Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories
New York: Harper & Row, 1984
294 pp., $15.95
By Ethan Fishman
Saul Bellow's most recent volume returns to a format he had not utilized since Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories in 1968. In substance, however, these five stories follow the course Bellow has charted for the better part of four decades. Once again he emerges as a classicist, repeating traditional Western themes in a language and style postwar audiences have found compellingly attractive. Among these themes are the theory of transcendent forms, soul as the transcendent faculty of man, art as the expression of this faculty, and love as redemption.
The title piece, "Him with His Foot in His Mouth," explores the existence of transcendent reality. Harry Shawmut, a 65-year-old former professor of music history, cannot resist remarking the vagaries of the contemporary American cultural milieu. One aspect of our culture he finds particularly galling is its willingness to substitute candor for truth. The knowledge this standard produces, Shawmut concludes, is "erotic, narcotic, dramatic, dangerous, salty," and "for the most part fake" (p. 5). His advice is that when people tell you they're 'levelling,' put your money in your shoe at once" (p. 22). Shawmut is not exaggerating. His own brother swindled him out of his life savings while appealing to Shawmut's sense of family loyalty and pledging sincerity.
In the course of a letter to a female college librarian he had offended 35 years before with an offhand remark, Shawmut explains that he prefers to search for meaning in immutable essences. He realizes, moreover, that the soul, "ruled by levity, pure" (p. 59), represents man's link to universality. Concerned desperately with the "life to come" where we "will feel the pains that we inflicted on others" (p. 4), he wants to square matters with the woman before he dies. The distinction between good and evil, indeed, transfixes Shawmut. To an academic acquaintance who speaks of the "unreality of evil," he replies: "Oh? Do you mean that every gas chamber has a silver lining?" (p. 17).
Shawmut clearly is an iconoclast in a country where "money leads all other topics by about a thousand to one" (p. 28). It had been sibling rivalry combined with a frank love of money which caused his millionaire brother, Philip, to cheat him. He recalls watching Philip exercise on a stationary bicycle in his Texas mansion attired in outsized silk boxer shorts decorated "with orange slices resembling wheels." Though he strained with every muscle and the fat on his body jiggled with every move, Shawmut noted that "he was going nowhere" (p. 37). Looking backward, he even feels some sympathy for his brother's animosity. Against Philip's crass materialism, Harry "wouldn't stop hinting that souls existed" (p. 42).
"What Kind of Day Did You Have?" introduces the concept of art as the means by which man communicates his apprehension of transcendence. The protagonist, Victor Wulpy, is a "disciplined intellectual" who "stood for something" and displayed "none of the weakness, none of the drift that made supposedly educated people contemptible" (p. 67). As a thinker, he is comparable to Merleau-Ponty or Hannah Arendt-"Merleau-Ponty being especially impressed with Victor's essays on Marx" (pp. 64-65). Infirm, in the twilight of his life, Wulpy is having an affair with a middle-aged suburban housewife, Katrina Goliger, who shares his seriousness and acts as a "manifest Eros" (p. 104).
Perhaps Wulpy's greatest achievement as an intellectual is that "no category," fashion, trend, or ideology "could hold" him (p. 70). He abides by only those conclusions which pass the strictest tests of reason, imagination and courage. He quite simply "lived for ideas" and was "unnervingly fastidious about language" (p. 77). According to Katrina, "in a public-opinion country," like the United States, "he made his own opinions" (p. 94). Nor is Wulpy "the type to be interested in personality troubles" (p. 95). Issues, not gossip, are his stock in trade.
For half a century Wulpy, like Shawmut, has argued that universal "Ideas" exist which transcend material circumstances. These "Ideas," he maintains, cannot be discussed or written about fully but must be experienced or intuited. "There's shared knowledge that we don't talk about. That deaf deep mining" (p. 148), he tells Katrina. Wulpy's impression is that art serves as the most lucid means for intuiting this "shared knowledge" and that, consequently, "without art we can't judge what life is, we can't sort anything out at all" (p. 134). To Larry Wrangel, a former philosophy student turned comic-book writer turned Hollywood producer, who claims that Wulpy's "Ideas" are "reductive," "trivial," and "dead" (p. 137), he says: "The value of life is bound up with the value of art" (p. 148).
The third and shortest story, "Zetland: By a Character Witness," further explores the theme of art as the expression of universal truths by investigating the limits of rationality. Zetland is a sickly, bookish youngster, "a junior Immanuel Kant" (p. 168), growing up in the Depression-scarred Midwest. From eccentric immigrant parents he learns that "only Love, Nature, God are good and great" (p. 173). At college he wins blue ribbons in poetry and essay competitions, displaying in his writing devotion to reason, lyrical language, and sympathy for the poor. Marriage to earthy Lottie precedes graduation and a fellowship in philosophy at Columbia University. The union is idyllic, they love each other so! Zetland's subject is logical positivism. In New York, however, the childhood illnesses recur. While bedridden, he reads Moby Dick for the first time and immediately decides to abandon symbolic logic. "Oh, Lottie, it's a miracle, that book. It takes you out of the human world," he exclaims:
I mean it takes you out of the universe of mental projections or insulating fictions of ordinary social practice or psychological habit. It gives you elemental liberty. What really frees you from these insulating social and psychological fictions is the other fiction, of art. There really is no human life without this poetry. (p. 186)
In all of these stories the redemptive power of love is a strong underlying theme, but it finds its fullest articulation in "A Silver Dish" which deals with the devotion of a son for his father. The son is Woody Selbst, a 60-year-old businessman from Chicago. Pop is Morris Selbst, recently deceased, quite the rascal in his day. Woody frames the issue at the outset: Why should he be feeling so sad about the natural death of one old man when, in these times, mass murders occur regularly "like a global death-peristalsis"? (p. 191).
There had been serious strains in their relationship. Morris deserted the family when Woody was a teenager to live with a Polish woman named Halina. Woody's mother converted from Judaism to Christianity and enrolled him in a fundamentalist seminary. Dad kept in touch, literally, showing up to con money from his by now terribly confused son. The title of this story refers to the time Morris used Woody's connections at the seminary to steal a valuable silver dish from its Swedish benefactress. Just as Morris planned, Woody was blamed for the theft.
Through it all, Woody justifies Morris's actions on higher moral grounds. What kind of Jew would continue to live with a wife who was so disrespectful of her heritage, even if he cared little for that heritage himself? Why shouldn't a dad steal from an institution which was, in effect, forcing an innocent young boy to abandon his faith? What many would interpret as rationalization is to Woody simply the love a son owes even a crooked father. As Bellow writes: Woody "had one idea . . . that the goal, the project, the purpose was (and he couldn't explain why he thought so; all evidence was against it)-God's idea was that this world should be a love world, that it should eventually recover and be entirely a world of love" (p. 199).
"Cousins," a personal favorite, represents a coda in which all of the themes are reiterated and blended. Ijah Brodsky, former child prodigy, former moderator of a popular public television series dealing with significant cases from the judicial annals, former researcher for the Rand Corporation, now advises bankers on foreign loans. Ijah is drawn to "higher activities," the name he applies to metaphysics, from his reading of Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas (p. 232). He realizes that this interest causes him to appear odd to family and friends, "a man who was not concerned with the world's work in any category which made full sense," but is willing to live with the burden (p. 230).
The one to whom Ijah's metaphysics seems strangest is cousin Raphael (Tanky) Metzger, union racketeer, a sort of mini-Hoffa. Tanky wants Ijah to intercede on his behalf in a court case which, if decided against Tanky, could bring a stiff prison sentence. It seems that the judge in this case had once appeared on Ijah's television show. Ijah knows that cousin Tanky hates him, for he "had taken America up in the wrong way":
There was only one language for a realist, and that was Hoffa language. Tanky belonged to the Hoffa school-in more than half its postulates, virtually identical with the Kennedy school. If you didn't speak real, you spoke phony, if you weren't hard, you were soft. (p. 237)
He intercedes anyway.
Besides, Ijah knows that persons of Tanky and Hoffa's ilk are not the most dangerous public enemies in the United States. That appellation he reserves for government officials on the take, crooked businessmen, shyster lawyers, and uncommitted academics. These have arranged immunity for themselves through much-practiced "smoothness in fraud," and thus are "the spreaders of the most fatal nets." Gangsters, on the other hand, are "high visibility" thugs who at least lay their crimes on the line and "prepare [their] soul[s] for execution" (p. 244).
Ijah fears that the stock of spiritual and philosophical humanism which contemporary Americans inherit from their classical Western forebears is in a process of atrophy. Specifically, he objects to our penchant for abusing words like "integrity." He cringes when Tanky's sister, Eunice, while pleading her brother's case to him, explains how she had to promise a large donation to a medical school in order to get one of her daughters admitted. Half of the donation was paid in cash, with the balance pledged in a promissory note stating that Eunice was a person of "known integrity." Actually, her original statement had referred to a person of "the highest integrity" but, on the advice of a lawyer, the term "highest" was deleted. Now that her daughter has graduated, Eunice has reneged on the balance. When Ijah refuses to congratulate Eunice on her grasp of "street smarts," she shoots back: "I told you . . . I cut out the 'high'" (pp. 250-51).
In Chicago where "the moral law, never thicker . . . than onionskin or tissue paper-was now a gas as rare as argon" (p. 276), Ijah seeks "a direct ascent into transcendence" (p. 255). He continues steadfastly to believe "an original self exists or, if you prefer, an original soul" (p. 267); never gives "up the habit of referring all truly important observations to that original self" (p. 268); and refuses absolutely to "hand over [his own] soul to 'actual conditions'" (p. 267).
Readers will recognize in these stories vestiges of venerable Bellow characters as well as themes. There are the same overbearing wives, rich brothers, false friends, shyster lawyers, ambivalent professors. There is much of Moses Herzog in Harry Shawmut, Mr. Sammler in Victor Wulpy, Augie March in Zetland, Eugene Henderson in Woody Selbst, Dean Corde in Ijah Brodsky. All of Bellow's heroes share a classic detached view of the world from which they offer both comedic and tragic observations on the slapstick way most people go about defining their existences and the shocking disregard they show for the fate of their souls. All affirm Shawmut's conclusion that life is "a fabrication, an amusement park that, however, does not amuse" (p. 47).
Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories is to be recommended, finally, for its ability simultaneously to entertain and educate. Readers will be invited to participate in an art which, for its breadth of imagination and erudition, is unequalled in contemporary literature. Saul Bellow stands alone in his knowledge of the classics; his courage to compare them to such disparate subjects as the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, the paintings of Jackson Pollock, the philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, and the wares of Marshall Field's; and his ability to bring these comparisons off in engaging works of fiction.
THE LEGACY OF LEO STRAUSS
Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy
With an Introduction by Thomas L. Pangle and a Foreword by Joseph Cropsey
Chicago: University of Chicago Press
272 pp., $25.00
By Harry V. Jaffa
In 1974, the year following Leo Strauss's death, the American Political Science Association established an annual award, in his honor, for the best dissertation in the field of political philosophy. The petition in favor of such an award was signed by a solid phalanx of Strauss's students, although there was also a number who were not in any sense "Straussians." The petition observed that there was at present no award in political philosophy, and expressed the belief that the establishment of one by the Association "would signalize to the profession in general, and to graduate students in this field, its recognition of political philosophy as one of the important traditions within the discipline." The motion by which the petition was adopted spoke of "the universal recognition of Strauss's exemplary devotion to the philosophic study of politics." The irony in this hyperbole is today universally recognized in the highly publicized aphorism attributed to a member of Yale's political science department that neither Leninists nor Straussians belong in the profession!
I never saw either the petition or the motion until the Leo Strauss Award had become an accomplished fact. I cannot say whether my omission from the ranks of those invited to sign the petition was a matter of foresight, oversight, or insight. Certainly, my standing in the American Political Science Association hardly qualified me for inclusion in any representative enterprise of that august body. However, that would have been equally true of Leo Strauss. If there was any undertaking that might properly have been called "Straussian," it was the History of Political Philosophy edited by Strauss and Cropsey. Moreover, Strauss had chosen me to write the chapter on "Aristotle," which immediately follows his chapter on "Plato."
Shortly after Strauss's death, Bill Buckley asked Walter Berns to organize a memorial symposium honoring Strauss in the pages of National Review. (It appeared in December 1973.) Berns asked Herbert Storing to write on Strauss and political science, and Werner Dannhauser to write on Strauss and conservatism. Berns asked me to write the central article on Strauss and political philosophy. He also asked that in my eulogy I indicate the relationship between Strauss's work and my own. I think it worth remembering this now, because Berns has recently abused me-in the pages of National Review (Jan. 22, 1982)-for "presenting [myself] as the chosen spokesman for Leo Strauss." Of course, I have never done anything of the kind. But in 1973 Berns evidently thought that I was in some particular way qualified to speak of the main theme of Strauss's life and work. He even thought that in remembering Strauss it was proper that I speak of the relationship of his work and my own. Strauss's concern with the "crisis of our time, the crisis of the West" (The City and Man, p. 1), and mine with the "crisis of the House Divided" are certainly not unrelated. As I have pointed out elsewhere, Strauss began Natural Right and History not only by quoting the sentence beginning, "We hold these truths to be self-evident. . . ." but by speaking of the "nation dedicated to this proposition." That is to say, he used Lincoln's words at Gettysburg to characterize the relationship of the Declaration of Independence to the nation and government at whose birth (according to Lincoln) it had presided. Further, Strauss paraphrased Lincoln in speaking of the nation so dedicated becoming "no doubt partly as a consequence of this dedication, the most powerful and prosperous of the nations of the earth." When Strauss asked, "Does this nation in its maturity still cherish the faith in which it was conceived and raised?" he was asking the question which was the core of all of Lincoln's speeches from 1854 until his death. The crisis of the West, in its proximate form in the American regime, was represented for Strauss in the repudiation of that natural right which was embodied in the Declaration of Independence, as that natural right had been interpreted by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had spoken of the principles of the Declaration as "our ancient faith," and had appealed to those principles in the manner of an Old Testament prophet, calling upon his people to return to the right way. Like Lincoln (above all in his second inaugural), Strauss too would express the meaning of natural right in the language of the Bible, for the theme of Natural Right and History is expressed a priori in its epigraphs, which are taken from II Samuel and I Kings. I do not pretend for a moment to speak for Leo Strauss, but I am perfectly convinced that Strauss shared the conviction that Lincoln's appeal, in his greatest speeches, to the Declaration of Independence and to the Bible-to Reason and to Revelation-was the very model of wise statesmanship at the highest level. It was, in particular, a model of that statesmanship in its bearing upon the crisis of the West, the crisis of that civilization constituted at its core by the coming together of doctrines derived from the Bible and from the idea of autonomous human reason. The connection between prophecy and statesmanship, which Strauss himself first learned from the Islamic scholars of Plato, and which he first taught to me in 1945, was the ground upon which my study of Lincoln began. Strauss always taught the importance of "unhesitating loyalty to a decent constitution." He also taught that such a constitution, however modern, would nonetheless require "powerful support from . . . the premodern thought of our western tradition." That support had to come from both Jerusalem and Athens. I do not think that Strauss believed that without such support a decent constitution could remain decent or sustain loyalty to its decency. Again, I do not pretend to speak for Strauss when I express the conviction that Strauss's entire work pointed toward rescuing the political practice of the modern world from the consequences of the political theory of modern philosophy. The core of Strauss's interpretation of modern political philosophy, understood in the light of its Machiavellian origins, was that it attempted to guarantee the actualization of the goals of political life, first by lowering them, and second in finding institutions whose successful functioning would dispense with the need for virtue. "Scientific" political science has had as its goal the discovery of mathematical necessities in "political matter" that paralleled the necessity in the matter studied by the natural sciences. A properly designed constitution, like a properly designed automobile-or nuclear fission device-would do what it was designed to do because it could not do otherwise. All the virtue of the regime would be in its original design: thereafter it would function without virtue. Human beings would seem to be perfectly free, because they would be obeying the dictates of necessity without being in the least conscious of doing so. This is what Marx's "leap into freedom" means. But human beings would seem to themselves to be free, because they would be denied none of those things that had hitherto been denied them because of the requirements of virtue, as traditionally understood. No one would, for example, be required to be brave or temperate or just: the state would protect you; medical science would repair you; and the economy of abundance would supply you with everything you wanted. Perfect freedom would mean the absence of any conscious self-denial. The fact that no one would ever choose to be brave or temperate or just (or gentle or kind or generous) would simply go unnoticed.
