Leo Strauss, "Natural Right and History"
Strauss was definitely one of the most influential thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. Much of his ideas have evolved into the platforms for, what today can be referred to as the neo-conservative movement. Strauss was actually born a year prior to the turn of the twentieth century in Germany to an Orthodox Jewish family which undoubtedly influenced much of his worldview. With the rise of the Nazis, Strauss was able to use his education and his doctorate to flee the country and was able to land a teaching job at the University of Chicago. Some of the lectures he gave at this university set the foundation for the Natural Right and History.
The central concept of his argument deals with whether or not individuals are endowed with natural rights simply for being a member of the human species. That there is some truth that lies outside of our perception that constitutes a Truth (capital T). Many of the more modern philosophers, such as Nietzsche, rejected the ideas of any external Truth and believed that truth was more relative in nature. Strauss takes the position that there is some room to try to bridge the ancient notions of an external truth with some of the more modern views. Strauss tries to first argue with the concept of historicism.
Historicism can be loosely defined as the inability to be able to truly know the external world -- which by implication would make a natural set of rights effectively impossible. Although morality or ethics that is based on an individual's reason as opposed to an external Truth.
Strauss makes many reasonable points that are devoted to the structure of society. He asserts that not all men are actually created equal -- some are wiser and more capable than others. The best individuals in the society should obviously be the society's leaders, however this is not always the case. A leaders authority depends on the consent of the people that they lead or rule -- whether it be an implied consent or one based upon the use of force. This can ultimately lead to fascism or despotism.
For the most part, I am a fan of Strauss's work. I think that some natural right, some external truth does exist, and modern science is slowly dismantling the barriers that prevent us from possessing this knowledge. Although science itself has philosophical limitations, the scientific method is the most valuable tool that humanity has ever produced. While we cannot prove that there is an…
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