within and without the decade; for example, there are "infinitely" many numbers of the type 7 (= seventh) that share the same "qualitative" character ("law of formation"), but are quantitatively differentiated from one another. One might then perhaps say that the first ten ideal numbers (the only ones which, according to Aristotle, Plato "deduced") are "categories" in the modern sense, whereas the "kinds" (to which, according to Aristotle, numbers also correspond, but which surely number more than 10) correspond to the ideal numbers > 10, and are distributed among the 10 "categories." But all this is, as I have said, most problematic.

While searching in the (translated) neo-Platonists for indications about Plato's theory of numbers, I made a discovery that will amuse you in case you do not already know the relevant texts. Indeed, I discovered, one right after the other, three authentic and entirely unknown philosophers, namely the emperor Julian (Speeches), "Sallustius" (On the Gods and the World, and -- [5] last <but> not least [5] -- Damascius (Life of Isidor). These three "mystical enthusiasts" have revealed themselves as first-class Voltaires. (I vaguely recall that Burkhardt (Constantin the Great) had already said that Julian does not believe a single word of what he tells the "people.") Before reading these three, I was prejudiced, and expected to read "mystical" texts. And after a few pages I was pleasantly surprised. So, up to the 6th century there were men who preserved the philosophical tradition in all its purity, and who despised the neo-Platonic nonsense as much as they did Christian "theology." In this they were completely consciously imitating Plato's "Socratic" irony. It is a nice example of "the art of writing" which you discovered! And with that, on the one hand "highly placed" (JuIian), and on the other, literarily first class (Julian and Damascius).

Julian was, in ethics, a stoicizing Cynic. In theoretical philosophy, probably a "Democritean." In any case, an atheist. Follows Aristotle in his critique of Plato's doctrine of ideas; but then also follows Xenarchus in his criticism of Aristotelian teleology and theology (against "aether" and any difference between "heavens" and the "sublunar world") (cp. Hymn to the Mother of the Gods 162a-165b). He furthermore makes particular fun of Iamblichus. And of "intellectuals" in general (most especially so in The Epistle to Themistius).

"Sallustius" about the same: atheistic ''materialism" and parody of neo-Platonism. The small book (On the Gods and the World) is usually attributed to Julian's friend <Sallustius>, to whom <Julian's> Mother of the Gods is dedicated. He was certainly a "partner in thought" of Julian's.

However, I do not believe that this extremely busy official wrote. Sallustius is therefore probably the one mentioned in Damascius's Life of Isidor, specifically as one of the (few) "genuine" philosophers. Now, I suspect that this "Sallustius" is nothing but an alias for Damascius himself, who probably is himself the author of the parody On the Gods and the World.

Damascius: his Life is certainly written (especially against Proclus) in a way that makes Voltaire appear a mere waif by comparison! In other respects, Damascius appears to have been an Aristotelian, but in the manner of Theophantus (whom he praisingly quotes as Asclepiodotos, [where this "Ascl<epiodotos"> may also just be a pseudonym for Dam<ascius >].

In case you have not yet done so, I very much urge you to read all three authors (The Epistle to Them<istius>, the two Speeches Against the Cynics, The Hymn to Helios and [above all!] the Hymn to the Mother of the Gods. In the first place because it is a great intellectual pleasure. In the second place because I would like to know your opinion of them. Because if you agree, I would write an essay about Julian (or Damascius?) for the "Strauss Festschrift"; since I was recently asked to contribute something to it, which I naturally will do with pleasure.

In conclusion I would like to give you some samples of my authors' "art of writing."

Sall<ustius> After having summarized (an incidentally ''tempered") neo-Platonism in the first 12 chapters, he begins chapter XIII with the following words: "Regarding the gods, the universe, and human things, what we have said suffices for those who are incapable of delving more deeply into the study of philosophy, and whose souls are not incurable. [So, too, in Julian and Damascius: the neo-Platonic "myths" are worthwhile insofar as they challenge reasonable people to think about them and to oppose something reasonable to this nonsense.] It remains to explain how all things never had a beginning...." That is done in chapter XVII. In between there are 4 chapters (XIII-XVI) in which Sallustius makes fun of sacrifices, etc. Chapter XVII begins as follows: "We have said that the gods do not destroy the universe; it remains to show that it is also by nature incorruptible." There follow 4 pages of "Democritean" theory [where, among other things, one reads: "If what is vanishes into what is not, what is to prevent this from happening even to God?"] And the concluding sentence of the chapter reads: "Having spoken thus for those who require more solid proofs, we pray the world (sic!) itself to be propitious to us." The concluding chapter (XXI)-(XVIII-XX: ethics) -- reads as follows: "As for the souls that have lived in accordance with virtue, they are in all respects happy, and they will be especially so when, separated from their irrational principles and purified of all bodily component, they will join the gods and share the government of the entire universe with them. Even if none of this happened to them, virtue itself and the honor and happiness they will derive from it, the life free of pains and of all servitude, would suffice to render happy the life of those who have chosen to live in accordance with virtue and have proven themselves capable living in accordance with it." -- Period -- and one has the impression of hearing the resurrected Socrates having once again told the "Cebeses" his Phaedo myth, while he himself, like a philosopher, thinks about dying.

Dam<acius> The entire book is so delightful, I am unable to pick out some one ironic passage. I therefore cite some (few!) "serious" passages [Das Leben des Philosophen Isodorus, wiederhergestellt von Asmus, Leipzig, Meiner, 1911] [6]

79,30 "... it is not meet for a philosopher to declare divination as his profession or to practice it, any more than any other branch of the hieratic sciences. For the boundaries between the philosophers' and the priests' realms are as specific as the proverbial boundaries between the Magerians and the Phrygians." [Strabo cites this proverb in order to emphasize the difficulty (!!) of determining boundaries!].