Strauss's critique of modernity pointed toward both its undesirability and its impossibility. This was the meaning of his oft-quoted maxim from the Roman poet Horace: that no matter how often nature was expelled with a pitchfork, it would always return. This maxim of course implied the truth of what radical modernity denied: namely, that there was a nature that placed limits upon human freedom, a nature that was unconquerable. Modernity, however, meant the conquest of nature. Strauss was convinced that the deepest reason in modernity for wanting to conquer nature was a mistaken reason, for he was convinced that even if the technical means for dispensing with virtue were perfected (e.g., if the doctor could always cure you of the consequences of your intemperance), the result would be a combination of boredom and fanaticism, but it would not be happiness. I think, incidentally, that the history of the American Political Science Association in the last thirty years, bears out this prophecy, for it is divided between behavioralists, who bore everybody (including themselves), and "caucuses" for black rights, women's rights, "gay" rights, peace, the Third World, etc. One might characterize the state of the profession-the profession that annually awards a prize in the name of Leo Strauss-as one divided between those who pursue facts uncontaminated with values and those who pursue values uncontaminated by facts.
Strauss's work pointed therefore toward the restoration of statesmanship, as exemplified in the lives of such men as Lincoln and Churchill. It pointed toward the restoration of prudence, as that combination of intellectual and moral virtue that is the necessary attribute of statesmanship. More precisely, it pointed toward the restoration of both statesmanship and citizenship. It pointed toward rhetoric, as the art by which the statesman vindicates the rule of law by securing consent to wise decisions. But Strauss never believed that men could be governed by speeches alone, or that the art of rhetoric could ever be separated from the art of war. He liked to point out that Xenophon, the pupil of Socrates, could rule both gentlemen and non-gentlemen. And he often cited Aristotle's criticism of the sophists, for thinking that men could be ruled by speeches alone. Lincoln's and Churchill's speeches could never be studied profitably apart from their deeds. Strauss had nothing but contempt for someone who, like John F. Kennedy, could profess an unbounded admiration for Churchill and could even do a commendable imitation of Churchill in his inaugural address, but who then called off the air cover for the invasion at the Bay of Pigs.
One of my many objections to the Leo Strauss Award was that it assumed that political philosophy meant the study of the works of political philosophers, and did not extend to the study of the speeches and deeds of political men. It did not consider that one principal end and aim of political philosophy, as Strauss understood it, was to provide guidance to political life.
Clearly, the establishment of the Leo Strauss Award represented a sharp change in the attitude toward his work, of many of those who had studied with him. No doubt many voted for the award, simply to express a pious regard for his memory. But no one who actually took note of the meaning of the words, either of the petition or of the resolution, and who had any understanding of Strauss as he understood himself, could have voted for it. That is to say, no one who in any way understood Strauss as he understood himself, and sympathized with that understanding, could have done so. It was, among other things, a white flag, by those who had grown weary of Strauss's unrelenting contentiousness, and who wanted now to be at peace with the mainstream of the profession. By accepting the designation of "one" (but only one) of the innumerable disciplines of political science, they accepted the character of a group engaged in the esoteric cultivation of its own garden, who posed no threat to the mainstream.
Lest there be any mistake about it, here is how Strauss himself had referred to that mainstream, in the peroration of his most famous diatribe: "Only a great fool," he had written,
would call the new political science diabolic: it has no attributes peculiar to fallen angels. It is not even Machiavellian, for Machiavelli's teaching was graceful, subtle, and colorful. Nor is it Neronian. Nevertheless one may say of it that it fiddles while Rome burns. It is excused by two facts: it does not know that it fiddles, and it does not know that Rome burns.
The Leo Strauss Award is a fiddler's award, by those who-like Walter Berns-think that the burning of "Rome" (viz., Jerusalem and Athens) is no concern of the "philosopher." The core of Berns's attack upon me was his allegation that "Strauss did not believe that he, or political philosophy, could save Western civilization," or that it could "reverse 'the decline of the West,'" Such "hopes," Berns declared, "distort the quest for the truth." The "theme of philosophy" according to Berns is "Eternity, not history." Berns's contrast between "eternity" and "history" corresponds, I believe, to a distinction between "theory" and "practice." As Berns here drops the adjective "political," with reference to philosophy, he seems to imply that Strauss was not a political philosopher at all. Or, perhaps, he implies that political philosophy for Strauss meant an exclusive concern with philosophy, and with the protection of "the class interests" of philosophers, but not with the moral and political interests of men and citizens. However, Strauss, in his exchange with Kojève, made it clear that the decline of the West-culminating in the universal and homogeneous world state-would culminate in the complete eclipse, if not the extinction of philosophy. Moreover as Hilail Gildin has written recently:
[I]t would be a mistake to conclude that Strauss cared about the fate of constitutional democracy only to the extent it was linked to the fate of philosophy. Like Socrates, he was just in more than one sense. His support of liberal democracy can be compared to his support of political Zionism. No one who knew Strauss ever doubted the depth and genuineness of his concern for Israel. Nor could anyone who knew him think that this concern was based upon his belief that the fate of philosophy in some mysterious way depended upon the fate of Israel. He thought no such thing. ("Leo Strauss and the Crisis of. Liberal Democracy," State University of New York, Geneseo, New York, October 7, 1983.)
Strauss cared about the fate of liberal or constitutional democracy and about Israel, as a moral and political man, as he cared about the fate of philosophy, as a philosopher. Indeed, political philosophy meant precisely the combination of these concerns, rightly understood. As we shall see, it is the denial of the propriety of this combination that lies at the heart of Pangle's Introduction to Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, as it lies at the heart of Berns's diatribe against me.
My opinion of the Strauss Award, written immediately after the event, was expressed in an essay entitled "Political Philosophy and Honor" (Modern Age, Fall, 1977, reprinted in How to Think About the American Revolution, Carolina Academic Press, 1978). In that essay I pointed to the "Hippodamus Award" celebrated in the second book of Aristotle's Politics and to Strauss's commentary upon it in The City and Man. In it I pointed to the absurdity of having "the city" decide "what is political philosophy," if it is a purpose of political philosophy to guide "the city." The American Political Science Association-as Strauss hinted broadly in The City and Man (viz., "On the basis of some observations made nearer home, one might suspect a connection between Hippodamus' unbridled concern with clarity and his unbridled concern with technological progress," p. 22)-was itself very much a Hippodamean city. And Hippodamus, according to Strauss, failed to become the founder of political philosophy or political science because he failed to distinguish the political from the non-political; for, according to Aristotle, it is impossible to understand the moral and political things without understanding their non-mathematical character (Nicomachean Ethics [NE] 1094 b 23 ff).
The Rome that Strauss said was burning, we repeat, was "the West," whose "decline" was central to his concern, as a citizen of a liberal democracy, as a Jew, as a man, and as a political philosopher. "[I]n our age," he had written, in the Introduction to The City and Man, "it is much less urgent to show that political philosophy is the indispensable handmaid of theology than to show that political philosophy is the rightful queen of the social sciences, the sciences of man and of human affairs." Notwithstanding the presumption in favor of Revelation, vis-a-vis Reason, with which Strauss here (as elsewhere) begins, he meant to restore political philosophy to its rightful estate among the human disciplines. This meant, of necessity, its restoration as the "architectonic discipline" described in the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics. Just as the architect gives commands to the builders, so does the art of the politikos "ordain which of the sciences should be studied . . . and which each class of citizens should learn and up to what point." (NE 1094 a28ff). To concede, as the promoters of the Strauss Award did, that political philosophy is "one among many" disciplines, the aggregate of which constitutes political science, is to concede that it has no practical or political function at all. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the unity of political philosophy, among the human disciplines-the fact that it cannot be counted as "one among many"-is the indispensable condition of its authority. It is the condition of its authority in the same way that the authority of the Biblical God is grounded in the truth that He cannot be counted as "One among many." In Aristotle, political philosophy cannot be counted as "one among many" human disciplines for the same reason that happiness or the human good-of which it is the art or science-cannot be counted as "one among many." Happiness is not a sum or aggregate of good things, nor can its goodness be increased by the addition of any good thing (NE 1097 b 19). Rather is it the good in virtue of which all other goods (e.g., health or wealth or virtue or freedom) become good for man. To concede that political philosophy is "one among many" of the "sciences of man and of human affairs" would imply that there was no comprehensive human good. All individual good things become then, with respect to their goodness, discrete. One cannot then say, as Aristotle says, that one should not pray for wealth or health or freedom, but that one should pray that such things are good for us. Aristotle means by this that only as health or wealth or other individual goods lead toward happiness are they genuinely beneficial. To put this in the language of simple morality, good things are good for the good, but bad for the bad. Health, a good thing, was bad for Hitler. Political power, which made Churchill better, made Hitler worse. We also know that there are human beings who, being healthy, wealthy, and free, nevertheless commit suicide. Their blessings were not blessings for them. These simple common-sense reflections are, I believe, a key to Strauss's understanding of what is political philosophy. In a sense, the entire "Straussian" enterprise can be understood as an attempt to restore to political philosophy the authority of such common sense reflections upon experiences available to everyone. It is these reflections which lead to the idea of an overarching good, in virtue of which all contingent goods become genuine goods. Without such an idea, there can be no common measure of the goodness of good things, and in this negative sense all "goods" become equal. From this it is a short step to the doctrine that all goods are subjective, or that all goods are "values" and not "facts." The abandonment of the idea of a summum bonum, of happiness, or of the idea of the good, is both the necessary and the sufficient condition of radical modernity, of that moral relativism, positivism, and historicism, against which Strauss's entire life was a protest. Strauss would often say that what political life needed primarily was the art of the gentleman, of the man whose decent opinions and good character arose directly from these elementary experiences. Political philosophy, in one sense, became necessary only when "sophistry" undermined the gentleman's unsophisticated attachment to his gentlemanship. False theories, against which gentlemen as gentlemen had no defense, made necessary political philosophy. Modern philosophy had denied the gentlemen-and the citizens whom the gentlemen ruled by consent and right of nature-access to the self-understanding of their own gentlemanship. This, in part, is what Strauss meant by saying that modern man had dug a cave beneath the "natural" cave, and that what he was trying to do was to make possible a return to that original cave. His work can therefore be understood, at least in one of its fundamental aspects, as a refutation of all those false modern theories that prevent gentlemen from exercising the authority that is rightfully theirs. And the great statesmen of the modern world were precisely those who, by some divine dispensation, acted like responsible gentlemen, notwithstanding the theoretical obstacles to their so doing. For example, when, before World War II, Churchill called Hitler "that bad man," the left-wing intellectuals fell out of their chairs laughing, while the right-wing appeasers smiled their smiles of supercilious sophistication. When the bombs fell on London, shortly thereafter, Churchill's speeches were the only thing that gave them the courage that enabled them to survive. No one patronized Churchill then. Nature had indeed returned! (It has of course been subsequently expelled.)
If Strauss's career as a political scientist had any center or focus, it was in his critical destruction of the distinction between "facts" and "values." It was this achievement of Strauss which became the ground, within the profession, of the revival of classical political philosophy-which meant, of course, the revival of the idea of political philosophy as the architectonic practical discipline, as "the queen of the social sciences." Strauss, I maintain, intended not only to revive, but to restore such a discipline. For maintaining this, Walter Berns accuses me of "doctrinairism." "Strauss," he writes, "raised the possibility that ancient thought might be superior to modern thought. Jaffa, however, takes the possibility to be a certitude, thereby making what was supposed to be a fresh openness into just another dogma." But Strauss wrote to Karl Löwith in 1946 (in correspondence published in 1983 in the Independent Journal of Philosophy), "I really believe, although to you it appears fantastic, that the perfect political order, as Plato and Aristotle sketched it, is the perfect political order." (Emphasis by Strauss.) Strauss goes on to say that he knows "very well that today [such an order] cannot be restored." Yet he nonetheless argues that the knowledge of the regime that is best by nature is decisive for making the right political decision concerning the most fundamental alternative that is open today. Strauss's argument in the letter to Löwith is substantially the same as in the famous reply to Kojève. But it is also substantially the same as in Walter Berns's own 1956 essay, "The Case Against World Government" (later versions of which were published in National Review in 1960 and 1983). I leave it to the reader to decide whether Strauss's overwhelmingly expressed conviction that "the completely modern solution is contra naturam" and therefore bad, is adequately characterized as a "fresh openness" to just another "possibility."
The book before us is entitled Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy (University of Chicago Press, 1984). It has fifteen chapters, each a separate essay or article by Leo Strauss. It is followed by a bibliography of Strauss's writings, and an index of the names of authors mentioned in the preceding text. The fifteen chapters are preceded by a Foreword by Joseph Cropsey that occupies less than one page. The Foreword is followed by an Introduction by Thomas L. Pangle, of twenty-six pages. This is accompanied by a page giving the "Abbreviations [of] Works by Leo Strauss Cited in the Introduction." The references cited by Pangle are as interesting for what they omit as for what they include, but we have no time to pursue this matter here. Given fifteen chapters, the central one is the essay entitled "Note on the Plan of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil." But Cropsey, in his Foreword, tells us that it had been Strauss's intention to have added two more chapters: "a projected paper on Plato's Gorgias . . . was to have been placed after the paper on the Euthydemus." This "would have brought to three the number of essays on Platonic dialogues." Strauss did not live to write this, nor "the introduction that would . . . have explained his choice of title. . . ." If we assume that the Introduction would have been Chapter I, and the paper on the Gorgias Chapter 4, the chapter entitled "Jerusalem and Athens: Some Preliminary Reflections," instead of being Chapter 7 (of 15) would have been Chapter 9 (of 17). In short, it appears to have been Strauss's intention that the Jerusalem and Athens chapter be the center of this, his final book. That he called the reflections in this chapter "preliminary" is characteristically Straussian.
In his Introduction (p. 19) Pangle notes Strauss's declaration, in 1965, that since the time of his first work on Spinoza (i.e., since his mid-twenties) "the theological-political problem has remained the theme of my investigations." Pangle's quotation is from Strauss's autobiographical Preface to the English translation of Spinoza's Critique of Religion (1965), which had been published in German in 1930. The Preface, however, is dated 1962, not 1965. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the problem Strauss declared so emphatically to be his theme par excellence is not treated as such by Pangle. Although "Jerusalem and Athens" is the intended center of this book, "The Theological-Political Problem" is discussed by Pangle in the sixth of the seven titled sections into which his Introduction is divided. Why Pangle does not regard the theme of "Jerusalem and Athens" as central is explained by him, in the section on "The Theological-Political Problem" thus: "What is most essential in the quarrel between Plato and the Bible is already present in the quarrel between Plato and the poets. . . ." In short, Pangle thinks that the quarrel between philosophy and poetry is the theme of Strauss's "investigations," and the opposition of Jerusalem and Athens, or of Revelation and Reason, is only a particular example of that conflict. Consistently with this, "The Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry" is the central section of Pangle's Introduction.
Pangle, in short, thinks that the Bible is only one particular kind of "poetry." Pangle is not unaware of the shocking character of this assertion. He tries to soften it by saying "Strauss did not overlook, he rather brought out and stressed, the enormous differences between biblical thought and the thought of the Greek poets. . . ." Nevertheless, "he regarded those differences as, in the final analysis, secondary" (p. 20). Is Pangle right about this?
