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Francis Fukuyama Goes Esoteric
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Francis Fukuyama reviews in The American Interest a book by philosophy professor Arthur Melzer that I reviewed last year in Taki’s Magazine about the evidence for Leo Strauss’s theory of esoteric writing. Fukuyama writes:

The first part of Philosophy Between the Lines is a simple chronicle of evidence of just how widespread the use of esoteric writing really was from the pre-Socratics through the 18th century. Melzer presents an impressive litany of important (and not-so-important) thinkers across the centuries, including Cicero, Alfarabi, Aquinas, Erasmus, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Montesquieu, Bacon, Hobbes, Diderot, and Rousseau, who either pointed to hidden meanings in their own writings, or acknowledged esotericism in their reading of other writers. He also presents some clear examples of esotericism in practice, as when Machiavelli in The Prince misquotes a familiar Bible story in a way that underscores the broader critique of Christianity he is apparently making.

This section of the book is wonderfully erudite and leaves no uncertainty that esotericism was indeed a major art that is now all but lost.

Why assume that esoteric writing is a lost art? The ancient Greek philosophers took pains to not make it too obvious to the masses that they doubted the traditional Homeric gods in order that they not suffer the same fate as Socrates. Today when leading thinkers forget to be esoteric enough about their skepticism toward the current idols of the tribe, they don’t lose their lives, they just lose their jobs pour encourager les autres.

For example, Larry Summers lost the presidency of Harvard after publicly doubting that discrimination could be the only explanation for why half of Harvard mechanical engineering professors weren’t women, and James D. Watson lost his job as head of a great medical research laboratory for mentioning that he didn’t believe the conventional wisdom that 100 years of IQ testing is just a giant conspiracy to ruin the self-esteem of Africans.

Fukuyama writes about Melzer:

One obvious question posed by a book on esotericism is whether the author is himself writing esoterically, perhaps with regard to the advice to be gleaned from it by younger Straussians.

Major thinkers who have managed to hold onto their jobs are likely to have some adeptness at practicing esotericism.

For example, the late William D. Hamilton, the most insightful evolutionary theorist of the second half of the 20th Century, published views on politics and human nature that would have gotten him in deep trouble if he had used a more quotable prose style. But he had an amazing knack of writing in a discursive fashion that deflected the attention of the volunteer auxiliary thought policemen.

Unfortunately, Hamilton’s admirers have a hard time keeping in mind exactly what he was getting at, too. A decade ago, I’d often try to quote Hamilton in discussions at GNXP.com and would wind up having to transcribe Mencius Moldbug-sized slabs of prose.

Interestingly, in 2011 Fukuyama published a would-be magnum opus The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, claiming to introduce the insights of Hamilton about kin selection to political science. I pointed out in my review in The American Conservative:

Hamilton’s math was popularized by Edward O. Wilson’s 1975 bombshell Sociobiology and by Richard Dawkins’s 1976 bestseller The Selfish Gene. (A more accurate title would have been The Dynastic Gene.) According to Fukuyama, however, political science has scandalously ignored the implications of these famous books. That’s true in general, although I have on my bookshelves academic works pointing out the fascinating political implications of kin selection by Pierre L. van den Berghe, Frank Salter, Tatu Vanhanen, and J.P. Rushton, none of whom Fukuyama cites.

Confusingly, even though Hamilton used the everyday term “nepotism,” Fukuyama insists on calling this urge “patrimonialism.” Why misuse “patrimonialism,” an obscure term invented by Max Weber for another purpose (and which isn’t in Microsoft Word’s spell-checker), when “nepotism” is universally comprehensible? Perhaps because Fukuyama doesn’t want anyone to associate his book with the three-decade-old study of “ethnic nepotism.”

So, was Fukuyama practicing Straussian esotericism to cover his tracks to his “controversial” predecessors? Hard to say …

Or perhaps he was he just too lazy to read up on them?

After all, the safest form of esotericism is ignorance.

 
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  1. So, was Fukuyama practicing Straussian esotericism to cover his tracks to his “controversial” predecessors?

    Yes.

    Fukuyama has reviewed at least one very controversial book that others of his academic heft and lineage would not touch, largely favorably I might add (though he did disagree with one fundamental argument of the book).

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  2. Out of curiosity, can you think of way of distinguishing esotericism from mere dense prose? Or from simple prudence? The philosopher whom I am most familiar with in Melzer’s book is Aquinas, and it seems he wasn’t very subtle about this:

    Response. I answer that the words of a teacher ought to be so moderated that they result to the profit and not to the detriment of the one hearing him. Now, there are certain things which on being heard harm no one, as are the truths which all are held responsible to know: and such ought not to be hidden but openly proposed to all. But there are others which, if openly presented, cause harm in those hearing them; and this can occur for two reasons: in one way, if the secret truths of faith are revealed to infidels who oppose the faith and so come to be derided by them. On this account it is said in Matt. 7:6, “Give not that which is holy to dogs.” And Dionysius (II Coel. hierar.) says, “Listen reverently to these words, to this doctrine given for our instruction by the divinity of divinities, and hide these holy teachings in your minds, shielding them from the unclean multitude so that you may keep them as uniform as possible.”

    Secondly, if any subtleties are proposed to uncultivated people, these folk may find in the imperfect comprehension of them matter for error; wherefore, in 1 Cor. 3:1 it is said: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. As unto little,ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat.” And therefore also, on Exod. 21:33, “If a man open a pit,” the gloss of Gregory says: “He who in sacred eloquence now understands lofty things should cover over these sublime truths by silence when in the presence of those who do not comprehend them, lest through some scandal of mind he cause the loss of some little one among the faithful or of an infidel who otherwise might have come to believe. Those truths, therefore, ought to be hidden from those to whom they might do harm; but a distinction can be made as regards speaking, since these same truths may be privately revealed to the wise, though publicly silence is kept regarding them.”

    Thus, Augustine (IV De doctrina Christiana) says: “Where certain truths are, by reason of their own character, not comprehensible, or scarcely so, even when explained with every effort on the part of the speaker to make them clear, these one rarely dwells upon with a general audience, or never mentions, at all: but in writing, the same distinction cannot be adhered to, because a book, once published, can fall into the hands of any one at all, and therefore some truths should be shielded by obscuring words so that they may profit those who will understand them and be hidden from the simple who will not comprehend them.”

    And by this procedure no harm is done to anyone, because those who understand are held by that which they read, but those who do not understand are not compelled to continue reading. And therefore Augustine says in the same place: “In books which are, so written that they somehow keep a hold on the attention of the reader who understands them, but cause no harm to the one who does not understand them and so is unwilling to read further, there is no failure in duty on the part of the author as long as we bring these truths, even though they are so difficult of comprehension, to the understanding of some.”

    Maybe I’m just unusually bright, but Aquinas is stating in plain Latin here that people who aren’t too bright are likely to misconstrue complicated ideas. I expected more. Is this what “esoteric” knowledge counts for these days? I’m not impressed.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Indeed.

    Esotericism sometimes sounds like an excuse for an opaque prose style.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that Strauss didn't uncover a motherlode of esoteric writing. For example, with Aristotle, most of what we have is his esoteric teachings to his inner circle, while the simpler stuff he presumably wrote for the public no longer exists.
    , @Twinkie

    Maybe I’m just unusually bright, but Aquinas is stating in plain Latin here that people who aren’t too bright are likely to misconstrue complicated ideas.
     
    Yes, therefore...

    “In books which are, so written that they somehow keep a hold on the attention of the reader who understands them, but cause no harm to the one who does not understand them and so is unwilling to read further, there is no failure in duty on the part of the author as long as we bring these truths, even though they are so difficult of comprehension, to the understanding of some.”
     
    Did you not get the conclusion there?

    I expected more. Is this what “esoteric” knowledge counts for these days? I’m not impressed.
     
    Esoteric used to count more in the days when every young Western gentleman learned Latin and ancient Greek as well as several contemporary European languages, read history and philosophy, toured the world, and even picked up some Orientalism while at it.

    How many children grow up reading the Western canon today, even supposedly "educated" ones? And despite all the multiculturalism talk, the fuddy-duddy Western gentlemen of yore who were educated in Orientalism were far more knowledgeable (by both learning and experience) about Asia than the wild-eyed advocates of multiculturalism today.

    In national security, politics, business, and personal defense circles, I often hear people bandy about ideas and phrase they *think* are from v. Clausewitz or Sun Tzu. Most of them have absolutely no clue about what they purport to speak (unless you run into an "esotericist" like the self-consciously-termed "disciples" of "Genghis" John).
    , @Theo. Higgins
    Your blockquote provided a wonderful insight into why the bible must be read under the influence of the Holy Spirit: A widely dispersed book would fall into the hands three sorts of persons: the believer, the elect (but yet to be saved by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the ungodly; therefore, the Spirit inspired word will reveal things to the believer as he grows in faith; just enough will be revealed to he who is to be saved; and the unholy will be left to bend the word to their depravity and to parrot the writings of the traditions of men.
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  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Somewhere between candor and esotericism lies dog whistling … which is very much alive and well on the left and right.

    Dog whistling requires only a modicum of plausible deniability and should be prevelant in any culture where plausible deniability gets one off the hook.

    Esotericism should only be necessary in a strict culture. But the modern West is all about the plausible deniability. The guys who ditch the dog whistle and just let ‘em have it like Watson are the heroes, and the heroes are going to suffer, in line with a wrist slapping culture like ours. So you lose your job, but keep your head.

    Having said that maybe the Gallup CEO should’ve gone all esoteric with his revelations re the gaming of Obama’s unemployment numbers because the CEO does fear for his own life now, doesn’t he?

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  4. “Today when leading thinkers forget to be esoteric enough about their skepticism toward the current idols of the tribe”

    Oh Steve!

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  5. I read that book about esotericism, and though I have quibbles with it, some not so minor, it’s a really good book. This might not apply to the ancients, since in Aristotle’s case especially, we do not have the esoteric or written for popular consumption stuff, but it’s obviously true that many Euro writers like say Machiavelli did write esoterically and that is the way they have to be read. One not so minor quibble is that Seltzer is very polyannish about esoteric writers, many of whom, like Machiavelli or Erasmus, were not fraudulent con men, in that Seltzer kind of assumes that if one knew what esoteric writers ‘really thought’ just because they wrote esoterically one wouldn’t deem their ‘secret teachings’ to be those of an idiotic blockhead .

    I think this segues in nicely to the present, in that at present, we have and have had, a good example would be Marx or Freud, lots of non esoteric writers, claiming to be reasonable, whose output is just a higher form of superstition than in the past. In the past, the jury that convicted Socrates for crimes against Athenian praxis did not justify it on reason they did so on tradition. Nowadays, such a jury’s praxis is said to be based on reason, but calling their justification reason would be more than a bit ridiculous, whatever our intellectual class that determines modern praxis does, calling it reason is pretty unreasonable. So now though praxis is if anything more unreasonable than it was in the past,at least in the past, since praxis didn’t change that much, one could at least figure it out, while now it’s a rapidly moving target that changes year to year and it’s kind of hard to keep up with. Seltzer does mention Aristotle’s dictum that for the law to really be the law, and the laws are praxis, it has to be pretty constant.

    Lastly, reading esoterically just shouldn’t make a comeback. What will happen if our present day thinking ‘rationalists’ try to do it? They’re just going to determine that the esoteric teachings of past writers that have a good reputation in the present, are whatever is fashionable praxis as of the esoteric reader’s present, as in someone like Benjamin Franklin say, was an atheist who would have been for gay marriage if you read between the lines of his writings or something absurd like that. There is enough stupidity in the world without needlessly adding to it.

