Date of Degree

2-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Political Science

Advisor

Corey Robin

Committee Members

Carol Gould

Alyson Cole

Subject Categories

Political Theory

Keywords

Leo Strauss, political philosophy, gentlemen, theological-political, Nietzsche

Abstract

This dissertation argues that to fully understand the work of Leo Strauss, scholars must look beyond the Platonic and Machiavellian elements in Strauss and explore how Nietzsche’s ideas about nihilism, the will to power, the eternal return, and the ubermensch influence Strauss’s critique of modernity, his understanding of the relationship between philosophy and politics, and his redefinition of the philosopher as a prophetic lawgiver. This study examines the Nietzschean origins of Strauss’s hierarchical theory of freedom, which vests reimagined philosophers with the authority to create truth and meaning. I argue that Strauss’s concept of philosophy and corresponding pedagogy cultivates new intellectual elites who aim at the transformation of democratic regimes based on Strauss’s vision of permanent cyclical movement propelled by an aristocratic ideal of excellence and the possibility of an emergent monarch. Strauss’s defense of noble imperialism and his critique of modern universalism are rooted in an apocalyptic theory in which the destruction of existing orders clears the way for the emergence of future founders.

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