129,9 "And [yet] he [an unknown "Diomedes" who was "corrupted" by the neo-Platonist] was a man suited for philosophy; for the <kind of> philosophy that cannot be injured or corrupted by a foreign evil, but only, as Socrates says, by its own. That is precisely why philosophy is also injured by this offence [namely neo-Platonism] which arises from its own midst.

130,21 "However if, as you [Hegesias] maintain, the activity of the clergy ... is more divine, then so do I maintain that it is, but first of all those who are to become gods have to become human beings. That is also why Plato said that men can be granted no greater [sic!] happiness than philosophy. But now philosophy stands on the razor's edge; she has truly reached the most advanced old age: she has reached this far. ... But ... as for myself I am of the opinion that those who want to be men and do not want to pant like animals [sic!] after boundless pastures [namely after the clergy] need only this "divination" [namely genuine philosophy]...."

It is scarcely possible to express oneself more clearly and incisively. And yet ... everyone from Zeller etc. to the learned translator (Asmus), see Damascius as nothing but a "mystical enthusiast" who abandons himself to the "most extravagant superstition"!!! Yet Damascius very explicitly says at the end of the Life how this <"mystical enthusiasm"> is to be understood. Indeed, he says:

132,27 "But what even sounds contradictory is that for all his noble and solid dignity he [the ideal <"Dia...">, a symbol of Plato, who never existed] made a cheerful impression on everyone around him, because although he generally spoke seriously to the best of his interlocutors, he also sometimes substituted wit for seriousness, and with innate skill made fun of those who were not there, so that he gave his rebukes a jocular cast."

Julian. I urge you read: the Letter to Themistius, the two Speeches against the ''Cynics" ( =Christians), Hymn to Helios, Hymn to the Mother of the Gods. Everything is first-class "Voltaire," and at the same time genuinely philosophical.

It is interesting that in them Julian literally expounds your theory about the "art of writing":

Cynic Heraclios: 207 a/b "Now if an orator [like Jul<ian> himself) fearing the hatred of his audience, hesitates to speak his mind openly, he must hide his exhortations and doctrines in some disguise. That is what manifestly Hesiod also does. After him, Archilochus not infrequently used myths in order as it were to sweeten his poems...."

ib.; 224a: "Furthermore, what is the value of your [presumably the Cynics, in fact, of course, the Christian monks] traveling everywhere, molesting mules and also [?!], I hear, muleteers, who are more afraid of you than they are of soldiers? For I hear that you put your sticks [presumably: Cynics' sticks, but in fact bishops' crooks] to more cruel use than they do their swords. No wonder, then, that you frighten them more."

ib.; 239b: "For one just may not say everything, and even of what may be said, some things must, in my view, be kept from the many."

In other words: all "myths" serve either to camouflage or to "sweeten," Including the Platonic myths. Now: what are "myths"?

ib; 205, c " ... untrue stories in credible form." In other words, in deliberate contrast to Stoicism: " ... true stories in incredible form." For Julian the Christian as well as the pagan (including the neo-Platonic) myths are simply nonsense. But the content of the Platonic "myths" is also false. [The form may be "believable precisely because they are in fact believed]: in any case, the "soul" is not immortal [according to Plato, as Jul<ian> understands him]:

ib.; 223, a "However, anyone who composes his stories for the purpose of improving morals, and in the process invokes myths, should address them not to men but to such as are still children in years [?!] or in understanding, and are still in need of such stories."

It is important that in their "ironic" way of writing, Jul<ian> (as well as Damascius) consciously imitate the Platonic Socrates. (So that the good tradition maintained itself well into the 6th century!) The following passage is therefore particularly important to me (for my Timaeus interpretation):

ib.; 237a-c "... I would then tell you [presumably the "Cynic Heraclios," in fact a Bishop (earlier: Heracles = Christ)] things in this connection [about Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle], that may be unknown to you, but are for the most part well-known and clear to the others. But now just listen to what Plato writes [ironically]: "My fear of the gods, dear Protarchos, is no longer human [?!], but exceeds all measure [?!]. And although I know Aphrodite as she likes to be known, regarding pleasure, I know that it has many shapes." --This passage occurs in the Philebus [12,c], and another of the same kind [!] in the Tim<aeus> [40,d]. What he requires is that one should simply grant credence to everything [?!] the poets [?!] say about the gods without requiring any proofs [?!] for it. <"> But I have referred to this passage here only so [!] that you not invoke Socrates's irony as many Platonists do in order to refute Plato's opinion [double irony!]. For after all, these words are spoken not by Socrates but by Timaeus, who is not in the least given to irony [!!!] Is it not also entirely reasonable that instead of testing what has been said, we ask who has said it, and to whom his words are addressed?!" No comment! [7]

Julian: Speeches against the "uneducated Cynics" (= Christians) 186,c <.. > ... it would also not be as noticeable if the wise [here: Diogenes] made fun in them [namely in his supposed tragedies (which, according to J<ulian>, he never wrote) , since many philosophers are known also to have devoted themselves to them. Democritus [I], it is said used to laugh at his fellows' solemn demeanor. We therefore do not want to attend to the products of their jesting muse, ...

