Xenophon, or his Simonides, is more 'politic' than Machiavelli; he refuses to separate 'moderation' (prudence) from 'wisdom' (insight).
I did not consider the possibility that Machiavelli still exercised a kind of reserve which Hobbes disdained to exercise: that the difference in degree to which Machiavelli's and Hobbes' claims to originality are audible is due to a difference in degree not of clarity of thought but of outspokenness. The reason for this failure was that I was not sufficiently attentive to the question of whether wisdom can be divorced from moderation or to the sacrifices which we must make so that our minds may be free.
After having devoted the body of this study to Strauss's writings on his medieval models, it may seem somewhat arbitrary to conclude with an account of Maimonides and Machiavelli. The connection between Strauss's treatments of Fârâbî and Maimonides is, to say the least, manifest. The alphabetical excepted and we agree with the commonly held opinion that this may safely be attributed to accident1 Strauss's treatments of Machiavelli and Maimonides seem to share nothing in common. In fact, Strauss took considerable pains to keep those treatments separate: Maimonides is never mentioned once in Strauss's writings on Machiavelli, nor is Machiavelli mentioned in his writings on Maimonides. Maimonides is arguably the thinker Strauss most admired and with whom he most identified. There is practically complete agreement that Strauss is a decided opponent of Machiavelli. Strauss's Machiavelli would then seem to be a prime candidate to serve as a contrast to his Maimonides, not a complement.
Suggestive as these considerations are, they are not decisive. As an author concerned with the conditions of his time Strauss had good reasons not to draw attention to any substantive points of contact between Machiavelli and Maimonides. Machiavelli's immediate practical problem was a politics poisoned by religious authority. Yet "the necessity which spurred on Machiavelli and his great successors spent itself some time ago" (TM 298).2 What Strauss termed "The crisis of our time" is of an entirely different character. It consists of a lack of "authoritative guidance," not a surfeit thereof. Maimonides is a wholly respectable character from whom such guidance may be sought. Machiavelli is not. Practical purposes induced Strauss to keep separate his treatments of Maimonides and Machiavelli. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that Strauss mentions Maimonides and Machiavelli two of the three authors upon whom he wrote most extensively3 in the same context only twice.
Practical purposes correspond to Strauss's "primary intention." Yet Strauss's "chief intention" is not practical, it is theoretical.4 He is above all animated by his desire to discern and to teach the truth, both "the historical truth" and "the philosophic truth" (WIPP 232). Thus, if there were a connection between Maimonides and Machiavelli, Strauss would be bound by his chief intention to indicate it, however indirectly. And, as I will try to show below, that is precisely what he does.
Towards the end of the chapter I will try to show the manner in which Strauss suggests that Maimonides may have been Machiavelli's guide. At present, however, I will set forth the case for a more moderate claim: namely, that the parallels Strauss draws between Maimonides' and Machiavelli's respective arts of writing exceed by a considerable extent those he draws between any two other authors. These parallelisms make radically problematic Strauss's doctrine of the fundamental distinction between pre-modern and modern political philosophy. If a fundamental kinship exists between the greatest pre-modern thinker and the greatest modern thinker on an issue of such importance to Strauss as the literary question, then Strauss's simple and straightforward account of the sovereign distinction between "ancients and moderns" no longer appears quite so simple. For if the distinction in question is to possess the status it is ostensibly accorded by Strauss, it would seem to require that all "modern" thinkers be in agreement with one another on problems of decisive important and in disagreement with all pre-modern thinkers in regard to the same problems. Yet in light of the implicit links Strauss draws between Maimonides and Machiavelli and his entire failure to draw any such links between, say, Machiavelli and Heidegger who can claim that this is the case? At the very least, consideration of the former links would require serious reconsideration of that distinction's adequacy.
The significance of this kinship on the literary question should not be underestimated. As an introductory study to Strauss's introduction to the arts of reading and writing, I have largely tried to limit myself to how that art first comes to sight as well as what its guiding purpose is: education. Before one can seriously study Strauss's teaching, it is necessary that one understand the demands that such study imposes and entails demands of which scholars today, with very few exceptions, are entirely unaware. It is appropriate in this context to note that the problem of which "reading and writing" is as it were a sub-chapter, viz., "the literary question," is much broader than one might believe. Strauss explicitly speaks of "the literary question" only once in Persecution. Strauss introduces it at the conclusion of his central sub-chapter. In doing so, he seems to relegate that question to second-class status:
Necessity has led us to make such incoherent and fragmentary remarks about Maimonides' methods of presenting the truth that it will not be amiss if we conclude this chapter with a simile which may drive home its main content to those readers who are more interested in the literary than in the philosophic question. (PAW 78)5
This relegation is misleading. For if one looks at what I believe is the only other passage in Strauss's books in which the expression occurs, one reads: "The literary question properly understood is the question of the relation between society and philosophy" (CM 52). It is the question of political philosophy.6 One can go even further. Only one "problem" is mentioned twice in Thoughts on Machiavelli: "the problem of authority" (TM 30, 136). 7 The problem of authority constitutes the focus of Thought's first three chapters. The fourth chapter, in contrast, is divided into the treatment of the questions of religion and morality.8 These questions are, as it were, sub-divisions of that more general question. And that question is inseparable if not identical to the literary question, as Strauss indicates by noting that "'Author,' the grammatical root of 'authority," occurs in the sense of 'writer,' I believe, only in [Discourses] I 25 and in I 58" (325n165). Moreover, if one applies to "Author" Strauss's suggestion that "in reading Machiavelli's statements about the prince or a prince, one must always consider what they would mean if they were applied to God" (TM 332n54), one is led to the conclusion that the literary question is, properly understood, the theological-political problem, i.e., that problem which Strauss identified as "the theme of my investigations" (JPCM 453).
To return to the subject at hand, I do not mean to minimize the numerous explicit and implicit parallels Strauss draws between other authors.9 As the proceeding chapters have shown, Strauss did not hesitate to emphasize the essential kinship of the teachings and literary arts of the unbelieving Muslim Fârâbî and the loyal Jewish "adherent of the law" Maimonides. As previously noted, only one title of Strauss's explicitly attributes a shared teaching to two thinkers: "Some Remarks on the Political Science of Maimonides and Fârâbî" (1936). To no literary device does Strauss recur throughout his writings more often than that of "repetition," and regarding no two thinkers does he speak of, nor himself employ, this device so extensively, as in his writings on Maimonides and Fârâbî (see, e.g., FP 382-84, PAW 16-17, 62-64, FPL 148-49, 153). A repetition is a modification by subtle alteration. By the addition or omission of a seemingly negligible expression, an author can introduce "new points of view which had not even been hinted at in the first statements" (PAW 63). In fact, the very first "repetition" of Persecution via the omission of a "the" undermines the work's explicit contention that Maimonides and Halevi were opponents of the falasifa, foremost among whom was Fârâbî: In the first paragraph of the "Preface," Strauss speaks of his "studying the Jewish and the Islamic philosophy of the Middle Ages" (5); in the repetition in the "Introduction" (8), Strauss omits the second "the," thereby suggesting that in the decisive respect the Jewish and Islamic thinkers shared a single intention.
That being said, even the parallels Strauss sets forth between Fârâbî's and Maimonides' literary arts pale in comparison to those he draws between Maimonides and Machiavelli. Perhaps the best way to substantiate this claim is simply to discuss the number of shared features Strauss explicitly discusses in regard to the second pair. I will treat five pedagogical devices Strauss discusses exclusively in his writings on Maimonides and Machiavelli and that serve to establish them as the two great philosophic teachers.
I. Thematic Treatment of Epistles Dedicatory and Addressees
In Thoughts on Machiavelli, Strauss remarks: "Epistles Dedicatory were a matter of common practice, but if not everyone, certainly an uncommon man is free to invest a common practice with an uncommon significance" (20). Strauss discusses the uncommon use of this common practice in regard to two and only to two authors: Maimonides and Machiavelli. And he does so at considerable length: the seven paragraph section at the outset of Thoughts on Machiavelli (17-24) devoted to the analysis of the Epistles Dedicatory of Machiavelli's two great works, for example, far exceeds the amount of space he devotes to any chapter of either the Prince or the Discourses.10 Moreover, and more importantly, Strauss's discussion of the dedicatory letters has an import proportionate to its length: a) both letters claim that their respective works contain everything Machiavelli knows a claim found in no other work of Machiavelli's and one that is instrumental to the plan of Thoughts, which is dedicated almost exclusively to the explication of those two works; b) more important for the study of the works is Machiavelli's choice of addressees: by informing us "of the qualities of those men 'to whom above all others [the books] are addressed'" (TM 20), the letters provide the necessary clue to understanding the teacher Machiavelli: how he proceeds to educate the young men of promise he is most interested in reaching.
How important the latter purpose is to Strauss is suggested by Thoughts on Machiavelli's chapter headings:11 Chapter I is entitled "The Twofold Character of Machiavelli's Teaching" and the concluding Chapter IV the book's most extensive is entitled simply "Machiavelli's Teaching."12 It is further suggested by Strauss's statement at the outset of "Liberal Education and Responsibility" that "I own that education is in a sense the subject matter of my teaching and my research" (LAM 9). Only Strauss's writings devoted to Maimonides surpass in thematic emphasis those on Machiavelli in their portrayal of author as educator. This is, as we saw in the preceding chapter, especially true of "How To Begin To Study The Guide of the Perplexed." And once again, it is the Epistle Dedicatory that Strauss identifies as the primary guide to the Guide. More precisely, Strauss presents that letter's exposition of the qualities of its addressee Maimonides' gifted student Joseph as the "key" that, properly understood and employed, teaches one how to begin to study the Guide. Near the outset of "How To Begin" Strauss uncharacteristically steps forth and pairs himself and his words to Maimonides and his words to draw a particularly vivid and memorable picture of the Guide: "It is a key permitting one to enter places the gates to which were locked..." The Guide as a whole is not merely a key to a forest but is itself a forest, an enchanted forest, and hence also an enchanting forest: it is a delight to the eyes. For the tree of life is a delight to the eyes. (LAM 142)13
Shortly thereafter Strauss states that "Maimonides' choice of his typical addressee [i.e., Joseph] is the key to the whole plan of the Guide, to the apparent lack of order or to the obscurity of the plan" (LAM 148). The Guide's Epistle Dedicatory is the key to that key which is The Guide. To sum up, the Epistles Dedicatory of the Guide and the Discourses perform the same function and reveal the same intention.