Professor Cropsey, in the Foreword, declares that Pangle's Introduction was intended "so far as possible [to] replace the statement that [Strauss] was prevented from writing." And he concludes that "Professor Thomas Pangle's brilliant essay does that as well, I believe, as anything written by any living author could do." This is a very considerable claim. In "The Primacy of the Good: Leo Strauss Remembered" (Modern Age, Summer/Fall 1982, p. 266), I wrote "The character of [Strauss's] work, no less than its merit, has become matter of ever-increasing controversy. . . . It would then be less than candid to conceal from my readers that I myself appear to be at or near the center of the disputations about Strauss. Anything I write should then be taken with all the caution with which one approaches the views of a partisan." Pangle may be right about Strauss, and Cropsey may be right about Pangle. But no one can claim canonical status for his opinions in these matters. Each must bear the burden of such argument as the case may require.
At the center of Pangle's position is the judgment that, according to Strauss, the Bible is only "one of many" kinds of "poetry." He seems to imply that it must be subjected to "philosophy" in the same way that poetry is subjected to philosophy by Plato, whether in the Republic or in the Laws. But there is more than a suggestion that Pangle really believes, not in a Platonic conquest of poetry by philosophy, but in a Nietzschean conquest of philosophy by poetry (the "will to power"). This is as much as to assert, in explicit opposition to Strauss-or by implying that Strauss's explicit statements in this matter are all "exoteric"-that the Biblical argument for revealed truth as the ground of genuine wisdom is not serious. However, to say that there is no serious argument for the Bible may also be to say that there is no serious argument for classical political philosophy, for the skepticism-the Socratic knowledge of ignorance-that is the rational ground of classical political philosophy is also the rational ground upon which the argument for faith in the Biblical God stands. Strauss argued again and again that the modern rationalistic critique of the Bible-beginning with Spinoza-assumed that the Bible was a book like other books and that miracles were impossible. But these were assumptions and as such no more nor less in need of proof than the contrary assumptions of the pious believers. In a series of writings-of which "Jerusalem and Athens" is one-Strauss demonstrated the internal integrity of the Bible, not as a book among books, but as a perfect product of perfect piety. From the point of view of poetic art, all the matter of the art is in the service of its form, and its form in the service of its end. Not chance, but necessity, dominates "poetry," properly understood. There are no irrelevancies, and no contradictions-except such as are intended to bring to light an underlying noncontradictory intention. From this rationalist viewpoint, the Bible is not a work of poetry (i.e., of deliberate making). The Bible is not addressed to unbelievers, and "from the point of view of the Bible the unbeliever is the fool who has said in his heart 'there is no God.'" The Bible, says Strauss, "narrates everything as it is credible to the wise in the Biblical sense of wisdom." As such, it is perfectly intelligible, but not as poetry. To attribute to Strauss-as Pangle does-the view that the Bible is a species of poetry-no different from Greek poetry in the most essential respect-is profoundly mistaken.
The ultimate conflict or tension between the Biblical and the philosophic meanings of wisdom is what Strauss meant by "the theological-political problem." In his chapter on Max Weber in Natural Right and History he argued that the apparent insolubility by reason of this problem was the underlying cause of the fact-value distinction, as it existed in Weber's mind. He also argued-in my mind, conclusively-that this was not a sufficient reason for adopting the fact-value distinction, and that in this Weber had erred. But Weber did not therefore regard all "value judgments" as merely subjective. In this, he had not erred in the manner of his latter-day followers. They do not see, as Strauss put it, that because you cannot tell which of two mountains, whose peaks are shrouded in mist, is the higher, that you cannot tell the difference between a mountain and a mole hill!
The issue between poetry and philosophy is presented to us most lucidly in Plato's Euthyphro. There it is reduced to the alternative of the ideas, on the one hand, and fighting gods on the other. Unless the gods themselves are subject to intelligible necessity, there is nothing to prevent either their multiplication or their division. There is nothing about the gods that enables them to solve the question of the right way of life for man. Only as the gods become the exoteric names for the permanent and unchanging attributes of nature-above all of the sun, the moon, and the stars-can they supply such guidance. Then they become but the names for the intelligible necessities which are not gods, but ideas. But it is precisely on this issue that the Bible differs both from Plato and the Greek poets; for the Bible affirms the unity of God and denies that this unity is subject either to multiplication or division. Why this is so is a mystery. There is no intelligible necessity that accounts for God, and hence there can be no "science" of God. "I shall be that I shall be" is Strauss's translation of the name of God. God is not bound by anything other than His own will. Hence the highest "science" is not metaphysics, but Torah: the study of God's promises to man, as the ground of the knowledge of the right way of life. Strauss's account of Genesis focuses on the depreciation of the heavens and the heavenly bodies in favor of the earth and man. The story of Genesis is the story of what God has made and done for man, and why fear of the Lord and not wonder is the beginning of wisdom. God has made what He has made, and done what He has done. It is no more possible for man to fathom this than to fathom God Himself. Fear and loving obedience are what is demanded of man, and actions following from such fear and love are informed by true wisdom and constitute the right way for man. Philosophy on the other hand consists in "articulating the riddle of being." For the philosopher there are only eternal questions. The evidence for these questions is always greater than the evidence for any answers to them. Hence there is never any sufficient reason to decide that the quest for the answers is the answer to the quest for the right way of life. Philosophy, as the quest for evidence as to what is the right way of life, rests upon an unevident premise. The Bible rests upon the premise that faith and not reason is primary, because God, Who is unknowable, is the ground of all reality. As Strauss says in Natural Right and History (p. 75), it is "the thesis of faith, that there is no possibility of consistency, of a consistent and sincere life, without belief in revelation."
The issue between Plato and the poets is, to repeat, the issue between the ideas and gods who fight among themselves. The issue between Plato and the Bible is that between the ideas and the One God. The God of the Bible not only is One, but is unknowable precisely because He is One: What is unique is, from Plato's own point of view, unknowable. In Plato, an idea, properly so-called, is the class characteristic of a number of objects, with respect to which there are both resemblances and differences. It is the intelligible link between what is otherwise unintelligibly idiosyncratic. The idea of the Good, like the Biblical God, may be One and beyond Being. However, as an idea, it represents something common to many things that are-perhaps even to everything that is-whereas the Biblical God is at once unique and absolutely separate from the universe He has created. The uniqueness and separateness of the Biblical God excludes the possibility of philosophic knowledge of God. Knowledge of God must therefore, to repeat, consist of knowledge of God's ways, of His speeches and deeds, as they are set forth in the Bible.
Pangle, having admitted that for Strauss the theological-political problem is central, treats it as peripheral. The opposition of Revelation and Reason, or of Jerusalem and Athens, becomes merely a subsidiary aspect of "The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry." The section of Pangle's Introduction that bears the foregoing title is (as noted) its central section. This central section has five paragraphs: two, three, and four are the central paragraphs, and three is the central paragraph. In this central section there are references to Strauss only in paragraphs one and five, but none in two, three, or four. Pangle, we know, places great weight upon whatever is "central," and tends to regard what is near the beginning or the end as "rhetorical" or "exoteric." We are confident therefore that the following account of "The Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry" represents a nonexoteric understanding of that quarrel. The first sentence of the first paragraph says that "From a long study of the evidence available Strauss concluded that philosophy originally represents a thoroughgoing, if muted, rebellion against the spiritual authority of civil society (NRH, chap. 3)." This sentence, unobjectionable in itself (and in its reference to Natural Right and History) is, however, the only reference to Strauss before Pangle's account of the great "Quarrel" is complete. Here now is the very heart of the difference, as Pangle presents it. It comes from the central paragraph of the central section of the Introduction.
When viewed in the light of this distinction between what is by nature and what is by artifice or convention, the gods appear to be merely the fictions of the poets and their sponsors or listeners. Belief in the gods is seen to veil from man the evidence whose reasonable interpretation would lead toward knowledge of the true causes of things. In particular, it seems plausible to suppose that the gods are needed as supporters of nobility and justice because nobility and justice lack intrinsic support in the hearts of men-in their natural and not simply imagined needs and inclinations. After all, that which men incontrovertibly seek and need is not the noble but, rather, personal pleasure, security, and comfort. The concern for the noble can best be explained on the basis of speculations about its origins. Then one recognizes that the noble was in all likelihood the semi-conscious invention of primitive men, who congregated and gradually devised civil societies in order to further their several individual interests: in the process, they found that it was necessary to encourage, through praise, honor, and habituation, some among themselves to sacrifice their original, natural good for the sake of others. Over long ages, and given the plastic power of custom, the concern with being held to be noble or at least not ignoble has gained such strength that it now competes with man's natural, spontaneous, and uninvented desires, and obfuscates the calculation which naturally serves and guides the latter. Yet through piercing, uncompromising thought and iron self-discipline some men can liberate themselves from the sway of opinion and learn to content themselves with the pursuit of the pleasures that are truly or intrinsically sweet. Since man does, by nature, need the assistance of society, the truly free man will continue to dwell among and profit from his deluded neighbors; but spiritually, he will live a life apart.
Here then is the reason for the quarrel of philosophy and poetry-according to Pangle, but not, as we shall see, according to Strauss. The quarrel arises, we are told, because of the philosopher's attachment to "nature" and the "knowledge of the true causes of things." To underline what this means, Pangle gives us what he regards as a philosophic account of those most interesting things-the things called noble and just. These, Pangle tells us, "lack intrinsic support." Intrinsic support, as Pangle understands it, would be support in man's "natural and not simply imagined needs." These natural needs are most emphatically not for the noble (or, more generally, for the moral), "but, rather, [for] personal pleasure, security, and comfort." According to Pangle then, man is by nature radically hedonistic, egocentric, and a-social. But according to the account for which, near the end of his life, Strauss declared himself still to have an unshaken preference (in the September 1970 Preface to the reprinting of Natural Right and History) man is by nature social. And by reason of his social nature, he is bound to distinguish between the pleasant and the good. According to the classics, it is according to the nature of man, that he sometimes chooses the opposite of what Pangle says is natural, and that he prefer what is painful but noble to what is pleasant but base.
Pangle gives us a genetic account (complete with all the logical attributes of the genetic fallacy) of the noble and the just things. They were, he says, "the semi-conscious invention of primitive men." This certainly sounds like Rousseau's Second Discourse. It implies that the "congregation" of men into civil societies, and their invention of morality, was prompted by the necessities of the body or by "efficient causality," but not by the needs of the soul, or by human dignity. It implies therefore that the coming into being of moral codes cannot be attributed to nature and cannot be according to nature. However, Aristotle says that what comes into being last may nonetheless be first in the order of being, or of nature. But Pangle follows Rousseau-and modern science generally-in considering only what comes into being first, what is first in the order of generation, as according to nature.
According to Pangle, the admiration for the noble and just things is not according to nature, but is the result of "the plastic power of custom," which over long time has come to be mistaken for nature. This power of custom, he says, "obfuscates the calculation which naturally serves and guides" the original, and truly "natural, spontaneous, and uninvented desires." But Strauss, expounding classic natural right in Natural Right and History (p. 128), says exactly the opposite. "There are things that are admirable, or noble, by nature, intrinsically," Strauss says. Of these things admirable or noble by nature, Strauss continues, it "is characteristic of all or most of them that they contain no reference to one's selfish interests or that they imply a freedom from calculation." (Emphasis added.) Where Pangle speaks of custom "obfuscating calculation" Strauss asserts without qualification that there is, by nature, "freedom from calculation." No opposition of views could be more direct.
"The phenomenon of admiration of human excellence," Strauss writes, is so far from being the effect of the "plastic power of custom" that it "cannot be explained on hedonistic or utilitarian grounds," viz., the grounds upon which Pangle has attempted to explain it. The attempt to do so, says Strauss, requires "ad hoc hypothesis."
These hypotheses lead to the assertion that all admiration is, at best, a kind of telescoped calculation of benefits for ourselves. They are the outcome of a materialistic or crypto-materialistic view, which forces its holders to understand the higher as nothing but the effect of the lower, or which prevents them from considering the possibility that there are phenomena which are simply irreducible to their condition.
That "It is safer to try to understand the low in the light of the high than the high in the light of the low" is, perhaps more than any other, the thematic proposition of Strauss's life work. Pangle's account of the noble and just things is, however, nothing but an account of the high in the light of the low.
Pangle's supermen are those who, as he says, "through piercing, uncompromising thought and iron self-discipline . . . liberate themselves from the sway of opinion." (Viz., "the concern with being held to be noble or at least not ignoble.") Having done so, they will have learned "to content themselves with the pursuit of pleasures that are truly or intrinsically sweet." Having learned to treat with contempt the opinion with which Leo Strauss associates himself, these "philosophers" will have nature's bonbons at their disposal. Exactly what these bonbons are, we are not told. But it does not take a great deal of imagination to run through one's mind a list of things widely regarded as naturally or intrinsically sweet, yet forbidden by custom or by law in decent societies. Aristotle says (NE 1107 a 16) that there is no such thing as "committing adultery with the right woman, at the right time, and in the right way," but Aristotle, like Leo Strauss, apparently lacked the iron self-discipline to liberate himself from the sway of opinion. For that, we turn to Hugh Hefner and Playboy.
Pangle's hero-his "truly free man" (viz., free from any inner attachment to anything noble or just)-"does, by nature, need the assistance of society, and he will therefore "continue to dwell among and profit from his deluded neighbors; but spiritually he will live a life apart." Here then is Pangle's "heroic Epicurean." He has absolute contempt for "his deluded neighbors," whom he looks upon merely as subhuman instruments to his need for "personal pleasure, security, and comfort." But for those who believe, with Leo Strauss, that admiration for noble and just things is according to nature, this monster-"beast-god"-is himself simply contemptible.
In the third of the three central paragraphs of his alleged account of "The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry" Pangle begins a shift from this more to his less esoteric account of this quarrel, by trying to make his anti-conventionalist Epicureanism more respectable. He writes: "Man's material requirements are by nature few, and he who understands this can devote most of his life to the deepest genuine pleasure-that of the thinking which liberates itself from every delusion or false hope, and thus comes to bask in the austere light shed by increasing knowledge of the unfailing nature of things." But, one must ask, on what substantive reality does this "austere light" fall? In truth, the reductionism which Pangle has practiced to explain the moral phenomena, when applied to the universe as a whole, can result in nothing but modern nihilism. Classical Epicureanism was grounded in classical materialism: Its hedonism was in theory at least an ascetic doctrine. It regarded the moral things as conventional-as does Pangle-but it regarded the universe as an intelligible reality, unchangeable by human will or reason. A classical Epicurean might then retire to "cultivate his garden," that is, contemplate this universe. This, however, assumes-at the very least-the plausibility of classical materialism, or classical atomism. But I know of no one who today adheres to classical materialism in the presence of its modern scientific counterpart. The word "atom" means "the uncut," and who, after the splitting of the atom, actually believes that the "atom" or anything else is the ultimate and intelligible material constituent of the universe? Modern science, even in its most theoretical branches, does not provide ground for the contemplative activity that was common to the idealism of Platonists and the materialism of Democriteans. Pangle's Epicureanism, to repeat, points toward modern nihilism. It does so because the reductionist mode of explanation, always seeing the high in the light of the low, always ends by seeing everything in the light of nothing. Actually, of course, one can see nothing in the light of nothing, and nihilism therefore always in the end substitutes "resolute action" for contemplation. This action must be in the service of self-willed myths: hence the ultimate triumph of poetry over philosophy, for only by resolute action in the name of self-willed myths can one overcome the emptiness, the boredom, the suicidal loneliness of an existence free "from every delusion or false hope"; i.e., free from every belief in the intrinsic dignity of noble thought or action, and from every hope that in obeying the moral law one might do what is acceptable to the living God. The resoluteness of the resolute action justified by the nihilist philosopher will differ from all previous resoluteness, by the complete absence from it of any moral inhibitions, of any sense of objective limits upon the will of the willing agent. "Then everything includes itself in power,/ Power into will, will into appetite,/ And appetite, a universal wolf,/So doubly seconded with will and power,/ Must make perforce a universal prey,/ And last eat up himself." Heidegger's Hitlerism and Kojève's Stalinism are examples that come to mind.
