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Not in Line With My Philosophy


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I am misquoted in ["Defending Strauss" by Julie Englander, August 24]. I most certainly did not describe Straussianism as "a pathology of American philosophy departments," since it does not exist in any leading American philosophy department. Strauss was not, contrary to the article's heading, a professor of philosophy, but a professor of political science, and the Straussian pathology and its attendant cult, which I discussed with Ms. Englander, operates exclusively in some American political science departments. Actual philosophers view Strauss exactly as I and Myles Burnyeat describe in the article.

Strauss may indeed have "many critics who persist in connecting him to all that's wrong with American policy," but I am not one of them. It strikes me as rather silly to attribute the venal criminality of the Bush administration to a not very good scholar of the history of philosophy. Unfortunately, this article, while informative and interesting, tends to contribute to the misapprehension that Leo Strauss and his acolytes know anything about philosophy or the "philosophical life." The more interesting question is the sociological one of how this particular pseudo-scholarly cult has enjoyed such staying power in U.S. political science departments.

Brian Leiter

University of Texas, Austin

Julie Englander replies:

It's true that Strauss, like most of those who have claimed him as an influence, taught in a political science department. I apologize if I led readers to believe that Leiter is among critics who connect Strauss with all that's wrong with American policy. Leiter made it clear to me that he disparages Straussians not because they might be responsible for the war in Iraq but because their scholarship is so shoddy that he remains uninterested in reading any of the recent publications that attempt to set the record straight.

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