II. Centrality of the Literary Plan
Strauss provides thematic and detailed accounts of the literary plans of only two works: the Guide and the Discourses. To those who would object by citing Strauss's "Note on the Plan of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil" one of the two writings of Strauss's the title of which speaks of a "plan"14 I would reply that Strauss presents the "plan" of Beyond Good and Evil by way of contrast with Maimonides and Machiavelli. To say the least, there is no praise of Nietzsche even faintly reminiscent to the truly supreme compliment that Strauss accords Machiavelli's literary art: "Time and again we have become bewildered by the fact that the man who is more responsible than any other man for the break with the Great Tradition should in the very act of breaking prove the heir, the by no means unworthy heir, to that supreme art of writing which that tradition manifested at its peaks."15 The peak of those peaks is Maimonides.16
More important is the fact that Strauss discerns between the Guide and the Discourses astonishingly similar plans similarities that in the absence of a shared literary convention almost defy the possibility of coincidence: in addition to the critical import of the epistle dedicatories and addressees to the understanding of the work, the works share a number of key features, both in structure and in the specific demands they place upon the reader. Most obviously they share a structure that, as far as I have been able to find,17 no other work up to that time had: an epistle dedicatory with three parts divided into chapters each of which is supplied with an introduction. Both works comes to sight as a commentary on an "authoritative text"18; both must be broken into sub-sections, the divisions of which are often very difficult to discern; both works demand the construction of what Strauss terms a "typical chapter" (TM 90, LAM 154); they share a remarkable number of literary devices e.g., repetitions, intentional contradictions and misquotations, manifest blunders, meaningful silences, "digressions," extensive use of numerology, etc. A few of these will be discussed in greater detail in the sections to follow. Somewhat imprecisely Strauss writes, "The form of the Discourses, a mixture of a political treatise and something like sermons on Livian texts, was certainly not conventional although it gave rise to a convention" (TM 24). Strauss does not say that Machiavelli invented that form.
In addition to the shared features, Strauss's manner of reading each of the two works complement and even correct one another. As regards the plans proper this complementarity is most obvious in regard to his manner of dividing the two works' parts into sections or sub-sections. Strauss offers divisions of both the Guide and the Discourses. He does this more prominently with the Guide, more extensively with the Discourses. At the outset of "How To Begin" Strauss proceeds to offer a detailed outline of the Guide's three parts, a "scheme" in which "wherever feasible, each section is divided into seven subsections" (142). Strauss's explicit account of the plan of the Discourses is provided near the beginning of Chapter III, "Machiavelli's Intention: The Discourses," in a section consisting of five long paragraphs and 33 footnotes (97-107).
In the case of the Guide it is not difficult to see that Strauss's "scheme" is provisional and inadequate; though much less obviously, Strauss's account of the plan of the Discourses also proves unsatisfactory as certain features of his manner of treating the "plan" of the Guide allow one to see. Strauss indicates the inadequacy of his "simple statement of the plan of the Guide" in a variety of ways (LAM 142). Perhaps the most telling way he does so is by the very essay "On the Plan of the Guide of the Perplexed." That essay consists solely of the first seventeen paragraphs of "How To Begin."19 Strauss thereby suggests that the real account of his "simple presentation" of "the plan as it [had become clear to him] over the course" of his approximately 25 years of study is not the "scheme" he begins with but the plan as it is informed above all by consideration of the Epistle Dedicatory. Neither that letter nor for that matter the introductions to the Guide's three parts appear in Strauss's outline.
Perhaps the most immediately problematic aspect of Strauss's initial division of the Guide is his professed desire to divide "wherever feasible" each of the seven sections of his scheme "into seven subsections" (LAM 142). Yet nowhere in the essay does he even attempt to provide a justification for this procedure, for why the number seven deserves such a status. There is only one writing of Strauss's that contains a discussion of the significance of the number seven: "Maimonides' Statement on Political Science." Within that essay Strauss offers a provisional explanation of the significance of "7," which as the most extensive "technical" explanation of its sort that occurs in his writings merits being quoted at length. Prompted by Maimonides unusual manner of arriving in his Treatise on the Art of Logic at the "common result" that "philosophy or science consists of 7 parts," Strauss writes:
We must consider the significance of the number 7 in Maimonides' own thought. Considerations of this kind are necessarily somewhat playful. But they are not so playful as to be incompatible with the seriousness of scholarship. [Maimonides' Treatise on the Art of] Logic itself consists of 14 (= 7 X 2) chapters; the number of terms explained in the work is 175 (= 7 X 25); in Chapter 7, Maimonides discusses the 14 moods of valid syllogism. His Mishneh Torah consists of 14 books. In the Guide, he divides the Biblical commandments into groups in a manner which differs considerably from the division underlying the Mishneh Torah, yet the number of groups of commandments is again 14. In Guide III 51 (123b-124a) which happens to be the 175th chapter of that work, he assigns, in the first interpretation of a simile, the same place to law which he assigns, in the second interpretation, to logic: there seems to be a certain correspondence between law and logic. Could there be a connection between the number 14 on the one hand, and logic and law on the other? In the 14th chapter of the Guide, he explains the meaning of "man." We suggest this explanation: Man, being the animal which possesses speech, is at the same time the rational animal which is perfected by the art of reasoning, and the political animal which is perfected by law. Man is a compound of form and matter; he has a dual nature. The number 7 itself, as distinguished from its double, would then seem to refer to beings of a simple nature, to pure intelligences, i.e., to God and the angels which are the subject of philosophic theology or of "the account of the chariot." The Guide, the highest and central theme of which is precisely "the account of the chariot" consists of 7 sections. [Strauss here presents the 7 section division of the Guide that he repeats at the outset of "How To Begin"] ... The central section of Maimonides' Heptameres, the thematic discussion of "the account of the chariot," the secret of secrets, consists of 7 chapters. It would be premature to attempt a discussion of the question why the number 7 is preeminent. We must limit ourselves to noting that the section devoted to "the account of the chariot" is surrounded by two sections of 17 chapters each, and to referring the reader to the 17th chapter of the Guide. (WIPP 165-166)
Strauss's explanation is not entirely unproblematic. To begin with, even if one were to accept his assumption that 7 must refer to one of the two constituent elements of man's nature, there is no immediately compelling reason why it should be taken to refer to the aspect of man's nature corresponding to "form" rather than "matter." Moreover, Strauss's selection of that very dualism seems somewhat arbitrary in light of the dualism from which he, as it were, derives it that of law and logic. Given the relation he suggests between 14, law and logic, would it not be more natural to assume that 7 corresponded to one of that pair?
In the five paragraph section immediately preceding this discussion20 Strauss thematically discusses the subject nomos a term which occurs 17 times in that section. Since we know from Strauss's other Maimonidean writings that "17 stands for nature" (HTB 158), it would seem that Strauss in this section conflates nomos and nature. He employs artifice to provide a "simple" account of 7 as the symbol for nature. It is in this manner that Strauss indicates that 7 is the symbol for nomos. When one considers "Maimonides' Heptameres" in this light one sees that Strauss misleads by his "simple" divisions because he is artificially concerned with dividing his sections into seven subsections instead of articulating as it were their natural division.
Yet that is by no means the only way Strauss indicates the inadequacy of his "scheme"; indeed by consistently referring to the outline as a "scheme" he indicates that the plan he "simply presents" is anything but a simple presentation. To begin with, there is something immediately suspect about a division that overlaps over parts ("Demonstration of the existence, unity and incorporeality of God I 71 - II 31").21 In determining the scheme of the Guide Strauss relies primarily on division by "theme," thereby largely slighting the three things he primarily relies upon in determining the plan of the Discourses, namely explicit links connecting a series of chapters, consideration of the subject matter and the author's hints. Conversely, in his most prominent thematic statement on the proper manner of determining the plan of the Discourses, Strauss fails to mention considerations of theme. In regard to neither work's plan does Strauss explicitly address considerations of "function."22
As noted it is more difficult to show the inadequacies of Strauss's scheme of division of the Discourses; yet I believe the following brief observations when supplemented by the section that follows are sufficient to show why that scheme is problematic. In Thoughts on Machiavelli, Strauss "relegates to a note" his discussion of the role that "hints" play in allowing one to discover the plan of the Discourses. This is the longest of the 556 footnotes in Thoughts, and it is the only place in his works where he specifically calls attention to a note within a text itself.23 In the note Strauss remarks that "the decision regarding assumptions suggested by hints, depends in the last resort on the consideration of the subject-matter alone" (TM 313n24). Yet upon inspection it seems that the last analysis is not the central or fundamental one. To begin with, not all sections are properly divided on the basis of subject matter. Of the concluding section of the Discourses (III 35-49), Strauss writes: "In a word, we believe that the last section of the Discourses deals obliquely with Machiavelli's enterprise: he selects from Livy VII-IX such stories as properly understood throw light on his strategy and tactics. He conceals the most exalted theme by scattering its parts" (TM 105-106). Since the theme "Machiavelli's enterprise" is not, strictly speaking, a subject of the Discourses, Strauss could not have discerned the outlines of that section by considering "subject matter alone."24 Strauss indicates in passing the limitations of consideration of subject matter in this regard by speaking of "the third major subject of Discourses III 35-49" (328n192).
Shortly after discussing the plan of Book I Strauss remarks that "A central chapter of the First Book is explicitly devoted to the violent struggle in Rome over the agrarian law" (103). That chapter is Discourses I 37. Yet according to Strauss's explicit division the section in which that chapter occurs the 9th of the First Book's 11 is I 33-45, the center of which is I 39.
Moreover, Strauss's explicit division does not seem to account for some of the Discourses' perplexities; according to his explicit contention the penultimate section of Book One is the section devoted to the multitude, viz., I 46-59; yet those chapters contain a chapter25 that would seem to be, at best, indirectly related to that subject. Further complicating that division is the apparent contradiction between his claim that "it makes sense to describe [I 52] as the most important chapter of the Discourses" (TM 344n198) and his identification of I 58 as "the most important chapter of the section on the multitude in the First Book" (TM 105).26
To give one last example: In his explicit division of Book II of the Discourses, Strauss divides its 33 chapters as follows: 1) 1-5; 2) 6-10; 3) 11-15; 4) 16-18; 5) 19-22; 6) 23-25; 7) 26-32; 8) 33 (314n36). However, in his thematic treatment of "deliberate self-contradiction," Strauss speaks of a section "that may be said to be opened by the remark, discussed above, as to the meaning of Livy's silence" (TM 41), and we learned from that above discussion that the remark in question27 occurred in Discourses II 10 (TM 30). Moreover, the context of Strauss's discussion of the section which "may be said to be opened" by II 10, indicates that that section consists of II 10-18 (TM 41-42).28 It is in the passage under consideration that Strauss makes the first of his two uses in Thoughts of the term "the problem of authority," instructing the reader that he "must bear in mind the presence" of this problem when studying this section.29
Most importantly, in his writings on neither Machiavelli nor Maimonides does Strauss explicitly consider in his discussions of the plans of the Discourses or the Guide the introductory function performed by the second chapter of each work's second part. I will discuss this important silence in the following section.
III. Genuine Freedom of Thought or the Problem of Authority
By committing a manifest blunder when speaking of such manifest blunders as conceal fraud, [Machiavelli] gives us to understand that there is deception beneath his own manifest blunders, or that his manifest blunders are intentional: they indicate his intention.
We arrive at this solution by taking most seriously what Machiavelli says at the very beginning of the Discourses: that he has discovered new modes and orders, that such discovery is dangerous if it is communicated, and that he will nevertheless communicate his discovery. This most obvious and explicit, if initial and provisional statement concerning his intention guides us towards the adequate understanding of his intention, provided "we put 2 and 2 together" or do some thinking on our own.