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  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The problem with the Straussians is that they claim that what the ancients really meant was, of course, exactly what the Straussians say and interpret the ancients as saying. And since the assumption is that what the ancients really meant was esoteric, the claims are impervious to challenge. Of course the interpretation seems wrong – the text is esoteric!

    The Straussians for example have a peculiar interpretation of Plato’s Republic that’s radically different from that of classicists. The classicists reject this it because the interpretation can’t be corroborated by anything Aristotle ever said or that Socrates said elsewhere. There’s no real grounds for the interpretation except that the text is esoteric. The idea of a text being esoteric can be used to justify almost any sort of interpretation one wants.

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    • Replies: @bigred
    The Straussian interpretation of the Republic is based not so much on the "esoteric" character of the text, as it is upon the literary character of the Republic itself. It really boils down to this: the Republic is, in part, a literary warning about the dangers of political utopianism, and this can be proven by close analysis of the text itself. Also, Aristotle' s interpretation of the Republic in the Politics quite clearly illustrates how the Republic should be read-- that is, Aristotle points out that, if you think about it for even a little bit, the political proposals that emerge from Socrates' discussion with Glaucon and Adeimantus are more or less insane, and this is what Plato wanted us to see. The notion that close reading justifies any interpretation you want does not apply to the way Strauss read Plato, though I can understand why the issue of "esotericism" raises these concerns. You should really read Strauss and some of his more adventurous students such as Laurence Lampert and Stanley Rosen-- their interpretations are, I think, more sound than those classicists and philosophers who don't address the literary character of Plato's writings.
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  7. @Benjamin I. Espen
    Out of curiosity, can you think of way of distinguishing esotericism from mere dense prose? Or from simple prudence? The philosopher whom I am most familiar with in Melzer's book is Aquinas, and it seems he wasn't very subtle about this:



    Response. I answer that the words of a teacher ought to be so moderated that they result to the profit and not to the detriment of the one hearing him. Now, there are certain things which on being heard harm no one, as are the truths which all are held responsible to know: and such ought not to be hidden but openly proposed to all. But there are others which, if openly presented, cause harm in those hearing them; and this can occur for two reasons: in one way, if the secret truths of faith are revealed to infidels who oppose the faith and so come to be derided by them. On this account it is said in Matt. 7:6, “Give not that which is holy to dogs.” And Dionysius (II Coel. hierar.) says, “Listen reverently to these words, to this doctrine given for our instruction by the divinity of divinities, and hide these holy teachings in your minds, shielding them from the unclean multitude so that you may keep them as uniform as possible.”

    Secondly, if any subtleties are proposed to uncultivated people, these folk may find in the imperfect comprehension of them matter for error; wherefore, in 1 Cor. 3:1 it is said: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. As unto little,ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat.” And therefore also, on Exod. 21:33, “If a man open a pit,” the gloss of Gregory says: “He who in sacred eloquence now understands lofty things should cover over these sublime truths by silence when in the presence of those who do not comprehend them, lest through some scandal of mind he cause the loss of some little one among the faithful or of an infidel who otherwise might have come to believe. Those truths, therefore, ought to be hidden from those to whom they might do harm; but a distinction can be made as regards speaking, since these same truths may be privately revealed to the wise, though publicly silence is kept regarding them.”

    Thus, Augustine (IV De doctrina Christiana) says: “Where certain truths are, by reason of their own character, not comprehensible, or scarcely so, even when explained with every effort on the part of the speaker to make them clear, these one rarely dwells upon with a general audience, or never mentions, at all: but in writing, the same distinction cannot be adhered to, because a book, once published, can fall into the hands of any one at all, and therefore some truths should be shielded by obscuring words so that they may profit those who will understand them and be hidden from the simple who will not comprehend them.”

    And by this procedure no harm is done to anyone, because those who understand are held by that which they read, but those who do not understand are not compelled to continue reading. And therefore Augustine says in the same place: “In books which are, so written that they somehow keep a hold on the attention of the reader who understands them, but cause no harm to the one who does not understand them and so is unwilling to read further, there is no failure in duty on the part of the author as long as we bring these truths, even though they are so difficult of comprehension, to the understanding of some.”
     


    Maybe I'm just unusually bright, but Aquinas is stating in plain Latin here that people who aren't too bright are likely to misconstrue complicated ideas. I expected more. Is this what "esoteric" knowledge counts for these days? I'm not impressed.

    Indeed.

    Esotericism sometimes sounds like an excuse for an opaque prose style.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that Strauss didn’t uncover a motherlode of esoteric writing. For example, with Aristotle, most of what we have is his esoteric teachings to his inner circle, while the simpler stuff he presumably wrote for the public no longer exists.

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  8. Esoteric signalling wouldn’t work nowadays anyway–some close reading outsider is going to bring it out and expose it. But who’s listening? Kanye pulled a Kanye last night at the Grammys. Bruce Jenner is transitioning. Something is always trending, and it’s never anything of consequence. And it’s an elite conceit that there are simply some things beyond the average man. As Noam Chomsky says of “structuralist” theory, if it can’t ultimately be explained in simple terms, at least in outline, it is nonsense. You might counter that I’ll never be able to master string theory, but anyone who’s that far into the abstruse on questions of society and human behavior is kidding themselves if they believe they’re on solid ground and should be given the reigns of power.

    If Aristotle was indulging in the practice, it was with the paternalistic attitude that he knew better than the common Athenian what was in his best interests. But he felt kinship even with the mob. He wanted Athens to remain Athens. The attitude of the American elite to the American people is hostile; he doesn’t even want to recognize there is such a thing as an American people. He’s motivated to hide his meaning only to prevent the common man from noticing his patrimony is being stolen out from under him. Who among us needs that explained?
    Our elite has for its methods the Roman circus and Orwell.

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  9. Speaking of esoteric writing, I’ve been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here’s the pussy riot article. It’s interesting:

    http://www.sott.net/article/274860-Pussy-Riot-the-US-State-Department-and-Economic-Shock-Therapy

    Here are some of the projects NED funds: (note the verbose left-speak…something creepy and Orwellian about it)

    “The Humanist Center
    $50,000*
    To engage progressive members of Russian teacher training institutes in a multifaceted curriculum development program. The Center will create alternative educational curricula that use principles of tolerance to oppose ideologies of chauvinism, militarism, clericalism, and authoritarianism. The curricula will be disseminated via CD-Rom and the Internet and introduced into the education system.”

    or:

    “Information and Analysis Center ‘SOVA’
    $60,000
    To monitor nationalism and xenophobia in Russia and track the use of anti-extremist legislation to restrict civil liberties. The Sova Center will work with young democratic activists, and will coordinate with other NGOs and law enforcement agencies to inform them of the results of its monitoring activities. It will also publish a series of books and reports to raise awareness of the issue.”

    or

    “Information Research Center ‘PANORAMA’
    $65,000
    To train young activists from democratic youth organizations—such as Oborona, Young Yabloko, Young SPS, DA!, and Greenpeace Russia—in journalism. Trainees will learn skills that are useful and often essential for civic and political organizations, such as how to obtain and verify facts, establish working contacts, understand government and legal systems, and clearly express points of view.”

    or:

    “Murmansk Association of Women Journalists
    $35,000*
    To develop public service journalism in two regions of the Russian northwest. By supporting the Association’s training program in civic journalism, the Endowment makes a direct contribution to democracy in Russia by increasing the coverage of significant local issues and providing a forum for communication between local government and the public.”

    Lots of “initiatives” like that. here’s the link:

    http://www.ned.org/publications/annual-reports/2007-annual-report/eurasia/description-of-2007-grants/russia

    Also here’s their very very left leaning rag: http://demdigest.net/blog/stop-letting-putin-win-war-words/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DemocracyDigest+%28Democracy+Digest%29

    Which is in turn linked to other very very left leaning rags

    http://www.nationinstitute.org/

    http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/

    All seem to be funded in some way by NED
    All seem to smell like Andrea Dworkin’s underpants.

    (i’m sorry about that last image)

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    • Replies: @anonymous
    .

    Speaking of esoteric writing, I’ve been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here’s the pussy riot article. It’s interesting:
     
    Your radar was lagging. One look and a person could see they were a little too good, all young, slim, in shape and attractive. Any real feminist group would have had a variety of shapes and sizes as well as ages. It's a job they had to audition for and get hired; it's a paid job. Soros money was also said to be involved which dovetails with other Soros-US government ventures.
    , @notme
    As I overheard one Berkeley undergrad woman (black) say to another (white) in 2000, "there's no better or worse, thers's just different."
    , @Theo. Higgins
    In other words, the sovereign city-state of Washington District of Columbia (that DC in itself is an esoteric reference) is warring against Russia via NGO proxies.
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  10. @Benjamin I. Espen
    Out of curiosity, can you think of way of distinguishing esotericism from mere dense prose? Or from simple prudence? The philosopher whom I am most familiar with in Melzer's book is Aquinas, and it seems he wasn't very subtle about this:



    Response. I answer that the words of a teacher ought to be so moderated that they result to the profit and not to the detriment of the one hearing him. Now, there are certain things which on being heard harm no one, as are the truths which all are held responsible to know: and such ought not to be hidden but openly proposed to all. But there are others which, if openly presented, cause harm in those hearing them; and this can occur for two reasons: in one way, if the secret truths of faith are revealed to infidels who oppose the faith and so come to be derided by them. On this account it is said in Matt. 7:6, “Give not that which is holy to dogs.” And Dionysius (II Coel. hierar.) says, “Listen reverently to these words, to this doctrine given for our instruction by the divinity of divinities, and hide these holy teachings in your minds, shielding them from the unclean multitude so that you may keep them as uniform as possible.”

    Secondly, if any subtleties are proposed to uncultivated people, these folk may find in the imperfect comprehension of them matter for error; wherefore, in 1 Cor. 3:1 it is said: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. As unto little,ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat.” And therefore also, on Exod. 21:33, “If a man open a pit,” the gloss of Gregory says: “He who in sacred eloquence now understands lofty things should cover over these sublime truths by silence when in the presence of those who do not comprehend them, lest through some scandal of mind he cause the loss of some little one among the faithful or of an infidel who otherwise might have come to believe. Those truths, therefore, ought to be hidden from those to whom they might do harm; but a distinction can be made as regards speaking, since these same truths may be privately revealed to the wise, though publicly silence is kept regarding them.”

    Thus, Augustine (IV De doctrina Christiana) says: “Where certain truths are, by reason of their own character, not comprehensible, or scarcely so, even when explained with every effort on the part of the speaker to make them clear, these one rarely dwells upon with a general audience, or never mentions, at all: but in writing, the same distinction cannot be adhered to, because a book, once published, can fall into the hands of any one at all, and therefore some truths should be shielded by obscuring words so that they may profit those who will understand them and be hidden from the simple who will not comprehend them.”

    And by this procedure no harm is done to anyone, because those who understand are held by that which they read, but those who do not understand are not compelled to continue reading. And therefore Augustine says in the same place: “In books which are, so written that they somehow keep a hold on the attention of the reader who understands them, but cause no harm to the one who does not understand them and so is unwilling to read further, there is no failure in duty on the part of the author as long as we bring these truths, even though they are so difficult of comprehension, to the understanding of some.”
     


    Maybe I'm just unusually bright, but Aquinas is stating in plain Latin here that people who aren't too bright are likely to misconstrue complicated ideas. I expected more. Is this what "esoteric" knowledge counts for these days? I'm not impressed.

    Maybe I’m just unusually bright, but Aquinas is stating in plain Latin here that people who aren’t too bright are likely to misconstrue complicated ideas.

