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Vital Signs

The Enigmatic Professor Strauss, Part II

Where are today’s Platos and Aristotles?

On this question, for once, Strauss announces that he “won’t beat around the bush in any respect”—and, actually, he doesn’t.  As he states flatly: “Since a very, very early time, the main theme of my reflections has been what is called the Jewish question.”  His interest does not stem from his being Jewish, he says, but from a broader reason: He is a political philosopher, and, to him, “the Jewish problem is the most manifest symbol of the human problem insofar as it is a social or political problem”—which means that “from every point of view it looks as if the Jewish people were the chosen people.”  Several hundred pages later, he repeats: “The Jewish problem, as it is called, is the most simple and available exemplification of the human problem, [which] is one way of stating that the Jews are the chosen people.”  In other words, the Jews, in Strauss’s eyes, are the most convincing incarnation of man—not perfect men, for there are no such men, but as close to the essence of man as any man can be.

Hence, the very simple idea that is at the root of the Straussian system and feeds it with a purposeful vitality: There is every possible reason to be proud of being Jewish, as this is no misfortune.  (Here and following, the words appearing in italics are Strauss’s.)  There...

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