"The Twofold Character of Machiavelli's Teaching," Thoughts on Machiavelli 35-36
What is the precise danger posed by the communication of the true political teaching? To whom or to what does it pose a threat? Of course, the most obvious candidate is the author himself, yet it would be rash to think that he is the only one at risk. Simple consideration of the question why such communication places him in danger suffices to show this: Such communication threatens the old modes and orders at the very least, all previous modes and orders. Machiavelli's teaching is a danger to everything established: every political order and, more importantly, the opinions that inform such orders, are placed at risk. By radically calling into question the validity of their claim to rule, Machiavelli's enterprise places him at odds with all who rule. As a "revolutionary... in the precise sense" (TM 62), Machiavelli necessarily threatens to undermine authority, all authority. He is an enemy of authority.
As an enemy of authority i.e., all authoritative opinion Machiavelli would seem to be an enemy of all, at least for the time being. Strauss asks rhetorically: "And can we doubt that he is an enemy?" (TM 35). If one were to answer that question "no," it would be necessary to note that he is not an enemy simply. Men of Machiavelli's type are not best characterized by their enmity. Machiavelli is driven to communicate the true teaching "by that natural desire which has always been in me to work, without any respect, for those things I believe will bring common benefit to everyone" (DL I pr.). Machiavelli's enmity is the product of his benevolence. His motivations are friendly. Moreover, he is not content to be one alone. He seeks friends, at least of a sort. He "is anxious to establish [a] kind of intimacy if only with a certain kind of reader whom he calls 'the young'" (TM 50). Strauss's subsequent reformulation of this Machiavellian desire indicates one of the reasons for Machiavelli's anxiety: "One is tempted to describe Machiavelli's relation to the young as a potential conspiracy" (TM 168).30 Since a conspiracy is an undertaking that entails a certain risk, Machiavelli poses a danger not only to his enemies but to those whom he seeks as friends. What of his current friends, or that which is most dear to him? Machiavelli is not only "the enemy of the old modes and orders," he is "the friend or father of new modes and orders" (TM 35). Is there some way in which that communication which is necessary for the propagation of the new modes and orders endangers those very things?
Strauss's first discussion of the dangers attending the communication of "new modes and orders" in the work follows immediately upon Thoughts on Machiavelli's only explicit discussion of the problem of "freedom of thought." Indeed, the paragraph in which that discussion takes place is the third of only three in Strauss's books to employ that most important term. The other two occur in Persecution and the Art of Writing. There Strauss discusses in the title essay "what is called freedom of thought" or the "only freedom of thought which is of political importance" i.e., vulgar freedom of thought (PAW 23). The phrase makes its central appearance in "Literary Character":
Freedom of thought being menaced in our time more than for several centuries, we have not only the right but even the duty to explain the teaching of Maimonides, in order to contribute to a better understanding of what freedom of thought means, i.e., what attitude it presupposes and what sacrifices it requires. (PAW 56)
To begin with, one might think that the menace that Strauss has chiefly in mind was political tyranny, especially the monstrous tyrannies of Nazi Germany and Stalin. Yet a moment's reflection is enough to show that this is not the case: Great good though it is, the explanation of Maimonides' teaching was likely to be of only limited usefulness in the struggle for political freedom. The danger to freedom of thought that Strauss sought to oppose was not, in the narrow sense, "of political importance."
Two questions naturally come to mind: 1) What constituted the grave menace to freedom of thought in our time? 2) How would the explanation of Maimonides' teaching help serve to overcome it? To answer the first, recourse to On Tyranny is useful. On Tyranny is an introduction of sorts to Persecution and the Art of Writing. The very titles suggest a connection: tyranny is the chief cause of persecution.31 On Tyranny's original subtitle is An Interpretation of Xenophon's Hiero.32 As an interpretation six times the length of the work to which it is devoted, it is far and away Strauss's most detailed interpretation of a single text33 that text being "the only writing of the classical period which is explicitly devoted to the discussion of tyranny and its implications, and to nothing else" (22). No modern reader of any sensitivity can come away from On Tyranny without feeling both awe at the power of Strauss's exegesis his ability in a non-arbitrary manner to get so much out of what seems so little and a sense of humility at one's own blindness. On Tyranny is thus a twofold lesson in the art of reading: at the same time it teaches the reader how to study a classic text, it induces in him a sense of the need to do so. In the title essay of Persecution, Strauss notes: "One may say without fear of being presently convicted of grave exaggeration that almost the only preparatory work to guide the explorer in this field [of writing between the lines] is buried in the writings of the rhetoricians of antiquity" (24), the only one of whom Strauss identifies in the context as such is "the 'rhetor' Xenophon" (28n11). As a first step in unburying that which can be found in those writings, On Tyranny and "The Spirit of Sparta or the Taste of Xenophon" may be said to be the only preparatory works of our time useful for guiding the explorer of the subjects of Persecution.34
It thus comes as no surprise that On Tyranny's "Introduction" helps to shed light on these questions. Strauss there speaks of two distinct dangers to which we today are subject:
Confronted by the appalling alternative that man, or human thought, must be collectivized either by one stroke and without mercy or else by slow and gentle processes, we are forced to wonder how we could escape from this dilemma. We reconsider therefore the elementary and unobtrusive conditions of human freedom. (27) 35
Strauss's analysis in On Tyranny concludes that the tyrant is above all distinguished by his desire to be loved, an insight that would seem to be of limited use in the fight against Stalinism. That work, as well as Strauss's writings on Machiavelli, Maimonides, and Fârâbî, is primarily and chiefly designed to counter the second of those dangers, the gradual collectivization of "human thought." Strauss concludes his discussion of "radical historicism" in the first chapter of Natural Right and History by noting that the "experience of history" does not make doubtful the view that the fundamental problems, such as the problems of justice, persist or retain their identity in all historical change, however much they may be obscured by the temporary denial of their relevance and however variable or provisional all human solutions to these problems may be. In grasping these problems as problems, the human mind liberates itself from its historical limitations. (32).36
According to Strauss, the most powerful force of our time denying the possibility of such genuine human freedom is Heidegger's "radical historicism" which leads to an enslavement to fate and a consequent "oblivion of eternity, or, in other words, estrangement from man's deepest desire and therewith from the primary issues" (WIPP 55).
Since historicism and, in particular, radical historicism were the most immediate dangers threatening freedom of thought "in our time," Strauss's explanation of Maimonides' "teaching" in "Literary Character" must serve the purpose of counteracting those doctrines. Strauss's discussion of freedom of thought in "Literary Character" occurs in the essay's fourth section, "A Moral Dilemma" (55-60). Throughout that section Strauss speaks of the difficulties attending the understanding and communication of Maimonides' "secret teaching" or "esoteric teaching."37 Only in the sentence, quoted above, that opens "Freedom of thought" does Strauss speak of "the teaching of Maimonides" simply. That is to say, it is not the esoteric teaching of Maimonides that we today need but the teaching of Maimonides. Strauss indicates that Maimonides indicates that the authentic teaching of the mystical "Account of the Chariot" ostensibly the highest part of the secret teaching of the Bible is of little or no cognitive value. What is important from the point of view of our time is not then the authentic meaning of that secret teaching, but the manner in which Maimonides shows the reader under the sway of its authority to discover its radical inadequacy for himself. Rather than "shows," it would be more precise to say the manner in which Maimonides' induces his reader to think through the inadequacy of that teaching on his own. That is to say, the danger to freedom of thought is a danger of transmission; if the true teaching is not taught in the proper manner it will become distorted or even perverted. Strauss was in full harmony with the summation he presented of Fârâbî's endorsement of Plato's literary practice: "Plato acted rightly in not permitting himself the seeming generosity of revealing the sciences to all men but rather presenting the sciences by means of allusive, ambiguous, misleading and obscure speech lest they lose their character or be misused" (WIPP 136).38
As I noted in the preceding chapter, Strauss "repeats" his account of the ascent from authority in "How To Begin," the modification consisting in a shift of focus from the authoritative opinion of our time to the authority of the law, i.e., God's Law, the highest authority simply. Maimonides' primary pedagogical intention comes to sight as liberating his "typical addressee" from the perplexities arising from the apparent divergence of the Law and philosophy: Maimonides does so in a way permitting that addressee to remain loyal to the Law without being beholden to it. This Maimonidean intention reveals itself most clearly in a most peculiar place: Precisely in the center of the second chapter of the second part of the Guide, immediately after providing his "demonstration"39 of the existence, unity and incorporeality of God, Maimonides, with the utmost abruptness, states that before he can continue with his immediate exposition "it is obligatory to set forth a preface, which is like a lamp illuminating the hidden features of the whole of this Treatise, both of those of its chapters that come before and of those that come after."40 Maimonides there notes that his purpose in the Guide is not to provide a philosophic account as such of "natural science" or "divine science" i.e., physics or metaphysics; yet it is not because those subjects are not worthy of such treatment but because they have already been, at least for the most part, treated satisfactorily: the philosophic notions of natural science and divine science "have been expounded in many books and the correctness of most of them has been demonstrated."41 Maimonides' philosophic treatment proper of these subjects is devoted to correcting those notions, not however from the point of view of the Law, but from that of "demonstration" itself.
Strauss's simple "scheme" both does and does not draw attention to the special status of II 2. Strauss's outline of the Guide identifies II 2 as the central sub-section of the second of Strauss's Maimonidean Heptameres. Strauss's outline of the Guide identifies 38 subsections of that work, each of which he supplies with a heading of his own. Only two of those headings speak of Maimonides, section II, subsection 4 "Maimonides' demonstration (II 2)" and section V, subsection 5 "Jewish views on omniscience and Maimonides' discourse on this subject (III 19-21)." The hint supplied by the use of Maimonides' name as well as the relative rank of "demonstration" and "discourse" all serve to suggest or to confirm that Strauss regarded II 2 as of decisive importance for understanding Maimonides' intention.
Yet at the same time that Strauss's outline draws our attention to the importance of II 2, it obscures its primary function as the introduction proper to the Guide. As noted above, overlapping Strauss's seven-part division of the Guide is a more fundamental twofold division. Strauss's outline divides the Guide into the first five sections of his division ("A. VIEWS (I 1 III 24)") and the last two ("B. ACTIONS (III 25-54)"). However, a glance at Strauss's other Maimonidean writings shows that this twofold division is in a variety of ways imprecise and even misleading. To begin with, it makes no reference to the difference in ranks and subjects of the sections. We have seen above that Strauss denies any cognitive value to the "esoteric" doctrine of the Account of the Chariot; there is then a question whether that negative "mystical" section is properly grouped with Maimonides "positive" teaching; even more problematic is the fact that according to Strauss's simple division, the Account of the Chariot, though wholly contained in the third and final part of the Guide, occupies the central place in his scheme, an honor Strauss intimates in "Maimonides' Statement on Political Science" that it does not merit (WIPP 165-169).
