Saturday, June 04, 2011

Wurgaft, Benjamin Aldes. Review of William H. F. Altman, THE GERMAN STRANGER. NDPR (June 2011).

Altman, William H. F.  The German Stranger: Leo Strauss and National Socialism.  Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010.

According to William H.F. Altman, the German-Jewish historian of political philosophy Leo Strauss was "the secret theoretician of National Socialism" and almost a Nazi. Readers familiar with the "Strauss Wars" fought between Strauss's critics and defenders during the past decade may not be shocked: since 9/11 Strauss has been accused of being liberalism's worst foe and of being the secret (and thirty years posthumous) architect behind George W. Bush's foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, so why not a secret Nazi philosopher as well? However, readers of Altman's The German Stranger: Leo Strauss and National Socialism will find far more than the simple charge that Strauss, who left Germany to pursue studies in France and England just before Hitler's rise to power, might have joined the Nazi Party if his Jewish heritage hadn't made that impossible. In the process of pressing his case Altman surveys Strauss's debts to German philosophers both Jewish (Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig) and non- (Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger), provides an iconoclastic portrayal of Strauss -- usually portrayed as a defender of Platonism -- as an anti-Platonist, and casts Strauss as the titular "German stranger" who attempted to seduce American youths to an illiberal philosophy after his 1938 arrival on American shores. . . .


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