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10 November 2001

Sources of Discord in the Academy

I've been thinking further about two excellent articles that I blogged earlier today (thanks again to John Alway and to Callie for bringing them to my attention).

In the first article, "Earth to Ivory Tower: Get Real!" Kay S. Hymowitz and Harry Stein document the anti-Americanism and/or moral lethargy of much of the Academic Left. The second article is an interview with Mark Lilla (University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought), whose answers to the question "Why are deep thinkers shallow about tyranny?" are suitably esoteric and suitably Straussian (which isn't to say he doesn't answer the questions posed -- just that there is more to his answers than meets the eye).

In trying to get to the bottom of what they perceive (correctly) as the academy's inability (for the most part) to engage in moral judgment, neither set of authors really treats (at least not exoterically) the influence of value-free social science. So here's a fun little quote from Leo Strauss's essay "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero," an essay in his collection that revolves around Strauss's translation and interpretation of the Hiero, a collection interestingly titled On Tyranny:

A social science that cannot speak of tyranny with the same confidence with which medicine speaks, for example, of cancer, cannot understand social phenomena as what they are. It is therefore not scientific. Presdent-day social science finds itself in this condition. If it is true that present-day social science is the inevitable result of modern social science and of modern philosophy, one is forced to think of the restoration of classical social science. Once we have learned again from the classics what tyranny is, we shall be enabled and compelled to diagnore as tyrannies a number of contemporary regimes which appear in the guise of dictatorships. This diagnosis can only be the first step toward an exact analysis of present-day tyranny, for present-day tyranny is fundamanetally different from the tyranny analyzed by the classics. [Originally available in What Is Political Philosophy?]

[Posted @ 12:59 PM CST]

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