Towards the end of "Literary Character," in his thematic discussion of "chapter headings," Strauss notes that the opening words of Guide III 8 "indicate that this whole group of chapters (III, 8-24) deals exclusively with bodies which come into existence and perish, and not with bodies or souls which do not come into existence or perish" (PAW 77). He infers from this hint that the 131 preceding chapters which "are devoted to things which do not come into existence and perish, and in particular to souls or intelligences which do not come into existence and perish, i.e., to ma'aseh merkabah ['the account of the chariot']" (PAW 77): these sections stand to one another as the permanent does to the ephemeral, or perhaps even as nothing stands to something. When one adds this consideration to Strauss's implicit demotion of the account of the chariot, one might tentatively conclude that that part of the Guide devoted to the highest subject simply is what he identifies as its first three sections (I 1-70, I 71-II 31, II 32- 48). And, according to Strauss's simple scheme, the central subsection of those three sections is II 2.
One cannot, however, begin to follow this path without quickly encountering obstacles. Perhaps the most revealing such stumbling block occurs towards the end of "How To Begin" where Strauss cites for the only time in his writings Maimonides' introduction to the Second Part of the Guide.42 In a paragraph immediately preceding the most extensive discussion of Guide II 2 occurring in his works, Strauss writes:
While the First Part ends with the critique of the Kalâm, the Second Part opens with "The premises required for establishing the being of God43 and for demonstrating that He is not a body nor a force in a body and that He is one," that is, with the premises established by the philosophers. Maimonides thus indicates that the seventy-six chapters of the First Part, which lead up to philosophy through a critique of the popular notions of God as well as of theology, are negative and prephilosophic, whereas the one hundred and two chapters of the Second and Third Parts are positive or edifying. (180)
Strauss thus suggests that the introduction to the Second Part marks a new beginning, a possibility seemingly denied by his simple scheme in which II 1 appears as the last chapter of an interior subsection.
Yet when one turns to that introduction of which the opening passage quoted by Strauss is representative one is confronted by a text that is singularly abrupt. The Second Part's introduction altogether lacks in the qualities fitting for an introduction, most notably any discussion of the author's intention. The incongruity of this non-introductory introduction becomes manifest when one compares it with the introductions to the First and Third Parts as well as or especially to the preface occurring in the center of II 2. In "How to Study Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise," Strauss sets forth the genuine standard of historical exactness in regard to the particular example of the Bible, i.e., the Old Testament. The "principle to which we adhere" is that "'the Bible must be understood exactly as it was understood by its authors, or by its compilers'" (PAW 147):
According to our principle, the first questions to be addressed to a book would be of this kind: what is its subject matter, i.e., how is its subject matter designated, or understood, by the author? what is his intention in dealing with his subject? what questions does he raise in regard to it, or with what aspect of the subject is he exclusively, or chiefly, concerned? (PAW 147)
It is these precise questions questions prominently absent in the abrupt introduction to the Second Part of the Guide that Maimonides raises in the preface that abruptly occurs in Guide II 2. From the hints provided by the questions characteristic, or constitutive, of a genuine introduction in "How to Study," the irregularities occurring in Strauss's multiple divisions of the Guide in "How To Begin," as well as the very structure of that essay which leads up to, but goes no further than, Guide II 2 I draw the following conclusion: according to Strauss the beginning proper of the Guide is II 2. II 2 is the crux of the problem of authority in the Guide. It marks the point at which either the addressee "will become a genuine man of speculation or whether he will remain a follower of authority, if of Maimonides' authority" (LAM 147). In a manner Strauss adopted or, more precisely, imitated in "How Fârâbî Read Plato's Laws," Maimonides begins in the middle.
By no means are the clues noted above the only ones Strauss provides for the reader. I will limit myself to noting one that is noteworthy both for its playfulness as well as for the light it shines on Strauss's art of writing. Support for this conclusion is provided by the parallelism between the very chapter headings of "How to Study Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise" and "How To Begin To Study The Guide of the Perplexed" the only "how to" essays Strauss ever published. Whereas the "to" in the former essay is not capitalized, the two "To"s in the latter essay are. The explanation for this irregularity: Those two "To"s surround "Begin"; in other words, one must Begin at II 2. Strauss's writings are paintings, and more than paintings. They demand that one not only pay attention to the smallest brushstroke but to the frame itself.
In a book the plan of which abounds in perplexities, the abrupt preface in Guide II 2 is perhaps the most striking. It is thus not surprising that Strauss's extensive and thematic discussion of II 2 in "How To Begin" contains the most bewildering passage to occur in his writings on Maimonides, if not in his writings simply. As noted, that discussion follows immediately upon the heels of Strauss's most explicit indication that the simple scheme he presents at the outset of "How To Begin" is not quite kosher, his statement that there is a twofold44 manner of dividing the Guide into "a negative and prephilosophic" part and "a positive or edifying" one. Strauss's discussion of II 2 is circumscribed; like the essay itself it leads up to but does not explicitly treat the chapter's preface: "How To Begin" thus does not itself begin the study of the Guide proper; it illumines the path but does not go down it. Strauss's treatment of II 2 is limited to what he labels in his scheme "Maimonides' Demonstration" that is, his demonstration of God's existence.45 According to Strauss, that demonstration consists of the combination of "two defective ways": that of the Kalâm and that of the philosophers. Maimonides argues that although neither opponent is able to prove the existence of God on the basis of his premises respectively, creation out of nothing and the eternity of the visible universe the existence of God should not be considered problematic because each of the two antagonists asserts His existence. One is covered both ways. Strauss, however, goes on to note that Maimonides resolution of this difficulty is not itself unproblematic, "for the results from opposed premises cannot be simply identical" (180). To illustrate this difficulty, Strauss in an essay seemingly distant from all contemporary concerns proceeds to make a singularly discordant and perplexing analogy:
For instance, someone might have said prior to World War II that Germany would be prosperous regardless of whether she won or lost the war; if she won, her prosperity would follow immediately; if she lost, her prosperity would be assured by the United States of America who would need her as an ally against Soviet Russia; but the predictor would have abstracted from the difference between Germany as the greatest power which ruled tyrannically and was ruled tyrannically, and Germany as a second-rank power ruled democratically. The God whose being is proved on the assumption of eternity is the unmoved mover, thought that thinks only itself and that as such is the form or the life of the world. The God whose being is proved on the assumption of creation is the biblical God who is characterized by Will and whose knowledge has only the name in common with our knowledge. (180)
I do not believe it is safe to say what Strauss has in mind with this parallelism between the two Germanys, on the one hand, and, the Kalâm and the Aristotelians, on the other. It is worth noting, however, that Strauss suggests that it is the impoverished character of this disjunction that leads Maimonides to a wholly different starting point, what one might term Judeo-Arbaic Platonism.
More important, in the context of this study, is the fact that Strauss indicates the fundamental importance of II 2 in regard to Maimonides' own point of departure and, at the same time, provides a number of hints that help connect the themes Maimonides, Machiavelli and II 2. To begin with, just as one must always think of Heidegger whenever Strauss speaks of "being" and "time," one must always be alert to the presence of Machiavelli whenever Strauss discusses the question of tyranny and especially when he does so in what appears to be an extremely gratuitous manner.46
What is it that prompted Strauss to raise that problem in such a context? This question becomes all the more important and bewildering when viewed in light of Strauss's obvious desire to keep separate the problem of Maimonides and the problem of tyranny. Despite the manifest connection between the topics "tyranny" and "persecution,"47 Strauss never speaks once of "tyranny" in Persecution and the Art of Writing, a work in which Maimonides is literarily as well as literally48 the central figure. In fact, the passage in question is the only one in Strauss's Maimonidean writings to employ the term "tyranny."
Almost as abrupt, if not as jarring, is the first of the only two49 passages in Strauss's writings in which Maimonides and Machiavelli are explicitly discussed together. That passage occurs in the "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero." In the course of discussing why Eric Voegelin fundamentally misunderstands the thrust of Machiavelli's teaching on the "armed prophets," Strauss seems to introduce Maimonides without having laid any groundwork:
One certainly cannot understand Machiavelli's remark on the "unarmed prophets" without taking into consideration what he says about the "unarmed heaven" and "the effeminacy of the world" which, according to him, are due to Christianity. (Discorsi II 2 and III 1.)50
The tradition which Machiavelli continues, while radically modifying it, is not, as Voegelin suggests, that represented by Joachim of Floris, for example, but the one which we still call, with pardonable ignorance, the Averroistic tradition. Machiavelli declares that Savonarola, that unarmed prophet, was right in saying that the ruin of Italy was caused by "our sins," "but our sins were not what he believed they were," namely, religious sins, "but those which I have narrated," namely, political or military sins (Prince XII). In the same vein Maimonides declares that the ruin of the Jewish kingdom was caused by the "sins of our fathers," namely, by their idolatry; but idolatry worked its effect in a perfectly natural manner: it led to astrology and thus induced the Jewish people to devote themselves to astrology instead of to the practice of the arts of war and the conquest of countries. But apart from all this... (WIPP 102-103)
Just as Machiavelli arose implicitly in a discussion of Guide II 2 in "How To Begin," Maimonides takes his place beside Machiavelli in a discussion of Discourses II 2. Moreover and more importantly, this passage suggests that the two thinkers shared a political understanding on the issue of greatest practical import to Machiavelli. Strauss's invocation of Maimonides would seem to be less mysterious if one takes "in the same vein" to signify a common stream rather than a like manner. Strauss notes that the "tradition" Machiavelli somehow continues is the one "we still call, with pardonable ignorance, the Averroistic tradition." He thus suggests or prophesies that a time will come when such ignorance will no longer be pardonable, i.e., when we will be able to identify with greater precision the thinkers who constitute that "tradition":
We must turn to the books of the "Averroists" in order to complete Machiavelli's intimations and to fill the gaps between the seemingly unconnected denials without which his political teaching as a whole would be baseless. The most important of those books are not easier of access than are Machiavelli's books. (TM 203)
It is with the possibility in mind that Strauss regards Maimonides as the foremost "Averroist" and the Guide as "the most important" of their books upon which Machiavelli drew, and to which we must turn, that I turn to Strauss's treatment of Discourses II 2.
