Strauss on Xenophon’s Socrates

Christopher Bruell, "Strauss on Xenophon's Socrates," The Political Science Reviewer, Fall 1983.


The following study of Professor Leo Strauss’s writings on Xenophon’s presentation of Socrates will be devoted chiefly to a discussion of his interpretation of the Oeconomicus. A word is therefore in order about this choice and about the form the discussion will take.

In On Tyranny, his study of Xenophon’s Hiero, Strauss wrote, “The charm produced by Xenophon’s unobtrusive art is destroyed, at least for a moment, if that art is made obtrusive by the interpretation. . . . One can only hope that the time will again come when Xenophon’s art will be understood by a generation which, properly trained in their youth, will no longer need cumbersome introductions like the present study” (27, revised edition). Strauss did not say that in the hoped for time introductions as such would no longer be needed: after all, training is not everything. The words we have quoted first appeared in 1948. Twenty-two years later, Strauss published his Xenophon’s Socratic Discourse: An Interpretation of the Oeconomicus and, two years after that, Xenophon’s Socrates, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), the work with which, “I complete my interpretation of Xenophon’s Socratic writings” (Preface). Perhaps these two books, the last books which Strauss published in his lifetime, are his gift to the generation for whose training he is in some sense responsible.

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