LEO STRAUSS, UNREHABILITATED....

LEO STRAUSS, UNREHABILITATED. If you're in the mood for a bit of a high-minded intellectual detour from the hurly-burly of the blogosphere, take a gander at Scott Horton's fascinating pushback on recent efforts to rehabilitate philosopher and second-degree mentor to various neoconservative intellectuals Leo Strauss as a hero of liberal democracy. You've got some intellectual history here and also Horton's translation of a fascinating letter from Strauss to Karl L�with, another philosopher of the period who traveled in similar circles. The money quote, if one can speak of such a thing in this context, is this remark of Strauss' on the fact that he and L�with have been driven out of Germany by the Nazi seizure power for being Jewish: "the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l�homme to protest against the shabby abomination."

The French phrase means "the inalienable rights of man." So we have a German-Jewish philosopher driven from his country by Nazi anti-Semitism arguing that this unappealing aspect of Nazism doesn't discredit the "fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles" of the German right and that, in fact, it is preferable to critique Nazi anti-Semitism on the basis of those fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles than to do so with reference to the unseemly doctrine of human rights. How much bearing this all has on current events is a bit hard to say, but it does seem to confirm one's sense that the current campaign to defend and spread liberal principles against Islamist extremism is being spearheaded by people who neither understand those principles nor have any real affection for them.

--Matthew Yglesias

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