    Yes, therefore…

    “In books which are, so written that they somehow keep a hold on the attention of the reader who understands them, but cause no harm to the one who does not understand them and so is unwilling to read further, there is no failure in duty on the part of the author as long as we bring these truths, even though they are so difficult of comprehension, to the understanding of some.”

    Did you not get the conclusion there?

    I expected more. Is this what “esoteric” knowledge counts for these days? I’m not impressed.

    Esoteric used to count more in the days when every young Western gentleman learned Latin and ancient Greek as well as several contemporary European languages, read history and philosophy, toured the world, and even picked up some Orientalism while at it.

    How many children grow up reading the Western canon today, even supposedly “educated” ones? And despite all the multiculturalism talk, the fuddy-duddy Western gentlemen of yore who were educated in Orientalism were far more knowledgeable (by both learning and experience) about Asia than the wild-eyed advocates of multiculturalism today.

    In national security, politics, business, and personal defense circles, I often hear people bandy about ideas and phrase they *think* are from v. Clausewitz or Sun Tzu. Most of them have absolutely no clue about what they purport to speak (unless you run into an “esotericist” like the self-consciously-termed “disciples” of “Genghis” John).

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    • Replies: @dearieme
    " ideas and phrase they *think* are from v. Clausewitz or Sun Tzu": I only hope you enjoy such idiocies as much as I do. My favourite involved neither the Kraut nor the Chinese chap: "neither a borrower nor a lender be" as the Good Book says.
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  11. @Anonymous
    The problem with the Straussians is that they claim that what the ancients really meant was, of course, exactly what the Straussians say and interpret the ancients as saying. And since the assumption is that what the ancients really meant was esoteric, the claims are impervious to challenge. Of course the interpretation seems wrong - the text is esoteric!

    The Straussians for example have a peculiar interpretation of Plato's Republic that's radically different from that of classicists. The classicists reject this it because the interpretation can't be corroborated by anything Aristotle ever said or that Socrates said elsewhere. There's no real grounds for the interpretation except that the text is esoteric. The idea of a text being esoteric can be used to justify almost any sort of interpretation one wants.

    The Straussian interpretation of the Republic is based not so much on the “esoteric” character of the text, as it is upon the literary character of the Republic itself. It really boils down to this: the Republic is, in part, a literary warning about the dangers of political utopianism, and this can be proven by close analysis of the text itself. Also, Aristotle’ s interpretation of the Republic in the Politics quite clearly illustrates how the Republic should be read– that is, Aristotle points out that, if you think about it for even a little bit, the political proposals that emerge from Socrates’ discussion with Glaucon and Adeimantus are more or less insane, and this is what Plato wanted us to see. The notion that close reading justifies any interpretation you want does not apply to the way Strauss read Plato, though I can understand why the issue of “esotericism” raises these concerns. You should really read Strauss and some of his more adventurous students such as Laurence Lampert and Stanley Rosen– their interpretations are, I think, more sound than those classicists and philosophers who don’t address the literary character of Plato’s writings.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Okay, but what does that interpretation of Plato's Republic have to do with esotericism? That sounds like Strauss is claiming that Plato was a conservative writing a satire of utopianism. Perhaps, but then what's the need for esotericism?
    , @Anonymous
    Traditional classicists and philosophers do address the literary character of Plato's writings. In fact that's usually among the first points they emphasize - that Plato's writings aren't philosophical treatises, they're literary drama.

    Indeed it's the Straussians who ignore the literary character of Plato. In fact they claim that their interpretation is based on a completely literal reading of Plato, and they argue that traditional classicists and philosophers focus too much on the literary meaning of Plato and end up with an "historical" interpretation that imputes the views of their era onto Plato, while the Straussians have a literal, "close reading" and thus end up with the "timeless" meaning and interpretation of Plato.

    The irony is that it's the Straussians who end up with an "historical" interpretation when they interpret the Republic as some sort of warning against political utopianism. People today find the sort of totalitarian communism described in the Republic to be distasteful, and their inclination would be to believe that any positive description of such a regime must be a warning or a satire or something. But much of ancient Greece was distasteful to contemporary sensibilities and did indeed exist. Relations between men and young boys, for example. Sparta was a powerful and prestigious state, and it was a sort of totalitarian communist regime. Socrates praises Sparta elsewhere. And Aristotle never says that Plato was writing satire or warning about political utopianism.
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  12. @bigred
    The Straussian interpretation of the Republic is based not so much on the "esoteric" character of the text, as it is upon the literary character of the Republic itself. It really boils down to this: the Republic is, in part, a literary warning about the dangers of political utopianism, and this can be proven by close analysis of the text itself. Also, Aristotle' s interpretation of the Republic in the Politics quite clearly illustrates how the Republic should be read-- that is, Aristotle points out that, if you think about it for even a little bit, the political proposals that emerge from Socrates' discussion with Glaucon and Adeimantus are more or less insane, and this is what Plato wanted us to see. The notion that close reading justifies any interpretation you want does not apply to the way Strauss read Plato, though I can understand why the issue of "esotericism" raises these concerns. You should really read Strauss and some of his more adventurous students such as Laurence Lampert and Stanley Rosen-- their interpretations are, I think, more sound than those classicists and philosophers who don't address the literary character of Plato's writings.

    Okay, but what does that interpretation of Plato’s Republic have to do with esotericism? That sounds like Strauss is claiming that Plato was a conservative writing a satire of utopianism. Perhaps, but then what’s the need for esotericism?

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    • Replies: @bigred
    The Republic is esoteric in the same way that any carefully written work of literature is esoteric; you can't read it as if it were at treatise, and you have to consider whether or how the dramatic elements of the work relate to the doctrines presented by Socrates and the other interlocutors. As Strauss puts it, it would be strange to say that Shakespeare thinks that "life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing;" that line is spoken by a character in a play, in specific circumstances, etc etc you would have to interpret the work as a whole in order to understand what Shakespeare was trying to convey. Again, the significance of Strauss' work on the ancients has more to do with his emphasis on literary form, not esotericism. It starts to appear "esoteric," I suppose, once you see (to use one example) that the literary evidence suggests Plato may not have fully subscribed to what we understand as "Platonism" (that is, once we take into account the full range of evidence presented in the dialogues, the relationship between Plato and "Platonism" becomes uncertain.) So, the basic claim is that Socrates presents doctrines about the character of philosophy that neither he nor Plato hold to be true; he presents a public teaching about the character of philosophy, the nature of the world and the gods; stated differently, Socrates-Plato attempt to replace the dying Homeric mythology with a new mythology, forestalling the onset of nihilism while simultaneously making the city more amenable to genuine philosophical inquiry. That is how I understand it, but this is all far above my pay grade.
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  13. […] Source: Steve Sailer […]

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  14. @Twinkie

    Maybe I’m just unusually bright, but Aquinas is stating in plain Latin here that people who aren’t too bright are likely to misconstrue complicated ideas.
     
    Yes, therefore...

    “In books which are, so written that they somehow keep a hold on the attention of the reader who understands them, but cause no harm to the one who does not understand them and so is unwilling to read further, there is no failure in duty on the part of the author as long as we bring these truths, even though they are so difficult of comprehension, to the understanding of some.”
     
    Did you not get the conclusion there?

    I expected more. Is this what “esoteric” knowledge counts for these days? I’m not impressed.
     
    Esoteric used to count more in the days when every young Western gentleman learned Latin and ancient Greek as well as several contemporary European languages, read history and philosophy, toured the world, and even picked up some Orientalism while at it.

    How many children grow up reading the Western canon today, even supposedly "educated" ones? And despite all the multiculturalism talk, the fuddy-duddy Western gentlemen of yore who were educated in Orientalism were far more knowledgeable (by both learning and experience) about Asia than the wild-eyed advocates of multiculturalism today.

    In national security, politics, business, and personal defense circles, I often hear people bandy about ideas and phrase they *think* are from v. Clausewitz or Sun Tzu. Most of them have absolutely no clue about what they purport to speak (unless you run into an "esotericist" like the self-consciously-termed "disciples" of "Genghis" John).

    ” ideas and phrase they *think* are from v. Clausewitz or Sun Tzu”: I only hope you enjoy such idiocies as much as I do. My favourite involved neither the Kraut nor the Chinese chap: “neither a borrower nor a lender be” as the Good Book says.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    By the Good Book I assume you mean Hamlet ...
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  15. I feel like one of those low IQ Africans trying to decipher this post.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    "I feel like one of those low IQ Africans trying to decipher this post."

    Lol, same here!
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  16. @Steve Sailer
    Okay, but what does that interpretation of Plato's Republic have to do with esotericism? That sounds like Strauss is claiming that Plato was a conservative writing a satire of utopianism. Perhaps, but then what's the need for esotericism?

    The Republic is esoteric in the same way that any carefully written work of literature is esoteric; you can’t read it as if it were at treatise, and you have to consider whether or how the dramatic elements of the work relate to the doctrines presented by Socrates and the other interlocutors. As Strauss puts it, it would be strange to say that Shakespeare thinks that “life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing;” that line is spoken by a character in a play, in specific circumstances, etc etc you would have to interpret the work as a whole in order to understand what Shakespeare was trying to convey. Again, the significance of Strauss’ work on the ancients has more to do with his emphasis on literary form, not esotericism. It starts to appear “esoteric,” I suppose, once you see (to use one example) that the literary evidence suggests Plato may not have fully subscribed to what we understand as “Platonism” (that is, once we take into account the full range of evidence presented in the dialogues, the relationship between Plato and “Platonism” becomes uncertain.) So, the basic claim is that Socrates presents doctrines about the character of philosophy that neither he nor Plato hold to be true; he presents a public teaching about the character of philosophy, the nature of the world and the gods; stated differently, Socrates-Plato attempt to replace the dying Homeric mythology with a new mythology, forestalling the onset of nihilism while simultaneously making the city more amenable to genuine philosophical inquiry. That is how I understand it, but this is all far above my pay grade.

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  17. Did Aristotle ever figure out that his teacher Plato agreed with his student’s criticisms of his doctrine? Or was this too complicated for Aristotle, and it had to wait 2400 years for Leo Strauss to discover it?

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  18. Yes, Aristotle clearly understood that the Republic was a work of literature, not a manual on urban planning. But there is no quick way to prove this– you would have to read the Republic (and the Laws), Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics in light of commentaries on Plato by Strauss, Bloom, etc… the perspective is interesting and convincing, in my opinion, but only if you take the time to go over all of the evidence. But, once you accept that the Republic is a drama, and that even Aristotle’s treatises have a dialogue-like character, then the “Straussian” approach to the classics seems a little less strange…

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Okay, but by now we have a lot of examples of both utopian and dystopian literature. They tend to differ in tone. Does Plato employ the tones of a Swift or an Orwell?

    Perhaps, "The Republic" just seemed like a good idea to Plato at the time?

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  19. @bigred
    Yes, Aristotle clearly understood that the Republic was a work of literature, not a manual on urban planning. But there is no quick way to prove this-- you would have to read the Republic (and the Laws), Aristotle's Ethics and Politics in light of commentaries on Plato by Strauss, Bloom, etc... the perspective is interesting and convincing, in my opinion, but only if you take the time to go over all of the evidence. But, once you accept that the Republic is a drama, and that even Aristotle's treatises have a dialogue-like character, then the "Straussian" approach to the classics seems a little less strange...

    Okay, but by now we have a lot of examples of both utopian and dystopian literature. They tend to differ in tone. Does Plato employ the tones of a Swift or an Orwell?

    Perhaps, “The Republic” just seemed like a good idea to Plato at the time?

