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Persecution and the Art of Writing Paperback – October 15, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0226777115 ISBN-10: 0226777111 Edition: Reprint
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Leo Strauss's contributions to political philosophy include Natural Right and History, Platonic Political Philosophy, and The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 214 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (October 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226777111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226777115
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
An excellent text, Strauss explicates on his views of how philosophers in times of persecution will "hide" their most stunning and important ideas "between the lines" of their works. In this way, the authors avoid death, and also provide the deepest insight to only those intelligent enough to find it in the texts. Pay special attention to Strauss's chapter on the "Guide for the Perplexed:" not only is it an interesting read, but one can see Strauss himself using some of the same techniques that he claims authors of the past used. It's all a matter of trying to understand what he truly wants to tell us.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By greg taylor VINE VOICE on May 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is absolutely central within the body of Leo Strauss's work. It stands as the culmination of his earliest work and the beginning of his middle phase of work (which most readers and commentators seem to focus on).
Leo Strauss started his philosophical career directly confronted with what he would come to call the "theological-political problem". As a Jewish intellectual in during the Weimer years, he found himself confronted with the ways that liberal political philosophy had failed the Jewish people. That confrontation led him from an exploration of different forms of Zionism to the roots of the Enlightenment critique of revelation in Spinoza and Hobbes and back to (what Strauss called) the Medieval Enlightenment works of Maimonides, Farabi and Halevi. Particularly in the writing of Maimonides and Farabi (but also in the writings of Lessing), Strauss found the clues that led him to his theory of esoteric and exoteric writing.
When talking about this Straussian way of reading, the first thing to emphasize is that it is not a universal hermeneutic. Strauss is not saying that all philosophy or theological books were written with an esoteric component. He is saying that some were and that there are indications that can be used to detect when a book is so written.
Before we get to that, let's consider THE basic presumption of Strauss's- that there are two types of men, philosophers and non-philosophers. And the two are motivated fundamentally differently and are capable of fundamentally different lives. Furthermore, it is important to realize that what Strauss believes is going on in an esoteric text is that one philosopher is writing in such a way that other philosophers can discern his hidden meaning.
Why would someone do this? This is also key.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Wm M Hatch on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
The title essay is a masterpiece I read once a month in the course writing journalism by day and reading of political comedy by night. By day it is extremely helpful keeping my job in a political environment not particularly conducive to complete freedom of expression at times. By night, coupled with Strauss's superb "Socrates and Aristophanes" is has proved a wonderful tool for unveiling meaning in Aristophanes, Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne, Hasek, Garcia-Marquez, Kundera and the rest of the European comic tradition. I think his idea of a literary criticism "between the lines" based on ancient rhetoricians would be an extremely useful study for younger graduate students to follow - whenever such studies become possible again. The rest of the essays apply the theory of reading between the lines in interesting limit cases of persecution of political philosophy. They may lead the general reader to try such authors as Maimonides and Spinoza. Can't speak for specialists, not being one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book, first published in 1952, is a classic that is quoted frequently when people ask: do philosophers say what they really believe or do they hide the truth? Strauss explains that philosophers have to hide the truth from the general public because they are unable to understand the truths that philosophers know. In fact, philosophers are "in grave danger" when they tell the truth. When the public hears the truth they feel threatened and may feel like killing the individual speaking to them, as they did with Socrates in 399 BCE. Strauss gives many examples of this phenomenon. He stresses that "'all ancient philosophers' had distinguished between their exoteric (open) and their esoteric (hidden, true) teaching." The general public needs to be deceived and taught only "essential truths," not real truths, what some philosophers called "the noble lie," what Spinoza and others described as "legitimate ruses." The essential truths aid the masses in living a reasonably good and safe life. "They (the philosophers) believed that the gulf separating `the wise' and `the vulgar' was a basic fact of human nature which could not be influenced by any progress of popular education."

Strauss points out how Socrates' pupil Plato (429-347) hid his true opinions, covered them in a protective "armor," and "avoided the conflict with the vulgar and thus the fate of Socrates.
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