"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Academic Virtue

I'm in the process of putting my classes together for next semester, and for one of my classes (an Introduction to Contemporary Political Thought), we'll spend a week on conservatives. I was going through some of Harvey Mansfield's essays collected in The Spirit of Liberalism (looking for a good article or chapter that's representative of Straussian political thought) and I came across this gem of a quote:

No one is more ridiculous than an angry professor. He stamps his foot and bites his tongue as he tries to articulate his wrathful words, and when they are said, they may somehow suit either his office or his anger but never both. In love, a professor cuts a more acceptable figure, as the legion of former students, now faculty wives, must testify...



Tom Van Dyke said...

Strauss was a razor-sharp thinker and critic of modern philosophy, but no philosopher himself, and studiously avoided becoming some sort of messiah.

Otherwise, the East Coast Straussians (Mansfield) wouldn't

be at log-ends
with the West Coast Straussians (Harry Jaffa).

Strauss saw himself above all as a teacher. A rabbi, if you will. He sorted through the BS as well
as he could, and left the rest up to you.

There's no such thing as a Straussian, unless you find yourself in the company of those
who reject modernist BS. Then you're paisan. That's the long and short of it.

James Elliott said...

Selections from Irving Kristol's "Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea" might be a good starting point, if you can find a copy to make a reader from. I found mine in a used book store after weeks of searching (My uncle, an old student of Jaffa's, wanted his copy back.). Even if you disagree with his premises or conclusions, as I often do, you can't deny Kristol's lucidity and talent for the written word. Plus, he's quite the student of Strauss.

You can also try the written opinions of Antonin Scalia, work by Lynne and Dick Cheney, and so on. The AEI crowd of the 1970s or so seems to be a good starting point.

James Elliott said...
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