Volume 44, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2014
New Directions in the Thought of Leo Strauss
Strauss, Kierkegaard, and the "Secret of the Art of Helping"
This paper compares Leo Strauss’s and Søren Kierkegaard’s views on esoteric writing. I argue that both thinkers have recourse to this kind of writing due to similar rhetorical dilemmas. Kierkegaard indeed uses indirect communication in his attempt to restore “simple” Christianity to a “Christian” age, and Strauss’s recovery of esoteric writing similarly aims to restore science—understood as philosophy—to the “Scientific” age. Both, in short, suggest that esoteric writing can help circumvent the distortions of late modern intellectual culture to recover and indeed spur readers toward philosophy or faith understood as ways of life. The encounter between Strauss and Kierkegaard on the subject of esoteric writing shows, contra some of Strauss’s recent interpreters, that there is considerable common ground between the postmodern needs of religious faith and philosophical rationalism, despite, and indeed because of, their ultimate incompatibility.