In doing so one is struck by amazing similarities in both form and function that II 2 possesses for both the Guide and the Discourses. More than any of the shared literary techniques noted in this chapter, these similarities suggest a relation between the two works that defies accident. As noted, in the Guide the fundamental introductory statement occurring in Guide II 2 is preceded by an "introduction" that seems singularly lacking that to the Second Part of the work. In the essay "Machiavelli" Strauss writes of the proem to Book Two to the Discourses that it "could seem to be rather meager," and he attributes this appearance to the fact that that proem "is the introduction only to Book Two and more particularly to the early chapters of Book Two" (SPPP 221). Strauss does not however explicitly indicate what those "early chapters" are. If one turns to his explicit division of Book Two of the Discourses in Thoughts on Machiavelli in search of an introductory statement as full as those found in the proem to Book One or III 1,51 one is disappointed, for Strauss there indicates that the first section of the second Book consists of its first five chapters; and II 6, "How the Romans Proceeded in Making War," does not fit the bill. Does the central book then lack a central introductory statement? Strauss implicitly answers this question in the negative at the outset of the concluding chapter of Thoughts on Machiavelli, "Machiavelli's Teaching." He there analyzes the Discourses' "three passages explicitly dealing with the essence of Christianity" i.e., that particular authority from which above all Machiavelli sought to free his reader (TM 176). And whereas he locates the first and third statements in the introductions to the first and third parts, he locates the central statement not, as symmetry might suggest, in the proem to II, but in II 2. It is there that Machiavelli makes his boldest statement concerning the essentially tyrannical character of Christianity. To quote Strauss's translation: "This mode of life then appears to have rendered the world weak and given it up in prey to criminal men who can manage the world with safety seeing that the large majority, in order to enter Paradise, think more of bearing their beatings than of avenging them."52 II 2 plays the same role in the Discourses as in the Guide. It marks the point at which the author's intended addressee is supposed to be freed entirely from reliance on any authority, the point at which he is intended to start putting "two and two together" or do some thinking on his own.53
IV. Numerology and Serious Play
Strauss is notorious for his contention that one of the means by which the greatest authors communicate with each other across the ages is the use of "numerical symbolism" (LAM 158). I have already had occasion to note in this chapter a few examples of Strauss's own extensive use of this device, something which I have largely refrained from in the preceding chapters; yet it is particularly appropriate to supply a more thematic account here. For though Strauss not infrequently provides indications that quite a few of the authors he treats employed such symbolism, it is once again only in regard to these two particular authors that he chose to discuss the practice explicitly. Indeed, were it not for his discussions of Maimonides' and Machiavelli's arithmologic playfulness, it is likely that Strauss's rediscovery and personal employment of this art would not be a subject of controversy. Strauss's decision to highlight this practice in regard to these two thinkers can in part be accounted for by the status he accords them as the masters of the art of teaching. As Strauss presents it, philosophic numerology is not an abstruse Talmudic or, even worse, Kabbalistic instrument useful for purposes of mystification. It is a pedagogic device that unites the playful and the serious in the service of precise understanding (WIPP 165, TM 52-53). One might object that Strauss's most extensive and most prominent numerological analysis serves to show the limits of my chapter's contention: On three occasions54 Strauss deploys considerable rhetorical arms to condemn the "enormous blasphemy" he discerned in Discourses I 26, wherein Machiavelli employs the sole New Testament quotation that occurs in his two great books to call God, as it were, a tyrant. Do not all merely formal similarities between Maimonides and Machiavelli fade into insignificance in the light of the substantive difference that that blasphemy reveals?
To be sure, Strauss would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to disclose in such a manner an analogous Maimonidean suggestion.55
Yet lest one make too hasty a conclusion, it is worth considering that the tyrannical god to whom Machiavelli refers is he of the New Testament: Maimonides would not have thought Machiavelli's blasphemy blasphemous.56 More tellingly, Strauss traces "the pre-history of this view" to Fârâbî's "Machiavellian" Summary of Plato's Laws, which makes a remarkably similar suggestion in a far more explicit manner. In fact, so far from separating the two, the statement on Machiavelli's use of numerological symbolism implicitly connects the two as teachers, albeit within the constraints of the self-imposed rhetorical rules governing his treatment of the two. In the very center of his three lengthy paragraphs devoted to numerology in Thoughts on Machiavelli, Strauss provides his statement par excellence on the mode of Machiavellian education:
Concealment as practiced by Machiavelli is an instrument of subtle corruption or seduction. He fascinates his reader by confronting him with riddles. Thereafter the fascination with problem-solving makes the reader oblivious to all higher duties if not all duties. (50)
This ostensibly critical characterization takes on a different aspect when read in light of two considerations. First is Strauss's identification of the "ultimate... purpose" of Thought's "critical study of Machiavelli's teaching" in the concluding sentence of the work's "Introduction": "to contribute towards the recovery of the permanent problems" (14).57 Second, and more tellingly, is the striking similarity between this statement and what is Strauss's golden statement on Maimonidean education, a statement prepared in "How To Begin" by the memorable twofold portrait of the Guide discussed above:
The enchanting character of the Guide does not appear immediately. At first glance the book appears merely to be strange and in particular to lack order and consistency. But progress in understanding it is a progress in becoming enchanted by it. Enchanting understanding is perhaps the highest form of edification. (LAM 142)In both cases apropos of point III above the intention of this "enchantment" or "fascination" is identical: to free the author's intended addressee from reliance upon any "authority."58
V. Chapter Headings
The scholar uses one and the same term "rational nomoi" first for designating the man-made pagan codes, of which he thoroughly disapproves, and then for designating rules akin to the "rational laws," the "rational commandments" in the sense of the kalâm, or for the framework of every code, of which he naturally approves. Nothing would have been easier for him than to use two different terms for these two so greatly different things. Considering the gravity of the subject, his failure to do so cannot be due to carelessness. His strange and perplexing usage compels us to raise the question as to how complete codes, which are utterly irreconcilable with the Divine code, can be interpreted in such a way as to become identical with the framework of every code, and hence of the Divine code in particular.
"The Law of Reason in the Kuzari," Persecution and the Art of Writing, 135-136
One of the more perplexing features linking Strauss's treatments of Maimonides and Machiavelli is the emphasis he places on the importance for each of "chapter headings." If I am not mistaken this term appears only in his writings on Machiavelli and Maimonides; certainly Strauss treats this topic thematically only in regard to those two authors. Apropos of the quotation above, what makes this so odd is that "chapter headings" in Maimonides and Machiavelli are two very different things. For Maimonides "chapter headings" refer primarily to that limited part of the secret teaching of the Bible that can be revealed to the properly trained elite. At the outset of the Guide, Maimonides cites "the rabbinic saying: 'The Account of the Chariot ought not to be taught even to one man, except if he be wise and able to understand by himself, in which case only the chapter headings may be transmitted to him.'"59 In "Literary Character" Strauss notes that Maimonides' own reasoned view one fully consonant with classical thought accorded completely with that Talmudic injunction, adding, however that "not the ambiguous advice of the philosophers but the unequivocal command of the law was of primary importance to Maimonides" (PAW 47).60 "Chapter headings" also have a secondary meaning for Maimonides, as Strauss notes towards the end of "Literary Character": "The fourth and last kind of hints to be indicated here are the rashei perakim. This expression, which we have hitherto rendered as 'chapter headings,' may also mean 'beginnings of chapters.' In some cases, indeed, Maimonides gives us important hints by the initial word or woords of a chapter" (PAW 77).61
One meaning "chapter headings" does not have for Maimonides is that which most immediately comes to the mind of present day readers, i.e., "chapter headings" as chapter titles: the Guide's chapters are all untitled. Yet of course it is this meaning that "chapter headings" has in Strauss's writings on Machiavelli, a feature of Machiavelli's writings to which Strauss pays considerable attention. By way of contrast, in essays explicitly devoted to "the art of writing" of two authors who employ chapter headings or titles artfully in their great works Marsilius and Spinoza Strauss almost altogether ignores this practice.62 Other than the obvious and superficial point that by employing the term "chapter headings" exclusively in regard to these two thinkers, Strauss compels the reader to think about Maimonides and Machiavelli twogether, especially in regard to their art of writing. There is no easy answer as to why Strauss used this particular term to describe such seemingly different things. All I could offer would be speculations.63 Fortunately, however, this superficial point serves the limited purpose of this chapter.
As far as I know, "chapter headings" is the only term Strauss ever discussed in a manner analogous to that which the scholar in the Kuzari discussed "rational nomoi." As such, an analysis of the lengthy epigraph I provide to this section is useful Given what we have already seen of Strauss's art of writing, it is at least a plausible supposition that Strauss had this very term in mind when writing the above passage. In fact, that passage in its own way poses the problem with which I began this essay: Halevi's scholar draws two things together one good, one bad that could not seem to be more different.
Without entering into the manifold complexities of Strauss's lexicographic sleight of hand in "The Law of Reason in the Kuzari," I will make a tentative case for one obvious, if disquieting, possibility: the two seemingly distinct things for which Halevi uses the term "rational nomoi" the pagan philosophic codes and his atypical defense of Judaism are not fundamentally incompatible.64 It is not difficult to show that Strauss's explicit account of Halevi and his scholarly spokesman as models of piety is merely provisional. Lest I go too far astray from my subject, I will limit myself to offering the single most telling example. In the 22nd paragraph of the essay the first of part III he discusses the selfsame problem that he discusses in our epigraph the first paragraph of part V: the scholar's ambiguous use of the term "rational nomoi" (118-119). It is once more convenient to quote at some length:
At first glance, the scholar's attitude toward the Law of Reason seems to be self-contradictory: in one passage he opposes the rational nomoi, while in the other passages where he mentions them, he approves of them. One does not solve this difficulty by saying that the rational nomoi of which he approves are not identical with the rational nomoi which he rejects; for this does not explain why he uses one and the same term for two so greatly different things. This ambiguity which could easily have been avoided, is due, as all ambiguities occurring in good books are,65 not to chance or carelessness, but to deliberate choice, to the author's wish to indicate a grave question. It is therefore wise to retain to begin with the ambiguous term and to understand the different attitudes of the scholar to the rational nomoi in the light of the different conversational situations in which they express themselves. The remark unfavorable to the rational nomoi occurs in the first makâla, whereas the remarks which are favorable to them, occur in the subsequent makâlât. Now, the first makâla contains the conversations preceding the king's conversion, whereas the later makâlât contain the conversations following it. This means: while the scholar adopts a negative attitude toward the rational nomoi as long as the king is outside of the Jewish community, as long as he can reasonably be suspected of doubting the truth of Judaism, he adopts a positive attitude toward them after the king's fundamental doubts have been definitely overcome. (PAW 118-119)
In this remarkable passage Strauss adopts the procedure he had used throughout "Literary Character," discussing an author's use of a given device and employing that very device at the same time in his own writing. After speaking of the necessarily intentional quality of all ambiguities occurring in good books, Strauss himself writes a singularly ambiguous sentence. At first glance one is inclined to regard the first "he" occurring in the last sentence of the above passage as applying to the king: the critical point seems to be the king's firm conversion to Judaism. Yet in the clause immediately following the first "he," the "he" in question is manifestly the scholar. In light of the sentence as a whole, one cannot help but reach the paradoxical conclusion that the subject "he" in the second clause is the same individual who is the subject of the first and third clauses the "scholar." The crucial turning point then is not the king's conversion to Judaism but the moment at which the reader begins to suspect the sincerity of the scholar's profession of faith. Once Halevi raises the possibility of the scholar's heterodoxy, 66 he proceeds to confirm it by having the scholar speak only favorably of "the rational nomoi." The scholar uses one and the same phrase for two such seemingly different "rational nomoi" because the two are in the decisive respect the same:67 each is the product of philosophic practical reason adapting itself to its particular conditions then and there. The scholar is indeed a loyal Jew, but he is not a believing one.
