Friends and critics alike agree that the late political philosopher Leo Strauss is one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. He inspired many in the academy to return to the classics in search of enduring wisdom, and there are now courses all over the world that present the thought of Plato, Aristotle, Maimonides, and Spinoza as thinkers just as relevant today as they were in their own times. And the great light that Strauss’s thought shone on political philosophy has illuminated the path for men and women whose business is statecraft, alongside those whose business is writing and teaching.
Perhaps the central tension of Strauss’s life and thought was that between reason and revelation, and he believe the competition for status between the two was at the core of Western civilization’s vitality. But how did Strauss understand these poles? And is there anything distinctively Jewish about his understanding of faith and philosophy?
Princeton Professor Leora Batnitzky is one of the pre-eminent interpreters of Strauss’s thought alive today, and she has distinguished herself by the arguments she makes for how seriously Strauss took Judaism. In this podcast, Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein sits down with Professor Batnitzky to explore Strauss’s enduring legacy. Using two essays—Milton Himmelfarb’s “On Leo Strauss” and Professor Batnitzky’s entry on Strauss for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy—Rubenstein and Batnitzky discuss the trajectory of Strauss’ career, the nature of his thinking on revelation and the philosophic life, and what his thought ought to mean for his Jewish interpreters.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.
This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at Princeton University. Leora Batnitzky is a member of the Tikvah Summer Fellowship faculty. Click here to learn more about the Fellowship and our other summer programs.