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Do We Need Jerusalem ‘and’ Athens? A Straussian Reflection on the Role of Religion and Medievalism (English version)

María Alejandra Vanney ()
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María Alejandra Vanney: Ph.D., Dean of Studies, Associate Professor of Political Science, School of Law, Austral University, Buenos Aires

Postmodern Openings, 2012, vol. 9, 57-77

Abstract: Leo Strauss, rejecting modernity advocates for a remaining tension between reason, understood according to the classical greek and medieval tradition – not modern – and revelation as the only way to maintain the vitality of Western civilization. According to his reasoning there is no possible synthesis among both spheres, and this dialectical situation is fruitful, affirms Strauss, for the development of the West. Both, revelation and reason, says Strauss, are “incommensurables” and, as such, any of them can know the “Whole” which is the same as considering each ones’ autonomy and, from another perspective, each ones’ limitation. There are many reasons – his own cultural and religious tradition, certain animadversion to Aquinas, a kind of fear about losing philosophy’s own field of study, etc – but it is interesting to consider that both areas (reason and religion) at the very end are for Strauss, necessary factors, considered more in terms of functionality rather than regarded as valuable on themselves. On the other hand, this raises the interrogation if he really succeeded in avoiding voluntarism which is the source of all the modern philosophical trends that he criticizes. To the end, Strauss remains within a modern conception that cannot affirm one truth. For religion this means that he failed to recognized it – within its scope – advocates for the importance of reason, recognizing natural right (known by man when exercising his rationality), the respect of the rightful autonomy of the political and civil spheres – in which scopes of prudence and rationality are assumed, thus honoring practical racionality – and by pointing out limits of the intolerable, from those that in law are defined as public order and gives existence and life to law, who’s reason of existence resides in the establishment of convictions according to an existing order. From a practical point of view, this reasoning is faithful to the dogma by which the presence of religion in a political scenario is an attack on a State’s sovereignty and an intolerable intrusion in the independence of a democratic and laicist State. For this reason those who have faith must keep it undercover and in secret, without any manifestation whatsoever in social and political life. This pretense clearly shows that for the State, believers are not free individuals but are rather subjects under a regime that intends to govern their actions and influence their consciences. When all is said and done, the question that arises is whether Caesar can play God, if the State is the last horizon in personal life and most intimate realities, or if there is more; and if that “more” is within the freedom of each individual, of his legitimate way of living within the family, profession and public scopes without the intromission of Caesar.

Keywords: Political Philosophy; Leo Strauss; Reason and Revelation; Athens and Jerusalem (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A23 Z0 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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