Paradoxical as this may seem given Strauss's explicit profession of the scholar's piety one no less emphatic than the scholar's own it becomes more than plausible in light of passages such as this sentence:
The religious indifference of the philosopher knows no limits: he does not oppose to the "errors" of the positive religions the religion of reason; he does not demand that a philosopher who as such no longer believes in the religion of his fathers, should reveal his religious indifference, proceeding from unbelief, by openly transgressing the laws of that religion; he does not by any means set up the behavior of Elisha ben Abuya, or of Spinoza,68 as the model of philosophic behavior; he considers it perfectly legitimate that a philosopher who as such denies Divine revelation, adheres to Islam for example, i.e., complies in deed and speech with the requirements of that religion and therefore, if an emergency arises, defends that faith which he cannot but call the true faith, not only with the sword, but with arguments, viz., dialectical arguments, as well. (PAW 115)
If Strauss did have the term "chapter headings" and its connection to Maimonides and Machiavelli in mind in writing the passages in question, he of course would somehow have indicated this.69 And he did just this. This is particularly easy to show in the case Maimonides. In addition to following immediately upon the heels of Literary Character, Strauss's essay on the Kuzari is his non-Maimonidean writing in which Maimonides is discussed most extensively. It includes a number of passing references to Maimonides that shed considerable light on Literary Character,70 including a lengthy paragraph digression on71 the Guide. Driving home the connection is the section heading of part I: "THE LITERARY CHARACTER OF THE KUZARI." To note just one last point in regard to Maimonides: Perhaps no term of manifest significance is used by Strauss as sparingly as "perplexed." Other than his mentions of the title of the Guide, it is used infrequently in his writings on Maimonides.72 And it is used with extraordinary infrequency outside of those writings, almost always if not always with implicit reference to Maimonides.73 The use of "perplexing" in our epigraph is the only one proper in "The Law of Reason in the Kuzari."74 One piece of evidence suffices to show that in writing this chapter one that contains numerous references to the morality of "a gang of robbers"75 Strauss had Machiavelli in mind. By means of a procedure that has no parallel in his books as published, Strauss for no immediately apparent reason numbers two notes, 7a and 103a, rather than 8 and 105.76 This irregularity is not, however, difficult to explain, for it allows Strauss explicitly to have exactly 142 notes indeed it calls attention to that fact. 142 is the number of chapters in the Discourses, a fact, as I have noted, to which Strauss draws particular attention to in his writings on Machiavelli.77
Of course, these hints and devices do no more than confirm the suspicion that Strauss had Maimonides and Machiavelli in his thoughts when writing the passages in question. Yet more substantively, it raises the very question to which this chapter is devoted: why did Strauss treat his great model and his ostensibly great antagonist in such strikingly similar ways? The analysis above suggests that Halevi's perplexing procedure leads to the conclusion that the scholar's apparently inexplicable use of one and the same term to describe the morality informing the "pagan" codes of which he seems to disapprove and the Jewish one of which "he naturally approves" is because ultimately they share the same status. Perhaps this is because ultimately for Strauss, Maimonides and Machiavelli have the same status: Strauss's "thorough disapproval" of Machiavelli and his celebration of "pagan" Rome is more apparent than real. As one of the handful of the greatest thinkers ever to have lived, Strauss "naturally approves" of Machiavelli no less than Maimonides: "I begin lentissime to write a small book on Machiavelli. I can't help loving him in spite of his errors."78 The authors he presents as the two great teachers were his two great teachers.
One more aspect of this topic merits brief discussion: Strauss's own chapter headings. Over the course of this study, I have had occasion to point out a number of instances in which the titles of Strauss's chapters provide important clues for understanding them, not the least of which is provided by "How To Begin To Study The Guide of the Perplexed."
It should not come as a surprise that those chapter headings serve the function of linking Maimonides and Machiavelli. Strauss employs the term "character" in only two chapter headings: "The Literary Character of the Guide for the Perplexed" and "The Twofold Character of Machiavelli's Teaching." Similarly, the titles of only two essays speak of the literary: "Literary Character" and "Machiavelli and Classical Literature." Strauss's art of writing is of a piece as that of his two great teachers.
1 See Thoughts on Machiavelli 107. href="#footnote1return">(Return)
2 Strauss's failure to qualify that necessity as "apparent" or "seeming" suggests that he does not dispute Machiavelli's diagnosis of the malign influence of the Church, or Christianity. In fact, he goes out of his way to connect this "necessity" to the literary question (TM 231; cf. 120-122). One can elaborate on this point as follows: The immediate problem confronting Strauss was that posed by German thought. He states that danger in the preface to Natural Right and History: "It would not be the first time that a nation, defeated on the battlefield, and, as it were, annihilated as a political being, has deprived its conquerors of the most sublime fruit of victory by imposing on them the yoke of its own thought" (NRH 2; would the first or at least most important time have been the Romans and the Jews?). That danger consisted, at a vulgar level, of relativism, and at a quasi-philosophic level, of the problem posed by the Nietzschean-Heideggerian understanding of the tradition specifically, the claim that there is a more-or-less straight line from Socrates to the thought of the present. Strauss thus had to set forth a rhetorical position that would counter both aspects of this danger. His solution was to paint a different more adequate though still inadequate picture of the tradition, one that emphasized the ancient-modern split and the political. Strauss set forth his "preference" for "classic natural right" (NRH preface to 7th impression), because it was the classical account of the virtues that most effectively was able to counter our unthinking relativism. Since the danger in our age consisted, in part, of an insufficient appreciation of the moral virtues, he could not appeal to Machiavelli as a guide for our time; yet that did not mean that Strauss would not have adopted Machiavelli's rhetorical solution, or something like it, had he been confronted with the sort of overweening moral authority which Machiavelli faced. Cf. PAW 192. If the circumstances had so demanded, Strauss would have done the same as his Fârâbî who endorsed the lowly artisans' view of "the relativity of the just and noble things" against the heroes' "fanatical disagreement regarding the high and holy" (WIPP 147). In short, had Strauss indicated the essential connection between the good guy Maimonides and the bad guy Machiavelli, he would have considerably weakened his rhetorical case against relativism. href="#footnote2return">(Return)
3 The third was Xenophon. (Plato barely runs out of the money, Maimonides beating him by a nose.) Due to Thoughts alone by far Strauss's largest work Machiavelli stands first in the amount of words Strauss devoted to him. Strauss twice revisited Machiavelli after Thoughts was published in "Machiavelli and Classical Literature" and "Niccolo Machiavelli." In addition, Strauss wrote one review essay ("Walker's Machiavelli"), one book review (WIPP 286-290) and prominently offered two shorter synoptic statements of his teaching (WIPP 40-49, NRH 177-180). Maimonides and Xenophon are the only two authors whom Strauss wrote on in each decade from the 1930's to the 1970's. href="#footnote3return">(Return)
4 That one must distinguish between Strauss's "primary" and "chief" intention is suggested, e.g., by this statement from the opening paragraph of "Machiavelli's Intention: The Discourses": "our information concerning Machiavelli's manner of writing is derived primarily and chiefly from the Discourses" (TM 85). Strauss also speaks on occasion of a "guiding intention" (e.g., PAW 167). His most suggestive sentence on the various kinds and ranks of "intentions" occurs in his thematic treatment of the author's "digression": "In books like the Prince and the Discourses, the digressions contain discussions which would not be required to further the primary, explicit, ostensible or partial intention but are required to further the full or true intention" (TM 45). href="#footnote4return">(Return)
5 If one omits the sixth section of "Literary Character" from the work as a whole proper, as this sentence bids the reader to do, then Persecution has 17 sections or sub-chapters of which "V. Secrets and Contradictions" is the ninth. href="#footnote5return">(Return)
6 Cf., e.g., PAW 18, 139, WIPP 93. href="#footnote6return">(Return)
7 In the repetition Strauss speaks of "the problem of authority in general" (TM 136). href="#footnote7return">(Return)
8 Very simply, one can divide the 87 paragraphs of "Machiavelli's Teaching" as follows: # 1 (174-75): introductory; #s 2-43 (175-231): Machiavelli's teaching on religion; #s 44-81 (231-290): Machiavelli's teaching on morality; #s 82-87 (290-299): conclusion. The 43rd paragraph begins: "We have devoted what at first glance seems to be a disproportionately large space to Machiavelli's thought concerning religion." The 44th paragraph begins: "We are entitled to make a distinction between Machiavelli's teaching regarding religion and his teaching regarding morality..." (TM 231). href="#footnote8return">(Return)
9 These include, among others, Xenophon and Plato (OT 26), Xenophon and Machiavelli (OT 56), and Spinoza and Maimonides (PAW 181). href="#footnote9return">(Return)
10 The runner-up to the Epistles Dedicatory is Strauss's treatment of the last chapter of the Prince (TM 74-77); yet, even in the lengthy paragraph devoted to that chapter Strauss refers explicitly to the Epistle Dedicatory of the Prince three times, and he devotes the next paragraph to Machiavelli's "strange suggestion that he possesses one half of political wisdom, namely, knowledge of the nature of princes" a suggestion made in that dedicatory letter (TM 77). Among Strauss's most extensive discussions of individual passages in Thoughts are Discourses I proem (85-88, 176-77), II 2 (142, 177-180), II 33 (106-107), and III 1 (180). As with Maimonides and Fârâbî, in treating Machiavelli Strauss shows a particular concern with endings and, especially, beginnings (see also TM 91-93). href="#footnote10return">(Return)
11 See the discussion of point IV below. href="#footnote11return">(Return)
12 Strauss's only other "chapter heading" that speaks of "teaching" is the central chapter of On Tyranny: "The Teaching Concerning Tyranny" a title that to say the least has a certain Machiavellian resonance. href="#footnote12return">(Return)
13 Compare Strauss's discussion of Discourses II 33 the story of the crossing of the Ciminian Forest by Fabius Maximus in the central paragraph of the two central chapters of Thoughts on Machiavelli (106-107). Strauss there refers to Quintus Fabius as "M. Fabius." href="#footnote13return">(Return)
14 "On the Plan of the Guide of the Perplexed," discussed above in chapter IV, is the other. href="#footnote14return">(Return)
15 Strauss's implicit criticism of Nietzsche's manner of writing from the "peaks" of the art of writing can be seen from his failure to use even once in the essay on Beyond Good and Evil's "plan" the term "plan"; by way of contrast in "On the Plan of the Guide of the Perplexed," Strauss uses the term eleven times; nor does Strauss even once speak of Nietzsche's "addressee," typical or otherwise. href="#footnote15return">(Return)
16 To note but one more hint that Strauss provides suggestive of Maimonides: this is the 89th paragraph proper of Thoughts: in his extensive notes on Maimonides, Strauss noted that the number of chapters of the Guide is equal to 2 x 89. href="#footnote16return">(Return)
