Arthur Melzer has written a fine book on esotericism, showing that the practice of writing between the lines, of hiding one’s real meaning behind superficial expressions to the contrary, was an art long practiced by pre-modern thinkers.
But the book is much more than a catalogue of evidence,* says Francis Fukuyama. It amounts to what is among the most impressive reconsiderations of the thought of Leo Strauss, whose reputation has suffered since in recent years.
One of the many forms of collateral damage caused by the Iraq War was the besmirching of the reputation of Leo Strauss, one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers, at the hands of advocates like Shadia Drury and Anne Norton. Anyone having the least familiarity with Strauss’s life and writings would have understood the fatuity of the claims being made (such as that which claims Strauss would have advised officials to lie about foreign policy), but the damage has been done.
Since that time, more sympathetic academics like Steven B. Smith and Peter Minowitz have made efforts to rescue Strauss’s reputation. One of the most effective reconsiderations is a wonderful new book by Arthur Melzer, professor at Michigan State and co-director of its Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy, under the guise of a treatise on esotericism.
Read the article here.
*As it happens, Melzer provides an online appendix that amounts to just such a catalogue, with 110 pages of quotations from Homer to Wittgenstein.