... Hence, in order to avoid having the same thing happen to us [namely: as to the person who, on approaching a holy city, sees brothels on its outskirts, and believes that that is the holy place!], by taking seriously everything he [Plato] wrote just for fun -- and which also contains some not altogether worthless wheat ... we will therefore take our bearings in what follows by his [i.e. Diogenes qua wise man] deeds, as dogs hunting wild animals begin by sniffing out the spoor."

And that is by far not the only place!


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Re: On Tyranny, by Leo Strauss

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:55 am


Chicago 37, Illinois
Department of Political Science

April 22, 1957

M. Alexandre Kojeve
15 Bd. Stalingrad
Vanves (Seine)

Dear M. Kojeve:

Many thanks for your second long letter. I received your first long letter, but since I was too busy to study it at the time at which I received it, I sent it on to Klein, who had promised to read it right away and let you know his opinion. Needless to say that I have not heard anything from him since.

My handwriting has become so illegible that I have to dictate my letters, and this means that I have to write to you in English. Now to the subject.

As regards the excursus of the Theaetetus, the ironical character of the description of the philosopher is obvious; it flagrantly contradicts Socrates' own familiarity with all Athenian gossip; the philosopher combines the understanding of the pure theoretician ("sophist") and of the statesman. I agree: philosophy is just, but I hesitate on the basis of Plato to identify "just" with "moral". As for your remark on Alc<ibiades> I, (of course it is genuine, everything which has come down as genuine is genuine), that' "if one does not speak, one is naturally a decent man -- e.g., Crito", I do not agree; there is no "conscience" in Plato; anamnesis is not conscience (see Natural Right and History, p. 150n. re Polemarchus). Indeed, misology is the worst, as you say; therefore, there is ultimately no superiority of the merely honorable man to the sophist (contrary to Kant) or for that matter to Alc<ibiades> (cf. N. R. & H, p. 151). I do not believe in the possibility of a conversation of Socrates with the people (it is not clear to me what you think about this); the relation of the philosopher to the people is mediated by a certain kind of rhetoricians who arouse fear of punishment after death; the philosopher can guide these rhetoricians but cannot do their work (this is the meaning of the Gorgias). As for the relation between manliness and justice (to which you refer with regard to Alc<ibiades> I), I believe that you underestimate the positive side of manliness; in the Republic everyone is just and moderate, but only the elite is manly (and wise); manliness and wisdom belong together, for philosophy does not wish to be edifying as your hero says.

I am not aware of a ''sequence of the Symposium-Phaedo-Phaedros"; considering the low position of Phaedros compared with the others there in the Symp<osium>,one could say that the Symp<osium> is "higher" than the Phaedrus. Your suggestion that at the end of the Symp<osium> all are dead except Socrates, and at the end of the Phaedo all are alive except Socrates, is very appealing. But this does not yet justify your assertion that the Symp<osium> is a comedy and the Phaedo a tragedy. All the Dialogues are tragicomedies. (The tragedian is awake while the comedian is sleeping at the end of the Symp<osium>.) The dramatic hypothesis of the Symp<osium> is that Plato reveals what happened prior to the Sicilian expedition: not Alc<ibiades>,but Socrates divulges the mystery. I am also attracted by the alternative regarding the Symp<osium>-Phaedo as stated by you: whether it is better to live among the dead or to die in the society of the dull.

Regarding "ideal numbers" I trust you have read Klein's detailed analysis in his book on logistics and algebra. I was extremely interested and gratified but not altogether surprised to learn of your discoveries regarding Julian &c. Mysticism is one form in which philosophy can appear (cf. beginning of the Sophist). Your discovery makes the possibility of Farabi more intelligible. As regards Sallustius, if the division into chapters is authentic, 17 is of course the right place: 17 is the number designating Image [1]

What you say about the volume to be written in my honor was news to me. Needless to say that I shall feel greatly honored by anything you would write.

I expect to send you on one of the next days a copy of an essay of mine on Machiavelli's Prince. I hope to have finished my book on Machiavelli by the end of this year. Therefore I must concentrate absolutely on this work and cannot even look up the neo-Platonists whom you made so interesting to me. Bloom will do it for me.

Are you well?

As ever yours,

Leo Strauss

LS: mfg


May 28, 1957

M. Alexandre Kojeve
15 Bd. Stalingrad
Vanves (Seine)

Dear Mr. Kojeve:

I have now found the time to read your long letter on Plato. I was unable to look up the texts. I simply tried to follow your argument and to see whether it agrees with what I believe to have been the understanding of Plato. I am sending your letter today to Klein, who promised to read it at the end of the semester, i.e., after June 15th. It is not impossible that you will hear from him then.

The combination "Parmenides ... Phailebus" makes sense. But so do other combinations, i.e., the combination is arbitrary. One cannot separate as you do Timaeus-Critias from the Republic e.g., the Cephalus in the Parmenides alone suffices to establish the connection with the Republic, which also begins with Cephalus.

I disagree with your procedure. The interpretation of Plato always grows out of the thorough interpretation of each individual Dialogue, with as little reliance on extraneous information (even to begin with that supplied by other Platonic Dialogues) as possible. Certainly one cannot treat information supplied by Diogenes Laertius, &c. on the same level as what appears from the Dialogues themselves. This applies also and especially to the Protreptichos -- an exoteric writing of which only fragments survive -- I would tremble to base any inferences on that.

What you say about Plato's presumed reaction to the Protreptichos in the Parmenides, amounts to this, that Plato maliciously treats Aristotle's criticism of the ideas as old hat with which Socrates was already thoroughly familiar in his earliest youth. While this attracts me as every ingenious malice would, I regard it as perfectly possible that these criticisms of the ideas were Platonic and perhaps even Socratic commonplaces, prior to Aristotle's birth. One cannot read the Republic without becoming aware of the criticism of the idea of the good as stated in the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics; given the paradoxical character of the doctrine of ideas its criticism is implied in doxa [1] itself (therefore no need for Aristotle's genius).

