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Leo Strauss and the Recovery of Medieval Political Philosophy
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • Online publication date: February 2018
  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online ISBN: 9781782047650
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Book description

Leo Strauss is known primarily for reviving classical political philosophy. Strauss recovered that great tradition of thought largely lost to the West by beginning his study of classical thought with its teaching on politics rather than its metaphysics. What brought Strauss to this way of reading the classics, however, was a discovery he made as a young political scientist studying the obscure texts of Islamic and Jewish medieval political thought. In this volume, Joshua Parens examines Strauss's investigations of medieval political philosophy, offering interpretations of his writings on the great thinkers of that tradition, including interpretations of his most difficult writings on Alfarabi and Maimonides. In addition Parens explicates Strauss's statements on Christian medieval thought and his argument for rejecting the Scholastic paradigm as a method for interpreting Islamic and Jewish thought. Contrasting Scholasticism with Islamic and Jewish medieval political philosophy, Parens clarifies the theme of Strauss's thought, what Strauss calls the "theologico-political problem," and reveals the significance of medieval political philosophy in the Western tradition. Joshua Parens is professor of philosophy and politics and dean of the Braniff Graduate School at the University of Dallas.


"(T)he first major English-language work dealing explicitly with the Platonic character of non-Christian medieval political philosophy and Strauss's rediscovery of that character. Not the least of Parens's virtues is that in his careful readings he sets additional interesting philosophical tasks for his own readers. Thanks to Parens's provocative work, it may be time for a full-scale reevaluation of the underappreciated elements of Strauss's 1935 text. PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE Parens's book is a useful, well-researched compendium of arguments showing that Alfarabi and Maimonides are political philosophers, and elucidating how Strauss rediscovered them to be such. Parens delivers his main message with considerable cogency. INTERPRETATION Joshua Parens presents a clear, highly readable account of how Leo Strauss approached the major themes of medieval Islamic and Jewish philosophy as set forth in the writings of Alfarabi and Maimonides. He shows the pertinence of Strauss's investigations for questions of importance to human beings today, when Strauss was writing, and when the authors first addressed them. --Charles Butterworth, University of Maryland Joshua Parens has written an important and useful work for the study of both the Straussian project and political philosophy more broadly. Parens explains here the meaning of Strauss's difficult writings on medieval political philosophy and shows how his study of this tradition enabled him to rediscover the enduring character of political philosophy. --Steven Frankel, Xavier University "

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