Essays

The Ladder of Love

– "The Ladder of Love," Plato's Symposium, trans. Seth Benardete, University of Chicago Press, 2001. First published in Love and Friendship, Simon and Schuster, 1993.

The Political Philosopher in Democratic Society

– "The Political Philosopher in Democratic Society: The Socratic View," The Roots of Political Philosophy: Ten Socratic Dialogues, Thomas L. Pangle, ed., Cornell University Press, 1987.

How Nietzsche Conquered America

– "How Nietzsche Conquered America," The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Summer 1987), pp. 80-93.
Excerpt: Modern democracy was, of course, the target of Nietzsche’s criticism.A s he saw it, rationalisma nd its egalitarianismw ere the contrary of creativity; daily life was for him the civilized reanimalization of man; nobody really believed in… More

Raymond Aron: The Last of the Liberals

– "Raymond Aron: The Last of the Liberals," New Criterion, September 1985.
Excerpt: A few weeks ago, when I was in Paris, I went to have lunch at my friend Jean-Claude Casanova’s home. As I entered the great doors of the building on the Boulevard St. Michel, I had one of those experiences which only an American amateur of things… More

Reply to Burnyeat

– "The Studies of Leo Strauss: An Exchange," New York Review of Books, 30 May 1985.
Excerpt: M.F. Burnyeat’s attempt to wake a sleeping America to the political threat posed to it by the late Leo Strauss is McCarthyite in the precise sense of the term. His calumny culminates in disgraceful innuendo about Carnes Lord, whose service on the… More

Our Listless Universities

– "Our Listless Universities," Change, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Apr. 1983), pp. 29-35.
Excerpt: I begin with my conclusion: students in our best universities do not believe in anything, and those universities are do-ing nothing about it, nor can they. An easy-going American kind of nihilism has descended upon us, a nihilism without terror of… More

Richard II

– "Richard II," Shakespeare as Political Thinker, edited by John Alvis and Thomas G. West, Carolina Academic Press, 1981, pp. 51-61.
Excerpt: Shakespeare not only presents us with the spectacle of a man becoming a god (Julius Caesar) but in Richard II also permits us to witness a god becoming a man. As a consequence of what one might call political logic, Richard was thought to be, and… More

The Education of Democratic Man: Emile

– "The Education of Democratic Man: Emile," Daedalus, Vol. 107, No. 3, Rousseau for Our Time (Summer 1978), pp. 135-153.
Excerpt: Thus Emile is one of those rare total or synoptic books, a book with which one can live and which becomes deeper as one becomes deeper, a book comparable to Plato’s Republic, which it is meant to rival or supersede. But it is not recognized as… More

Review of Rousseau’s Political Philosophy: An Interpretation from Within

– Review of Rousseau's Political Philosophy: An Interpretation from Within, by Stephen Ellenburg, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jun 1978), pp. 485-486.
Excerpt: In spite of its title, this book does not give the impression of penetrating to the core of Rousseau’s arguments or his sensibility. Rather it presents a somewhat superficial and homogenized survey of Rousseau’s explicitly political… More

Response to Hall

– "Response to Hall," Political Theory, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Aug. 1977), pp. 315-330.
Excerpt: In the first place, Hall presupposes that he knows the Platonic teaching and reads his understanding of it into the text. Arguing against my contention that the best regime of the Republic is not a serious proposal, he tells us, “Socrates is… More

Review of The Social Thought of Rousseau and Burke: A Comparative Study

– Review of The Social Thought of Rousseau and Burke: A Comparative Study, by David Cameron, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Dec. 1975), pp. 573-576.
Excerpt: The word “comparative” in the title is emphatic. Professor Cameron is comparing, not contrasting, Burke and Rousseau. The relative novelty of his study is its break from the radical opposition between these two thinkers as seen by the… More

Justice: John Rawls Vs. The Tradition of Political Philosophy

– "Justice: John Rawls Vs. The Tradition of Political Philosophy," review of A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 69, No. 2 (June 1975), pp. 648-662.
Excerpt: John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice has attracted more attention in the Anglo-Saxon world than any work of its kind in a generation. Its vogue results from two facts: It is the most ambitious political project undertaken by a member of the school… More

Leo Strauss: September 20, 1899-October 18, 1973

– "Leo Strauss: September 20, 1899-October 18, 1973," Political Theory, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Nov. 1974), pp. 372-392.  
Excerpt: Thus, the books of his ripeness are almost as alien to us as are the books with which he dealt. I recently re-read Thoughts on Machravelli and realized that it is not at all a book as we ordinarily understand a book. If one sits down and reads it as… More

The Failure of the University

– "The Failure of the University," Daedalus, Vol. 103, No. 4, American Education: Toward an Uncertain Future, Volume I (Fall, 1974), pp. 58-66.
Excerpt: Tocqueville, democracy’s great friend and admirer, reminds us in this passage of the Platonic tripartite division of the soul?desire, spiritedness, and reason. Accord ing to that understanding of human psychology, each of these parts provides… More

Review of The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society

– Review of The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society, by Marshall Berman, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 68, No. 3 (Sep. 1974), pp. 1297-1299.
Excerpt: This book is a model of a new kind of scholarship, passionate or committed scholarship. Its author attempts to look at the past by way of what he believes to be the most important issue of our times: the repression of the self by the system. The… More

Shakespeare on Jew and Christian: An Interpretation of The Merchant of Venice

– "Shakespeare on Jew and Christian: An Interpretation of the Merchant of Venice," Social Research, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring 1963), pp. 1-22.
Excerpt: Venice was a republic; one of the few successful examples of such a political organization in its time. It had for several hundred years guarded its independence; it had an orderly form of government in which a large proportion of the citizens could… More

Political Philosophy and Poetry

– "Political Philosophy and Poetry," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 54, No. 2 (Jun. 1960), pp. 457-464.
Encouraged by his desire to oppose Jaffa’s insistence that only great men capable of great deeds can undergo great sufferings, Burckhardt confides his own understanding of what makes Lear great. “He is great because he does not cheaply and feebly… More

Political Philosophy and Poetry: A Restatement

– "Political Philosophy and Poetry: A Restatement," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 54, No. 2  (Jun., 1960), pp. 471-473.
Excerpt: The REVIEW has been open-minded enough to publish two interpretations of Shakespeare. In these interpretations Jaffa and I argued that Shakespeare has a significant contribution to make to the understanding of political problems, and that part of… More

Cosmopolitan Man and the Political Community: An Interpretation of Othello

– "Cosmopolitan Man and the Political Community: An Interpretation of Othello," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 54, No. 1 (March 1960), pp. 130-157.
Excerpt: Shakespeare’s explicit treatment of the possibility of an interracial, inter-faith society is given its most detailed development in his two Venetian plays, two plays which may well be thought the profoundest recorded analysis of the relation… More

The Political Philosophy of Isocrates

– "The Political Philosophy of Isocrates," Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought, 1955.
It is to be remarked that it is very difficult to find a philosophic discussion of the virtue of moderation in recent times; it is also in recent times that there has been almost no real political philosophy. The two phenomena are probably related: if there… More