    Read More
    • Replies: @bigred
    well, the satire becomes pretty apparent by the time Socrates proposes a sex lottery in Book V, as well as public daycare where the babies are handed out to blindfolded mothers at feeding time (to prevent any mother from identifying or bonding with their own children... ) But I can't really convince you here. Buy a copy of Allan Bloom's translation of the Republic, and read the dialogue along with his commentary.
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  20. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Thought Police
    Speaking of esoteric writing, I've been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here's the pussy riot article. It's interesting:
    http://www.sott.net/article/274860-Pussy-Riot-the-US-State-Department-and-Economic-Shock-Therapy

    Here are some of the projects NED funds: (note the verbose left-speak...something creepy and Orwellian about it)

    "The Humanist Center
    $50,000*
    To engage progressive members of Russian teacher training institutes in a multifaceted curriculum development program. The Center will create alternative educational curricula that use principles of tolerance to oppose ideologies of chauvinism, militarism, clericalism, and authoritarianism. The curricula will be disseminated via CD-Rom and the Internet and introduced into the education system."

    or:

    "Information and Analysis Center 'SOVA'
    $60,000
    To monitor nationalism and xenophobia in Russia and track the use of anti-extremist legislation to restrict civil liberties. The Sova Center will work with young democratic activists, and will coordinate with other NGOs and law enforcement agencies to inform them of the results of its monitoring activities. It will also publish a series of books and reports to raise awareness of the issue."

    or

    "Information Research Center 'PANORAMA’
    $65,000
    To train young activists from democratic youth organizations—such as Oborona, Young Yabloko, Young SPS, DA!, and Greenpeace Russia—in journalism. Trainees will learn skills that are useful and often essential for civic and political organizations, such as how to obtain and verify facts, establish working contacts, understand government and legal systems, and clearly express points of view."

    or:

    "Murmansk Association of Women Journalists
    $35,000*
    To develop public service journalism in two regions of the Russian northwest. By supporting the Association’s training program in civic journalism, the Endowment makes a direct contribution to democracy in Russia by increasing the coverage of significant local issues and providing a forum for communication between local government and the public."

    Lots of "initiatives" like that. here's the link:

    http://www.ned.org/publications/annual-reports/2007-annual-report/eurasia/description-of-2007-grants/russia

    Also here's their very very left leaning rag: http://demdigest.net/blog/stop-letting-putin-win-war-words/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DemocracyDigest+%28Democracy+Digest%29

    Which is in turn linked to other very very left leaning rags

    http://www.nationinstitute.org/

    http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/

    All seem to be funded in some way by NED
    All seem to smell like Andrea Dworkin's underpants.


    (i'm sorry about that last image)

    .

    Speaking of esoteric writing, I’ve been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here’s the pussy riot article. It’s interesting:

    Your radar was lagging. One look and a person could see they were a little too good, all young, slim, in shape and attractive. Any real feminist group would have had a variety of shapes and sizes as well as ages. It’s a job they had to audition for and get hired; it’s a paid job. Soros money was also said to be involved which dovetails with other Soros-US government ventures.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Does Soros himself conduct Kim Fowley-like auditions?
    , @Jake Grant
    More on Femen, Pussy Riot and who is really pulling the strings at the Occidental Observer

    http://bit.ly/1yasip9
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  21. @anonymous
    .

    Speaking of esoteric writing, I’ve been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here’s the pussy riot article. It’s interesting:
     
    Your radar was lagging. One look and a person could see they were a little too good, all young, slim, in shape and attractive. Any real feminist group would have had a variety of shapes and sizes as well as ages. It's a job they had to audition for and get hired; it's a paid job. Soros money was also said to be involved which dovetails with other Soros-US government ventures.

    Does Soros himself conduct Kim Fowley-like auditions?

    Read More
    • Replies: @anonymous

    Does Soros himself conduct Kim Fowley-like auditions?

     

    I would guess that he wouldn't have been that personally involved. After all, he's a newlywed with some nagging ex-girlfriend issues.
    , @Thought Police
    Haha!

    As someone once said: "Who, whom"

    I didn't fully understand that phrase the first time I read it. After seeing the Alex Jones crowd, I understand it more. NWO theory obscures more logical less sinister motives: money and naivety being two of the more obvious ones.
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  22. @Steve Sailer
    Okay, but by now we have a lot of examples of both utopian and dystopian literature. They tend to differ in tone. Does Plato employ the tones of a Swift or an Orwell?

    Perhaps, "The Republic" just seemed like a good idea to Plato at the time?

    well, the satire becomes pretty apparent by the time Socrates proposes a sex lottery in Book V, as well as public daycare where the babies are handed out to blindfolded mothers at feeding time (to prevent any mother from identifying or bonding with their own children… ) But I can’t really convince you here. Buy a copy of Allan Bloom’s translation of the Republic, and read the dialogue along with his commentary.

    Read More
    • Replies: @FredR
    "where the babies are handed out to blindfolded mothers at feeding time (to prevent any mother from identifying or bonding with their own children… ) "

    In The Masque of Africa, Naipaul reports that this was a common practice in traditional Ashanti harems.
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  23. @Steve Sailer
    Does Soros himself conduct Kim Fowley-like auditions?

    Does Soros himself conduct Kim Fowley-like auditions?

    I would guess that he wouldn’t have been that personally involved. After all, he’s a newlywed with some nagging ex-girlfriend issues.

    Read More
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  24. Kim Fowley, God rest him, was the perfect democrat. He had the slut (Cherie Currie), the dyke (Joan Jett), the Jew (Jackie Fox), the All-American Califonia surfer girl (Sandy West) and the chubby, gawky teen (Lita Ford) who ended up to be by far the hottest of all of them.

    Read More
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  25. @dearieme
    " ideas and phrase they *think* are from v. Clausewitz or Sun Tzu": I only hope you enjoy such idiocies as much as I do. My favourite involved neither the Kraut nor the Chinese chap: "neither a borrower nor a lender be" as the Good Book says.

    By the Good Book I assume you mean Hamlet …

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  26. It’s a good thing for Watson and Summers that there are plenty of homeless shelters these days.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "It’s a good thing for Watson and Summers that there are plenty of homeless shelters these days."

    Unfair comparison.

    Summers didn't get it 1/100th as bad as Watson.

    Summers is still a rich man with lots of friends. He was even considered for fed role.

    Watson was totally destroyed. Had to even sell his Nobel.

    Also, whereas Watson would have supported Summers's free speech, Summers would never have come to Watson's defense.

    Summers appointed Elena Kagan who doesn't even believe in free speech rights. She banned ROTC from Harvard for military policy of 'don't ask don't tell'.
    Summers is allies with people like her. He is a pc pusher who got burned by other pc pushers.
    Lets not pretend he is on our side in any shape or form.
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  27. @Blobby5
    I feel like one of those low IQ Africans trying to decipher this post.

    “I feel like one of those low IQ Africans trying to decipher this post.”

    Lol, same here!

    Read More
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  28. @bigred
    well, the satire becomes pretty apparent by the time Socrates proposes a sex lottery in Book V, as well as public daycare where the babies are handed out to blindfolded mothers at feeding time (to prevent any mother from identifying or bonding with their own children... ) But I can't really convince you here. Buy a copy of Allan Bloom's translation of the Republic, and read the dialogue along with his commentary.

    “where the babies are handed out to blindfolded mothers at feeding time (to prevent any mother from identifying or bonding with their own children… ) ”

    In The Masque of Africa, Naipaul reports that this was a common practice in traditional Ashanti harems.

    Read More
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  29. I don’t know if it qualifies as (botched) esotericism, but I think that Dinesh D’Souza clearly knew what he was doing when, in “The End of Racism,” he lamely pretended to refute hereditarian arguments after presenting a curiously strong case for their empirical validity.

    Read More
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  30. Fukyomama.

    Read More
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  31. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:
    @iffen
    It's a good thing for Watson and Summers that there are plenty of homeless shelters these days.

    “It’s a good thing for Watson and Summers that there are plenty of homeless shelters these days.”

    Unfair comparison.

    Summers didn’t get it 1/100th as bad as Watson.

    Summers is still a rich man with lots of friends. He was even considered for fed role.

    Watson was totally destroyed. Had to even sell his Nobel.

    Also, whereas Watson would have supported Summers’s free speech, Summers would never have come to Watson’s defense.

    Summers appointed Elena Kagan who doesn’t even believe in free speech rights. She banned ROTC from Harvard for military policy of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’.
    Summers is allies with people like her. He is a pc pusher who got burned by other pc pushers.
    Lets not pretend he is on our side in any shape or form.

    Read More
    • Replies: @iffen
    Isn't that what wordplay is all about; trying to figure out who's on whose side?
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  32. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan_%282014_film%29

    Interesting that evil tyrannical Russia allows a movie to be made that is critical of the current political order, but no such movie is allowed to be made about Jewish elites or homo elites in the free and liberal USA.

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    • Replies: @syonredux

    Interesting that evil tyrannical Russia allows a movie to be made that is critical of the current political order,
     
    Well, some people seem less than pleased by it:

    Although 35% of the funding for Leviathan came from Russia’s Ministry of Culture,[18] Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture, a conservative historian, acknowledged that the film showed talented moviemaking but said he does not like it.[19] He sharply criticized its portrayal of ordinary Russians as swearing vodka-swigging humans, which he does not recognize from his experience as real Russians. He thought it as strange that there is not a single positive character in the movie and implied that the director was not fond of Russians but rather “fame, red carpets and statuettes". Ministry of Culture has now proposed guidelines which would ban movies that defiles the national culture.[19]

     


    but no such movie is allowed to be made about Jewish elites or homo elites in the free and liberal USA.
     
    Would Putin allow an anti-Jewish film to be made?

    Summers is still a rich man with lots of friends. He was even considered for fed role.

    Watson was totally destroyed. Had to even sell his Nobel.
     
    Yeah, but he got one hell of a lot of dough for it:

    James Watson's 1962 Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA's double helix sells for $4.1 million at auction, above its expected selling range of $2.5-3.5 million. Two additional sets of documents belonging to Watson, his original Nobel banquet speech and Nobel lecture manuscript, both sold within their estimated amounts, for $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.
     
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  33. @Thought Police
    Speaking of esoteric writing, I've been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here's the pussy riot article. It's interesting:
    http://www.sott.net/article/274860-Pussy-Riot-the-US-State-Department-and-Economic-Shock-Therapy

    Here are some of the projects NED funds: (note the verbose left-speak...something creepy and Orwellian about it)

    "The Humanist Center
    $50,000*
    To engage progressive members of Russian teacher training institutes in a multifaceted curriculum development program. The Center will create alternative educational curricula that use principles of tolerance to oppose ideologies of chauvinism, militarism, clericalism, and authoritarianism. The curricula will be disseminated via CD-Rom and the Internet and introduced into the education system."

    or:

    "Information and Analysis Center 'SOVA'
    $60,000
    To monitor nationalism and xenophobia in Russia and track the use of anti-extremist legislation to restrict civil liberties. The Sova Center will work with young democratic activists, and will coordinate with other NGOs and law enforcement agencies to inform them of the results of its monitoring activities. It will also publish a series of books and reports to raise awareness of the issue."

    or

    "Information Research Center 'PANORAMA’
    $65,000
    To train young activists from democratic youth organizations—such as Oborona, Young Yabloko, Young SPS, DA!, and Greenpeace Russia—in journalism. Trainees will learn skills that are useful and often essential for civic and political organizations, such as how to obtain and verify facts, establish working contacts, understand government and legal systems, and clearly express points of view."

    or:

    "Murmansk Association of Women Journalists
    $35,000*
    To develop public service journalism in two regions of the Russian northwest. By supporting the Association’s training program in civic journalism, the Endowment makes a direct contribution to democracy in Russia by increasing the coverage of significant local issues and providing a forum for communication between local government and the public."

