In a series of lectures at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Leo Strauss asked the question, “What is political philosophy?” It was the mid-1950s, and the field, said Strauss, was “in a state of decay and perhaps of putrefaction, if it has not vanished altogether.” On the one hand, political science had turned toward positivism, restricting itself to measurement and calculation in imitation of the natural sciences, with little acknowledgement of the difference between human beings and other natural substances. As a result, the once-ancillary disciplines of economics, sociology, and social psychology gained preeminence among social sciences. On the other hand, serious philosophers, including “the four greatest philosophers of the last forty years—Bergson, Whitehead, Husserl, and Heidegger”—ignored politics altogether. They dismissed the age-old philosophical question of the best regime as a pointless dead end. Only the history of political philosophy remained respectable. Through its study, Strauss—alongside such contemporaries as Hannah Arendt, Michael Oakeshott, and Eric Voegelin—brought the great texts and questions of political philosophy back to life.

* * *

In Reason and Politics: The Nature of Political Phenomena, Mark Blitz undertakes to explain the insights Strauss discovered, without

Subscribe for access This article is reserved for subscribers.