Friday, May 17, 2019

On The Weaponization of Philosophy

Leo Strauss
Leo Strauss condemns the weaponization of philosophy in his book Natural Right and History (The University of Chicago Press; 1953). On page 34, he says, “Originally, philosophy had been the humanizing quest for the eternal order, and hence it had been a pure source of human inspiration and aspiration. Since the seventeenth century, philosophy has become a weapon, and hence an instrument.”

Lending a note of credibility to his argument, Strauss differentiates between the intellectuals and the philosophers, insisting that it is the intellectuals who are responsible for the weaponization of philosophy, and not the philosophers:

“It was this politicization of philosophy that was discerned as the root of our troubles by an intellectual who denounced the treason of the intellectuals. He committed the fatal mistake, however, of ignoring the essential difference between intellectuals and philosophers. In this he remained the dupe of the delusion which he denounced. For the politicization of philosophy consists precisely in this, that the difference between intellectuals and philosophers… becomes blurred and finally disappears.” (Page 34)

But the irony is that Strauss’s own philosophy was politicized and weaponized by his followers. Several years after his death, they established him as the intellectual pope of neoconservatism. I think Strauss is a good philosopher; he is the author of several inspiring and informative books and essays. But neoconservatism was (and is) a great misadventure of political philosophy—it has caused great distortions in conservative thought. The great victim of neoconservatism is genuine conservatism.

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