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What Is First Philosophy? An Appreciation of Catherine Zuckert, Postmodern Platos

  • David K. O'Connor

Abstract

Catherine Zuckert’s Postmodern Platos is built around Leo Strauss’s complex response to Martin Heidegger’s vision of the prephilosophic starting points of philosophy, his phenomenology of human existence. Zuckert accepts too much of this spare phenomenology, and so gives too bleak an account of what philosophy can be. A richer account is available in Plato’s Phaedrus, and is even intimated at crucial points of Strauss’s own writings. The cheerful “first philosophy” built on this erotic phenomenology is truer than Heideggerian bleakness to where philosophy begins in practice, as much for Zuckert as for Strauss and Heidegger: in the experience of the eros of the conversation between teacher and student.

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1 Strauss, Leo, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 130.

2 See Strauss, Leo, The City and Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 240–41, the concluding paragraph of the book.

3 Strauss, Natural Right and History, 31–32.

4 Strauss, Leo, On Tyranny, rev. ed., ed. Gourevitch, Victor and Roth, Michael S. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 105, the last sentence of the book.

5 Rosen, Stanley, Hermeneutics as Politics, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 133.

6 Strauss, City and Man, 241, the last sentence of the book.

7 Strauss, On Tyranny, 104–5.

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