Pangle's account of the quarrel between poetry and philosophy has nothing whatever in common with anything that might be attributed to Leo Strauss. For Pangle it is the quarrel of one or another species of Epicureanism with both Jerusalem and Athens, with the morality of both the Bible and classical political philosophy. ("One can say. . . that the Bible and Greek philosophy agree in regard to what we may call, as we do call in fact, morality " [Strauss, in "Progress or Return," Modern Judaism, vol. 1, 1981, p. 34]). In his autobiographical Preface (Spinoza's Critique of Religion, p. 29), Strauss makes one of his memorable demonstrations of how Spinoza's critique of the Bible rests upon an unproved assumption: The unproved assumption that the orthodox belief in an omnipotent God is mistaken. Strauss argues here that the premise of orthodoxy could be refuted only by a philosophical system that would show "man . . . himself theoretically and practically as the master of the world and the master of life; the merely given world must be replaced by the world created by man theoretically and practically. Spinoza's Ethics attempts to be the system but it does not succeed; the clear and distinct account of everything that it presents remains fundamentally hypothetical. As a consequence, its cognitive status is not different from that of the orthodox account." According to Strauss, there is no cognitive-i.e., philosophic-ground for choosing between Spinoza (or any of his successors) and the Bible. "Hence the antagonism between Spinoza and Judaism, between belief and unbelief, is ultimately not theoretical but moral."
"For the understanding of that moral antagonism," Strauss continued, "the Jewish designation of the unbeliever as Epicurean seemed to be helpful . . . Epicureanism is hedonism, and traditional Judaism always suspects that all theoretical and practical revolts against the Torah are inspired by the desire to throw off the yoke of the stern and exacting duties so that one can indulge in a life of pleasure." This suspicion, we suspect, is eminently applicable here. Strauss characterizes Epicurean morality as "mercenary," and contrasts it with traditional Jewish morality in which the reward for fulfilling a commandment is the commandment itself. But this closely parallels the Aristotelian view that the reward for each act of every virtue lies in the act itself. It is true that for Aristotle each act of virtue is pleasant to the man possessed of that virtue, but its pleasantness is due to its goodness and not the other way around.
Pangle recognizes that the defense of Jewish orthodoxy is moral, but not that it may be Strauss's. Hence he does not see that the form of this defense may be a form of political philosophy. He observes:
Strauss seems to have regarded Yehuda Halevi as perhaps the greatest directly antiphilosophic thinker in Judaism; and of Halevi he concluded, "His basic objection to philosophy was then not particularly Jewish, nor even religious, but moral." In this connection Strauss also remarked: "Moral man as such is the potential believer." (Pangle's italics.)
One must, I think, look more closely at the argument and action of these passages in "The Law of Reason in the Kuzari" (chapter 4 of Persecution and the Art of Writing). Strauss wrote "One has not to be naturally pious, he has merely to have a passionate interest in genuine morality in order to long with all his heart for revelation: moral man as such is the potential believer." I believe that both Yehuda Halevi and Leo Strauss were such men as Strauss here characterizes. Whether or not "potential" believers become actual believers is not here the question. What is crucial is the connection between Halevi's and Strauss's undeniable moral passion and their intellectual vision. Socrates, sitting in the prison rejected Anaxagoras' philosophy because Anaxagoras' explanation of why he was sitting in the prison made no sense to him as a moral man. Anyone who takes with full seriousness human responsibility for human action will recognize the fundamental importance of the distinction between the just and the unjust, the noble and the base, for the exercise of that responsibility. In the sentence immediately following the one we have just quoted, Strauss wrote, "Halevi could find a sign for the necessity of the connection between morality and revelation in the fact that the same philosophers who denied the Divine lawgiver, denied the obligatory character of what we would call the moral law." The Kuzari is indeed, as Pangle indicates, a polemic against philosophy. But its adversary is determined by its addressee. It is addressed to a naturally pious man in a state of doubt (Persecution and the Art of Writing, p. 111). We may compare it, in part, to such a polemic as that which Strauss found in Rousseau's First Discourse ("On the Intention of Rousseau," Social Research, December 1947). According to Strauss, Rousseau there attacked philosophy in the name of morality. But he did so, partly in the interest of morality, but mainly in the interest of philosophy itself. Philosophers must be taught-sometimes even by chastisement-how to act in a responsible manner. In the study of Halevi, Strauss goes to some length to distinguish the different kinds of "kalam," that is, the different medieval Islamic systems or methods by which reason might be employed to defend faith. (Ibid., pp. 99, 100). One of those systems-that of Halevi-although embracing the defense of revelation is essentially in defense of morality. More generally, it is in defense of the political life which makes the moral life binding by means of Law. Of Halevi, and his kalam, Strauss concluded: "In defending Judaism, which, according to him, is the only true revealed religion, against the philosophers, he was conscious of defending morality itself and therewith the cause, not only of Judaism, but of mankind at large." This kind of defense of morality-and, therewith, of the cause of mankind at large-is, I believe, ultimately indistinguishable in Strauss's mind from the practice of political philosophy, as he wished to revive that practice.
Strauss speaks at the very end of Halevi's "basic objection to philosophy," which, he says, was "not particularly Jewish, nor even particularly religious, but moral." Halevi's objection becomes Strauss's, when we substitute for philosophy such contemporary representatives of "philosophy" as "scientific social science." In general, however, Strauss's project is far more difficult than Halevi's. In the eleventh century, philosophy, in some of its widespread manifestations, had irresponsibly endangered the moral order. An attack on philosophy would not adversely affect the Socratics-for they would not only support, but if possible direct the appeal to revelation. They would do so by means of what it would not be too misleading to call a "Socratic kalam." In our time, there is no traditional piety which can form the moral substratum for any such "kalam." Modernity's prejudice against traditional piety is equally a prejudice against traditional moral philosophy, and the reason which informed it. Religious fundamentalism tends to be anti-rational; but what we might call contemporary academic philosophical fundamentalism is equally so!
It has often been said that Leo Strauss regarded Heidegger as the greatest philosophic intelligence of the twentieth century. I think that this is true. Its significance however must be measured against the equally undeniable fact that Strauss considered Winston Churchill to be the greatest man of the twentieth century. Nothing I can think of brings into sharper focus the questionable status of philosophy divorced from the morality of "the Bible and Greek philosophy," for Heidegger was a Nazi and remained one after Hitler's death. By a kind of inversion of language, we might call Heidegger "a Nazi on principle," even if (perhaps) the only one. In "Philosophy as Rigorous Science," the first chapter of Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, Strauss observes that "There is no room for political philosophy in Heidegger's work." Of course this absence signifies an absence of all moral concern in that work. Strauss speaks of "the facts" of Heidegger's Nazism, and says that "We cannot help holding these . . . against" him. Strauss holds the facts of Heidegger's Nazism against him all the more because "one is bound to misunderstand Heidegger's thought radically if one does not see their intimate connection with the core of his philosophic thought." This connection, we believe, is essentially that expressed above: between the "nothingness" to which unqualified reductionism leads (understanding the high in the light of the low) and "resolute action" as a substitute for contemplation.
Churchill was the supreme enemy of Hitler and everything Hitler stood for. He was the supreme enemy of Hitler because in the decisive respects he was not touched by modern philosophy. For him, the moral distinctions, as they are discovered by gentlemen in practical life-above all, political life-are the primary ground for their understanding of life and the world. In 1946 Strauss wrote to Karl Löwith (in the correspondence published in the 1983 Independent Journal of Philosophy), "I know from my experience how incomprehensible and foreign Aristotle's concept of megalopsuchia was to me originally, and that now I not only theoretically, but also practically, approve of it. A man like Churchill proves that the possibility of megalopsuchia exists today exactly as it did in the fifth century, B.C." (All emphasis is by Strauss.) Strauss's earlier alienation from Aristotle was due to his earlier "sophistication," his earlier belief (such as he attributes to Löwith in the letter) in the "culture bound" quality of moral judgments. But Strauss had become persuaded of the genuine possibility of a "culture" that was independent of time and place. Just as he had by 1946 come to believe that "the perfect political order" was the one that "Plato and Aristotle have sketched," so was he persuaded that the great-souled man simply was the one described by Aristotle in Book IV of the Nicomachean Ethics. There was, however, this difference: He knew that the perfect political order was not now possible; but the great-souled man was not only possible but actual. Churchill as the embodiment of megalopsuchia is of decisive importance, theoretically no less than practically, in Strauss's argument against historician, against radical modernity. His example is equally decisive in favor of classical political philosophy, as the necessary condition of a decent politics in modernity. Above all, it is decisive for establishing the importance of the moral and political phenomena as the theoretical, no less than the practical, ground of philosophic wisdom. The example of Churchill was decisive for Strauss, as evidence "that there are phenomena which are simply irreducible to their conditions."
As editor of Statesmanship: Essays in Honor of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, I was privileged to publish as its epigraph the eulogy that Strauss had delivered in his class January 25, 1965, the day following Churchill's death. His remarks are, I believe, spontaneous. Yet they surpass-I believe-everything anyone else has said about Churchill. And in certain respects they are as authentic-perhaps more authentic-in what they reveal of Strauss himself, as anything more deliberately composed. I believe a review of his words on this occasion a fitting way to end this account of Strauss's "legacy."
"The death of Churchill is a healthy reminder to academic students of political science of their limitations, the limitations of their craft." Strauss begins with this ironic conjunction of death and health. But the limitations of political science-as we shall see-are precisely those, of nature and of fortune, that Machiavellianism in all its dimensions was dedicated to abolish. Strauss begins the essay on "Jerusalem and Athens" by saying the task he has set himself "goes much beyond my power." However, "we cannot define our tasks by our powers, for our powers become known to us through performing our tasks; it is better to fail nobly than to succeed basely." The ground of the moral and political life is the distinction between noble failure and base success. Churchill, in The Second World War, says that in war it is impossible to guarantee success, it is possible only to deserve it. But clearly this applies to peace no less than to war. This "practical" judgment of Churchill touches the profoundest level of Strauss's theoretical understanding, for it is the intervention of chance which, according to Aristotle, causes "noble and just actions" to "admit of much variety and fluctuation of opinion," and to permit virtuous men to suffer catastrophe. It was Machiavelli's project to conquer Fortune (who, as a woman, could be dominated by a sufficiently virile if sufficiently unscrupulous male.) Of course, Machiavelli's successors turned the conquest of Fortune into the conquest of nature. As we have seen, Strauss's critique of modernity implied that Science's abolition of the physical limits of man's power was always understood to imply the abolition of the need for morality from human life. As we know from Swift's "Struldbruggs," the modern project looked from an early moment to the abolition of death-not, as in Biblical religion, by promising eternal life in another world, but by promising it in this one. Churchill's death, like his life, is first of all a lesson in limits, in mortal limits. But it is only within these limits that actions can be noble and just, for such actions can properly bear such names only if we do them in some sense for their own sake, and not solely for their extrinsic benefits. The phenomenon of disinterested admiration, of which Strauss makes so much in Natural Right and History, is a function both of man's mortality and of the role that chance plays in determining the outcome of his deeds.
"The tyrant stood at the pinnacle of his power," Strauss continued. "The contrast between the indomitable and magnanimous statesman and the insane tyrant-this spectacle in its clear simplicity was one of the greatest lessons which men can learn, at any time." Strauss calls the confrontation between Churchill and Hitler both a spectacle and a lesson; that is to say, an object both of theoretical and practical wisdom. As the latter, it teaches us how to act: that we should not submit to evil ("Never, never, never, never!"). But it also teaches us that chance, which permits good actions to fail, for reasons over which the agent has no control, can also befriend the good, by bringing successful outcomes where there is no probability-where, indeed, there may seem even to be no possibility-of success. After the fall of France, Britain stood absolutely alone, Stalin was the ally of Hitler in every respect except open belligerency, and the United States was wrapped in thousand-fold isolationism. There were ten thousand reasons of
prudence why an almost completely defenseless Britain should have reached an accommodation with Hitler, who was himself anxious to make Britain his "Aryan" junior partner in the "thousand-year Reich." No one in 1940 could have foreseen that Hitler would gratuitously attack his loyal partner, Joseph Stalin, that Japan would gratuitously attack the United States at Pearl Harbor, and that Hitler would complete the cycle of folly by gratuitously declaring war against the United States. But chance works both ways. We see virtue fail, despite deserving success; but we also see virtue succeed, sometimes against every rational expectation. Strauss invites us to contemplate, with him, the spectacle of Churchill defying Hitler at the height of his power, thundering his maledictions against the tyrant, giving hope to all mankind-at the very nadir of all hope-that all would yet be well. Strauss speaks of the "simplicity" of this spectacle: It is the simplicity of good in its starkest contrast with evil. Our admiration for the good, and our detestation of the evil, Strauss implies, are grounded in our nature. Such admiration-or detestation-is, as he says in Natural Right and History, inherently disinterested. That both are such is exemplified in the story of Nathan and David, which Strauss used as one of the two epigraphs for Natural Right and History and to which he returned in the concluding passage of "Jerusalem and Athens." The "plastic power of custom" may obstruct or it may facilitate the access of our natures to the pleasure intrinsic to contemplating what is by nature noble and just, but nature and not custom is the original ground of such pleasure.
"No less enlightening," Strauss went on, "is the lesson conveyed by Churchill's failure, which is too great to be called tragedy. I mean the fact that Churchill's heroic action on behalf of human freedom against Hitler only contributed, through no fault of Churchill's, to increase the threat to freedom posed by Stalin or his successors. Churchill did the utmost that a man could do to counter that threat. . . ." Of course, Churchill's failures are all ultimately of a piece with his successes. We are reminded of the "locust years" which preceded "the war years." We are reminded of Churchill's campaign to "strangle the infant Bolshevism in its cradle," more than a decade before his warnings against Hitler, as well as his unheeded warnings against that same Bolshevism, now grown so great, at the end of the Second World War. The still, small voice of Churchill's wisdom, in peace and in war, elicits our admiration even more than that "lion's roar" of defiance that greeted the Nazi tyranny when it seemed about to devour the world. In the end, Churchill's wisdom and Churchill's courage illuminate the human condition itself, beyond the transient generations whose mortal fate he shared.
Strauss also paid tribute to Churchill's writings, "above all his Marlborough," for "their inexhaustible mine of political wisdom and understanding." Then he concluded: "The death of Churchill reminds us of the limitations of our craft, and therewith of our duty. We have no higher duty, and no more pressing duty, than to remind ourselves and our students, of political greatness, human greatness, of the peaks of human excellence. We are supposed to train ourselves and others in seeing things as they are, and this means above all in seeing their greatness and their misery, their excellence and their vileness, their nobility and their triumphs, and therefore never to mistake mediocrity, however brilliant, for true greatness."
Strauss's eulogy of Churchill thus ends as it begins: with a reminder of "the limitations of our craft." This reminder, however, is not a depreciation of that craft. It is, we have seen, a rejection of Machiavellianism, and of radical modernity, of those forms of human thought that would make the noble and just things irrelevant to human life. And so it is a reminder of "our duty." In his eulogy of Churchill, Strauss reminds us, as Churchill would remind us, of duty as an inescapable feature of the right way of life. The duty to which we are here called is said to be at once the highest and the most pressing. It represents therefore what might be called a peak demand, equally of theory and of practice. It flows from our obligation "to train ourselves and others in seeing things as they are." Seeing things as they are implies the Socratic enterprise, of asking "what each of the beings is" (NRH, p. 122). Seeing the low in the light of the high here means seeing things in the light of the moral distinctions, as they become visible in such spectacles as are furnished by such lives as Winston Churchill's.