17 Marsilius of Padua's Defender of the Peace is the closest that I have been able to find; but, to say nothing of other differences, the Defender lacks both a dedicatory letter and introductions (or proems) to its three parts; moreover, in his account of Marsilius's "art of writing" (LAM x) Strauss does not bring out any of their shared features, even those which one might reasonably have expected e.g., the role of "chapter headings." href="#footnote17return">(Return)
18 "For Machiavelli, Livy's work was authoritative, as it were, his Bible," TM 30; cf. also 121-122. href="#footnote18return">(Return)
19 There are only the most seemingly minor changes in the 17 paragraphs far fewer than typically occur in the essays that Strauss subsequently republished in books. The only changes that at first glance would seem to be in need of explanation are the following: In the outline "scheme" of "How To Begin," III. 7 reads "How to understand the divine actions and works and the divinely commanded actions and works as presented by the prophets (II 46-48)"; in the parallel in "On the Plan," the phrase "the divine actions and works" is replaced by "the divine"; in "On the Plan," Strauss substitutes "the Work of the Beginning" and "the Work of the Chariot" for "the Account of the Beginning" and "the Account of the Chariot"; Strauss condenses the sentence "We limit ourselves to a consideration of the second reason demanding the teaching incorporeality" (LAM 150) to "We limit ourselves to a consideration of the second point" (Plan 789). href="#footnote19return">(Return)
20 Paragraphs #s 12-16, an average of 14. href="#footnote20return">(Return)
21 There is some textual justification for a more limited overlapping division of I 71-II 2, but as I show below in Point # 3, this justification leads in its turn to the recognition that the abrupt preface occurring in the middle of II 2 is the genuine beginning point of Part II. href="#footnote21return">(Return)
22 For an exception to this claim one has to turn to the last clause of the parenthetical comment that ends Thought's 502nd footnote (341n168). href="#footnote22return">(Return)
23 This is the 89th footnote of the two central chapters; the Guide consists of 178 or 2 x 89 chapters; see note XX above. href="#footnote23return">(Return)
24 Strauss makes this statement explicitly with reference to the First Book of the Discourses; perhaps "subject matter alone," or the subject "alone," is the key only to that particular book. href="#footnote24return">(Return)
25 Discourses I 56: "Before Great Accidents Occur in a City or in a Province, Signs Come that Forecast Them, or Men who Predict them." In a different context, Strauss identified I 56 as one of the Discourses' two chapters to be "explicitly devoted... to what one may call theology as distinguished from religion" (TM 209-210." (The other is the 89th chapter of the Discourses, II 29.) href="#footnote25return">(Return)
26 Strauss refers the reader to 103-104 the pages immediately before this identification in the footnote on I 52. href="#footnote26return">(Return)
27 That remark concerned Livy's silent rejection of the common opinion that "money is the sinew of war." href="#footnote27return">(Return)
28 If this were not confusing enough, Strauss elsewhere speaks of the "whole series of chapters from Discourses II 4 to II 18 inclusive" (139); apparently one has to divide by "series" in addition to "section." href="#footnote28return">(Return)
29 II 18 is the only chapter of Book II the heading of which speaks of "authority": "How by the Authority of the Romans and by the Example of the Ancient Military Infantry Should Be Esteemed More Than Horse." It also happens to be the 78th chapter (3 x 26) of the Discourses. href="#footnote29return">(Return)
30 The two quoted sentences concerning Machiavelli's relation to the young occur in the 47th and 131st paragraphs of Thoughts, the sum of which is 178. The Guide, once again, consists of 178 chapters. href="#footnote30return">(Return)
31 Despite the obvious connection suggested by the two titles, Strauss goes to some length to keep the two works independent of one another: In Persecution, there is no use of the term "tyranny," and Xenophon is mentioned only twice in passing; in On Tyranny's original incarnation, there is not a single reference to a single medieval teacher and no mentions of "persecution." Strauss forces the reader to make the connection for himself, while avoiding making an explicit connection between the subjects of revelation and tyranny. Herein lies a possible explanation for the surprising lack of explicit discussion of persecution in Persecution. Only in the title essay the focus of which takes as its point of departure "certain well-known political phenomena of our century" is the termed used with regularity (occurring seven times in each of the article's three sections). The term does not appear once either in the first or third chapters the "Introduction" and "Literary Character." In "The Law of Reason in the Kuzari," there is a single mention of Judaism as "the despised religion of a persecuted nation" (PAW 102). Only in the concluding chapter on Spinoza in which the focus shifts from Judaism to Christianity is the "persecution" of free inquiry by religious authority explicitly mentioned (PAW 168, 191, 192). href="#footnote31return">(Return)
32 The subtitle of the 1963 edition, which includes Alexandre Kojève's "Tyranny and Wisdom" and Strauss's "Restatement," is Revised and Enlarged. The "Revised" is perplexing for as far as I can tell, the index excepted, not a word of the original has been changed. Perhaps the revision consists of "repetitions" and the changes introduced to the work's plan by the addition of the restatement. href="#footnote32return">(Return)
33 Or at least a complete text: "Maimonides' Statement on Political Science" is a 15 page essay devoted to the last page of the last chapter of Maimonides' Treatise on the Art of Logic. href="#footnote33return">(Return)
34 Both on account of their explicit devotion to the literary question of Strauss's writings on Fârâbî and Maimonides and because Strauss's own art of writing is more closely akin to that of those two authors, his writings on the medieval's works best serve the purposes of my study; yet one could approach the questions I treat by beginning with Strauss's early writing, on Xenophon, "The Spirit of Sparta or the Taste of Xenophon," in addition to On Tyranny. href="#footnote34return">(Return)
35 Read in conjunction with "Literary Character"'s central statement on "freedom of thought," this passage points to the fraternal relation between On Tyranny and Persecution and the Art of Writing, the primary purpose of each being the "tyranny" threatened by contemporary thought, both philosophic and popular. On Tyranny is devoted to explicating the classical art of writing as it relates to the political form of persecution. href="#footnote35return">(Return)
36 Cf. WIPP 228-29: "History of philosophy necessarily presupposes the persistence of the same fundamental problems. This, and this alone, is the trans-temporal truth which must be admitted, if there is to be history of philosophy." href="#footnote36return">(Return)
37 Strauss uses these phrases, either in reference to the teaching of the Bible or that of the Guide, 13 times in this section; other than the reference to "the teaching of Maimonides," to be discussed presently, the term "teaching" occurs only two other times ("any teaching whatsoever" and "prophetic teaching," PAW 56, 57); there is also one mention of "the secret doctrine" (PAW 58). href="#footnote37return">(Return)
38 Strauss's earliest articulation of this principle occurs in his first writing on Xenophon, "The Spirit of Sparta or the Taste of Xenophon": "By making the discovered truth almost as inaccessible as it was before it had been discovered, [the philosophic writers of the past] prevented to call a vulgar thing by a vulgar name the cheap sale of the formulations of the truth: nobody should know even the formulations of the truth who had not rediscovered the truth by his own exertions, if aided by subtle suggestions from a superior teacher. It is in this way that the classical authors became the most efficient teachers of independent thinking" (535). href="#footnote38return">(Return)
39 The distinction between "demonstration" and "discourse" to which Strauss draws the reader's attention reminds one of the Machiavellian distinction between "treatise" and "discourse" that Strauss discusses in the 22nd footnote of Chapter II of Thoughts on Machiavelli, a note which cites, among other passages, Discourses II 2 and Florentine Histories II 2. href="#footnote39return">(Return)
40 Guide II 2, 253. href="#footnote40return">(Return)
41 Ibid. href="#footnote41return">(Return)
42 This paucity of references to Maimonides' Introduction is particularly striking in light of Strauss's emphasis in "Literary Character" on the introductions to the First and Third Parts of the Guide. Between the Guide's Epistle Dedicatory, introductions and chapters there are 182 sections that could be cited; yet slightly more than a fourth of the passages cited in the essay's 168 notes are to the work's Introduction (71 out of 280, if I am not mistaken. To the whole of the Guide's central part there are only 30 citations. href="#footnote42return">(Return)
43 Strauss's translation of this passage differs from the translation to which his essay is the introduction. What Pines renders "the existence of the deity" Strauss translates "the being of God." href="#footnote43return">(Return)
44 One should consider the possibility that Strauss's division is more than twofold, perhaps even fourfold: the Guide may consist of negative, pre-philosophic, positive and edifying parts: what is "edifying" is not necessarily "positive." href="#footnote44return">(Return)
45 One should consider the possible ambiguity of "demonstration." href="#footnote45return">(Return)
46 The paragraph in which this most odd passage occurs is the 284th of Liberalism Ancient and Modern (284= 142 x 2) href="#footnote46return">(Return)
47 Similar considerations help explain why the phenomenon that is generally called "opinion" in Strauss's Greek writings is characteristically termed "belief" in his Jewish studies. Perscution's first sentence identifies its primary principle of collection as "the fact that [the essays] all deal with one problem: the problem of the relation between philosophy and politics" (PAW 5)though the essays seem to be primarily devoted to the relation between philosophy and religion. href="#footnote47return">(Return)
48 In the preface to Persecution Strauss supplies a threefold division to its five chapters. The book consists of: 1) the "Introduction" which addresses the work's primary problem from "the side of philosophy," 2) the title article aims to "elucidate the problem by starting from certain well-known political phenomena of our century," and 3) the "last three essays [which] deal with the problem as it appears from the writings of the two most famous medieval Jewish thinkers (Halevi and Maimonides) and of Spinoza." This division is irregular in that the essay on Maimonides precedes that on Halevi: In this way Strauss indicates the twofold centrality of "Literary Character." href="#footnote48return">(Return)
49 The other is the concluding paragraph of the essay immediately following "How To Begin," "Marsilius of Padua" (LAM 201). They are, however, once discussed both together and apart in the context of a discussion that elides a crucial difference between the ancients and the moderns (PAW 15n11, 91n156). href="#footnote49return">(Return)
50 Though Strauss, as noted at the outset of this chapter, never cites Machiavelli in his Maimonidean writings, and vice versa, in an annotated copy of an offprint of "Literary Character" in the Strauss papers, he adds a citation to these very passages of the Discourses to an oracular statement concerning "the scarcely less perplexing difficulty of the inclusion in [Maimonides'] 'Book of Judges' of the laws concerning mourning" (LCG 62; Strauss papers, box x folder y). (The use of "perplex" in that statement is the central one in the essay proper.) href="#footnote50return">(Return)
51 Strauss notes: "Book Three has no proem but its first chapter performs the function of a proem" "a slight irregularity [that] underlines the fact that the number of chapters  of the Discourses equals the number of books of Livy's history," SPPP 222. href="#footnote51return">(Return)
52 TM 179; by translating scelerati as "criminal" rather than "wicked" Strauss makes Machiavelli's bold statement even bolder. href="#footnote52return">(Return)