    Lots of "initiatives" like that. here's the link:

    http://www.ned.org/publications/annual-reports/2007-annual-report/eurasia/description-of-2007-grants/russia

    Also here's their very very left leaning rag: http://demdigest.net/blog/stop-letting-putin-win-war-words/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DemocracyDigest+%28Democracy+Digest%29

    Which is in turn linked to other very very left leaning rags

    http://www.nationinstitute.org/

    http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/

    All seem to be funded in some way by NED
    All seem to smell like Andrea Dworkin's underpants.


    (i'm sorry about that last image)

    As I overheard one Berkeley undergrad woman (black) say to another (white) in 2000, “there’s no better or worse, thers’s just different.”

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    • Replies: @Theo. Higgins
    As Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi ghostly declared, there is no truth., it is just a point of view.
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  34. Seems pretty cowardly. Have something interesting to say, but write it in a way that ensures it’ll have no effect on the world. What’s the point then, just so a few close readers can know what you’re talking about and feel smug?

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  35. That’s your problem Sailer, you just haven’t been writing ESOTERISTICALLY ’nuff– otherwise you’d be regular panelist on “ABC Washington This Week” (sp? I have no idea if such a program actually airs)

    America can’t handle the truth!!1¡

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  36. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @bigred
    The Straussian interpretation of the Republic is based not so much on the "esoteric" character of the text, as it is upon the literary character of the Republic itself. It really boils down to this: the Republic is, in part, a literary warning about the dangers of political utopianism, and this can be proven by close analysis of the text itself. Also, Aristotle' s interpretation of the Republic in the Politics quite clearly illustrates how the Republic should be read-- that is, Aristotle points out that, if you think about it for even a little bit, the political proposals that emerge from Socrates' discussion with Glaucon and Adeimantus are more or less insane, and this is what Plato wanted us to see. The notion that close reading justifies any interpretation you want does not apply to the way Strauss read Plato, though I can understand why the issue of "esotericism" raises these concerns. You should really read Strauss and some of his more adventurous students such as Laurence Lampert and Stanley Rosen-- their interpretations are, I think, more sound than those classicists and philosophers who don't address the literary character of Plato's writings.

    Traditional classicists and philosophers do address the literary character of Plato’s writings. In fact that’s usually among the first points they emphasize – that Plato’s writings aren’t philosophical treatises, they’re literary drama.

    Indeed it’s the Straussians who ignore the literary character of Plato. In fact they claim that their interpretation is based on a completely literal reading of Plato, and they argue that traditional classicists and philosophers focus too much on the literary meaning of Plato and end up with an “historical” interpretation that imputes the views of their era onto Plato, while the Straussians have a literal, “close reading” and thus end up with the “timeless” meaning and interpretation of Plato.

    The irony is that it’s the Straussians who end up with an “historical” interpretation when they interpret the Republic as some sort of warning against political utopianism. People today find the sort of totalitarian communism described in the Republic to be distasteful, and their inclination would be to believe that any positive description of such a regime must be a warning or a satire or something. But much of ancient Greece was distasteful to contemporary sensibilities and did indeed exist. Relations between men and young boys, for example. Sparta was a powerful and prestigious state, and it was a sort of totalitarian communist regime. Socrates praises Sparta elsewhere. And Aristotle never says that Plato was writing satire or warning about political utopianism.

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  37. @Priss Factor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan_%282014_film%29

    Interesting that evil tyrannical Russia allows a movie to be made that is critical of the current political order, but no such movie is allowed to be made about Jewish elites or homo elites in the free and liberal USA.

    Interesting that evil tyrannical Russia allows a movie to be made that is critical of the current political order,

    Well, some people seem less than pleased by it:

    Although 35% of the funding for Leviathan came from Russia’s Ministry of Culture,[18] Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture, a conservative historian, acknowledged that the film showed talented moviemaking but said he does not like it.[19] He sharply criticized its portrayal of ordinary Russians as swearing vodka-swigging humans, which he does not recognize from his experience as real Russians. He thought it as strange that there is not a single positive character in the movie and implied that the director was not fond of Russians but rather “fame, red carpets and statuettes”. Ministry of Culture has now proposed guidelines which would ban movies that defiles the national culture.[19]

    but no such movie is allowed to be made about Jewish elites or homo elites in the free and liberal USA.

    Would Putin allow an anti-Jewish film to be made?

    Summers is still a rich man with lots of friends. He was even considered for fed role.

    Watson was totally destroyed. Had to even sell his Nobel.

    Yeah, but he got one hell of a lot of dough for it:

    James Watson’s 1962 Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA’s double helix sells for $4.1 million at auction, above its expected selling range of $2.5-3.5 million. Two additional sets of documents belonging to Watson, his original Nobel banquet speech and Nobel lecture manuscript, both sold within their estimated amounts, for $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.

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    • Replies: @SFG
    What little evidence we have does not point to Putin as an anti-Semite. He is anti-Washington, to be sure, but that is simply power politics.

    Putin has also contributed to nationalist parties like the Front National in France. Again, power politics. Strong nationalist parties mean a weak EU, and a weak EU is less able to resist Russia.

    That doesn't actually mean you can't support him if you think the EU and gay rights, etc. are bad for Europe. Every side has allies and enemies. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

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  38. @Priss Factor
    "It’s a good thing for Watson and Summers that there are plenty of homeless shelters these days."

    Unfair comparison.

    Summers didn't get it 1/100th as bad as Watson.

    Summers is still a rich man with lots of friends. He was even considered for fed role.

    Watson was totally destroyed. Had to even sell his Nobel.

    Also, whereas Watson would have supported Summers's free speech, Summers would never have come to Watson's defense.

    Summers appointed Elena Kagan who doesn't even believe in free speech rights. She banned ROTC from Harvard for military policy of 'don't ask don't tell'.
    Summers is allies with people like her. He is a pc pusher who got burned by other pc pushers.
    Lets not pretend he is on our side in any shape or form.

    Isn’t that what wordplay is all about; trying to figure out who’s on whose side?

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  39. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    So, was Fukuyama practicing Straussian esotericism to cover his tracks to his “controversial” predecessors?

    Fukuyama’s book The End of History is commonly taken to be a paean to liberal democracy and its triumph, but its subtext is not that simple. Starting with the full title of the book, which is The End of History and the Last Man. The concept of “the Last Man” comes from Nietzsche and is not exactly a positive concept. Fukuyama hints at the negative aspects of liberal democracy and the “Last Man” it produces in interviews.

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  40. @anonymous
    .

    Speaking of esoteric writing, I’ve been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here’s the pussy riot article. It’s interesting:
     
    Your radar was lagging. One look and a person could see they were a little too good, all young, slim, in shape and attractive. Any real feminist group would have had a variety of shapes and sizes as well as ages. It's a job they had to audition for and get hired; it's a paid job. Soros money was also said to be involved which dovetails with other Soros-US government ventures.

    More on Femen, Pussy Riot and who is really pulling the strings at the Occidental Observer

    http://bit.ly/1yasip9

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    • Replies: @SFG
    I did hear Soros shut Femen down when they wanted to start a group in Israel.

    They still seem to be around, though.

    And, did you read to the bottom with the CIA starting left-liberal chic as a counter to Communism? Wheels within wheels, eh?
    , @Thought Police
    Thanks for that
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  41. @syonredux

    Interesting that evil tyrannical Russia allows a movie to be made that is critical of the current political order,
     
    Well, some people seem less than pleased by it:

    Although 35% of the funding for Leviathan came from Russia’s Ministry of Culture,[18] Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture, a conservative historian, acknowledged that the film showed talented moviemaking but said he does not like it.[19] He sharply criticized its portrayal of ordinary Russians as swearing vodka-swigging humans, which he does not recognize from his experience as real Russians. He thought it as strange that there is not a single positive character in the movie and implied that the director was not fond of Russians but rather “fame, red carpets and statuettes". Ministry of Culture has now proposed guidelines which would ban movies that defiles the national culture.[19]

     


    but no such movie is allowed to be made about Jewish elites or homo elites in the free and liberal USA.
     
    Would Putin allow an anti-Jewish film to be made?

    Summers is still a rich man with lots of friends. He was even considered for fed role.

    Watson was totally destroyed. Had to even sell his Nobel.
     
    Yeah, but he got one hell of a lot of dough for it:

    James Watson's 1962 Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA's double helix sells for $4.1 million at auction, above its expected selling range of $2.5-3.5 million. Two additional sets of documents belonging to Watson, his original Nobel banquet speech and Nobel lecture manuscript, both sold within their estimated amounts, for $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.
     

    What little evidence we have does not point to Putin as an anti-Semite. He is anti-Washington, to be sure, but that is simply power politics.

    Putin has also contributed to nationalist parties like the Front National in France. Again, power politics. Strong nationalist parties mean a weak EU, and a weak EU is less able to resist Russia.

    That doesn’t actually mean you can’t support him if you think the EU and gay rights, etc. are bad for Europe. Every side has allies and enemies. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

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    • Replies: @syonredux

    What little evidence we have does not point to Putin as an anti-Semite. He is anti-Washington, to be sure, but that is simply power politics.
     
    That's my point. Lots of Leftists* have tried to convince themselves that Putin is some kind of Jew-hater**, but there is no evidence to back it up.




    * Some STORMFRONT style idiots have also tried to convince themselves of the same notion.

    ** I've always loathed the term anti-Semitism. You need to hate a lot more ethnicities (Arabs, Akkaddians, etc) than just Jews for that word to work
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  42. @Jake Grant
    More on Femen, Pussy Riot and who is really pulling the strings at the Occidental Observer

    http://bit.ly/1yasip9

    I did hear Soros shut Femen down when they wanted to start a group in Israel.

    They still seem to be around, though.

    And, did you read to the bottom with the CIA starting left-liberal chic as a counter to Communism? Wheels within wheels, eh?

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  43. @SFG
    What little evidence we have does not point to Putin as an anti-Semite. He is anti-Washington, to be sure, but that is simply power politics.

    Putin has also contributed to nationalist parties like the Front National in France. Again, power politics. Strong nationalist parties mean a weak EU, and a weak EU is less able to resist Russia.

    That doesn't actually mean you can't support him if you think the EU and gay rights, etc. are bad for Europe. Every side has allies and enemies. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

    What little evidence we have does not point to Putin as an anti-Semite. He is anti-Washington, to be sure, but that is simply power politics.

    That’s my point. Lots of Leftists* have tried to convince themselves that Putin is some kind of Jew-hater**, but there is no evidence to back it up.

    * Some STORMFRONT style idiots have also tried to convince themselves of the same notion.

    ** I’ve always loathed the term anti-Semitism. You need to hate a lot more ethnicities (Arabs, Akkaddians, etc) than just Jews for that word to work

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  44. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The Straussians don’t just claim that Plato was actually warning against the dangers of political utopianism. They assert that Plato was an anti-Idealist, that is he didn’t believe in the Forms like he said he did. All the classical thinkers after Plato from Aristotle onwards say that he did though and address his views as Idealist.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Well, who are you going to trust on Plato's real views: his student for 20 years Aristotle or Leo Strauss?
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  45. @Anonymous
    The Straussians don't just claim that Plato was actually warning against the dangers of political utopianism. They assert that Plato was an anti-Idealist, that is he didn't believe in the Forms like he said he did. All the classical thinkers after Plato from Aristotle onwards say that he did though and address his views as Idealist.

    Well, who are you going to trust on Plato’s real views: his student for 20 years Aristotle or Leo Strauss?

