Reply to Burnyeat

"The Studies of Leo Strauss: An Exchange," New York Review of Books, 30 May 1985.


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 National Security Council staff he takes as evidence of lack of scholarly integrity. With standard paranoid logic, Burnyeat concludes that this corrupt “pupil of a pupil” is proof that Strauss intentionally distorted classical texts as part of a political conspiracy. Contempt is the only appropriate response to such an ugly project of arousing political passion against the legacy of a serious thinker.

It is worthy of note that Burnyeat’s attack on Strauss follows hard on the heels of a similarly malicious one from the other extreme of the political spectrum (“Is Conservatism Un-American?” National Review, March 22, 1985). Its title indicates the kind of suspicion it casts on “Straussians.” This union of Far Right and Far Left in enmity to Strauss and his influence should encourage those who incline to think that truth and democracy reside somewhere near the center to have another look at the writings of Leo Strauss.

NY Review of Books