Strauss ends by a condemnation of "mediocrity," which however brilliant we must never, he says, mistake for true greatness. Nothing begets this kind of mistake more than does cynicism about morality, or the depreciation of politics. Churchill was himself deprecated during much of his career for his frequently unabashed ambition. If he had disguised that ambition, as a more sophisticated man would have done, by ideological justifications (preferably socialistic and pacifistic), no one would have objected-or perhaps even noticed. But he was a great-souled man, and claimed honor as his right, even though-as a great-souled man-he knew that the highest merit transcended any honor, for honor, like moral virtue, points beyond itself. The great-souled man can be indifferent to honor, even as he claims it. His invincibility to evil, he knows, represents a rendezvous with eternity, in which success and failure are themselves insignificant, and "Greatness is all," for greatness resonates being, the understanding of being-of seeing things as they are, which always means seeing the low in the light of the high. Such understanding is the legacy of Leo Strauss.
Supreme Court Review. . . .
FIRST MONDAY IN OCTOBER
United States Reports, 1983-84 Term
Warren E. Burger, et al.
Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1984
No price available
Dennis J. Mahoney
The Framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights did not believe that they were creating new rights for individuals. They understood, in accordance with the teachings of the Declaration of Independence, that human rights exist by nature and that it is the duty of government to secure the citizens in their possession of those rights.
The Bill of Rights does not purport to be a list of all the rights possessed by the people. Indeed, the Ninth Amendment specifically states that there are rights retained by the people but not enumerated in the Constitution. But the first ten amendments to the Constitution do enumerate certain rights. Some provisions recognize natural rights-rights of the people (such as the right to keep and bear arms)-and proscribe governmental interference with them. Other provisions spell out procedural rights, not belonging to man in a state of nature, but incidental to political life; trial by jury, access to legal counsel, protection against double jeopardy, etc.
In this scheme, the Fourth Amendment is unique. The Fourth Amendment begins by identifying one of the "rights of the people": the right to be secure in one's person, house, papers, and effects. This is a basic statement of the natural human right of private ownership of property, a right that is prior to all government. The amendment then spells out a perceived threat to that natural human right: unreasonable searches and seizures of individuals and their private property by government officers. One of the lessons learned by Americans in the period preceding the Revolution was that personal liberty and private property could not be secure while government agents were free to ignore them on the pretext of enforcing the law.
The balance of the Fourth Amendment is procedural. It provides that arrest warrants and search warrants must particularly describe the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized. That a government agent might not conduct a search or effect an arrest without the authority of a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate was an aspect of rule of law inherited from the English legal system. However, royal officials in the American colonies had long relied on general warrants (sometimes in a form called "writs of assistance") authorizing the bearer to search anywhere and to seize anyone or anything in the pursuance of his duties. The procedural guarantee of particular warrants was intended to prevent this abuse.
The Fourth Amendment does not itself provide any mechanism for its own enforcement. In the twentieth century the federal courts began, as a rule of evidence, to exclude from consideration in a criminal trial, any material seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In the 1949 case of Wolf v. Colorado, the United States Supreme Court held that the provisions of the Fourth Amendment are binding on state officials by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment; in Mapp v. Ohio, decided in 1961, the Supreme Court imposed the federal evidence standard on the state criminal courts. This procedural rule, the "exclusionary rule," thus became the judicially created remedy for violations of the Fourth Amendment. Twenty-three years later, there are professors of law, and even federal judges, who are unaware that the exclusionary rule is not part of the Fourth Amendment, and who probably cannot think of the amendment apart from the exclusionary rule.
From the first it has been clear that the exclusionary rule is a less-than-ideal device for enforcing the right to security in person and property. The most glaring failure of the rule is that it provides no protection whatever to innocent victims of unreasonable searches and seizures. Only the guilty can hide behind the exclusionary rule, because only against the guilty is there evidence to be excluded. Critics of the rule often speak as if the rule were too broad in its application; the real problem is that it is too narrow in its protection.
Another shortcoming of the exclusionary rule is its underlying assumption that the prosecution of criminals and punishment of crime are interests unique to the law-enforcement community. The rationale of the rule is that setting felons free punishes the police. In fact, of course, this is far from true: the victims of crime, actual and potential, have an interest in the conviction of criminals; society at large, which expects its criminal laws to be obeyed, has an interest in the conviction of criminals. But police officers are more interested in the identification and apprehension of suspects than in their conviction. Nevertheless, whether because of professional pride or because of pressure on the police from prosecuting attorneys, the exclusionary rule does have a certain deterrent effect on police misconduct in the search-and-seizure area.
In the field of criminal law, which, in contemporary America, is a branch of constitutional law, the exclusionary rule is perhaps the most controversial topic. Many of the most important cases decided during the 1983-1984 term of the Supreme Court concerned the applicability and scope of the exclusionary rule. To follow the Court's decisions in the popular press would be to learn that the Court had "narrowed" the exclusionary rule, or carved out "exceptions" to it, or even "emasculated" it. But such a view is based on mistaken premises: It presumes that exclusion of evidence is the norm and admission of evidence is the exception. In fact, the exclusionary rule applies only in circumstances similar to those obtaining in previously decided cases. In each new set of circumstances that arises the Court must decide whether or not to extend the scope of the exclusionary rule. For the most part, in the 1983-1984 term, the Court decided against extending the rule.
One new set of circumstances to come before the Court involved evidence uncovered as the result of improper procedures that would inevitably have come to light in any event. Where two or more courses of action are being followed simultaneously by law enforcement agencies, and each course independently would have led to discovery of the same evidence, must the evidence be excluded if the course that reaches the evidence first is tainted by misconduct? The Court faced this set of circumstances in Nix v. Williams and held that the evidence was admissible.
Robert Williams kidnapped and murdered a ten-year-old girl shortly before Christmas, then deposited her body in a ditch under an Iowa snowbank. While transporting Williams after his arrest, a police officer lectured the murderer on the necessity of providing the child a Christian burial; Williams, moved, directed the police to his young victim's shallow, frozen grave. Williams's confession was introduced in evidence at his trial, and he was convicted. In 1977, in Brewer v. Williams, the United States Supreme Court overturned Williams's conviction on the ground that he did not have an attorney present when he made his statement.
Retried and reconvicted, Williams again appealed to the Supreme Court, this time arguing that the physical evidence of the victim's body should not have been admissible in evidence. The police had found the body by following Williams's directions; but Williams's directions were provided when he had no attorney present, and thus, for legal purposes, were never provided. The police, therefore, had no "probable cause" to look for the body where they did. On the other hand, hundreds of searchers were beating the countryside looking for the tiny corpse, and, in any case, the body would have been uncovered when the snow melted in the spring.
Was the evidence, which must surely have come to light, to be excluded because the particular way in which it did come to light later proved to be legally unacceptable? In Nix v. Williams the Supreme Court held that such evidence need not be excluded. If discovery of the evidence was inevitable, that is, if it would have been found even without the objectionable police conduct, then such evidence is admissible. The Court refused to extend the exclusionary rule to those circumstances.
In New York v. Quarles, the Court faced a set of circumstances in which a police officer had to choose between the safety of the public and the nice legalities of criminal procedure. The suspect was carrying a loaded gun, and the policeman disarmed the suspect before advising him of his rights in accordance with Miranda v. Arizona (1966). At the trial, the gun (and certain remarks made by the suspect) were introduced as evidence.
The Supreme Court had to decide whether the exclusionary rule should have been invoked to keep that evidence out of court. In defining what the popular press called the "Public Safety Exception," the Court held that when a police officer has a reasonable belief that a suspect poses a danger to the public, he may take appropriate action to remove that danger prior to complying with the Miranda rules. In such cases, the exclusionary rule does not apply.
Probably the most controversial exclusionary rule decision of the 1983-1984 term was United States v. Leon. There the Supreme Court faced the question of the applicability of the exclusionary rule in circumstances where the police had an apparently valid search warrant that later proved to be defective in some respect. More than any other recent case, Leon went to the heart of the question of the character of the exclusionary rule.
The majority of the Justices recognized that the exclusionary rule is a judicial creation, and a less than adequate one at that. For the majority, the key to its applicability was its effectiveness in precluding unreasonable searches and seizures. Justice White, who wrote the majority opinion, referred to the "deterrent effect" of the rule, although the deterrence may in reality stem from no more than a practical aversion to wasting time and effort. Unlikely as it is that any Supreme Court Justice would flirt with the notion of natural right, the majority's position is consistent with the Framers' understanding that security of person and property was a substantive human right requiring special protection.
The dissenters (Brennan and Marshall) took a radically positivist position. The declaration of the Fourth Amendment that the people have a right to be secure in their persons and property has no meaning for the dissenters; the entire amendment is understood as procedural, not substantive. Moreover, they rejected any distinction between the amendment and its interpretation and application by the courts. Brennan and Marshall therefore claimed that the exclusionary rule was identical with the Fourth Amendment. Far from being intended to protect the security of person and property, the Fourth Amendment, as they understand it to have been interpreted by the courts, is merely one more procedural barrier to be passed in the prosecution of criminal defendants.
The contrasting premises about the amendment and the exclusionary rule are clearly revealed in the contrasting approaches to the facts of Leon. The evidence involved was seized pursuant to warrants issued by judges in appropriate proceedings. The warrants were signed by the magistrates and issued to police officers who subsequently served them. The search warrants were formally defective: one was issued to authorize a search for evidence of murder, but was issued on a form intended for drug searches, and so contained inappropriate wording; one referred to attached documents, and the documents, though extant, were not in fact attached. There seems to have been no question that the policemen lacked probable cause for their proposed searches and seizures or that the magistrates intended other than to issue valid warrants. The police officers had done all that was required of them: They had presented their probable cause to a neutral magistrate and had forborne to conduct searches and seizures until they had warrants in hand. The policemen, in good faith, acted upon warrants issued after proper procedures were followed; lacking the legal training the magistrates presumably possessed, they had no reason to doubt the validity of the warrants they served.
What, then, should have been the status of the evidence seized by the police officers under authority of those warrants? The majority approached the question from the standpoint of the deterrent effect of the rule: How would excluding the evidence promote the security of person and property? How would it deter law enforcement officials from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures? Obviously, extending the exclusionary rule to this class of evidence would have no value in the enforcement of the substantive guarantees of the Fourth Amendment.
The dissenters saw matters differently, of course. Assuming that the only meaning of the Fourth Amendment is procedural, affecting the admissibility of evidence in criminal trials, Brennan and Marshall thought the defects in the warrants to be decisive. Even to consider the substantive question was to weaken the procedural barrier, in their opinion.
The tendency of the Supreme Court in constitutional cases in the twentieth century has been to replace the protection of substantive rights founded on natural equality with procedural rights grounded in judicial (or legislative) fiat. The refusal of the majority of the current Supreme Court to accept the Brennan-Marshall approach to the Fourth Amendment and the exclusionary rule is therefore a cause for optimism.
Unfortunately, in areas other than search-and-seizure the Court gave little cause for optimism in its 1983-1984 decisions.
Early in the term, in Grove City College v. Bell, the Court limited the application of "Title IX," the statute prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, to programs actually receiving federal funds. That was the good news. Preliminary to that, however, the Court held that any federal assistance to individual students (veterans' benefits, social security, guaranteed student loans, etc.) subjected the institutions the students attended to the full range of federal regulations. The implications for the future are unnerving. Even the most minimal and indirect federal financial involvement with a private institution seems to form the basis for control of that institution by the federal bureaucracy. The constitutional authority for this is Congress's taxing and spending power-if Congress appropriates federal taxpayers' money, it is entitled to say how the money will be spent. Even as the commerce power furnished a pretext for federal regulatory legislation in the last generation, so the taxing and spending power seems to be the pretextual authority for Big Government in the 1980s.
Congress has not been reluctant to take the hint from the Supreme Court. During this same term Congress has extended federal regulatory power over the use of local public school classrooms and over state minimum drinking ages by tying such regulation to the appropriation of funds for education and for highway construction. Grove City, then, heralds a continued retreat by the Supreme Court from its role of keeping the federal government within the limits set by the Constitution.
A similar retreat from its duty to protect liberty and property against state intrusion was evident in Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff. The case involved the decision of Hawaii to engage in the kind of "land reform" American do-gooders used to impose on banana republics. The Constitution recognizes the right of government to condemn and take (after just compensation) private property that is required for public use. "Public use" was understood, until quite recently, to mean use by the public; that is, use as a road, a park, an arsenal, or a public building. "Public use" was very different from "public purpose," the standard required for the imposition of government regulation under the "police" power.
A statute in Hawaii authorized the condemnation by the state of large residential landholdings for immediate resale to the lessees then residing on the land. All of the costs of the condemnation proceedings were to be borne by the lessee-purchasers. At no time was the property put to public use-it passed from one private owner to another, politically more favored, private owner. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court upheld the Hawaii statute, and, adopting the aberrant interpretation of the Court's erstwhile eccentric, William O. Douglas, abolished the distinction between the police power and the awesome power of eminent domain.
As the 1984-1985 term of the Supreme Court opens with a trio of cases dealing with the separation of church and state, it is instructive to note how the Court dealt with the main church-state case of the last term. Lynch v. Donnelly raised the question of the constitutional propriety of the municipal nativity scene erected in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The nativity scene was purchased and maintained at public expense as part of the town's holiday decorations. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that there was no violation of the First Amendment. But the Justices did not hold that the ban on establishment of religion was applicable (as the Framers originally intended) only to the federal government. And they did not hold that symbolic speech about religion was entitled to the same protection as symbolic speech about war or the environment.
In Lynch, to the dismay of believers and non-believers alike, the Court held that figures representing the infant Jesus and the Holy Family were not primarily religious in their significance. Instead, they merely represented the historical and cultural millieu of American society and fostered the commercial well-being of the merchants of Pawtucket. The same Court that held during the previous term that prohibiting taverns in the vicinity of church and school buildings constituted an establishment of religion held during this term that erecting a religious shrine at public expense was a constitutionally acceptable acknowledgment of cultural heritage.
In reflecting upon the Supreme Court term recently concluded and in contemplating the term just beginning, we must wonder, with Abraham Lincoln, whether we have ceased to be our own rulers or whether, on the contrary, we have resigned our government into the hands of an eminent tribunal that, for all its eminence, seems so often to lack the common sense of the American people.
NIHILIST DESPERATION: Nietzsche-Heidegger
Nietzsche (Volume 4, Nihilism)
Translated from the German by Frank A. Capuzzi and edited with notes and an analysis by David Farrell Krell. San Fancisco, California: Harper & Row, 1982.
x + 301 pp., $17.50
By Harry Neumann
Translating Heidegger is a dubious venture, and it is best to read the German. The present volume attempts to overcome the difficulties of translation with only varying success. Even Professor Krell's glossary of key terms, while useful, is no substitute for the original text.
At the beginning of his analysis, Professor Krell cites Hölderlin's Hyperion (I:1) to indicate the problem of communicating Nietzsche's atheism or nihilism:
O you hapless creatures, who feel it but who are loath to speak of what defines man; you who are transfixed with the nothing that governs us; you who thoroughly comprehend that we are born for nothing, that we love a nothing, believe in the nothing, toil away for nothing, in order gradually to pass over into the nothing - what can I do to prevent you from collapsing when you contemplate it in earnest?. . . When I gaze into life what is the end of it all? Nothing! When my spirit ascends what is the highest height of all? Nothing! (pp. 253-54)
Nothing better illustrates the difficulty, indeed the impossibility, of community or communication, created by Nietzsche's realization that God is dead, that reality is nothing.
I have already elaborated on this impossibility elsewhere ("Nietzsche," Ultimate Reality and Meaning, December, 1982, pp. 280-95), but I will summarize that earlier analysis for the purposes of this review. Heidegger rightly interprets Nietzsche's atheism or nihilism: Nothing-and only nothing-exists to endow anything with a nonarbitrary being, a being not subject to radical change into anything else, or into nothing, at any moment: God is dead! This arbitrary, meaningless change can be spontaneous as in Kafka's Metamorphosis, or induced either technologically through the sciences, or creatively through the humanities. In any case, atheist life is much-or little-ado about nothing.
