How Jaffa’s Critics Remember Him

H. Lee Cheek, Jr. and Sean Busick, Library of Law & Liberty, January 26, 2015.


American political science has lost a significant contributor with the demise of Harry V. Jaffa (1918-2015).  We mourn the death of Professor Jaffa, and acknowledge that there will be many celebrations of his life and scholarly achievements to appear, especially from his epigones. Important contributions from Ken Masugi and Peter Lawler have already appeared in this space. As a mentor, Jaffa inspired a large number of graduate students who have assumed posts in the academy and government.  We call many of these scholars our friends, and continue to appreciate their interpretative approaches and defense of the American political tradition.

He should also be remembered by those of us who disagreed with him.  We differed with Jaffa on his assessments of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, John C. Calhoun, Abraham Lincoln, and contemporary conservatism, among other concerns.  While known as a severe critic of those with whom he disagreed, especially as evinced in various printed mediums, we found Jaffa to be willing to enter into frank and open dialogue with some regularity.  We believe his harshest criticisms were often reserved for those scholars he thought might “derail” his understanding of the Straussian philosophical mission.

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