To paraphrase Ring Lardner, “Shut up!” they explained. The letter writers’ seething mountain of fustian produced only a ridiculous mouse. It is readily apparent that Dr. Wettergreen demolishes his critics, and he could easily have expanded his lengthy rebuttal. Of particular note is his critics’ bizarre mode of argumentation, which demonstrates their incompetence to hold positions of responsibility in the academy. These replies, both in tone and content, indicate the tremendous problem students face in obtaining a liberal education today: The persons to whom these students’ education is entrusted are the very ones who pose the greatest obstacle to it.

To begin with, what is this “homophobia”? Bad Greek to be sure. It evidently means “fear of homosexuality.” But this is no phobia like any number of “phobia”-suffixed terms such as claustrophobia or acrophobia. In labeling the natural disgust at perversion a “phobia” or path­ology, these employers of Newspeak assert that the overwhelming majority of human beings are in need of counseling to cure them of their problems. Posing as defenders of freedom and human dignity, these sophists in fact advance an Orwellian world-view, where truth is the product of will, not the understanding of nature, and where human beings are robbed of all freedom and dignity.1 Such ideologues cannot defend civilization-in fact, they are its worst enemies.

Desperation has driven some of these corres­pondents to remarkable silliness. For example, imagine the Review publishing “an article which is not a book review.” (Did none of them read the prescient political analysis ‘The Spirits of Geneva,” which immediately followed Dr. Wettergreen’s essay?) Or again: The Claremont Review is “attempting to give the impression of being a product of the highly regarded Claremont Col­leges” (as though we were the School of Theology in Claremont).2 Finally, most preposterous of all, the Review is a “self-proclaimed scholarly journal.” The letters’ cant and chant reminds one more of the congratulatory telegrams Richard Nixon used to have sent to himself than of anything brought forth by passion for scholarly integrity.

In attempting to push Dr. Wettergreen’s essay beyond the pale of civilized discourse, the corres­pondents reflect the overwhelming partisanship in the contemporary academy itself, characterized by bastardized versions of the more pathological forms modern thought has taken, in Marx and Nietzsche. The universities today are dominated by those who were students or young faculty in “the sixties” and accept as given an ideological conception of the academy’s mission, which now happens to include the moral equality of homo­sexuality and heterosexuality as a tenet. Hence it is that these letter writers prefer partisan outcry to plain argument (“I would like to stand up and be counted . . .”), and make unreasoned ex cathedra attacks against an article they decry as “emotional,” “inflammatory,” “offensive,” “right­eous,” and “judgmental.” Some do not hesitate to exploit the noble struggle of racial minorities for equal rights by comparing it with the homo­sexual position. And of course, these professors simply assume when making partisan statements that they may identify their policies with those of their colleges; only the officer of the “gay” organization had the decency to distinguish his political views from those of his institution.Thus they exemplify perfectly the arrogance typical of the academy, its contempt for common decency (and majority opinion) and for rational discourse, and hence its distaste for democracy. These ideologues are not fit to hurl about the barbaric example of Hitler.

Contemporary higher education is not only incapable of defending civilization from either its enemies abroad or at home; in its current patho­logical condition, it undermines a reasoned defense of civilization. With professors such as these correspondents, do students stand a better chance of a truly liberal education here than at Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University? The editors and staff of The Claremont Review of Books have the fortune of being Claremont Colleges students, alumni, and instructors. Proud of such ties with them, we wish to preserve what is best in one of the few places on earth where, thanks to the presence of a few great teachers and a com­munity of thoughtful and spirited students, a decent liberal arts education is still possible. Whether the issue be Soviet foreign policy, cur­rent literary criticism, the significance of the Founding Fathers, religion, or, as in this case, a peculiar species of affirmative action, the Review will continue to present the best arguments available for the consideration of its readership in Claremont, throughout the nation, and abroad, and thus make its contribution to liberal education.

To carry on this discussion we propose a debate, to be held here in Claremont, between Dr. Wettergreen and his opponents on the ideology of the AIDS controversy. If such a debate, to be held under conditions conducive to a rational exchange of opinions, does not occur, it will not be his fault.

