Harry Jaffa stands as a champion of the primacy of reason and nature against the primacy of will and power.
The Rediscovery of America contains a series of highly provocative, profound essays—some previously unpublished—by the late Harry V. Jaffa. The editors, Edward J. Erler and Ken Masugi, both former Jaffa students, have performed an invaluable service in making these available. They provide brief but helpful introductions to each of the book’s ten chapters. There’s inevitably some repetition in such a collection, but in this case the repetitions contain things that bear repeating because the issues the book addresses are perennial ones.
Consider, for instance, the recent celebration within many conservative circles of Patrick Deneen’s attacks on the American Founding. They would have been nothing new to Jaffa. This is why his responses to earlier critics remain highly pertinent. To anyone tempted to ask why Jaffa kept beating a dead horse, the answer is: because it wasn’t dead. In fact, it’s off to the races anew.
These essays are, in a way, glosses on Socrates’ argument with Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic—right makes might versus might makes right. Jaffa is particularly good at exposing contemporary controversies as rehashes of the struggle between right grounded in reason and right grounded in will, whether the will of the one or the many. Against the modern triumph of the will, he endeavored to resuscitate