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Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity

Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought

Leo Strauss, Kenneth Hart Green

Publication Year: 1997

Explores the impact on Jews and Judaism of the crisis of modernity, analyzing modern Jewish dilemmas and providing a prescription for their resolution. This is the first book to bring together the major essays and lectures of Leo Strauss in the field of modern Jewish thought. It contains some of his most famous published writings, as well as significant writings which were previously unpublished. Spanning almost 30 years of continuously deepening reflection, the book presents the full range of Strauss’s contributions as a modern Jewish thinker. These essays and lectures also offer Strauss’s mature considerations of some of the great figures in modern Jewish thought, such as Baruch Spinoza, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Theodor Herzl, and Sigmund Freud. They also encompass his incisive analyses and original explorations of modern Judaism (which he viewed as caught in the grip of the “theological-political crisis”): from German Jewry, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust to Zionism and the State of Israel; from the question of assimilation to the meaning and value of Jewish history. In addition Strauss’s two sustained interpretations of the Hebrew Bible are also reprinted. These essays and lectures cumulatively point toward the “postcritical” reconstruction of Judaism which Strauss envisioned, suggesting it rebuild along Maimonidean lines. Thus, the book lends credence to the view that Strauss was able to uncover and probe the crisis at the heart of modern Jewish thought and history, perhaps with greater profundity than any other contemporary Jewish thinker.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in the Jewish Writings of Leo Strauss

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

"Progress or Return? The Contemporary Crisis in Western Civilization" is reprinted by permission of the Johns Hopkins University Press from Modern Judaism 1 (1981): 17-45. It appears in the present book as sections I and II of "Progress or Return?" ...

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Editor's Preface

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pp. xi-xviii

The following is a collection of essays and lectures written by Leo Strauss in the field of modem Jewish thought, which have been gathered together for the first time. It is meant to offer the reader an introduction to the enormous range of Strauss's Jewish interests. ...

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Editor's Introduction: Leo Strauss as a Modem Jewish Thinker

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pp. 1-84

It has long been established that Leo Strauss (1899-1973) is one of the leading political thinkers of the twentieth century. In recent years, however, another side of Leo Strauss has been discovered that may be of equal, if not greater, significance: his contribution as a Jewish scholar, and as a major Jewish thinker in his own right. ...

I. Essays in Modern Jewish Thought

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pp. 85-86

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1. Progress or Return? (1952)

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pp. 87-136

The title of this lecture indicates that progress has become a problem—that it could seem as if progress has led us to the brink of an abyss, and it is therefore necessary to consider alternatives to it. For example, to stop where we are, or else, if this should be impossible, to return. ...

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2. Preface to Spinoza's Critique of Religion (1965)

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pp. 137-178

The study on Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise to which this was a preface was written during the years 1925-28 in Germany. The author was a young Jew born and raised in Germany who found himself in the grips of the theologico-political predicament. ...

II. Studies of Modern Jewish Thinkers

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pp. 179-180

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3. How to Study Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise (1948)

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pp. 181-234

Before attempting to answer the question of how to proceed in a particular historical investigation, one must clarify the reasons why the investigation is relevant. In fact, the reasons which induce one to study a particular historical subject immediately determine the general character of the procedure. ...

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4. Preface to Isaac Husik, Philosophical Essays (1952)

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pp. 235-266

A decade ago Isaac Husik died. To the many men and women who knew him and came within the influence of a life marked by simplicity, gentleness, and genuine humor, no fitter description could be made than that "self-portrait" of Hume which Husik's death recalled to a friend: ...

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5. Introductory Essay to Hermann Cohen, Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism (1972)

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pp. 267-282

I doubt whether I am the best mediator between Hermann Cohen (1842-1918) and the present-day American reader. I grew up in an environment in which Cohen was the center of attraction for philosophically minded Jews who were devoted to Judaism; he was the master whom they revered. ...

III. Lectures on Contemporary Jewish Issues

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pp. 283-284

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6. Freud on Moses and Monotheism (1958)

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pp. 285-310

In the last lecture which I had the honor to give at Hillel House, which was some years ago, I had to plead that a hearing be given to a philosophy which is wholly alien to me, but by which I could not help being impressed.1 My task tonight is entirely different. ...