Finally, we wish to thank John Adams Wettergreen for his continuing willingness to write for the Review. His essays reflect a rare insight and boldness, which are winning the admiration of both scholars and policy makers. We are proud, that many of his growing number of readers, both those he edifies and those he simply aggravates, will have to acknowledge that they read him first in The Claremont Review of Books.

1The best discussion of “homophobia” as a nonsense term is Harry V. Jaffa, “Sodomy and the Academy: The Assault on the Family and Morality by ‘Liberation’ Ethics,” in American Conservatism and the American Founding (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1984), pp. 263-78; see especially pp. 275-77.

2See Steven Hayward, “Demonology,” a review of the catalogue of The School of Theology at Claremont, The Claremont Review of Books, December 1983, p. 17.

3Studies of the influence of ideology on supposedly neu­tral institutions such as university counseling centers would be of immense service to the students who use them.



More Correspondence


To the Editors:

I was not favorably impressed by the cacophony of confusion created by Gregory B. Smith in his review article “Socrates and Political Philosophy” (Claremont Review, Summer 1985) and in his later exchange with Thomas G. West entitled “Natural Right and the Future” (Fall 1985).

Of the various difficulties with which Smith confuses the reader, one point, it seems to me, should be addressed immediately, as it leads to many other misunderstandings. Nor would it be easy to find time to deal with all the difficulties of this sort. In his dispute with West, Smith makes a distinction between the idea of philosophy and the idea of nature (one which is not unusual for an historicist) and wreaks havoc with it. Thus he pretends or perhaps mistakenly believes that “it was I [Smith, rather than West or Socrates or the pre-Socratic philosophers, for that matter] who proposed ‘nature’ as a standard for judging political life” (“Natural Right and the Future,” p. 29, Fall 1985; but cf. West’s “Intro­duction,” Four Texts on Socrates, pp. 11, 35, and 37). He cannot understand how West can “dub Socrates as the father of the Natural Right Tra­dition.” Hence he raises a gray mist by remarking that although Leo “Strauss did say that Socrates was the father of political philosophy, it is not clear that political philosophy is identical to natural right.”

Since he seems to defer to Strauss on this point, a few quotations from Strauss’s Natural Right and History, coupled with the barest com­ment, must suffice to help clear away the mist: “The discovery of nature is the work of philoso­phy.” “The discovery of nature necessarily pre­cedes the discovery of natural right. Philosophy is older than political philosophy” (pp. 81-82). Plainly enough, Strauss implies that the discovery of natural right is the work of political philosophy. Then quite explicitly Strauss says: “The end of the Laws is devoted to the central theme of the Republic: natural right, or political philosophy and the culmination of political philosophy, replace the cave of Zeus” (emphasis added). He clarifies his meaning by speaking in the same context of “Socrates as the representative of the quest for natural right” (p. 85). Socrates, Strauss notes, “is said to have been the founder of political philosophy. To the extent to which this is true, he was the originator of the whole tradition of natural right teachings (p. 120, emphasis added). The culmination of political philosophy is, then, the end of the Socratic quest for natural right, the discovery of natural right. Accordingly, Strauss speaks not merely of the Socratic but of the “Socratic-Platonic” natural right “teaching” (p. 146). “The classic natural right doctrine in its original form, if fully developed, is identical with the doctrine of the best regime” (p. 144). But “it is characteristic of the classic natural right teach­ing to culminate in a twofold answer to the question of the best regime: the simply best regime would be the absolute rule of the wise; the practically best regime is the rule, under law, of gentlemen, or the mixed regime” (pp. 142-43, emphasis added). This twofold answer very roughly corresponds to the difference between the Apology, wherein Socrates claims as his fit desert that the city set him up in the Prytaneum, and the Crito, wherein he maintains, against the fears of his friend, an Athenian gentleman, that he must submit to the punishment of the city’s laws. In other works, Strauss has suggested that if Socrates in the Crito had instead decided to escape from prison and flee to Crete, he might have become the main character in the Laws, Plato’s most political work, in which a philosophic legislator develops a rational code of laws, and which according to Strauss represents the cul­mination of political philosophy. But Socrates fulfilled his political obligation in practice “in order to preserve philosophy in Athens” and thereby allowed Plato (and Aristotle) to develop a com­prehensive teaching