Esotericism ancient and modern - Strauss contra straussianism on the art of political-philosophical writing

ML Frazer

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Leo Strauss presents at least two distinct accounts of the idea that the authors in the political-philosophical canon have often masked their true teachings. A weaker account of esotericism, dependent on the contingent fact of persecution, is attributed to the moderns, while a stronger account, stemming from a necessary conflict between philosophy and society, is attributed to the ancients. Although most interpreters agree that Strauss here sides with the ancients, this view fails to consider the possibility that Strauss's writings on esotericism may themselves be composed esoterically. A reevaluation of Straussian hermeneutics in light of this possibility suggests that the elitism and secrecy often associated with "Straussianism" may stem, not from Strauss's true account of esotericism, but instead from an exoteric doctrine designed to seduce students into a life of philosophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-61
Number of pages29
JournalPolitical Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006
EventAnnual Meeting of the American Political Science Association - Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 27 Aug 20031 Sep 2003


  • Leo Strauss
  • esoteric
  • persecution
  • writing
  • hermeneutics

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