restricted access Theory, Practice, and Modernity: Leo Strauss on Rousseau’s Epicureanism


This article reconstructs Leo Strauss’s reading of Rousseau’s Epicureanism to argue that his work is unified by an abiding concern with the problem of theory and practice. Strauss sought to clarify the distinction between theory and practice he considered a fundamental precondition of any properly philosophical reflection on political life, and he explained the pernicious obscuring of that distinction through a narrative tracing the modern modifications of classical Epicureanism. Strauss’s critical history of modern political thought is thus part of his attempt to restore the classical distinction between theory and practice to the status of a philosophical problem in modernity.