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7. Why We Remain Jews (1962)

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pp. 311-356

Joseph Cropsey, Chairman: It is a strange title, and has the simultaneous characteristics of being apparently somewhat narrow and at the same time apparently bold. It seems to be narrow in being apparently addressed to Jews: "why we remain Jews." Why it is a bold-sounding title, I suppose hardly needs to be spelled out, ...

IV. Studies on the Hebrew Bible

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pp. 357-358

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8. On the Interpretation of Genesis (1957)

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pp. 359-376

I want to begin with the remark that I am not a biblical scholar; I am a political scientist specializing in political theory. Political theory is frequently said to be concerned with the values of the Western world. These values, as is well known, are partly of biblical and partly of Greek origin. ...

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9. Jerusalem and Athens (1967)

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pp. 377-406

All the hopes that we entertain in the midst of the confusions and dangers of the present are founded positively or negatively, directly or indirectly on the experiences of the past. Of these experiences the broadest and deepest, as far as we Western men are concerned, are indicated by the names of the two cities Jerusalem and Athens. ...

V. Comments on Jewish History

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pp. 407-408

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10. What Is Political Philosophy? [The First Paragraph] (1954)

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pp. 409-410

It is a great honor, and at the same time a challenge, to accept a task of particular difficulty, to be asked to speak about political philosophy in Jerusalem. In this city, and in this land, the theme of political philosophy—"the city of righteousness, the faithful city"—has been taken more seriously than anywhere else on earth. ...

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11. Review of J. L. Talmon, The Nature of Jewish History (1957)

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pp. 411-412

This is an earnest statement by a man who is both a Jew and a historian rather than a Jewish historian. According to him, the historian who studies the fate of the Jewish people cannot and need not go back behind the fact that the Jewish people was constituted by its belief in its being the chosen people; ...

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12. Letter to the Editor: The State of Israel (1957)

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pp. 413-414

For some time I have been receiving National Review, and I agree with many articles appearing in the journal. There is, however, one feature of the journal which I completely fail to comprehend. It is incomprehensible to me that the authors who touch on that subject are so unqualifiedly opposed to the state of Israel. ...

VI. Miscellaneous Writings on Jews and Judaism

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pp. 415-416

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13. Introduction to Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952)

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pp. 417-430

The subject matter of the following essays may be said to fall within the province of the sociology of knowledge. Sociology of knowledge does not limit itself to the study of knowledge proper. Being critical in regard to its own basis, it studies impartially everything that pretends to be knowledge as well as genuine knowledge. ...

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14. Perspectives on the Good Society (1963)

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pp. 431-446

At the request of Professor Rylaarsdam I attended a Jewish-Protestant colloquium sponsored by the Divinity School of the University of Chicago and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. I attended the colloquium as an observer with the understanding that I would write a report about it. ...

VII. Autobiographical Reflections

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pp. 447-448

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15. An Unspoken Prologue (1959)

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pp. 449-452

The common sense of mankind has granted old men certain privileges in order to compensate them for the infirmities of old age or to make it easier for them to indulge those infirmities. Not the least of these privileges is the permission granted to old men to speak about themselves in public more freely than young men can in propriety do. ...

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16. Preface to Hobbes Politische Wissenschaft (1965)

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pp. 453-456

The present study of Hobbes, which now appears for the first time in the German original, was composed in 1934-35 in England, and published in 1936 in English translation. Ernest Barker wrote a preface for the English edition and I added an introductory note, which may now be replaced by the following comments: ...

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17. A Giving of Accounts (1970)

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pp. 457-466

The following giving of accounts took place at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland, on 30 January 1970. Jacob Klein and Leo Strauss were introduced by Dean Robert A. Goldwin. ...

Appendix 1: Plan of a Book Tentatively Entitled Philosophy and the Law: Historical Essays (1946)

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pp. 467-470

Appendix 2: Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero [The Last Paragraph] (1950)

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pp. 471-474

Appendix 3: Memorial Remarks for Jason Aronson (1961)

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pp. 475-476


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pp. 477-478


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pp. 479-488


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pp. 489-506

Back Cover

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p. 526-526

E-ISBN-13: 9781438421445
E-ISBN-10: 1438421443
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791427736
Print-ISBN-10: 0791427730

Page Count: 505
Publication Year: 1997

Series Title: SUNY series in the Jewish Writings of Leo Strauss