Reprinted by The Claremont Institute, January 13, 2015. In Kenneth L. Deutsch and Walter Nicgorski, eds. Leo Strauss: Political Philosopher and Jewish Thinker (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1994).
From this perspective, the intention of the American Founding, with its separation of church and state, its guarantee of the free exercise of religion, and of freedom of speech and of the press, could be seen, not as a lowering of the goals of political life, but as an emancipation of man’s highest aspirations for truth, from the tyranny of the political passions. In this sense it could be seen as the best regime of western civilization. However, this regime was endangered from the outset (notably in the slavery controversy), and continues to be endangered, by the moral relativism, culminating in nihilism, of modern philosophy. Strauss’s critique of modern philosophy, as it seemed to me, was directed above all towards overcoming what he often called the self-destruction of reason, so that the authority equally of classical philosophy and the Bible, with respect to virtue and morality, might be restored. This restoration, I am convinced, is also nothing less than the restoration of the perspective of the American Founding.