Sharing the desperation expressed in the Hölderlin quotation above, Nietzsche could not leave it at nothing. Like most men, he was unable or unwilling to accept reality for what it unfortunately is. His determination to give life a value was frustrated by its inherent nothingness. He was thus compelled to invent a notion of reality, an unconscious noble lie, capable of conquering that void: The superman's will to power is the will to overpower reality's nothingness. It wills the eternal return of its will to overcome reality, to conquer nature in the way of the modern science of Bacon and Descartes. Heidegger interprets this willing as the culmination, not only of modern science, but of Platonic metaphysics. The history of metaphysics or science since Plato is the history of the nihilist consequences of Being's abandonment of thought. Being itself compels thought to forget Being, and thus to think nihilistically. The culmination of this abandonment and forgetfulness is Nietzsche's affirmation of aimless will-of the will to will, which, in reality, is nothing desperately willing to be more-than-nothing.
The superman's willing eternal aimlessness ("homelessness as such," p. 287) is the real meaning of Plato's Good. Plato's Good, or rather, idea of the good, makes human life matter, preserving it from chaos or nonbeing. Nietzsche rightly viewed it as Plato's "god," his illusory refuge from reality's inherent emptiness. What was still naively accepted illusion in Plato becomes for Nietzsche conscious, fanatic will to overcome reality's nihilism, however impossible the enterprise. Nietzsche's and Hölderlin's desperation, their cry from the abyss, seems insane on the naive horizon of classical-medieval thought, which buttresses its commonsense faith by recourse to the Good or to God. This faith convinced its adherents that their selves and the world (that is, all the beings) had a rational, nonarbitrary being. Their faith was sparked by the same desperate divination of reality's nothingness that lies beneath Nietzsche's nihilist will to overcome nihilism.
The increasing awareness of man's desperate condition is the historical experience of Being's abandonment of man. Being has turned away from the thought of the great thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche. It is the history of the ever more desperate resolve to secure justice, man's moral-political life, in the face of what is experienced as reality's nothingness. With history's Nietzschean fulfillment, all ideas and ideals, the heart of moral-political life, are experienced as empty representations or concepts, cowardly efforts to hide life's emptiness from oneself. All willing, as Schopenhauer and his student, Wagner, had noted, is futile. Will shrinks "from not willing. . . . This horror (Schrecken) at the emptiness of not willing-this horror vacui-is the fundamental fact of the human will" (p. 31). The result, after the Nietzschean culmination has been frantic will to will or, in more trivial or academic terms, fanatic commitment to technology (sciences) and creativity (humanities).
The fear of reality's nothingness is responsible for this frantic contemporary plunge into technology and creativity. Heidegger believes that it prevents Nietzsche, the culmination of that desperation, from even raising the question of Being seriously. Heidegger sees his own job as the struggle to raise this question. He insists that nobody else has understood this struggle or has participated in it meaningfully since the clarion call of Being and Time (1927). He attributes this lack to the forgetting of Being induced by Being itself. This forgetting creates the necessity to experience Being as Nothing.
Unlike Plato's good or the Biblical God or Nietzsche's superman, Heidegger's Being is no attempt to secure human life and thought against nihilism. Being is no help or comfort in guiding ordinary, commonsense, moral-political life. Being's lack of "anthropological" or "psychological" concern is repellent to most men, especially those who have at least divined the grounds of Nietzsche's radically atheist will to will at any cost. Heidegger's Being, especially in its contemporary historical estrangement from thought, offers no more hope or consolation than the nihilist reality dreaded by Nietzsche and Hölderlin. Nietzsche's desperate hope for a superman springs from the drive to deny reality's nihilism, to conquer nature, whatever the consequences. Incidentally this desperation links Nietzsche and Heidegger far more closely to fanatic Nazis and Communists than Professors Krell or Kaufmann realize (pp. 264-76). I have explored this link in "Politics or Nothing! Nazism's Origin in Scientific Contempt for Politics" (to be published in The Journal of Value Inquiry).
In a fragment from the time of the Zarathustra, Nietzsche notes the consequences of rejecting his desperate salvation from reality's nothing: "My teaching is mild against those without faith in it; it has no hell or threats. Those without faith are left with an empty, flighty life in their own consciousness" (Kritische Gesamtausgabe, V.2, p. 401). In a nihilist reality, this flighty emptiness is all there is. Consequently Heidegger's Being, however repellent or unwelcome, is no less illusory than the fascination with technology or creativity inspired by Platonic-Nietzschean nihilism.
Heidegger's Being is an unwelcome disruption of ordinary decent moral-political life whose hallmark is unwillingness to face the Nothing which, for Heidegger, obfuscates Being. I do not know why Heidegger insists on a Being behind the Nothing. Like Nietzsche, if for different reasons, he is unwilling to acknowledge the nihilist truth promulgated by Schopenhauer and by Wagner who set Schopenhauer's radical atheism to music. The need for a Being, however ugly or repellent, blinds Heidegger, as it blinded Plato and Nietzsche, to reality's nothingness. To be sure, Heidegger's Gelassenheit is no easy "letting being be"; it is an act of will, the iron determination to overpower the all-too-human need responsible for Platonic-Nietzschean "anthropology." My quarrel with Heidegger is not with the desperation of his Gelassenheit. My sole difference is with his interpretation of the experience of the Nothing as an experience of the abandonment of thought by Being in the history of metaphysics. I see no grounds for positing any being at all!
In a nihilist universe, nothing-and only nothing!-gives anything a nonarbitrary being or identity. The insight into reality's nihilism was as obvious to intelligent cave men as it is to intelligent men today. This insight defines intelligence, if to be intelligent means to see reality for what it is. There is no history of being because there is no being! The historicism of Nietzsche's willed eternal return and of Heidegger's history of Being, no less than Plato's a-historical Good, rest upon inability to perceive that nothing exists but empty thoughts, perceptions, or experiences or, as Hume called them, impressions. This realization of reality's emptiness generally sparks the desperation shared by Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the radical modern politics of Nazism and Communism. It is no accident that Heidegger never officially resigned from the Nazi party and, in 1953, still spoke of "the inner truth and greatness of this movement (namely, the confrontation of global technology and modern man)" (Einführung in die Metaphysik, p. 152). Radical Nazis and Communists are driven by the horror of this confrontation with nihilism (cf. "Politics or Nothing!" cited above).
Karl Löwith (Gesammelte Abhandlungen, pp. 122-23) catches this horror in his discussion of Heidegger's Nazism:
The spirit of National Socialism was not so much concerned with the national and the social but much more with that radically private resoluteness which rejects any discussion or mutual understanding because it relies wholly and only on itself. . . . At bottom all its concepts and words are the expression of the bitter and hard resoluteness of a will asserting itself in the face of its own nothingness, a will proud of its loathing for happiness, reason and compassion.
The will to will is fanatic because it is impossible. This nothing desperately resolved to be more-than-nothing whatever the cost, and is also responsible for the trivial contemporary fascination with technology (sciences) and creativity (humanities). Nietzsche was nauseated by this global hegemony of nihilist triviality, the rule of his "Last Man." Nietzsche and his only student, Heidegger, were thus driven to their desperate, ultimately impossible, final solutions. However opposed these solutions
are, they share the desperation inspired by the confrontation of man's moral-political passions with nihilism, the realization that those passions are as meaningless as everything else in reality's void. In this crucial sense, Krell (pp. 293-94) rightly
notes the appropriateness of the design of the original German volumes which "printed merely the two names heidegger and nietzsche on the spine of the books . . . no one could tell which was the author and which the title."*
*The research for this review was assisted by a grant from the John Brown Cook Association for Freedom.
The Supply-Side Revolution
Paul Craig Roberts
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984
327 pp., $18.50
By Thomas B. Silver
On August 16, 1982, Business Week made an ass of itself. For a year the American economy had been in a recession of surprising depth and duration. At midyear 1982 there had been confident predictions by economists of recovery in the second half. They were wrong. By August, many people had begun to fear that the economy would never get out of the recession, and this fear was elevated to the status of a dismal scientific truth by the following syllogism:
1. High interest rates cause recession.
2. High budget deficits cause high interest rates.
3. Therefore, the recession will not end until high budget deficits are reduced. QED
Business Week devoted the cover and most of the issue of August 16 to the propagation of this scientific truth, and concluded portentously:
. . . . never in history[!] has it been more imperative that Congress not pursue business as usual. Failing to deal with the deficit will preordain that the U.S. will never get back on the road to prosperity.
On the very next day, August 17, there occurred one of the biggest bond market rallies on record, and three months later, even though the budget deficit had worsened dramatically, there began one of the strongest economic recoveries in American history!
Nowadays, Business Week is a much less reliable source of economic nonsense and nostrums because it has hired Professor Paul Craig Roberts to write a regular column called "Economic Watch." Roberts, who holds the William Simon Chair at Georgetown's Center for Strategic and International Studies, was among the original "supply-siders" who gathered around Congressman Jack Kemp in the mid-seventies and helped to draft the Kemp-Roth tax cut bill. The supply-siders have no more formidable advocate in their ranks.
But what is Roberts doing at Georgetown and Business Week instead of serving in the administration of America's "first supply-side president"? Well, it turns out that he was in that administration, as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, but to hear him tell it, supply-siders were about as welcome in the Reagan administration as witch doctors are at the Mayo Clinic. The President, who had campaigned in 1980 as a supply-sider, surrounded himself in office with economic physicians like James Baker/ David Stockman, and Martin Feldstein, who looked upon the prescription of tax cuts for a sick economy as "voodoo economics."
All of this is told about in Roberts's book, The Supply-Side Revolution, published this year by Harvard University Press. It is clear that the author regards the supply-side revolution as a revolution betrayed.
According to Roberts, supply-side economics originated not in the academy but on Capitol Hill. By 1980, it had become the dominant approach to the economic problems of the day among a nonpartisan coalition of congressmen. Only the opposition of President Carter prevented the supply-side agenda being voted into law in October of 1978. President Reagan, in this view, inherited a program which had already won the decisive legislative battles well before he came to office in 1981.
No sooner had the tax cuts passed in 1981, than certain White House officials, among them David Stockman, director of the OMB, and James Baker, chief of staff, began the effort to persuade Reagan to reverse them. On September 24, 1981, just a month after signing the tax cut bill, President Reagan went on national television to argue for a $22-billion tax increase. This was the first small step of a retreat that was to end in 1982 only when America's first supply-side president signed into law the greatest peacetime tax increase in American history.
It is a misnomer, then, to call supply-side economics "Reaganomics." On the contrary, as regards fiscal policy the Reagan administration is a nest of counterrevolutionaries, in the opinion of Paul Craig Roberts. The story of Roberts's book is the struggle between the supply-side revolutionaries, centered in the Treasury Department, and the fiscal reactionaries, centered in the White House.
It would be a mistake, however, to give the impression that this was a genuine debate over the economic merits of fiscal policy. The theme of Roberts's book is that narrow economic analysis was constantly dominated by political considerations, especially personal ambition. I will return to the main theme of the book shortly, but let me first discuss fiscal policy on narrow economic grounds.
Supply-side economics is not synonymous with tax cuts. It refers to a certain kind of tax cut, namely, a reduction in the marginal tax rate. The marginal tax rate for a taxpayer is the percentage of tax he would pay on any additional income. Supply-siders believe that the higher the marginal tax rate, the less incentive there is to work, save, invest, and take risks. They blame the economic difficulties of the past fifteen years primarily on excessive marginal rates of taxation.
Supply-side economics has had to make its way through a gridlock of economic thinking. Urging Democrats in one direction were the Keynesian economists, who believe that higher government spending and budget deficits provide stimulus for economic growth. Urging Republicans in a different direction were economists who believed in fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. The best part of Roberts's book is his destruction of both the Keynesians and the proponents of the view that a balanced budget should be the first priority of fiscal policy.
Keynesianism has dominated the study of economics for half a century, but it has become increasingly discredited in the past decade. In their desperate efforts to repel the supply-side advance, the Keynesians were driven to make some strange arguments against tax cuts, which exposed them to the charge of hypocrisy. And in fact the hypocrisy of the Keynesians has been extraordinary and inexplicable if Keynesianism is viewed narrowly, as an economic theory. The truth is, of course, that Keynesianism has a political mission, namely, the justification of massive government spending, to which the economic theory has proven to be subordinate. Be that as it may, the contradictions of Keynesianism are undeniable.
1. If anyone has forgotten the fervent assertions by Keynesians that large deficits would prevent healthy economic growth by raising interest rates, he has only to listen to any speech these days by Walter Mondale. In 1981, during the debate over Reaganomics, there were many predictions of raging inflation and high interest rates if the tax cuts should pass.
But in early 1977, at the beginning of the Carter-Mondale administration, the Keynesians had been singing a different tune. Notwithstanding a strong recovery, another Minnesota Keynesian named Walter (Heller) testified before Congress that a budget deficit of $70 billion (3.7% of GNP) was minor and did not raise "even a remote specter" of inflation. (In 1977, Walter Heller was not looking for inflation and high interest rates, but we got a murderous dose of both; in 1981, he was looking for inflation and higher interest rates, but we got neither. In truth, both interest rates and inflation have more to do with monetary than with fiscal policy. High money growth in the late seventies caused higher inflation and higher nominal interest rates; lower money growth in 1981-1982 caused lower inflation and interest rates.)
2. Against the supply-side contention that tax cuts would cause people to work more, the Keynesians made the argument that tax cuts, even though they made leisure more expensive in terms of foregone earnings, might actually cause people to work less. (The corollary, of course, is that you get people to work harder by taxing them more!) If tax cuts allow people to make the same income with less work, they might take their tax cuts in the form of greater leisure. But here we see the fallacy of composition. What is true of one worker cannot be true of all workers. If everyone worked less, then total income would fall, and therefore so would individual income.
Moreover, if it is true that tax cuts might result in more leisure rather than more work, then fifty years of Keynesian analysis is refuted. Keynesians had always argued that tax cuts would increase aggregate demand and stimulate the production of goods and services. But if tax cuts cause people to work less, then output falls, and the greater demand for reduced goods results simply in higher inflation.
3. Sometimes the Keynesians wanted to argue that the tax cuts would not cause a higher savings rate, as supply-siders claimed, and other times they wanted to argue that they would but that higher savings retard growth. In arguing thus, the Keynesians achieved the remarkable feat of making contradictory arguments, both of which were false! The truth is that the Kennedy tax cuts did cause a higher savings rate, which proved to be perfectly compatible with strong economic growth.
The Budget Balancers
Notwithstanding the hypocrisy of the Keynesians on deficit spending, there were many opponents of the tax cuts who had always opposed deficit spending. Such opponents tended to be Republicans, who had fought deficit spending for fifty years and more, whether under F.D.R. or Eisenhower, Nixon or Carter.
Within the administration of the first supply-side president, no one worked more assiduously than David Stockman to reverse the President's 1981 tax cut, in the name of a balanced budget. Whatever his motives, he was faithful to ancient Republican tradition. But Roberts shows that that tradition is an inadequate guide to policy.
It cannot be shown that government deficits cause significantly higher interest rates. Not only is there no statistical correlation between high deficits and high interest rates, deficits and interest rates move in opposite directions. Roberts clearly explains why this is so. At the peak of the economic cycle, deficits tend to be lowest, because most people are working, business is profitable, and therefore large revenues are flowing into the Treasury. At the same time, interest rates are high because consumption and investment are booming. Now watch what happens when the economy turns down. As businesses lose profits or go bankrupt, the Treasury's tax receipts decline. As unemployment mounts, income tax receipts fall but unemployment and welfare expenditures increase. The budget, in short, becomes badly unbalanced. Meanwhile, interest rates tend to fall, notwithstanding the deficit, because private demand for credit is diminished by the recession.