To understand Aristotle's criticism of Plato, the criticism of which criticism is according to you the thread of your heptalogy, I myself would start from that part of Aristotle's criticism of Plato with which I am most familiar, the critique of the Republic in Politics II. Aristotle's criticism is absolutely reasonable, he understands perfectly what Plato is doing, but he refuses to treat as ironical what is meant ironically, because he believes that it is possible and necessary to write treatises and not merely Dialogues; therefore, he treats the dialogic thesis of the Republic as a treatise thesis; undoubtedly because he believes that wisdom and not merely philosophy is available. This seems to me to be the difference between Plato and Aristotle, a difference which presupposes the acceptance by both of the doctrine of ideas, Le., of the doctrine that the whole is characterized neither by noetic homogeneity (the exoteric Parmenides, and all "mathematical" philosophy) nor by sensible heterogeneity (four elements, &c.) but by noetic heterogeneity.

Before I turn to this main point, some details. Contrary to what you say, I think that Theatetus is superior to Theodorus. Theodorus is a typical mathematician: nice, unreflective, tactless, lacking instinct, and therefore falls victim to a philosopher (Protagoras) who denies the truth of mathematics itself. (Hence his pupil, Theatetus, does not even think of mathematics when trying to answer the question of what knowledge or science is.) Theatetus is superior: he can converse with Socr<ates>, he is not "stupid and vain," he is indeed not a philosopher; but if the "moderate" Theatetus (he accepts God's making the whole in deference to the Eleatic Stranger) and the "bold" younger Socrates could be combined, they would make a philosopher. (The relation of Theat<etus> and the younger Socrates is the same as that of Adeimantus and Glaucon in the Republic.) The boldness of the younger Socr<ates>: he is the addressee of the myth of the Statesman, the most massive meaning of which is denial of Providence -- it is the ugly myth. (Generally the Statesman is ugly.) Constant dissatisfaction, always something is begun and then dropped unfinished, imitation of Sisyphean human life, of the life of even the philosopher, how it would be without Eros; the Eleatic Stranger advises Socrates to commit suicide, i.e., not to resist the condemnation; the Eleatic Stranger had caught the Sophist (Socrates) and could hand him over to the king, in the Sophist, but in the Statesman he catches the king, so that the sophist could be freed, (but it is not worthwhile in your age, Socrates.) In a word, the Eleatic Stranger is far from being "a parrot". -- As for the depreciation of Astronomy in Republic VII, this must be understood in the line of the basic hypothesis of the Republic (unreasonable depreciation of ''body"); the status of the visible heaven is restored at the end of Republic IX. -- The Aristotelian "mean" is not "relativistic". Plato's notion of the Metrion, Prepon, and Hikanon [2] is fundamentally the same. -- Regarding the irrelevance and stupidity of Antisthenes, I entirely concur (on the basis of Xenophon's Symposium).

Cephalus at the beginning of Parm<enides> reminds of Cephalus at the beginning of the Republic. The latter sacrifices to the gods instead of philosophizing. I assume that the same is true of Cephalus of Clazomeneae -- in a way. Claz<omenae> reminds of Anaxagoras' Nous: Anax<agoras>, intelligently understood, would lead to theo-teleology, i.e. perfectly rational account of everything, [3] including the [3] irrational or meaningless or accidental. But this is not philosophy, but rather piety or sacrificing to the gods. Philosophy consists in the escape into Logoi, ideas. In the Parm<enides>, the ideas are represented as separate from the sensible; this thesis has no difficulty for Socr<ates> . As far as opposites are concerned and especially the moral opposites: the latter, as "ideal" ends, necessarily transcend what men achieve. He is doubtful regarding the idea of "man" (cf. the finger, in the Republ<ic>,) and especially low things (let me say, worms). But as Par<menides> warns him, this is due to Socrates' youthful contempt for the low and humble, and this contempt means to remain under the spell of popular prejudice. The primary correction, therefore, is this: if philosophy's quest is for the knowledge of the whole, and if the whole must be understood in the light of ideas, there must be ideas of "everything." One must therefore turn to the primary meaning of Idea, or Eidos, as class, as a whole, which is a whole by virtue of a specific character, and this character is in the case of living beings at the same time the end for the individual belonging to the class, and in this sense transcends the individuals (the animal's dominating desire for procreation or for perpetuation of the class.) In the case of man, the end is complex because man is both simply a part of the whole (like the lion or the worm) and that unique part of the whole which is open to the whole. (Only the souls of men have seen the ideas prior to birth.) Therefore, man's form and end is articulated in such a way that justice can come to sight provisionally as simply transcendent, and in no way "the perfection of man."

There is a realm of ideas; hence there must be a hierarchy, an organizing principle: the idea of the good. But as the highest principle it must be the ground not only of the ideas, but of the sensible as well. Hence the idea of the good is "the Good". The problem of diaeresis is the problem of the organization of the realm of ideas, and in particular the problem of the knowability of that organization. If wisdom is not available but only philosophy, the diaeresis as descent from One to all ideas is not available. We live and think in the derivative and ascend to some extent, but not to the origin of things. The actual diaeresis reflects this in the arbitrariness of its beginning. (The divisions of the Sophist and the Statesman are caricatures; the principle of the caricature is mathematical simplification like division of even numbers by two). The adequate division would presuppose that one could deduce all ideas, especially also the ideas of living; it would presuppose a "rational biology"; this is impossible (see Timaeus); hence what is available is a dualism of a hypothetical mathematical physics and a non-hypothetical understanding of the human soul. The difference between Plato and Aristotle is that Aristotle believes that biology, as a mediation between knowledge of the inanimate and knowledge of man is available, or Aristotle believes in the availability of universal teleology, if not of the simplistic kind sketched in Phaedo 96.