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    • Replies: @vinteuil
    I first encountered Plato's Republic as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago - the belly of the Straussian beast.

    I next encountered the Republic as a Schmidt Fellow teaching "Human Being & Citizen" at the very same institution, a few years later.

    I am currently teaching selections from the Republic at a small Jesuit college in the American Midwest.

    And you know what? I think the Straussians are totally full of **it.

    There is nothing esoteric about the Republic. Plato says what he means, and he means what he says - and what he says, and what he means, is always interesting, and often defensible, even today.
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  46. Steve:

    I miss your book reviews. You seemed to do more of them on the old ISteve site.

    OT: Have you noticed Thomas Geoghegan has a new book out.

    Five

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    What's it about?
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  47. @Name Withheld
    Steve:

    I miss your book reviews. You seemed to do more of them on the old ISteve site.

    OT: Have you noticed Thomas Geoghegan has a new book out.


    Five

    What’s it about?

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  48. I haven’t read it yet, but it seems to be about globalization, The hollowing of the middle class, and the need for a new labor movement in the USA.

    It is called: “Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement”

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  49. @Steve Sailer
    Well, who are you going to trust on Plato's real views: his student for 20 years Aristotle or Leo Strauss?

    I first encountered Plato’s Republic as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago – the belly of the Straussian beast.

    I next encountered the Republic as a Schmidt Fellow teaching “Human Being & Citizen” at the very same institution, a few years later.

    I am currently teaching selections from the Republic at a small Jesuit college in the American Midwest.

    And you know what? I think the Straussians are totally full of **it.

    There is nothing esoteric about the Republic. Plato says what he means, and he means what he says – and what he says, and what he means, is always interesting, and often defensible, even today.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Consider the political views of philosopher Bertrand Russell, the grandson of a prime minister. At various points in life he was a pacifist (going to prison for his beliefs during WWI). Then he was enthusiastic about Communism ... until he went to Russia and met Lenin. Unlike a lot of later British intellectuals in the 1930s, seeing Bolshevism up close cured Russell of his enthusiasm. He supported fighting in WWII. Afterwards he briefly argued that the United States should nuke the Soviet Union in a first strike. Later in immensely long life he became a leading opponent of U.S. nuclear arms policy.

    A lot of these views are of course contradictory, as Russell was well aware.

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  50. @vinteuil
    I first encountered Plato's Republic as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago - the belly of the Straussian beast.

    I next encountered the Republic as a Schmidt Fellow teaching "Human Being & Citizen" at the very same institution, a few years later.

    I am currently teaching selections from the Republic at a small Jesuit college in the American Midwest.

    And you know what? I think the Straussians are totally full of **it.

    There is nothing esoteric about the Republic. Plato says what he means, and he means what he says - and what he says, and what he means, is always interesting, and often defensible, even today.

    Consider the political views of philosopher Bertrand Russell, the grandson of a prime minister. At various points in life he was a pacifist (going to prison for his beliefs during WWI). Then he was enthusiastic about Communism … until he went to Russia and met Lenin. Unlike a lot of later British intellectuals in the 1930s, seeing Bolshevism up close cured Russell of his enthusiasm. He supported fighting in WWII. Afterwards he briefly argued that the United States should nuke the Soviet Union in a first strike. Later in immensely long life he became a leading opponent of U.S. nuclear arms policy.

    A lot of these views are of course contradictory, as Russell was well aware.

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    • Replies: @vinteuil
    Exactly. The obvious explanation for inconsistencies between, say, the Laches & the Meno & the Republic & the Laws is that, over the course of fifty years or so of writing, Plato sometimes changed his mind.
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  51. @Steve Sailer
    Consider the political views of philosopher Bertrand Russell, the grandson of a prime minister. At various points in life he was a pacifist (going to prison for his beliefs during WWI). Then he was enthusiastic about Communism ... until he went to Russia and met Lenin. Unlike a lot of later British intellectuals in the 1930s, seeing Bolshevism up close cured Russell of his enthusiasm. He supported fighting in WWII. Afterwards he briefly argued that the United States should nuke the Soviet Union in a first strike. Later in immensely long life he became a leading opponent of U.S. nuclear arms policy.

    A lot of these views are of course contradictory, as Russell was well aware.

    Exactly. The obvious explanation for inconsistencies between, say, the Laches & the Meno & the Republic & the Laws is that, over the course of fifty years or so of writing, Plato sometimes changed his mind.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    It's like, at a middlebrow level, Heinlein's novels don't form a seamless ideological whole.
    , @josh
    I'm not 100% convinced that that is the explanation for all of Russell's about-faces.
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  52. @vinteuil
    Exactly. The obvious explanation for inconsistencies between, say, the Laches & the Meno & the Republic & the Laws is that, over the course of fifty years or so of writing, Plato sometimes changed his mind.

    It’s like, at a middlebrow level, Heinlein’s novels don’t form a seamless ideological whole.

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    • Replies: @bigred
    But Plato didn't write that way. He didn't have to publish a dialogue every other year to make enough money to pay for his mortgage. The dialogues are like a single novel—a very a long and very weird novel, but nevertheless, they form a unified whole. That, at least, is the Straussian claim—and consider further that Aristotle no where talks about the dialogues being records of Plato’s evolving views on things. The only way to resolve this is to work through the dialogues themselves; I would love to host an Ancient Political Philosophy book club for Steve Sailer fans, but if anyone discovered that I read this blog and sympathize with the views expressed here, I would lose my job, my friends, possibly my family. :)
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  53. @Steve Sailer
    It's like, at a middlebrow level, Heinlein's novels don't form a seamless ideological whole.

    But Plato didn’t write that way. He didn’t have to publish a dialogue every other year to make enough money to pay for his mortgage. The dialogues are like a single novel—a very a long and very weird novel, but nevertheless, they form a unified whole. That, at least, is the Straussian claim—and consider further that Aristotle no where talks about the dialogues being records of Plato’s evolving views on things. The only way to resolve this is to work through the dialogues themselves; I would love to host an Ancient Political Philosophy book club for Steve Sailer fans, but if anyone discovered that I read this blog and sympathize with the views expressed here, I would lose my job, my friends, possibly my family. :)

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Aristotle and other classical commentators and thinkers also take Plato at his word and assume that he means what he says. They don't, for example, believe that Plato didn't believe in the theory of Forms and just made it up as an elaborate ruse and cover for an anti-Idealist, Realist philosophy because he was worried about being persecuted, even though of course Aristotle had no problem writing and expressing frankly his Realist views.
    , @vinteuil
    "The dialogues are like a single novel—a very a long and very weird novel, but nevertheless, they form a unified whole. That, at least, is the Straussian claim."

    Well, yeah - that's the Straussian claim - which is, in the end, about as plausible as contemporaneous crap by the Freudians.

    If you begin by assuming, contrary to all available evidence, that the Apology, the Republic & the Laws are all part of a unified whole, then there's no end to the ensuing silliness.

    "Aristotle no where talks about the dialogues being records of Plato’s evolving views on things. "

    So what? Why would he have?
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  54. @Benjamin I. Espen
    Out of curiosity, can you think of way of distinguishing esotericism from mere dense prose? Or from simple prudence? The philosopher whom I am most familiar with in Melzer's book is Aquinas, and it seems he wasn't very subtle about this:



    Response. I answer that the words of a teacher ought to be so moderated that they result to the profit and not to the detriment of the one hearing him. Now, there are certain things which on being heard harm no one, as are the truths which all are held responsible to know: and such ought not to be hidden but openly proposed to all. But there are others which, if openly presented, cause harm in those hearing them; and this can occur for two reasons: in one way, if the secret truths of faith are revealed to infidels who oppose the faith and so come to be derided by them. On this account it is said in Matt. 7:6, “Give not that which is holy to dogs.” And Dionysius (II Coel. hierar.) says, “Listen reverently to these words, to this doctrine given for our instruction by the divinity of divinities, and hide these holy teachings in your minds, shielding them from the unclean multitude so that you may keep them as uniform as possible.”

    Secondly, if any subtleties are proposed to uncultivated people, these folk may find in the imperfect comprehension of them matter for error; wherefore, in 1 Cor. 3:1 it is said: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. As unto little,ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat.” And therefore also, on Exod. 21:33, “If a man open a pit,” the gloss of Gregory says: “He who in sacred eloquence now understands lofty things should cover over these sublime truths by silence when in the presence of those who do not comprehend them, lest through some scandal of mind he cause the loss of some little one among the faithful or of an infidel who otherwise might have come to believe. Those truths, therefore, ought to be hidden from those to whom they might do harm; but a distinction can be made as regards speaking, since these same truths may be privately revealed to the wise, though publicly silence is kept regarding them.”

    Thus, Augustine (IV De doctrina Christiana) says: “Where certain truths are, by reason of their own character, not comprehensible, or scarcely so, even when explained with every effort on the part of the speaker to make them clear, these one rarely dwells upon with a general audience, or never mentions, at all: but in writing, the same distinction cannot be adhered to, because a book, once published, can fall into the hands of any one at all, and therefore some truths should be shielded by obscuring words so that they may profit those who will understand them and be hidden from the simple who will not comprehend them.”

    And by this procedure no harm is done to anyone, because those who understand are held by that which they read, but those who do not understand are not compelled to continue reading. And therefore Augustine says in the same place: “In books which are, so written that they somehow keep a hold on the attention of the reader who understands them, but cause no harm to the one who does not understand them and so is unwilling to read further, there is no failure in duty on the part of the author as long as we bring these truths, even though they are so difficult of comprehension, to the understanding of some.”
     


    Maybe I'm just unusually bright, but Aquinas is stating in plain Latin here that people who aren't too bright are likely to misconstrue complicated ideas. I expected more. Is this what "esoteric" knowledge counts for these days? I'm not impressed.

    Your blockquote provided a wonderful insight into why the bible must be read under the influence of the Holy Spirit: A widely dispersed book would fall into the hands three sorts of persons: the believer, the elect (but yet to be saved by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the ungodly; therefore, the Spirit inspired word will reveal things to the believer as he grows in faith; just enough will be revealed to he who is to be saved; and the unholy will be left to bend the word to their depravity and to parrot the writings of the traditions of men.

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  55. @Thought Police
    Speaking of esoteric writing, I've been doing a bit of research on NED (the National Endowment for Democracy) after a commenter at Taki pointed me to evidence that Pussy Riot were in part funded by them. This is probably old news to some (so apologies if it is) but NED seems to be how cultural marxism is disseminated throughout Russia and much of the world:
    Here's the pussy riot article. It's interesting:
    http://www.sott.net/article/274860-Pussy-Riot-the-US-State-Department-and-Economic-Shock-Therapy

    Here are some of the projects NED funds: (note the verbose left-speak...something creepy and Orwellian about it)

    "The Humanist Center
    $50,000*
    To engage progressive members of Russian teacher training institutes in a multifaceted curriculum development program. The Center will create alternative educational curricula that use principles of tolerance to oppose ideologies of chauvinism, militarism, clericalism, and authoritarianism. The curricula will be disseminated via CD-Rom and the Internet and introduced into the education system."

    or:

    "Information and Analysis Center 'SOVA'
    $60,000
    To monitor nationalism and xenophobia in Russia and track the use of anti-extremist legislation to restrict civil liberties. The Sova Center will work with young democratic activists, and will coordinate with other NGOs and law enforcement agencies to inform them of the results of its monitoring activities. It will also publish a series of books and reports to raise awareness of the issue."

    or

    "Information Research Center 'PANORAMA’
    $65,000
    To train young activists from democratic youth organizations—such as Oborona, Young Yabloko, Young SPS, DA!, and Greenpeace Russia—in journalism. Trainees will learn skills that are useful and often essential for civic and political organizations, such as how to obtain and verify facts, establish working contacts, understand government and legal systems, and clearly express points of view."

    or:

    "Murmansk Association of Women Journalists
    $35,000*
    To develop public service journalism in two regions of the Russian northwest. By supporting the Association’s training program in civic journalism, the Endowment makes a direct contribution to democracy in Russia by increasing the coverage of significant local issues and providing a forum for communication between local government and the public."