The latest business cycle provides once again empirical confirmation of this scenario. Between the tax reduction in the summer of 1981 and the tax increase of 1982 (which was said to be justified by the fear of budget deficits), the United States went through a severe recession. Both the actual federal deficit and the administration projections of future deficits worsened dramatically, and yet during the same period there were extraordinary declines in interest rates. From August to August, the federal funds rate fell from 19% to 11%; commercial paper from 17% to 11%; Treasury bills from 15% to 10%; the prime rate from 20% to 15%.
In his capacity as budget director, David Stockman attempted to blame one economic ill after another on the budget deficit, and for this he receives from Roberts a decisive and well-deserved rebuke:
[Stockman] began with the argument that deficits cause inflation. Then, when the inflation rate collapsed in spite of growing deficits, he argued that deficits cause high interest rates. When interest rates collapsed, he argued that deficits prevent economic recovery. Whatever was there . . . he hooked his argument to it.
Politics and Economics
The theme of The Supply-Side Revolution is that economic policy is not made in an antiseptic scientific laboratory. It is contaminated by political and personal considerations. In particular, the current debate within the Republican Party has less to do, according to Roberts, with the merits of economic policy, or even what the leading players believe are the merits, than with the 1988 campaign for the Republican nomination, which is shaping up in the minds of many observers as a Kemp-Bush battle.
This is not to suggest that Roberts ignores the influence of less grand motives in the policy process. He asserts, for example, that David Stockman placed a balanced budget at the top of the economic agenda only because Stockman, as director of OMB, could not otherwise hope to be one of the stars on the Reagan team. Low personal ambition, as well as high personal ambition, thereby distorted, and nearly destroyed, the original Reagan economic strategy. Roberts goes so far in portraying Washington as a hive of interest group infighting and unprincipled personal ambition (which it is of course), that he becomes almost Hobbesian in his view of politics: every man's hand seems to be raised against every other's. There is in the political process little evidence of public spiritedness or the common good. At the same time, the book ends on a jarringly optimistic note. Roberts seems sanguine about the possibility that supply-side economics will ultimately prevail.
But there is no contradiction here, since old Tom Hobbes was himself a great optimist. He knew that every man's hand was raised against every other's, but he knew also that there was an invisible hand at work, more powerful than all these taken together. Like Roberts, Hobbes knew that there is "an abundance of evidence of the positive effects of good incentives." In Hobbes we see the great principles of modern politics, greed and fear: the invisible hand of the market and the very visible hand of the sovereign.
Does Roberts really accept this formal solution to the problem of how good policy arises from well-nigh universal corruption? Probably not. Otherwise, like Hobbes, he would write with a merry twinkle in his eye. But Roberts seems genuinely appalled by the lack of integrity and public-spiritedness he witnessed in Washington. He seems to think it matters whether men are good or bad, and in the main he seems to think that they are bad. In this, however, he goes too far.
The real story of the supply-side revolution is not that it was betrayed but that it occurred at all. A handful of economists put forth a program which, despite the ignorance and self-interest that always accompany political debate, caught the imagination of the public and was, however imperfectly, enacted into law. Had President Reagan been more resolute, the supply-side revolution might well have been more far-reaching; at the very least it would never have been betrayed.
If it is wrong to expect too much out of politics, it is also wrong to expect too little. Men of character and intelligence may not abound, but they do exist, and they sometimes get their way. Or so we must believe, if political happiness is to be in any measure attainable. The only alternative is to believe that America is a whorehouse, which one day will be filled with happy hookers.
Rousseau's Social Contract: The Design of the Argument
University of Chicago Press, 1983
206 pp., $22.50
By Millard Stahle
Those on the conservative end of the political spectrum often depict Rousseau as a pre-Jacobin Jacobin, a radical egalitarian who would gladly see the streets run red with blood to establish a state where all distinctions among men are abolished. It is easy to succumb to this impression, particularly if one's knowledge of Rousseau is restricted to the few lines of his that are most often brought forward as evidence of his radicalism.
"Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains." Who has not heard this famous line from the Social Contract? And what could it mean, except that Rousseau must be calling for a revolution to break the shackles that bind men? Yet Rousseau was not an apostle of revolution, as was Marx. The Social Contract does not end with a call to arms, as does the Communist Manifesto. In fact, to see that Rousseau was not calling for a rebellion, one has only to read and reflect upon the words that follow his famous assertion that "Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains." "How did this change come about, I do not know; what can make it legitimate, I believe I can answer that question." Rousseau wants to make the chains that bind men legitimate ones; he does not propose to take them off or to "liberate" man. One can see already that, contrary to the popular caricature, Rousseau is no simple revolutionary.
What, then, are the chains that bind all men, and why does he want to make them legitimate rather than simply removing them? To answer these questions one must consult the Social Contract in its entirety. One must first grasp what Rousseau is trying to accomplish in this seminal work.
As it turns out, the chains that bind all men represent civil society itself. Man, according to Rousseau, originally lived as a solitary being. In this first or natural state, man provided for all of his needs through his own efforts. He was, therefore, independent or free; that is, independent or free of other men. Thus, as Rousseau put it, man was "born free." Yet, for some reason, man has changed. Now he lives only in civil societies. Now he can no longer get along without his fellow man. Because he now stands in need of other men, he is no longer free. He is "everywhere in chains"; i.e., everywhere man lives in civil society.
Still, not every civil society is just or legitimate. In fact, according to Rousseau, few, if any, are. Rousseau, however, proposes to reveal what conditions a society must fulfill in order to be just or legitimate. He calls these conditions "the principles of political right." In fact, the full title of Rousseau's work is On the Social Contract, or the Principles of Political Right. Only by fulfilling the conditions of political right can a civil society be truly just or legitimate. To this extent Rousseau can claim, in revealing the principles of political right, to have made "men's chains" legitimate, or at least to have shown how they could become legitimate.
This much having been explained, however, there still remains a great deal to unravel in the Social Contract. Among the many difficulties the reader encounters in deciphering this text, one in particular stands out. It is the tendency of the work toward abstraction. Rousseau, for instance, introduces the reader to the "general will," which is distinct from any particular will or the will of the majority or even the will of all. He then proceeds to assert that "the general will cannot err." But how can this be? What can he possibly mean? It is upon passages like these that one wishes for a reputable commentator to step in and shed a bit of light. Hilail Gildin's new book on Social Contract serves the purpose nicely.
The subtitle of Gildin's book, The Design of the Argument, refers to Gildin's thesis that there is a certain order or pattern in the presentation of ideas in the Social Contract: Rousseau intends the careful reader to grasp this order. By attention to this order, one sees what Rousseau is attempting to do in the Social Contract, an enterprise whose end, Gildin argues, is not at first apparent.
It would seem at first glance, for example, that Rousseau simply denies the political relevance of human inequality. While recognizing that differences do exist among men, Rousseau does not think that such differences are sufficiently great to justify the rule by the superior as such over the rest. For this argument to be valid, the rulers would have to be as superior to other men as men are to beasts or as gods are to men. But Rousseau denies that this is the case. He thus rejects all claims to political authority based upon one man's superiority to another.
Or so it seems at first. Later in the work, Rousseau turns to a discussion of the great men who are the founders of political societies. In this discussion he indicates that such founders so exceed their fellow men in wisdom that they are like gods compared to them. In contrast to his earlier text, Rousseau here recognizes that profoundly great differences do exist among men and that these differences do indeed have great political significance. Thus the thoughtful reader, who reflects back upon the earlier argument, begins to suspect that Rousseau's thoughts on inequality are not as simple as they would first appear. Only through such close scrutiny, Gildin claims, is Rousseau's intended teaching fully revealed.
For the Rousseau student who is struggling with the subtleties of the Social Contract, Gildin's book is invaluable. Gildin cautiously walks the reader through Rousseau's text, if not line by line, at least section by section. Along the way Gildin explores all the great themes of the book, such as the general will, the sovereignty of the people, the legislator, the various forms of government, civil religion, and so on. He attempts to show not only the essential unity of Rousseau's book but its profundity as well.
Gildin's commentary is clearly the fruit of prolonged meditation on Rousseau, and many of its arguments must be mulled over and weighed carefully before assent can be given. Nonetheless, even students who are just beginning the study of Rousseau can benefit from the book's clear exposition of certain fundamental points. Gildin, for instance, explains at some length what Rousseau means in declaring his intention to combine justice and utility in his political teaching. Again, he explains the closely related proposal "to take men as they are." These are both important propositions which Rousseau lays down at the beginning of his work. Without being alerted to their meaning and significance, one can easily miss the point. They are instrumental in explaining an insufficiently recognized fact about the teaching of the Social Contract, and one that may come as a shock to those who are familiar with only the prevailing caricature of Rousseau. To wit, Rousseau condemns democracy as an unworkable form of government!
Democracy is a government fit for angels, Rousseau proclaims, but not for men. In place of democracy, Rousseau actually proposes a certain form of aristocracy as the best form of government. Lest this be misunderstood, one must point out that the aristocracy Rousseau envisions is nonetheless based upon the sovereignty of the people. All legitimate governments, Rousseau contends, must be based upon the sovereignty of the people. Yet what manner of aristocracy can be based upon the sovereignty of the people?
The explanation of this paradox is that the government and the sovereign are, according to Rousseau, two distinctly different things. In fact the people, acting as sovereign, can choose any form of government they see fit, even a monarchy. But in this sense "the government" is only the executor of the people's will, not their master. And institutional constraints must be placed upon the government to ensure that it remains so. What these constraints might be, and how Rousseau intends them to operate are admirably explained in Gilden's book.
All of Rousseau's works reflect the richness of his reading and his own direct observations. The reader of his works is constantly charmed by them, but just as frequently puzzled. As a result, he is motivated to understand them better and, through them, the world they purport to explain. In this endeavor, Gildin's book makes a particularly useful contribution.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983
267 pp., $15.95 (cloth), $6.95 (paperback)
By Wayne C. Thompson
Western Europe has become "at best a finger-wagging, foot-dragging entity" in the contemporary world. It is unable or unwilling to create a common currency, a common foreign policy and, above all, a common defense policy, which would be indispensable if it were to play a leading role in international affairs today. Thus, it remains "pessimistic, prudent, practical, and parsimonious, like an old-fashioned banker. It has learned not to rush into anything, even if it is the obviously necessary or advantageous thing to do. It always prefers to wait and see. It enjoys delving into the complexity of things; the more complexities it can find, the better. Europe looks for nuances, the bad side of anything good, the good side of anything bad." The late Luigi Barzini, a noted Italian parliamentarian and journalist who wrote one of the most penetrating studies of his own people (The Italians), closely examines the national traits, the fears, and the aspirations of Europe's democracies in order to see why Western Europe remains so disunited.
Of course, it has achieved a certain core of unity which manifests itself in a variety of ways. Young Europeans learn their neighbors' languages, and more and more people are able to listen to each other's television broadcasts across borders. More Europeans now study, work, travel, and find companions and spouses in each other's countries than ever before. It has become almost impossible to distinguish European nationals by their dress, and each nation's cuisine has been heavily influenced by the others. Indeed, supermarkets and stores everywhere are increasingly stocked with more or less identical products. Thanks to such European economic unions as the European Community (EC) and the European Free Trade Association, industries merge and merchants swarm across borders as never before.
There are political changes as well. European diplomats rarely write stuffy, ambiguous notes to each other as they once did, and they chat with each other (sometimes using first names) by telephone as if they were in the same city. Most important of all, Western Europeans are determined that there will be no repeats of 1870, 1914, and 1939; war among the Western European nations has become utterly unthinkable.
Western Europeans have certainly made some strides toward unity since 1945, but Barzini notes with regret that they have reached a plateau and cannot seem to go farther. The centerpiece of European unity, the EC, is "bogged down in innumerable petty, inglorious disputes, some as small as grains of sand, a few more important." They cannot agree on the wording on a future European passport, the thickness of fishing nets and the zoning of seas in which to use them, the free exchange of such things as eggs, chicks, wines, and lambs; also, they haggle stubbornly over such questions as whether the Germans have the right to call a synthetic white dressing in jars "mayonnaise." More importantly, they cannot agree on the extent to which, and the speed with which, other European nations should be permitted to join the EC.
Why has the advance toward European unification ground to a halt? Barzini points to four fundamental reasons: First, each European nation preserves its "egoismes sacres," its sensitive national pride. Each clings to the memory of its own heritage and remains persuaded that it contributed to European and world civilization in a decisive way. In some countries, such as Germany, this national pride is not as strong as it used to be, but it is powerful enough to "stiffen the spines of ministers meeting in Brussels." Second, he argues that Europeans were mistaken in believing that the construction of a customs union (which, one must admit, is no minor achievement) would inevitably lead to broader unification. Early optimists committed the error of thinking that "economic man" was the whole man, but man certainly does not live from booming regional trade alone. Third, the perception of the threat from the Soviet Union has diminished over time, thereby weakening an important initial motive for European unity. Fourth, he argues (incorrectly) that the open question of ultimate German reunification has been an obstacle to greater European unity.
Barzini admits that the European nations are justifiably proud of their separate heritages, even though they pay a high price for such pride. In separate chapters he describes the strengths and weaknesses of selected European countries. His chapter headings accurately reveal his thrust: "The Imperturbable British . . . take their place in the world for granted" and harbor an innate aversion to "vast, noble, and vague political designs, especially when formulated by foreigners." "The Mutable Germans" are, according to Barzini, still "the heart of Europe" and have a "blotting-paper capacity at all times to absorb and improve alien conceptions," such as democracy and European unification. "The Quarrelsome French" are a scarcely governable people who alternate between the extremes of political paralysis and firm rule by one man from the top. In the words of the statesman and historian Francois Guizot, "France has undergone . . . the most astounding alternatives between anarchy and despotism, between illusion and disappointment; it never gave up for long either order or liberty." The novelist Flaubert had defined the French people as "the first people in the universe," and DeGaulle never tired of saying that "France is the light of the world." Such convictions create difficulties for foreigners who must deal with the French. The often-frustrated non-Frenchman is constantly forced to remind himself that he is not dealing with a country that really exists but with the powerful, dominant, and envied country that most Frenchmen dream still exists. "The Flexible Italians" are almost always baffled by their own behavior. Because of centuries of foreign domination, they developed an ineradicable suspicion and mistrust of all governments, laws, regulations, and official authorities. They survive only by selectively obeying their political leaders and by maintaining an important dichotomy between "public lies and private truths." Finally, "The Careful Dutch" (a chapter which deals with all three BENELUX countries) are the most ardent early apostles of European unification.
What European unity does exist is a result of three kinds of fear which continue to serve as a kind of paste to hold Western Europe together. The first and paramount is the fear of the Soviet Union. The second, which is seldom mentioned in public, is the fear that Europeans have of each other. The third fear is of the United States. Barzini prefers to speak of "anxiety," "apprehension," "doubts," or "uneasiness" rather than of "fear" of the United States. In any case, he is correct in noting that most Europeans do tend to shake their heads in unison when they observe "The Baffling Americans." For the American reader, this final chapter is by far the most important because Barzini presents a very accurate view of how many Europeans judge Americans, their policies, and their presidents. Unless Americans are familiar with Europeans' perceptions of the United States, they will not understand why their European allies act and react as they do.
Europeans' ideas of Americans, on which continued stable and close mutual relations and trust ultimately depend, include many clichés (which always lag far behind reality), distortions, myths, rhetorical exaggerations, and wishful thinking.
Some of the most powerful and indestructible stereotypes were born at the beginning of this century, with such remarks by Theodore Roosevelt as "I took Panama" and "Speak softly but carry a big stick." At that time, America was seen as a virile, proud, unafraid country led by a conservative, moneyed, Protestant oligarchy, who adored monopolies and "the almighty dollar."
