Strauss’s Laws

Mark Blitz, "Strauss's Laws," Political Science Reviewer, Spring 1991.


After quietly sketching these profound questions, Strauss turns to “the beginning of the Laws,” where the Athenian asks Kleinias the Cretan whether a god or a human is responsible for Crete’s laws. A god, Kleinias replies, giving what he calls the most just answer. Strauss’s first interpolation makes clear that the most just answer is not necessarily the truest answer. That Zeus is responsible for Crete’s laws may be known only through what Cretans say. But Cretans are notorious liars. More broadly, respect for the traditionally divine appears subject to the same questions about written works and invention that Strauss had mentioned in his introduction. Precisely because god’s dispensation is sent to us only through intermediaries, we may add, the quality and power of its guidance depends on these intermediaries. The Cretans’ claim that their laws come from Zeus is supported by Homer. Can it stand on its own without Homer? Indeed, as Strauss says here, the old estis not simply the best even if it comes from the highest god. This is why the Athenian’s discussion of Crete’s laws must be supplemented by a conversation with Megillos, a Spartan, about Sparta’s laws.