    Lots of "initiatives" like that. here's the link:

    http://www.ned.org/publications/annual-reports/2007-annual-report/eurasia/description-of-2007-grants/russia

    Also here's their very very left leaning rag: http://demdigest.net/blog/stop-letting-putin-win-war-words/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DemocracyDigest+%28Democracy+Digest%29

    Which is in turn linked to other very very left leaning rags

    http://www.nationinstitute.org/

    http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/

    All seem to be funded in some way by NED
    All seem to smell like Andrea Dworkin's underpants.


    (i'm sorry about that last image)

    In other words, the sovereign city-state of Washington District of Columbia (that DC in itself is an esoteric reference) is warring against Russia via NGO proxies.

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    • Replies: @Thought Police
    Dunno bout "warring". Definitely meddling in its affairs under the guise of "spreading democracy" (which more often than not is a code-word for other things), by a U.S. government funded "private" (how does that even work if they're funded?) organisation.
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  56. @notme
    As I overheard one Berkeley undergrad woman (black) say to another (white) in 2000, "there's no better or worse, thers's just different."

    As Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi ghostly declared, there is no truth., it is just a point of view.

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  57. @vinteuil
    Exactly. The obvious explanation for inconsistencies between, say, the Laches & the Meno & the Republic & the Laws is that, over the course of fifty years or so of writing, Plato sometimes changed his mind.

    I’m not 100% convinced that that is the explanation for all of Russell’s about-faces.

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  58. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @bigred
    But Plato didn't write that way. He didn't have to publish a dialogue every other year to make enough money to pay for his mortgage. The dialogues are like a single novel—a very a long and very weird novel, but nevertheless, they form a unified whole. That, at least, is the Straussian claim—and consider further that Aristotle no where talks about the dialogues being records of Plato’s evolving views on things. The only way to resolve this is to work through the dialogues themselves; I would love to host an Ancient Political Philosophy book club for Steve Sailer fans, but if anyone discovered that I read this blog and sympathize with the views expressed here, I would lose my job, my friends, possibly my family. :)

    Aristotle and other classical commentators and thinkers also take Plato at his word and assume that he means what he says. They don’t, for example, believe that Plato didn’t believe in the theory of Forms and just made it up as an elaborate ruse and cover for an anti-Idealist, Realist philosophy because he was worried about being persecuted, even though of course Aristotle had no problem writing and expressing frankly his Realist views.

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  59. @bigred
    But Plato didn't write that way. He didn't have to publish a dialogue every other year to make enough money to pay for his mortgage. The dialogues are like a single novel—a very a long and very weird novel, but nevertheless, they form a unified whole. That, at least, is the Straussian claim—and consider further that Aristotle no where talks about the dialogues being records of Plato’s evolving views on things. The only way to resolve this is to work through the dialogues themselves; I would love to host an Ancient Political Philosophy book club for Steve Sailer fans, but if anyone discovered that I read this blog and sympathize with the views expressed here, I would lose my job, my friends, possibly my family. :)

    “The dialogues are like a single novel—a very a long and very weird novel, but nevertheless, they form a unified whole. That, at least, is the Straussian claim.”

    Well, yeah – that’s the Straussian claim – which is, in the end, about as plausible as contemporaneous crap by the Freudians.

    If you begin by assuming, contrary to all available evidence, that the Apology, the Republic & the Laws are all part of a unified whole, then there’s no end to the ensuing silliness.

    “Aristotle no where talks about the dialogues being records of Plato’s evolving views on things. ”

    So what? Why would he have?

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  60. @Jake Grant
    More on Femen, Pussy Riot and who is really pulling the strings at the Occidental Observer

    http://bit.ly/1yasip9

    Thanks for that

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  61. “Why assume that esoteric writing is a lost art?”

    It appears to have disappeared from philosophic discourse around 1800. Partly that was by design. Part of the purpose of the Enlightenment was to remove the need for esotericism by expunging popular, religious and other prejudices from society forever. Whereas earlier thinkers argued that the disconnect between philosophy and public opinion was a permanent fact of life.

    Steve, the “science” that you love is in its original conception no different from philosophy. In fact the distinction is a modern invention. No need to go into that now, but suffice it to say that the reaction to Watson et al is basically not qualitatively different than the Athenian reaction to Socrates.

    But returning to the main point, what Strauss (re)discovered was a systematic approach to writing in a way that someone like Watson or Summers really know nothing about and wouldn’t know how to do if they tried. A sorta-kinda modern analogy would be Greenspan’s bilious clouds of smoke that he blew before Congress. But that doesn’t really work, either, because esotericism is not about mere obscurity. The point is to be CLEAR on at least two levels: a surface that is publicly accessible and acceptable, or even hortatory, and a depth that conveys the truth to a few.

    From what you wrote, I would put William Hamilton the Greenspan camp of inscrutability rather than claim him as a real esotericist. The reason why esoteric writers such as Plato have remained popular for centuries is because their surfaces are so charming and seem to (and really do) teach so much.

    Now, going through some of the comments:

    “keep in mind is that Strauss didn’t uncover a motherlode of esoteric writing”

    He didn’t claim to have. Here is a direct quote: “It is fortunate for the historians of ideas, to say nothing of others, that there are not many books of this kind.” (Thoughts on Machiavelli, p. 174.)

    Strauss made this claim about a handful of writers: basically, the ancient Greek philosophers and Cicero, Thucydides (Hobbes, who translated Thucydides, says the same thing), the Jewish and Islamic medieval philosophers, and a handful of the early moderns, Machiavelli above all. He rediscovered esotericism through his study of the Jewish (Maimonides) and Islamic (Averroes, Farabi, Avicenna) medievals above all. These are the most provably esoteric writers probably of all time.

    “Okay, but what does that interpretation of Plato’s Republic have to do with esotericism? That sounds like Strauss is claiming that Plato was a conservative writing a satire of utopianism. Perhaps, but then what’s the need for esotericism?”

    This is complicated but I outlined it in a comment to your earlier post on this topic. What I am about to say is referenced and ridiculed by another commenter; so be it.

    Plato’s dialogues are dramas, not treatises. They have a dramatic order. That is, they take place chronologically and show Socrates from his late teens until his death.

    The first, the Parmenides, shows Socrates at about 18 or 19 as first a spectator and later an interlocutor of the “natural philosopher” (aka scientist) Parmenides. Socrates does not dominate the conversation and does not assert much but mostly asks questions. He is mesmerized by Parmenides. Parmenides appears to be a very clever materialist/atheist. Socrates appears to be sucked into this view.

    The second in the dramatic order is the Protagoras. Protagoras is a famous sophist who charges a lot of money to teach what amounts to nonsense, but which is considered the highest wisdom at his time. (Is he a precursor of the Ivies?) A 30-something Socrates utterly humiliates him in front of a large crowd, which includes the most talented youth of that time, above all Alcibiades and Critias. They become enamored of Socrates and drawn to his teaching. But Socrates errs in how he educates them. “The truth” is that while the Olympian gods probably don’t really exist, there is nonetheless a rational, natural basis for justice and morality. But these two internalize only the first half of that.

    Socrates goes off to campaign and when he gets back he finds these two running amok in near-nihilistic, uber-menchian abandon. He is quite horrified, and realizes that he is partly to blame. They had bad natures, but he unintentionally encouraged their bad natures.

    The Republicis an example of such education done the *right* way. Glaucon and Adeimantus (Plato’s brothers) are much like Alcibiades and Critias. But Socrates “tames” them with … well, myths might go too far, but he is more cagey with them than he was with Alcibiades and Critias. When the teaching is over, they are better—more moderate, just and so on. Whereas Alcibiades when on to become a notorious traitor and Critias one of the Thirty Tyrants. In fact, it was Socrates’ association with these two that led to the charges against him: corrupting the youth.

    Glaucon and Adiemantus, on the other hand, turn out to be good men.

    As for the specifics of the Republic, it is meant to show the outlines of true justice, but also the limits of justice. Full justice abstracted from all other considerations turns out to be impractical and impracticable. In the conversation, Glaucon and Adiemantus basically double-dog-dare Socrates to “show us how justice is always profitable to the doer of justice, he never loses out by being just and never forgoes profit by refraining from injustice.”

    Socrates says this is a very tall order and never gives an answer that, carefully read, fully satisfies the letter of their question. But he does send them away BELIEVING that he has done so.

    Regarding the question of “utopia,” the bulk of the Republic consists in the building of a “city in speech,” or the best regime. Strauss’ interpretation is that this not intended as a practical proposal, but is meant to show the limits of politics. When justice is abstracted from every practical consideration, this is what its demands point to. But that it is impossible is indicated by many points. I will limit myself to two.

    First, in the course of proposing various radical measures, it becomes clear that the leaders/founders of the “city in speech” will have opposition from all the people already in any existing city. What to do about that? The solution they come up with is to expel everyone over the age of ten. This takes care of the immediate problem—intractable opposition from those citizens whose opinions are already fully formed—but it introduces other problems which Socrates simply refuses to deal with. E.g., how are you going to get rid of all those people? Where are they going to go and how are they going to be prevented from coming back? Even if you could, how could a city made up entirely of children possibly survive until they were of age? Who would do all the work? Defend the borders? Etc.

    Second, there is the issue of the “nuptial number.” The whole scheme turns out to depend on eugenics, or the careful breeding of citizens so as to assure the right number of souls in the right mixture. This is supposedly to be guaranteed by a mathematical formula. There have been many attempts to work this number out and no agreement on what it actually is. Though I have my own views. In any event, part of the point seems to be that while mathematics can give one a glimpse of the perfection inherent in the physical world, it is unequal to the task of regulation human life.

    Hence, the regime or “city in speech” must fail in practice. It cannot be actualized.

    Regarding your snarky remarks on Aristotle, I would commend to your attention his specific criticisms of Plato, found in Politics II 7 and II 9 and especially in Nicomachean Ethics I 6. These show that he understood Plato exceptionally well. What he does here is treat what Plato meant esoterically or ironically and treat it as if were strictly literal and show its problems on that basis. So, no, Aristotle did not need Strauss to explain this to him. But the rest of us did need Strauss to show what these passages in Aristotle really mean, and what the true differences between Plato and Aristotle really are.

    “Does Plato employ the tones of a Swift or an Orwell?”

    Neither, in the final analysis, but much more Swift than Orwell. As Strauss’ student Allan Bloom showed, Gulliver’s Travels is an adaptation of the ancient teaching for modern ears.

    “Well, who are you going to trust on Plato’s real views: his student for 20 years Aristotle or Leo Strauss?”

    There is no contradiction here.

    Let me, though, refer back to the comment you are responding to, which asserted (in part) this:

    “They assert that Plato … didn’t believe in the Forms like he said he did.”

    This ironic on multiple levels. First, it was ARISTOTLE himself who first made a systematic criticism of the forms. But now, when Leo Strauss suggests the forms may not be Plato’s last word, you leap to condemn Strauss in favor of Aristotle?

    Second, Plato never said he believed in the forms. He had his character Socrates assert the forms in a qualified way in a dramatic dialogue. When Buonasera says “I believe in America” do you take as Gospel that this is the view of Puzo-Coppola?