The main point: you have not used your assumption or admission that according to Plato wisdom is not available. If one takes this as seriously as one must, the vision of the One-Good which is mediated by division, and hence the division itself, is not available. As for the choice between Plato and Hegel, I agree with you that Suez and Hungary are more interesting and more real than the Sorbonne; but what has the Sorbonne to do with Philosophy? The analogon with the Sorbonne is not Suez and Hungary, but the more inept kind of deputies and sous-prefets.

In conclusion, I am sure that the community of ideas is absolutely essential, but I simply do not have the time at the moment to develop this.

Hoping to hear from you soon again,

As ever yours,

Leo Strauss



Paris, July 1, 1957

Dear Mr. Strauss,

Many thanks for your letter of May 28, 1957. It is, of course, difficult to discuss our theses in writing. But I have no one nearby with whom discussion would be meaningful [as regards Weil, I must, belatedly, admit that you were entirely right: he is not a "philosopher"; and Koyre is a little "dotty": and besides, rather too "sceptical;" anything else is simply not worth even considering!]

To anticipate: Your letter has ... confirmed me in my conviction (which, naturally, is entirely "natural"). I tell myself: if one of the two Plato experts has no more massive objections than that, then my interpretation is surely possible and perhaps even correct.

Your letter disappointed me greatly in only one, admittedly decisive, point. I refer to the koinonia ton genon. [1] For with regard to it, the "systematic" state of affairs is absolutely unequivocal (although I have known this for only about a year).

If the concept (and hence knowledge) is to be eternal, that is to say "spatial" and not "temporal," then koinonia [2] is sheer nonsense and can therefore only be used as a reductio ad absurdum (either as a mere consequence of empiricism, or as a claim by Eudoxus; which is likely, in view of the well-known passage in the Metaph<ysics>). If koinonia [2] is taken seriously, it would follow that the concept is not eternal. One is then faced with choosing between Heraclitean "relativism" (= historicism in the fashion of Max Weber) according to which: concept = temporal; and Hegelian "absolutism," according to which: concept = time ("time" = completed history; knowledge = re-called [completed] history). [3]

Now, to make an Hegelian (let alone an Heraclitean) of Plato; is simply not possible. Be that as it may: if the koinonia [2] is true, then your entire interpretation of Plato is false; that is to say, Plato is then not an "Ancient." However I believe that your interpretation of the Ancients is entirely correct, and that that is why koinonia [2] cannot be seriously maintained by an ancient philosopher (Eudoxus was, after all, only a philosopher in the sense that, say, Einstein is one!)

Klein also admits as much -- implicitly -- in his Algebra Essay (which is otherwise first rate!).

For he says that the logos (he of course means the ancient, that is to say, eternal Logos) is transcended by the koinonia. Certainly! But if for Plato it were a matter of maintaining silence, then the theos-agathon [4] would be entirely sufficient (cp. the "first hyp<othesis >" of the Parm<enides>). After all, the entire doctrine of ideas was invented in order to make discursive knowledge possible. Hence, if the doctrine of ideas is reduced to silence by koinonia, then that is a reductio ad absurdum of koinonia, at least as Plato understands it. [The Ancients proceed on the basis of two axioms:

1. Knowledge = eternal, that is to say, infinitely repeatable speech that does not change in meaning over time; (this axiom is "evident" and is naturally retained by Hegel);

2. Knowledge = a (discursive) sense [5] that "corresponds" to an "essence" subsisting outside speech and its sense; [this is naturally "senseless"; necessarily leads to skepticism; is not recognized by Hegel; according to Hegel, the "eternal" in speech is guaranteed by its completeness (its circularity shows or "proves" completeness): whoever has said everything can only repeat himself, and no one can contradict him].

3. From the Ancients' axioms it follows that: there can be knowledge only of eternal beings; regarding the temporal (always understood as in-complete) there can only be opinion which can, however, be right if it agrees with its object; but since that object is temporal, "right" knowledge of it is also temporal, and that is precisely not genuine knowledge but a (by definition changeable) opinion.

4. The eternal, on the other hand, is un-changeable, and hence koinonia is there either impossible or it is a mere mixture: the night of the absolute, in which all cows are black.]

Besides, Plato says so himself in the Soph<ist> (although "ironically"). The Stranger says that everything can be mixed except motion and rest. Now, everyone knows that there are different speeds and mixing motion and rest is a perfectly obvious thing to do! Much more so than, for example, to mix being and not-being. The fact that the Stranger regards it as "self-evident" that the mixture of motion and rest has to be rejected strikes one as comical. However what it means is: rest = idea, motion = phenomenon, these two should, then, not be mixed. So that the point is only to establish the chorismos [6] of the ideas (in the name of Eudoxus who in fact denies the separateness of the ideas!). Koinonia, on the other hand, is motion. Hence there is no koinonia ton genon [7] [which is to say, no koinonia ton ideon; [8] for the genos [9] is Aristotelian-Eudoxian, and among kinds or species there indeed is koinonia; which is why there can be no knowledge of these gene, that is to say of sensible kinds or species].

