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7 - From Political Philosophy to Enlightened Kalām: The 1930s and 1940s

from PART THREE - STRAUSS ON ALFARABI AND MAIMONIDES IN THE 1930S THROUGH THE 1950S

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 February 2018

Joshua Parens
Affiliation:
University of Dallas
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Summary

The end of the 1930s marked a turning point in Strauss's thought that Daniel Tanguay has aptly called his “Farabian Turn.” Although Strauss's most extended work on Alfarabi, Maimonides, and others in the 1930s is Philosophy and Law (1935), the turn Tanguay identifies is more evident in the smaller pieces that came out in the wake of Philosophy and Law—including “Some Remarks on the Political Science of Maimonides and Farabi” (1936) but especially “The Place of the Doctrine of Providence according to Maimonides” (1937). In these two pieces, Strauss evinces a growing awareness of the depth of Maimonides's debt to Alfarabi. Tanguay identifies two main features of the Farabian Turn: the focus on the political in Maimonides and a growing awareness of the centrality of esotericism. Prior to the turn, in Philosophy and Law, Strauss elevated two features in his interpretation of Maimonides that fade into the background as early as the two pieces written in 1936 and 1937: the importance of Avicenna's account of prophecy and Maimonides's apparent reliance on supernatural resources for knowledge beyond the limit of natural human knowledge. Beginning in 1936 Strauss avoids any suggestion that the supernatural plays such a role.

Our initial focus in this chapter is on how “Place of Providence” provides a missing piece in Strauss's effort to show that political science is central in Maimonides's Guide. Before the Farabian Turn, Strauss was bold in declaring this centrality. And with the beginning of the turn in 1936 and 1937, he remains bold in declaring its centrality and Maimonides's debt to Alfarabi regarding its centrality. Subsequently, however, and as early as his (1941) “Literary Character of the Guide for the Perplexed,” Strauss speaks far more cautiously about the role of political science in Maimonides's thought. Indeed in “Literary Character,” his main reference to political science in the Guide is to how “there is practically complete agreement among the students of Maimonides” that the Guide does not concern it (PAW, 44). Indeed, there are moments in the Guide (end of 2.39) as well as in Maimonides's Logic (end of chap. 14) that appear to exclude any concern with political science or philosophy.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2016

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