Wednesday, 3 April 2019

On The Philosophic Desire, or Eros

The title essay in Leo Strauss’s book What is Political Philosophy: And Other Studies must rank among one of the most important essays on political philosophy. Strauss is not a utopian and his vision of political philosophy is based on an unorthodox understanding of history and culture. In this essay, he displays more classical liberal spirit than the liberals and libertarians who dislike him. There are several quoteworthy passages in the essay, but in this post I will put this one:

“Men are constantly attracted and deluded by two opposite charms: the charm of competence which is engendered by mathematics and everything akin to mathematics, and the charm of humble awe, which is engendered by meditation on the human soul and its experiences. Philosophy is characterized by the gentle, if firm, refusal to succumb to either charm. It is the highest form of the mating of courage and moderation. In spite of its highness or nobility, it could appear as Sisyphean or ugly, when one contrasts its achievement with its goal. Yet it is necessarily accompanied, sustained and elevated by eros. It is graced by nature's grace.” (“What is Political Philosophy?”; Page 40)

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