Volume 44, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2014
New Directions in the Thought of Leo Strauss
Leo Strauss on Collingwood
Historicism and the Greeks
Strauss’s invitation to understand Greek authors as they understood themselves was attacked by influential scholars as anti-historical. In the first part of the paper, I argue that the charge is due to a misunderstanding of Strauss’s position on the respective role of interpretation and criticism in historicism. In the second part, I highlight Strauss’s view of the tension between scientific history as the manifestation of a certain age, and scientific history as the culmination of historical progress. In the third part, I discuss Strauss’s thesis that the belief in progress prevented Collingwood from taking past thinkers seriously. Collingwood claimed that the Greeks failed to appreciate that age-long traditions shaped their thought. Strauss held the opposite: the beginning of Greek philosophy coincides with questioning the identity between the ancestral and the good, and philosophy in Plato’s Republic is shown to be a form of critical reflection on the reasons why certain traditions and myths can exercise political, religious, and psychological power.