There is also an ad hominem argument in the Soph<ist>.

The Stranger says two or three times that without koinonia, it is impossible to understand the "essence" of the Sophist. So that the world of ideas has to be set in motion in order to understand the Sophist?! That is a typically Homeric-Heraclitean-"Protagorean" attitude: a goddess is supposed to tell of a man's anger! De facto there simply is no knowledge of the Sophist because he has no [eternal] essence (is, after all, but a Proteus!): one can only have an opinion (right or wrong) about the Sophist. That is indicated by the following, among other things, that (at the end of the Statesman) Socrates thanks the Stranger not for the "pathbreaking discovery" of the koinonia, but solely for the good ( = correct = resembling) portraits ( = images) of the Sophist and of the Statesman (who themselves are only "images").

That an unwitting half-Hegelian like N. Hartmann waxes enthusiastic for koinonia (Platos Logik des Seins) [10] -- is only "natural." But how can you in the same breath fight Hegel and regard koinonia as true -- that I really do not understand.

But I believe that a re-reading of the Soph<ist> / States<man> would persuade you. If only by the way the Stranger is introduced in them by Plato.

1. The Stranger, like "Pythodorus," is a disciple of Parmenides and of Zeno ("Zeno" = betrayer = Sophist) (216a).

2. He is introduced as a "Philosopher." But ... by Theodorus. Now, in the Theatetus Theodorus did not understand irony, and he accepted at face value the caricature Socrates sketched (in connection with "Thales"); what is more, he recognized himself in that "portrait"! But in fact it was the portrait of a <"learned man" or> "scholar" = a Sophist. Thus, if for Theod<orus> the Stranger is a "Philosopher," then for us (and "in himself") he is a Sophist. More precisely: "a man of theoretical learning." (In fact: Eudoxus.)

3. Socrates's reaction to Theodorus's introduction of the Stranger is typically ironic (216a/b), and reproduces Socrates's usual ironic exaggeration when he deals with famous Sophists. Moreover, Socrates defines the Stranger as an "adversary": "to survey and refute, he, the divine refuter, the poor reasoners we are" (216, b). The irony is here manifest. Whereupon the Stranger is introduced (by Theodorus) as a kind of parrot: "he admits having heard as many lectures as he could, and not to have forgotten them" (217b, in fine). De facto this means: Eudoxus has not invented anything new; he only repeats the basic doctrines of "Zeno" = "Heracliteanism" = Megera; yet he is so unphilosophical as to carry this doctrine ad absurdum, without even noticing that he does so; in the Sophist Plato does nothing else than to spell out these absurd consequences implicit in the Eudoxian theory: namely, the koinonia doctrine.

Finally, the Stranger's [11] behavior [11] (= Method) is shown as typically sophistic: "with a docile and accommodating partner (such as, for example, Thaetetus, and "learned" people in general), the easiest [!] way is with an interlocutor. Failing which, it is better to argue by oneself alone." (217c/d)

But as I said, the koinonia problem is too fundamental to admit of being settled by correspondence.

To be sure, the diairesis problem is just as fundamental (and corresponds to the first), but here your answer seems to me to rest on a misunderstanding. I expressed myself badly. Admittedly Plato denies the possibility of wisdom = absolute [discursive!] knowledge, whereas Aristotle allows this possibility. But the question I had in view is a different one. Since Kant we know that the "categories" (= divisions of being) may be valid for the "things-in-themselves" ( = ideas, in Platonic terminology), but cannot be applied to the things-in-themselves (by men). In other words, what is at issue is the ontological structure as such. That is what Plato and Aristotle quarrel about (i.e. in the Soph<ist>-States<man>. In formal logical terms, the quarrel can be defined in the following way, that Aristotle speaks about contraries (with mesotes [12]), whereas Plato has contradictories (without mesotes) in view (cp. especially 257b in fine). The Aristotelian theory (contraries + mesotes), effectively denies the radical difference between good and evil (= not-good) (cp. 258a: "hence the non-just must also be placed on the same level as the just"). That is the real reason for rejecting this "Aristotelian" method of division (which is illustrated ironically by means of concrete examples in the Sophist-Statesman in order to show that it leads to a mixing of the kinds, namely not of the next (proximate) kind [the only ones about which Aristotle, quite sensibly, speaks], but of the "higher" kinds, as far as good-evil).

Thus: there are two differences between Plato and Aristotle. Namely:

1. Both agree in saying that for us (pros hemos) all that is possible (or at least discursively possible), is an "induction" (from "below" to "above"), whereas "in itself" (physei [13]) the order is "deductive" (from "above" to "below"). But according to Plato there is a break in the induction pros hemos [14] (because of the aoristos dyas [15]): the One (= agathon [16]) reveals itself (if at all) not in the logos [17] (discursively) but in ecstasy (silently); but from silence, anything, that is to say nothing, can be "deduced." According to Aristotle (who replaces the dyad by the ether, that is to say who interprets the kosmos noetos [18] as Uranus) there is no break, and it is possible for us to return to the sensory "manifold" "deductively" after we have inductively ascended to the One (= Nous [19]), Thus: discursive wisdom or system as absolute knowledge (to speak with Hegel). [Only with this difference, that "reality" [20] is not, as it is in Hegel, completed [21] (human) history, but eternal revolution of the heavenly bodies ("the logos become flesh" = planetary sphere and not an "earthly phenomenon," for example, man)].

2. Independently of knowledge for us, there is a difference in their conception of the in itself (and in my letter I spoke exclusively about that difference. According to Plato, there is


The number of these "intermediates" is determined in a purely empirical fashion since they are natural kinds (cp. Parts of Animals I -- the polemic against the Plat<onic> diairesis [23]).