This image was subsequently superimposed with other, often contradictory, images. During the First World War, America was viewed as a young, naive, generous, heroic country on its way to becoming a benevolent empire which seemed really to believe in "open covenants, openly arrived at." America's immense industrial capacity became especially apparent during the Second World War, followed by the Marshall Plan, the Atlantic Alliance, and the willingness to defend liberty throughout the world in the post-war years. Contemporary America presents to Europeans a specter of a country full of doubts and controversies, abounding in outlandish new ideas, experiments, cults and crackpots of all kinds, with a foreign policy periodically meandering incomprehensibly. But the image of contemporary America does not blot out all the previous images, which remain very much alive. The United States is seen to be a healthy and hardy country, even if it is a turbulent and contradictory one. Barzini admits that all nations are, in some ways, multiform and incomprehensible. However, he asserts that Europeans are particularly anxious about their inability to define and comprehend the United States today because Europe's destiny depends upon America.
Barzini notes correctly that a vast majority of Europeans (in both East and West) favor the values of the United States over those of the Soviet Union. He argues, however, that Europeans fear the possible rigidity of both the superpowers in dangerous times when procrastination, evasion, ambiguity, and flexibility could perhaps postpone or even prevent a showdown in a crisis. Europeans believe that such lack of elasticity stems mainly from the fact that both superpowers see themselves partly as abstract philosophical experiments. Both were born of glorious revolutions and are determined in very different ways to improve the lot of mankind on earth. Each regards itself as the ultimate model for all of mankind and views its historical mission as its principle raison d'etre. As Barzini points out throughout the book, the European nations themselves still have a strong sense of mission and destiny, but they refuse to see their own sense as creating the kinds of dangers posed by that of the superpowers.
Europeans view Americans as being an admirable but impatient and unpredictable people, and they strongly dislike the predicament in which they find themselves: being dependent upon the Americans. They can never be sure which part of Americans' contradictory character will manifest itself at any one time: "the knight-errant idealism" or the well-known American pragmatism; interventionism or isolationism? They never quite understand the elaborate decision-making process in Washington, and they are baffled by the time-consuming process for selecting a new president. Further, they suspect that the United States is not always aware of its own impact on Europe. A change of American tastes can have a boom-or-bust effect on entire industries. Purely domestic American considerations can cause the value of the dollar to oscillate, thereby creating serious trade problems for the Europeans, who have no influence, let alone control, over American financial policies. Finally, Barzini is absolutely correct when he argues that no matter what policy an American president pursues, it is almost impossible for him to win the whole-hearted approval of the Europeans. Whether he is well-versed in foreign policy or not, whether he conscientiously leads or forgets to lead the West, no matter how well or badly armed the American defense establishment is, and no matter what the American policy is at any moment, hard or soft, a large number of Europeans will not be satisfied.
Any attempt to describe the peoples of an entire region of the world and their attitudes toward the United States is a bold venture. Most who are tempted to try usually quickly back off and flee to the safety of narrower studies. Given the scope of this book, it is hardly surprising that it contains many generalizations, some over-simplifications,
and a few factual errors. Barzini dares to ask far more questions than he answers. But it does have considerable merit. It is highly enjoyable reading and is written in a rich and quotable language. He accurately captures many of the most significant characteristics of the most important Western European nations, and he is deadly accurate in his description of the ambiguous way in which Europeans view America. This is a book which certainly deserves to be read.
THE POVERTY OF "POVERTY"
The Idea of Poverty - England in the Industrial Age
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984
x + 596 pp., $25.00
By John A. Wettergreen
The idea of poverty, one might suppose, is not as important as poverty itself. Yet the principal achievement of Himmelfarb's book is its account of how the idea of poverty (i.e., the intellectuals' conception of poverty as something to be eliminated by social progress) became more important for politics than the poor. Today, Samuel Johnson's remark is a commonplace of leftish politics:
A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization. . . . The condition of the lower orders, the poor especially, [is] the true mark of national discrimination.
Because American society's excellence is to be best measured by its care for the poor, sick, stigmatized, despised, helpless, and elderly, a vast welfare-education complex has been built up; weighty tomes-Rawls's Theory of Justice lumbers into mind-have been written; multimillion-dollar political campaigns have been launched. All is for the sake, it is said, of "the least advantaged classes." In short, more work is done on behalf of the poor, to say nothing of what is done for its immediate relief, than the poor does for itself. This is some measure of the power of the idea of poverty.
Whether or not poverty has always been with us, the idea of poverty has not. It has an historical beginning, Professor Himmelfarb argues, in the doctrine of Adam Smith. Smith's proposition was commonsensical: In proportion as human labor is freed to produce wealth, freed from traditional or feudal social bonds upon crafts and trades and from monarchic regulations upon industry, so does the wealth of nations increase. Or, in other words, if humans spend more time producing wealth, more wealth is likely to be produced. Elaborate theoretical enterprises could be and were undertaken for and against Smith's proposition, but the practical question was whether the common good would be served by the production of more wealth. Would the estates of men be relieved enough to compensate for the disruption of society which would inevitably result from the breaking of established social bonds and the deregulation of industry? In answering this question, the condition of the lowest orders was crucial, for these, being composed of the most dependent subjects, might experience the most drastic alteration of their lives.
Professor Himmelfarb asserts, "Indeed, it may be argued that [Smith's Wealth of Nations] . . . was genuinely revolutionary in its view of poverty and its attitude toward the poor." And she shows that Smith believed his "system of natural liberty," which is today called the free enterprise system, would be a "moral economy," because it would achieve "an end, that end being the wealth and well-being, moral and material, of the 'people,' of whom the 'laboring poor' were the largest part" (p. 63). For Adam Smith, as much as Samuel Johnson or Jesse Jackson, the progress of society was to be measured by the improvement of the condition of the poor.
The bulk of The Idea of Poverty traces the many obstacles that English intellectuals and politicians encountered in attempting to apply Smith's measure of progress. For example, Malthus claimed that Nature sets a limit-the sterility of the soil relative to the fecundity of humans-to the increase of wealth. Others found that some among the poor actually were incorrigible, and even dangerous. This, too, can set a limit to the increase of wealth and the progress of society, as understood by Smith. Accordingly, there was quite a lot of slumming by nineteenth-century British intellectuals (Dickens is the most famous) who wished to uncover the causes and cures for poverty. Marx and Engels did the same slumming, only they did it in Universal History. Professor Himmelfarb explains these many intellectual and literary descents into the lower orders in a detail to which I could not do justice here.
She errs, if at all, only when she discusses Tocqueville, another of those who saw difficulties in Smith's idea of social progress. In his "Memoir on Pauperism," Tocqueville observes that wherever Smith's system of enterprise has advanced, so has indigency. Professor Himmelfarb believes that Tocqueville means "relative deprivation" increased, but it is clear, even from her own quotations, that Tocqueville does not mean that the poor feel poorer where there is free enterprise, nor that the poor are only worse off relative to those who are not poor. Tocqueville means that economic dependency increases; for him, individual economic independence is a more important measure of social well-being than wealth, however distributed. In short, Tocqueville holds to the old-fashioned, or strict definition of the poor: those who must work, because they work for another. Likewise, his solution to the poverty problem is old-fashioned: some land or, at worst, a trade, with which a man can set to work for himself. (Cf. Aristotle's critique of Phaleas, Politics 1267a ff.) As solicitous as Smith was for the material and moral well-being of the poor, and as great a friend of liberty as he was, he did not see, as Tocqueville did, the demoralizing effects of dependency.
Like Smith and his many epigones, and unlike Tocqueville, Professor Himmelfarb understands poverty to be fundamentally an economic condition, not a moral-political condition. Thus she can conclude her book with the claim that the problem of poverty "itself" is "always changing," ever relative to the always-progressing wealth of nations. However, if this were strictly true, then there could be no poverty of which British intellectuals could have had any idea. Professor Himmelfarb would have written a history of nothing. Instead, she has generously provided us with all the materials necessary for questioning the notion that civilization means getting rich.
ON UNDERSTANDING MOZART
Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni
Wye Jamison Allanbrook
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983
xii + 396 pp., $30.00
By Martin D. Yaffe
Have Mozart's comic operas a serious philosophic teaching? Does Mozart the composer somehow join the exclusive company of Shakespeare, as "the dramatists who are the most profound of human observers" (p. 328)? So suggests Wye Jamison Allanbrook in her penetrating and insightful analysis of two of Mozart's best-loved works, The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787).
Operatic plots, she implies, are far more than pleasant excuses to hear classical music. Nor is Mozart's music only incidental to the dramatic poetry of his librettist, in this case Lorenzo da Ponte. Properly speaking, the one conforms to the other. "In an opera," Mozart once stipulated, "the poetry must be altogether the attentive daughter of the music." Mrs. Allanbrook shares a secret of their intimate cooperation, insufficiently noted in others' accounts.
It is dance. Mozart as musician was heir to the courtly tradition of formal dance rhythms and gestures. Within the hierarchy of the ancien regime, the rhythmic gestures of social dancing were intended to express passions befitting the class and character of the dancers. Simpler, more strident rhythms (e.g., march, minuet, sarabande), which tend to regiment gestures, expressed more noble or exalted passions, while subtler, more elaborate rhythms (e.g., passepied, gigue, pastorale, siciliano), which promote freer gestures, expressed more common or earthy passions; other rhythms (e.g., bourrée, gavotte, musette) fell in between. Such rhythms, with their affective connotations, permeate Mozart's music. They are, in Mrs. Allanbrook's Aristotelian description, topoi (or "commonplaces") of Mozart's musical vocabulary.
Nor is this all, for with the democratizing of social life in Mozart's time, aristocrats mixed with bourgeois in the dance halls of Europe, blurring class distinctions. New dances held sway. Most popular were the contredanse (a distant cousin to American reels and square dances) and the waltz, both of which Mrs. Allanbrook calls "danceless" dances (pp. 55, 60 ff., 220 ff.), for they abandoned the meticulously learned gestures of the old aristocratic order in favor of looser, infinitely expandable floor patterns, appropriate to the more democratic setting. Devoid of intrinsic expressive content, the new dances became simply occasions for individual self-expression. Mozart himself viewed the revolution in dance "dispassionately"-not as a dancing master, whose ancient business was to shape the behavior and sentiments of the young, nor as a simple innovator intent on rearranging the passing order, but as "a maker of imitations" (pp. 66, 70). Able to separate the obsolescent rhythmic gestures from the classes to which they once pertained, Mozart inserted them carefully into his operatic score alongside the fetching newer rhythms, "to reveal to the audience the virtues and vices of the characters he has set in motion on the stage" (p. 70).
Mozart and da Ponte adapted their Marriage of Figaro to this end from the original French play by Beaumarchais. Beaumarchais' comedy concerns a Count who, disaffected with his young Countess, wishes to revive his dormant right of the first night, to have his way with the bride of his servant Figaro on the couple's wedding night. Happily, Figaro's ingenuity wins the day, with the help of his bride (who is also the Countess' servant) and the Countess herself. Beaumarchais the playwright fulminates against the social inequities which would legitimate the Count's domestic tyranny. Yet Mozart and da Ponte are not political revolutionaries. Unlike Beaumarchais, they eschew the class struggle, but prefer the personal struggles of the several characters whose lives and loves are circumscribed by class, yet for whom virtue and friendship remain both possible and real. As political issues recede, erotic ones mount. Correspondingly, the women assume dominant roles, and the opera emphasizes above all the friendship between the Countess and her servant Susanna, together with their feminine ways of acting and of looking at things. "By turning away from the social to the personal, and changing a political broadside into an analysis of sexual warfare, da Ponte and Mozart explode the particular issue of injustice to women into a more profound question, ethical in its deepest sense, and beyond the topical limits of the original play-how one should live one's life" (p. 170).
Mozart's music conveys the characters' ethical perplexities by means of a deliberate juxtaposition of rhythmic motifs. A few examples must suffice. Made aware by Susanna of his master's cuckolding intention, Figaro in a soliloquy (Se vuol ballare) offers to provide musical accompaniment for the Count's planned steps, so to speak, and to teach him a new step in turn, namely the capriola (or "goat-leap"), a sudden theatrical jump; Figaro's sarcastic invitation begins properly in a controlled minuet tempo, mimicking the Count's noble station, yet ends in a raucous contredanse where Figaro "stuns his hapless victim with a relentless litany of his own malignant tricks" (p. 81). Subsequently, the Count reacts to Susanna's verbal capitulation by slipping from the "uneasy rhythms" of his proposition into "his first mezzo carattere gesture of the opera-a charming A-major bourrée with a real tune [Crudel! Perchè finora]" (p. 139); but soon discovering that her acquiescence was feigned, he furiously plots vengeance against Figaro in a soliloquy (Vedrò, mentr' io sospiro) whose otherwise dignified movements "have the effect of cartoon," for here the Count "displays a capacity for excessive and erratic behavior which is not contained within the confines of the noble code of conduct" (p. 145). However, Figaro's crowning motif is seen to be pastoral. Pastoral rhythms underscore the gentle duet where the two heroines plot to entrap the Count by exchanging roles during the twilight wedding celebration in the garden; their duet (Che soave zeffiretto) "is the eye of the opera's storm, showing Susanna and the Countess calm and secure in their friendship" (p. 147). The women eventually succeed in the midsummer night's dreamlike finale, whose pastoral setting is a refuge from the world's masculine imbroglios, a setting accessible to those unencumbered by men's competitive schemes and narrower visions. Ultimately, Mozart's garden "is merely a state of mind, called into being by a tacit" understanding and defined by a nostalgic and otherworldly musical gesture. But its shelter is still substantial, precisely because it can coexist with the harsher realities of the daylight world" (p. 173).
In contrast, Don Giovanni, Mozart's comic treatment of the Don Juan legend, ends less happily, for the damage wrought by its protagonist is more far-reaching. Within the first act, Giovanni seduces an unmarried lady in her chambers, kills her father in a duel, humiliates a former seducee turned from her religious pursuits, and makes two separate passes at a peasant girl on her wedding day-all this following 1,003 previous conquests in Spain alone, according to the so-called catalog aria of Giovanni's personal valet-cum-statistician! The opera ends only with the statue of the late Commendatore of Seville, the lady's father, arriving at Giovanni's home as an invited guest and dragging the libertine down to hell. The supernatural enters in Don Giovanni to solve the transcendent ethical problem, "the confrontation of the established community of men with a man who cannot acknowledge its limits" (p. 277). In this confrontation, society in all its orders is "stretched to the breaking point" (p. 320), and the other characters are never fully requited but are left rather the worse for wear. "Just as the contredanse cuts across the established orders of dance gestures, so does the Don cut across the world of . . . the other characters," threatening to subvert it" (pp. 221-23). Giovanni is eros run wild.
The contredanse-infinitely pliable, amorphous, chameleon-like-is Giovanni's characteristic rhythm. Lacking a true identity of his own, he imitates the musical mannerisms of any character to whom he is drawn, mocking, manipulating, and finally debasing each one. Still, the opera is not social criticism-for example, of a moribund aristocracy succumbing to a rising bourgeoisie. As Mrs. Allanbrook argues, Giovanni's contredanse gestures label him essentially unaristocratic despite his title, and yet Mozart's vaudeville epilogue means to assure us of the survival, however diminished, of the old. Rather, Mozart "invites the listener to view the familiar buffa world at a new remove" (p. 198). "To absorb the paradox of Giovanni we must ascend to a point of view where explanation of it is not necessary, where it can simply be taken for granted that such men exist-for we know that they do-and try to understand what their existence means for other men" (p. 322).
Mrs. Allanbrook writes for performers and critics as well as scholars. In the end, she speaks of Mozart as Keats spoke of Shakespeare, appreciative of a certain "negative capability," an utter avoidance of frozen stance, polemic, or ax to grind (p. 328). The attentive listener-reader cannot but be grateful for the Mozartian insights found in her book.