53 Perhaps Strauss's key statement implying a historical connection between Machiavelli and Maimonides occurs in the 39th paragraph of Chapter III of Thoughts (142). It begins by considering Machiavelli's treatment in Discourses II 2 of Porsenna king of the "Tuscans" a once great ancient people, of whom almost all memory is lost. I believe that Strauss suggests that Porsenna represents Maimonides in II 2. According to Livy, Porsenna, king of Clusium, was particularly concerned with maintaining the memory of high and lofty things. He came to have a great appreciation for the noble youth of Rome. Strauss says that "reflection" on the "extinction" of Porsenna's race and of Tuscan things in general by the Romans led Machiavelli to consider how "the memory of ancient greatness is extinguished" (II 4 end). That consideration led him, in turn, to the "Averroistic" comments of Discourses II 5. Yet, as Strauss notes, Machiavelli proceeded to qualify his initial description: Not all Tuscan things were extinguished the Romans incorporated the Tuscan religion. Strauss then remarks on the analogous character of the relation between the Tuscans to the Romans and that between the Jews and the Christians. This, in turn, becomes a discussion of how the preservation of "pagan literature" and the "admiration... it aroused in a few minds" could serve as "the entering wedge for Machiavelli's criticism of Biblical religion." In short, Tuscany represents Israel, and Porsenna is that king of the Jews most worthy of being remembered for his devotion to ancient greatness. There are a number of hints that Strauss, at the very least, composed this paragraph with Maimonides in mind. This paragraph and its notes contain four of the five mentions of Judaism in TM (also 204); it contains the central of three uses of the term "persecution" in TM and the first in the text (also 304n50, a reference to PAW, and 157); Strauss, unlike Machiavelli, puts particular emphasis on "the destruction of images" reminiscent of the Jewish concern with eliminating idolatry (a concern Strauss had mentioned a few sentences earlier). This paragraph contains not only Strauss's sole mentions of the term "pagan literature" in Thoughts, but perhaps in all of his writings; in regard to Maimonides, Strauss speaks in similar terms about "Sabean literature" (PAW 124) and "the books of idolaters on idolatry" (HTB 143). Strauss also provides a number of numerological hints: for example, the paragraph under consideration, the 39th of the third chapter, it follows upon the heels of that chapter's 139th note: 39 + 139 = 178, the number of chapters in the Guide.href="#footnote53return">(Return)
54 TM 49-52; SPPP 223-225; "Machiavelli and Classical Literature" 17. href="#footnote54return">(Return)
55 Cf. TM 173 and especially PAW 72. href="#footnote55return">(Return)
56 In his "Epistle to Yemen" Maimonides refers to Christ as "Jesus the Nazarene (may his bones be ground to dust)." In Lerner Maimonides' Empire of Light 104. href="#footnote56return">(Return)
57 The fact that Strauss restricts his statement of purpose to Machiavelli's "teaching" not his "thought" or "intention" suggests that that the purpose of the work as a whole is something else. That is to say, the recovery of the permanent problems may be the purpose of the two chapters explicitly devoted to Machiavelli's "teaching." This is the third and final use of the term "problem" in "The Twofold Character of Machiavelli's Teaching" (see also TM 39, 41). "Guide" (and derivatives) is also used three times in the chapter (TM 19, 36, 44). The sum of the six paragraphs in which the two terms occur is 156 or 6 x 26. href="#footnote57return">(Return)
58 Given the theme of this section, it is appropriate to supply here some examples of Strauss's extensive employment of numerological symbolism indicating the connection between his treatments of Maimonides and Machiavelli. In the "Preface" to Liberalism: Ancient and Modern, Strauss indicates that chapters 4-7 form a section the intention of which is to "illustrate the liberalism of premodern thinkers by elucidating some examples of their art of writing" LAM x. The four chapters of that section, of which "How To Begin" is the third, consist of 221 paragraphs (13 x 17); Thoughts on Machiavelli also consists of 221 paragraphs. The paragraph in which Strauss provides his account of "enchanting understanding" is the 142nd of the section of Liberalism devoted to the art of writing; the paragraph in which Strauss speaks of Machiavelli's seduction via "the fascination with problem-solving" begins by stating that it is "the most superficial fact concerning the Discourses" viz., that it consists of the same number of chapters, 142, as there were books of Livy's History that "compelled us to start a chain of tentative reasoning which brought us face to face with the only New Testament quotation that ever occurs in Machiavelli's two books and with an enormous blasphemy (TM 49). To name just one last fact, the chapter "The Twofold Character of Machiavelli's Teaching" consists altogether (i.e., including footnotes) of 712 sentences or 4 x 178; there are 178 chapters in the Guide. These examples could easily be multiplied. href="#footnote58return">(Return)
59 Guide I Intro., 6. href="#footnote59return">(Return)
60 This is just one of numerous examples that shows that for Strauss what is of "primary importance" is not necessarily that which is of fundamental importance. href="#footnote60return">(Return)
61 Strauss draws emphatic attention to the importance of the literary question by the words with which he opens the two central chapters of Thoughts on Machiavelli. Chapter II begins: "MANY WRITERS" (54); Chapter III opens "SUPERFICIAL readers" (85). href="#footnote61return">(Return)
62 In both "How to Study Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise" and "Marsilius of Padua," Strauss mentions a "heading" only once in a note (PAW 192 n102; LAM 202n16; cf. LAM 241: "The title of the crowning chapter of the Theological-Political Treatise is taken as literally as possible from Tacitus"). In the notes in "Marsilius of Padua," Strauss distinguishes between the heading and the beginning of a chapter (compare 202n16 with n20). href="#footnote62return">(Return)
63 The most obvious is that though they partake of different forms, they perform the same function in both authors' work. href="#footnote63return">(Return)
64 To those who would object that Strauss speaks not of Halevi's defense of Judaism but of "the "rational commandments" in the sense of the kalâm...of which he naturally approves," I reply that according to Strauss Halevi is not a "typical" mutakallim (99-100), and that framework "of which he naturally approves" (136, my emphasis) is going to be considerably different from that "typical kalâm" of which "he is almost as little satisfied... as he is with any philosophic school" (99). href="#footnote64return">(Return)
65 See the following passage on ambiguities in On Tyranny:: "Nevertheless, a certain ambiguity remains, an ambiguity ultimately due not to the unsolved riddles implied in many individual passages of the Hiero but to the fact that a perfectly lucid and unambiguous connection between content and form, between a general teaching and a contingent event (e.g., a conversation between two individuals) is impossible" (OT 66). href="#footnote65return">(Return)
66 I believe the passage Strauss has in mind isKuzari II 2. href="#footnote66return">(Return)
67 Consider the implication of Strauss's italicized article earlier in the passage under consideration: "the rational nomoi." href="#footnote67return">(Return)
68 Consider the implications of this anachronism. href="#footnote68return">(Return)
69 One such numerological indication: The notes to the first passage, paragraph 22 (2 & 2 together) are the essay's 70th, 71st and 72nd (including 7a); 71 x 2= 142, the number of chapters in the Discourses; the central note concludes V 1; when one turns the parallel passage our epigraph one sees that it is paragraph 1 of section V. That paragraph is the 89th proper of Persecution's "last three essays" i.e., the third and final part of the book as identified by the work's preface (PAW 5). Strauss's private notes on Maimonides observe that 178 the number of chapter's in the Guide equals 2 x 89; if one adds the two epigraphs to that total, one arrives at 91 (7 x 13); if one includes the 19 paragraphs that are not part of the essays proper one arrives at 110 (10 x 11); had Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy been published in accord with Strauss's intent, the chapters on Maimonides and Machiavelli would have been the book's 10th and 11th of 13; the chapters published as 9, 10 and 11 as 10, 10a and 10b: the Maimonidean writings turn 3 into 1. See AAPL 79: "numbers have something divine." href="#footnote69return">(Return)
70 For example, Strauss twice speaks of that most important fact that is ignored altogether in Literary Character-namely, that the Guide was addressed to "'perplexed'" Jews (PAW 101, 112). href="#footnote70return">(Return)
71 That paragraph consists of 17 sentences and 9 footnotes, a sum of 26. The digression literally ends with a citation of Guide III 45 the work's 169th chapter (169 = 13 squared). By one count, the paragraph in question is the book's 143rd (13 x 11). That one needs to count Strauss's paragraphs, notes, and sentences in multiple ways could quite literally be demonstrated by innumerable examples: "An ingenious author has at his disposal almost infinite possibilities of alternatively using hints of different groups" ("Literary Character," 54) href="#footnote71return">(Return)
72 In "Literary Character" and "How To Begin" the term proper occurs a combined 17 times (7 and 10 respectively). I define "term proper" as a use that is Strauss's and unqualified by being placed in quotations. See NRH 53: Speaking of terms describing political phenomena that convey within themselves "value judgments," Strauss writes: "To put the terms designating such things in quotation marks is a childish trick which enables one to talk of important subjects while denying the principles without which there cannot be important subjects." href="#footnote72return">(Return)
73 As far as I know, essays on Maimonides excepted, in Strauss's books written in English the only occurrences of "perplexed" are: PAW 101, 112, 136; NRH 100, 208; TM 288; CM 55, 107; SA 17, 91; LAM 190, 231, 244; XS 100, 152; AAPL 11; SPPP 106. The first of the two passages from The City and Man reads: "Let us admit that the Platonic dialogue is an enigma something perplexing and to be wondered at. The Platonic dialogue is one big question mark. A question mark in white chalk on a blackboard is wholly unrevealing. Two such question marks would tell us something; they would draw our attention to the number 2" (my emphases). href="#footnote73return">(Return)
74 In that essay, Strauss also speaks twice of the "'perplexed'" men to whom Maimonides addressed the Guide (101, 112). Altogether in the text of Persecution the term appears 17 times: 11 proper, 4 times in quotes, and twice as part of the title of the Guide. The 3 such uses in "The Law of Reason in The Kuzari" occur in paragraphs 11, 18 and 22, the sum of which is 51 (17 x 3). href="#footnote74return">(Return)
75 116, 129, 130, 132, 140. The essay leads up to the suggestion that that merely instrumental morality is in principle no different from the morality of the philosophers. Put another way, the morality of "the lowest and smallest community" (130) is the same as the morality of the highest and smallest community. href="#footnote75return">(Return)
76 Those notes occur in paragraphs 3 and 30. The sum of 3, 7, 30 and 103 is 143 (13 x 11). href="#footnote76return">(Return)
77 TM 48, 305n66; SPPP 217, 222. href="#footnote77return">(Return)
78 Letter to Voegelin, April 29, 1953 (FPP 98). Of course that "small" book turned out to be his greatest one, Thoughts on Machiavelli, the writing of which he devoted five years almost exclusively. Given Strauss's admiration for Machiavelli's employment of "manifest blunders," one might say that he loved him in part because of his errors (TM 35-36). Strauss employs the term "intentional sophisms" as the Maimonidean equivalent (PAW 74) in the context of which he himself commits quite a few, including these two:
For a secret is much less perfectly concealed by a sentence than by a word, since a word is much smaller in extent, and consequently ceteris paribus a much better hiding place than a whole sentence. (PAW 72)
There is probably no better way of hiding the truth than to contradict it. (PAW 74)
As for the second, it suffices to mention silence. href="#footnote78return">(Return)