[I believe that Nic<omachean > Eth<ics> 1094b 25; I095a 32; l098a 27 is not only directed against Plato in general, but specifically against his diaeresis, which admittedly distinguishes very precisely between A and non-A, but leaves the classification of the mesotes [24] more or less "indeterminate."]

I also do not put much stock in the historical tradition. Still, it seems to me incredible that, as you assume, Plato should not have taken diairesis seriously, but should have been serious about koinonia, [25] whereas [26] Aristotle never so much as mentions koinonia but frequently speaks about Plat<onic > diairesis and criticizes it, and when he does so, he manifestly has my scheme in view.

I guess that that is the most essential. However, I do want briefly to speak to the other points in your letter.

1. You reprove me for separating the Tim<aeus>-Crit<ias> from the Rep<ublic> and in that connection you say that Cephalus" represents a mixture between the Republic and ... the Parm<enides>. I don't understand what you mean by that.

For me, the Rep<ublic > -- Summa Theologica, and the Parmenides ---> Philebus -S<umma > contra Gentiles (in 7 Books). To be sure, "Cephalus" is a link between the two: in the Rep<ublic >, Ceph<alus> = head of a "Civil" (not a philosophical) family; in the Parm<enides>, Ceph<alus> (= Plato) = head of a philosophical "family" (= Academy). In both cases, the "sons" (in the Parm<enides >: Aristotle) are "corrupted" by the Sophists. The Tim<aeus> -Crit<ias> are not related to the Rep<ublic > directly but indirectly, through the Parm<enides> + Th<eatetus> ---> Soph<ist> ---> States<man> . In fact, the summary at the beginning of the Tim<aeus> is a summary of the States<man>, and not of the Rep<ublic >. (This last point has long been known, and it has led to the absurd hypothesis of a proto-Republic, as if a Plat<onic> dialogue could be assembled from disparate pieces!)

2. My interpretation proceeded on your own method: I was looking for a way to distinguish the positive from the negative (either evil = not good, or good = not-evil) and reread the Sophist; whereupon I noticed the ironical character of the divisions; this led me to the States<man>; then back to the Th<eatetus> ; then to the Parm<enides>; and only then to the Tim<aeus> / Crit<ias> because of the summary at the beginning. Then the Phil<ebus> proved to be the "crown" of the whole: beatitude as neither-nor, and the "mixture" (= as well as = koinonia) as "sophistry."

The Protepticus, Diogenes Laertius, etc., came much later (when I read Jager's Aristotle, and I do not even regard them as confirmations; now, I do not want to be in the position of saying: "Arist<otle> misunderstood Plato!" [Although he sometimes consciously falsified him, but always in such a way that the letter of the Aristot<elian> text is correct: "In the Tim<aeus>, Plato," can also mean: the "Timaeus" Plato made up (for polemical purposes); but a reader can also take the Tim<aeus> at face value.

3. I never said that Aristotle invented the criticism of the theory of ideas. But Arist<otle>'s presence shows that he made this criticism his own (and it is certain that he did, since it reappears in the Met<aphysics>.) Now Pl<ato> could ignore the Megeran criticism of the theory of ideas; he had to respond to its being taken up by his own disciples, by Aristotle among others (the "gentiles" are not "pagans" but "heretics"!); and also to the presumed ''correction" of the theory of ideas by Eudoxus (which is philosophical nonsense: ideas without chorismos [27] simply are not ideas in the Plat<onic> sense).

4. I agree with your interpretation of the basic difference between Pl<ato> and Arist<otle> (in the sense of what I have said above on this subject). Certainly, both assume noetic heterogeneity. But they conceive of the structure of this "multiplicity" entirely differently (diairesis ≠ definition by prox<imate> genus).

For Plato the ground of the multiplicity of the ideas is not spatial, but the dyad as such; hence the ideas are immovable (for Plato: motion = not-rest, i.e., rest = positive, mot<tion> = privation. In Arist<otle> this ground is aether, hence spatio-temporal, which is why the ideas = planets move (albeit in an circle). Aristotle is thus a philosophically not absurd theorist of Eudoxism (for in heaven there is no koinonia of the planets; the planets are "atomic," like the ideas; they form a "hierarchy," as a series of ordinal numbers, namely the ''lengths" of the radii; and nevertheless ... the planets move and are causes of the sub-lunar world, which is just what the unmoving ideas are not).

5. I never denied that Theat<etus> is intellectually "superior" to Theodorus. And the Stranger = Eudoxus is even more "superior" (intellectually). But none of them is a philosopher, and the Eudoxian "theory of ideas" is not a philo<sophical> theory. But morally the order is reversed: Theod<orus> is quite "decent"; Th<eatetus> -- so-so; the "second Socr<ates>" (= Arist<otle>) -- a "tyrant"; and the Stranger (= Eudoxus) a murderer!

"Not worthwhile in your age, Socrates" etc. means: Eudoxus can "save" Platonism by bringing the doctrine of ideas in line with "the results of modern science." But Plato is too old to understand it (besides being too religious-poetic). This theme of age ( = anachronism) recurs time and again in the septet.

[Be that as it may, Theatetus is nevertheless depicted as philosophically "dumb" and a "chatter-box" ("amateur-philosopher" in the manner of Einstein).

For example: <Sophist> 262a in fine: "The Str<anger>: Hence names alone, said one after the other, no more make up speech, than do verbs unaccompanied by names. Theat<etus>: I didn't know that." [28] [!!!] <[> In other words: he is incapable of distinguishing between sensible (philo<sophical> discourse and pseudo-scientific chattering in the manner of Eudoxus.]