    Be this as it may, it is a matter of controversy among Straussians what, exactly, to make of the forms. The presumed unanimity here does not exist. There are some—broadly speaking, the “East Coast Straussians”—who assert that every high-minded thing any philosopher ever wrote was “exoteric,” that is, a smokescreen for his true teaching, which is that nihilism is true.

    The “West Coast Straussians,” on the other hand, acknowledge the esotericism of the ancients and medieval but don’t believe that that their true teaching is nihilism, but that reason properly conducted leads to the conclusion that natural right—a metaphysical basis for good and evil—is true.

    The leader of this “faction” was Harry V. Jaffa, who died in Claremont, California on January 10th, 2015. He was subsequently denounced on this web-site by Paul Gottfreid. I began a comment in reply but didn’t finish it. Perhaps I shall.

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    Excellent clarification-- and nice to see that there are other readers of Strauss AND Sailer out there...
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  62. @Theo. Higgins
    In other words, the sovereign city-state of Washington District of Columbia (that DC in itself is an esoteric reference) is warring against Russia via NGO proxies.

    Dunno bout “warring”. Definitely meddling in its affairs under the guise of “spreading democracy” (which more often than not is a code-word for other things), by a U.S. government funded “private” (how does that even work if they’re funded?) organisation.

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  63. @Steve Sailer
    Does Soros himself conduct Kim Fowley-like auditions?

    Haha!

    As someone once said: “Who, whom”

    I didn’t fully understand that phrase the first time I read it. After seeing the Alex Jones crowd, I understand it more. NWO theory obscures more logical less sinister motives: money and naivety being two of the more obvious ones.

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  64. @manton
    “Why assume that esoteric writing is a lost art?”

    It appears to have disappeared from philosophic discourse around 1800. Partly that was by design. Part of the purpose of the Enlightenment was to remove the need for esotericism by expunging popular, religious and other prejudices from society forever. Whereas earlier thinkers argued that the disconnect between philosophy and public opinion was a permanent fact of life.

    Steve, the “science” that you love is in its original conception no different from philosophy. In fact the distinction is a modern invention. No need to go into that now, but suffice it to say that the reaction to Watson et al is basically not qualitatively different than the Athenian reaction to Socrates.

    But returning to the main point, what Strauss (re)discovered was a systematic approach to writing in a way that someone like Watson or Summers really know nothing about and wouldn’t know how to do if they tried. A sorta-kinda modern analogy would be Greenspan’s bilious clouds of smoke that he blew before Congress. But that doesn’t really work, either, because esotericism is not about mere obscurity. The point is to be CLEAR on at least two levels: a surface that is publicly accessible and acceptable, or even hortatory, and a depth that conveys the truth to a few.

    From what you wrote, I would put William Hamilton the Greenspan camp of inscrutability rather than claim him as a real esotericist. The reason why esoteric writers such as Plato have remained popular for centuries is because their surfaces are so charming and seem to (and really do) teach so much.

    Now, going through some of the comments:

    “keep in mind is that Strauss didn’t uncover a motherlode of esoteric writing”

    He didn’t claim to have. Here is a direct quote: “It is fortunate for the historians of ideas, to say nothing of others, that there are not many books of this kind.” (Thoughts on Machiavelli, p. 174.)

    Strauss made this claim about a handful of writers: basically, the ancient Greek philosophers and Cicero, Thucydides (Hobbes, who translated Thucydides, says the same thing), the Jewish and Islamic medieval philosophers, and a handful of the early moderns, Machiavelli above all. He rediscovered esotericism through his study of the Jewish (Maimonides) and Islamic (Averroes, Farabi, Avicenna) medievals above all. These are the most provably esoteric writers probably of all time.

    “Okay, but what does that interpretation of Plato’s Republic have to do with esotericism? That sounds like Strauss is claiming that Plato was a conservative writing a satire of utopianism. Perhaps, but then what’s the need for esotericism?”

    This is complicated but I outlined it in a comment to your earlier post on this topic. What I am about to say is referenced and ridiculed by another commenter; so be it.

    Plato’s dialogues are dramas, not treatises. They have a dramatic order. That is, they take place chronologically and show Socrates from his late teens until his death.

    The first, the Parmenides, shows Socrates at about 18 or 19 as first a spectator and later an interlocutor of the “natural philosopher” (aka scientist) Parmenides. Socrates does not dominate the conversation and does not assert much but mostly asks questions. He is mesmerized by Parmenides. Parmenides appears to be a very clever materialist/atheist. Socrates appears to be sucked into this view.

    The second in the dramatic order is the Protagoras. Protagoras is a famous sophist who charges a lot of money to teach what amounts to nonsense, but which is considered the highest wisdom at his time. (Is he a precursor of the Ivies?) A 30-something Socrates utterly humiliates him in front of a large crowd, which includes the most talented youth of that time, above all Alcibiades and Critias. They become enamored of Socrates and drawn to his teaching. But Socrates errs in how he educates them. “The truth” is that while the Olympian gods probably don’t really exist, there is nonetheless a rational, natural basis for justice and morality. But these two internalize only the first half of that.

    Socrates goes off to campaign and when he gets back he finds these two running amok in near-nihilistic, uber-menchian abandon. He is quite horrified, and realizes that he is partly to blame. They had bad natures, but he unintentionally encouraged their bad natures.

    The Republicis an example of such education done the *right* way. Glaucon and Adeimantus (Plato’s brothers) are much like Alcibiades and Critias. But Socrates “tames” them with … well, myths might go too far, but he is more cagey with them than he was with Alcibiades and Critias. When the teaching is over, they are better—more moderate, just and so on. Whereas Alcibiades when on to become a notorious traitor and Critias one of the Thirty Tyrants. In fact, it was Socrates’ association with these two that led to the charges against him: corrupting the youth.

    Glaucon and Adiemantus, on the other hand, turn out to be good men.

    As for the specifics of the Republic, it is meant to show the outlines of true justice, but also the limits of justice. Full justice abstracted from all other considerations turns out to be impractical and impracticable. In the conversation, Glaucon and Adiemantus basically double-dog-dare Socrates to “show us how justice is always profitable to the doer of justice, he never loses out by being just and never forgoes profit by refraining from injustice.”

    Socrates says this is a very tall order and never gives an answer that, carefully read, fully satisfies the letter of their question. But he does send them away BELIEVING that he has done so.

    Regarding the question of “utopia,” the bulk of the Republic consists in the building of a “city in speech,” or the best regime. Strauss’ interpretation is that this not intended as a practical proposal, but is meant to show the limits of politics. When justice is abstracted from every practical consideration, this is what its demands point to. But that it is impossible is indicated by many points. I will limit myself to two.

    First, in the course of proposing various radical measures, it becomes clear that the leaders/founders of the “city in speech” will have opposition from all the people already in any existing city. What to do about that? The solution they come up with is to expel everyone over the age of ten. This takes care of the immediate problem—intractable opposition from those citizens whose opinions are already fully formed—but it introduces other problems which Socrates simply refuses to deal with. E.g., how are you going to get rid of all those people? Where are they going to go and how are they going to be prevented from coming back? Even if you could, how could a city made up entirely of children possibly survive until they were of age? Who would do all the work? Defend the borders? Etc.

    Second, there is the issue of the “nuptial number.” The whole scheme turns out to depend on eugenics, or the careful breeding of citizens so as to assure the right number of souls in the right mixture. This is supposedly to be guaranteed by a mathematical formula. There have been many attempts to work this number out and no agreement on what it actually is. Though I have my own views. In any event, part of the point seems to be that while mathematics can give one a glimpse of the perfection inherent in the physical world, it is unequal to the task of regulation human life.

    Hence, the regime or “city in speech” must fail in practice. It cannot be actualized.

    Regarding your snarky remarks on Aristotle, I would commend to your attention his specific criticisms of Plato, found in Politics II 7 and II 9 and especially in Nicomachean Ethics I 6. These show that he understood Plato exceptionally well. What he does here is treat what Plato meant esoterically or ironically and treat it as if were strictly literal and show its problems on that basis. So, no, Aristotle did not need Strauss to explain this to him. But the rest of us did need Strauss to show what these passages in Aristotle really mean, and what the true differences between Plato and Aristotle really are.

    “Does Plato employ the tones of a Swift or an Orwell?”

    Neither, in the final analysis, but much more Swift than Orwell. As Strauss’ student Allan Bloom showed, Gulliver’s Travels is an adaptation of the ancient teaching for modern ears.

    “Well, who are you going to trust on Plato’s real views: his student for 20 years Aristotle or Leo Strauss?”

    There is no contradiction here.

    Let me, though, refer back to the comment you are responding to, which asserted (in part) this:

    “They assert that Plato … didn’t believe in the Forms like he said he did.”

    This ironic on multiple levels. First, it was ARISTOTLE himself who first made a systematic criticism of the forms. But now, when Leo Strauss suggests the forms may not be Plato’s last word, you leap to condemn Strauss in favor of Aristotle?

    Second, Plato never said he believed in the forms. He had his character Socrates assert the forms in a qualified way in a dramatic dialogue. When Buonasera says “I believe in America” do you take as Gospel that this is the view of Puzo-Coppola?

    Be this as it may, it is a matter of controversy among Straussians what, exactly, to make of the forms. The presumed unanimity here does not exist. There are some—broadly speaking, the “East Coast Straussians”—who assert that every high-minded thing any philosopher ever wrote was “exoteric,” that is, a smokescreen for his true teaching, which is that nihilism is true.

    The “West Coast Straussians,” on the other hand, acknowledge the esotericism of the ancients and medieval but don’t believe that that their true teaching is nihilism, but that reason properly conducted leads to the conclusion that natural right—a metaphysical basis for good and evil—is true.

    The leader of this “faction” was Harry V. Jaffa, who died in Claremont, California on January 10th, 2015. He was subsequently denounced on this web-site by Paul Gottfreid. I began a comment in reply but didn’t finish it. Perhaps I shall.

    Excellent clarification– and nice to see that there are other readers of Strauss AND Sailer out there…

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  65. The words Ethnic Nepotism just leaped out at me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_nepotism

    “homogenous groups are more altruistic”: The implications of that are huge.

    Can’t help but think of this experiment: (courtesy of the boys at ROK no less!)

    http://www.returnofkings.com/36915/what-humans-can-learn-from-the-mice-utopia-experiment

    The mouse utopia fails. But does it fail due to over-population or is it because the gene pool has become so convoluted? The mice don’t know who they can trust? Speculation of course but you could definitely make the leap that altruism appears to break down as gene pool diverges?

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    • Replies: @Thought Police
    As in, if you could inseminate 2000 females with one common father sperm, or 2000 'sisters' with one common father sperm, would that population break down so dramatically??

    Something tells me no.

    Because they all seem to be able to live in close proximity to eachother, it seems the tipping point is not "number of mice" but something else!

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  66. @Thought Police
    The words Ethnic Nepotism just leaped out at me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_nepotism

    "homogenous groups are more altruistic": The implications of that are huge.

    Can't help but think of this experiment: (courtesy of the boys at ROK no less!)
    http://www.returnofkings.com/36915/what-humans-can-learn-from-the-mice-utopia-experiment

    The mouse utopia fails. But does it fail due to over-population or is it because the gene pool has become so convoluted? The mice don't know who they can trust? Speculation of course but you could definitely make the leap that altruism appears to break down as gene pool diverges?

    As in, if you could inseminate 2000 females with one common father sperm, or 2000 ‘sisters’ with one common father sperm, would that population break down so dramatically??

    Something tells me no.

    Because they all seem to be able to live in close proximity to eachother, it seems the tipping point is not “number of mice” but something else!

    Read More
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