The Two Sides of Liberalism

One of the most nauseating perennial questions is “what is liberalism”?  Ask a dozen people and you’ll probably get a dozen different responses.  But as Aristotle said, “To say of something which is that it is not, or to say of something which is not that it is, is false. However, to say of something … Continue reading The Two Sides of Liberalism

Leo Strauss: The Three Waves of Modernity

Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was one of the most important historians of political philosophy in the 20th century.  A Jewish emigre to America in the 1930s, Strauss made his name as an exegete of the classics (Plato, Aristotle, and Thucydides especially; Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Maimonides among Arab-Islamic and Jewish medieval philosophers, and Sts. Augustine and Thomas … Continue reading Leo Strauss: The Three Waves of Modernity

Rousseau: The First Discourse on Inequality

Rousseau begins his Discourses on Inequality by stating he is examining the question of man – quid sit homo – that eternal question that is at the bedrock of philosophy.  Chronologically, Rousseau wrote the Discourses before the Social Contract, but the two works complement one another and should be read together.  Within the Discourses Rousseau’s … Continue reading Rousseau: The First Discourse on Inequality

The Great Divide: Political Philosophy, Ancient vs. Modern

The history of political philosophy is often divided between the classics (or ancients) in contradistinction to the moderns.  Political philosophy, from the time of Socrates and Plato, has always been regarded as the queen of the philosophical enterprises because it most pertains to the question of being human.  Hence, political philosophy is necessarily tied to … Continue reading The Great Divide: Political Philosophy, Ancient vs. Modern

Hobbes and Locke: On the Social Contract

It is customary to position Hobbes and Locke against each other.  In reality, most philosophers and political philosophers see themselves as two sides of the same coin, much like Plato and Aristotle (especially in the eyes of Plotinus and the Christian synthesizers of Plato and Aristotle).  So what does the social contract entail in Hobbes … Continue reading Hobbes and Locke: On the Social Contract

Rousseau: The Social Contract, I

Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a widely important philosopher of the mid to late 18th century.  Born in Geneva, but making his name in France, Rousseau is associated with having given the intellectual foundation for the French Revolution, is remembered as the Prophet of the Romantics with regard to analysis and criticism of emerging (sterile) bourgeois materialistic … Continue reading Rousseau: The Social Contract, I

Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part V

In finishing the first part of Thomas Hobbes’s magisterial and path breaking work Leviathan, we are transitioning out of Hobbes’s anthropology and state of nature and toward the artificial construction that is the political.  The rise of covenant political theory is foundational to political liberalism, and Chapters 14-16 deal with what Hobbes means by covenant … Continue reading Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part V