Leo strauss and the “theologico-political predicament”

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In the 1965 preface to the English translation of his first book, Spinoza's Critique of Religion, Leo Strauss describes the beginnings of his intellectual journey by stating that “This study of Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise 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 grip of the theologico-political predicament.” Also in 1965, Strauss's The Political Philosophy of Hobbes was published for the first time in German. There Strauss refers to the “theologico-political problem,” deeming it “the theme of my investigations.” With the term “theologico-political predicament,” Strauss links his early intellectual development to his later intellectual themes, including what he calls the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns, the relation between Jerusalem and Athens, and to his diverse studies in the history of political philosophy, of Plato, Hobbes, Maimonides, Alfarabi, and Spinoza, among many others. This essay considers what Strauss meant by “theologico-political predicament,” suggesting that there are at least two senses in which he employs the term, the first diagnostic, the second reconstructive. In its diagnostic sense, “theologico-political predicament” refers to the ultimate results of the early modern attempt to separate theology from politics. However, Strauss in no way favors a return to theocracy or, like his contemporary Carl Schmitt, a turn toward political theology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781139002509
ISBN (Print)9780521879026
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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