If the Aristotelian mesotos [29] is not a <form of> moral relativism, then I don't know what the word (relativism) means. After all, it is nothing else than the biological optimum. Admittedly there are only two contraries; however the point is that both are "bad" (≠ optimum, and instead, either ex<cess> or defect); but the "good" mesotos is an "indeterminate many," depending on the ... mode of life: Image A function of age, gender, race, even -- of the political constitution!

6. I, too, believe that Klazomenae is intended to bring Anaxagoras to mind. But approximately as follows: Aristotle (in the Met<aphysics>) criticizes Anax<agoras> for not having made use of Nous [30] as (final) cause; he directs the same criticism at Plato (the ideas are not causes); in the Phaedo Plato says the same thing, through clearly ironically (by making fun of teleology [say of Diogenes of Ap<ollonia>'s]; "The earth is the center of the cosmos only because it is better for it to be there!" etc.); "our Klazom<enae> "in the Parm<enides> would then mean: "we" (= Acad<emy>) by no means want to lower the ideas to the level of (efficient) causes of phenomena, as do those [for instance Eudoxus] who place the ideas in things; hence Xenophanes → Parmenides → Anaxagoras → Socrates → Plato, and not (Homer →) Heraclitus → Diogenes → Eudoxus → Aristotle.

Parm<enides>'s "warning" to Socr<ates> not to disdain worms and dust is, in my opinion, ironic: that is the criticism directed at Plato by the "learned" (besides, Socrates is by no means "persuaded" by Parmenides's remark). It seems to me altogether impossible to assume (Platonic!) ideas of worms and dust: there are no ideas of the negative (the idea is A, and non-A is no idea; more precisely: as non-A it "participates" in the idea of A, but as non-A it is only a function of the aoristosdyas [31]; worm and dust are "privations" of the "complete" animal and the "complete" mineral. That seems to me to be a basic principle of Platonism, in contrast to Aristotelianism, for which worm and dust are "between" A and non-A (mesotes!).

As regards the soul, I understand it approximately as follows: soul = A (idea); body = non-A (matter ← dyad); non (non-A) = A [solely on the basis of diairesis, without koinonia!]; that is to say: only when the body is "negated" does the soul become "pure" idea, and only man can "negate" his body (on the basis of diairesis without koinonia, which precisely allows the body to be understood as non-A, where the Non, which appears as space-time, is derived from the non-existing dyad.) In practical terms that means: one should abandon the polis, practice dialectic in the Academy, live accordingly, and one may then perhaps as a (for an instant) "pure idea" coincide (for an instant) with the One-Good.

In short, Plotinus is a genuine Platonist, and the "astrolatry" of the Tim<aeus>, Laws X, Epinomis is either purely ironical, or forged (by the Eudoxian Speusippus), or ... preached to the "people" for reasons of state.

7. Yes; diairesis is intended to show the hierarchy of the ideas which, inasmuch as they form a hierarchy, can be represented by (ordinal) numbers. But it is very difficult to do so, perhaps it is impossible to do so de facto (as long as one remains in the Non-). However, the divisions of the Soph<ist>-States<man> are Aristotelian, and have nothing in common with Platonic diairesis, precisely because they do not lead to hierarchy, but assume a juxtaposition of the species <or kinds>.



(also no difference between left/right, straight/crooked, or ideas/world).

8. The entire difference between Plato and Aristotle rests on the discovery of de facto biological cycles (Image): (man begets man [and not dogs)). The cycle of biological species is eternal; hence it is knowable; hence there is no need of the ideas in order to ground knowledge (very clear in Metaphysics Image ,3 (in fine)). Instead of the ideas, there are "forms" of the biological cycles; this "form" is the cause (entelechy) of the biological (cyclical) process; hence they are in space and in time although eternal (and they are eternal because eternity itself, that is to say Nous-Theos [32] as first (unmoved) mover, makes time itself cyclical (cp. Physics VIII), which is why the spatio-temporal processes are also cyclical. Thus: Platonic ideo-logy becomes Aristotelian etio-logy = bio-logy = astro-logy (for the cyclical biological "law" is objectively actual [33] as heavenly spheres [dis-order = inclined ecliptic]): there is a science of the phenomena, but it is purely "astrological" [that is the result of Aristotle's so-called "good sense" and "realism," in contrast to the "poet" and "mystic" Plato!!]

I am afraid that this letter will not clarify the issue, but only confuse it further. It would naturally be so much better to be able to talk about all this. But when? And where?

Incidentally, I have read our Jerusalem lecture. [34] Surely the best thing I have read of yours: extremely clear, dense, and brilliant. But to speak about "the Moderns" without mentioning Hegel and Marx?! Up to Rousseau everything moves along very well, but then there is a gap, and we come to ... Max Weber and Oppenheimer! That is to say to endless, that is to say senseless so-called "history" (without "Napoleon"). It is naturally not difficult to show the absurdity of such a "philosophy." But what about a certain Hegel, who spoke of the end-state and absolute knowledge, and the people called Marx, etc., who actualize it? Is the silence about these people intended to be "pedagogic" (or dema-gogic? since you are addressing an audience of grown-ups)? Or is the sacred soil responsible for that?

Otherwise, I am much better, and I am glad to hear that you, too, are better.

Well -- I hope we will still be able to see and speak with one another.

With warmest greetings



P.S. Enclosed a copy of a Note for my "book" that will not be published! [35]

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