Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides

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9780226307015: Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides

In Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides, Kenneth Hart Green explores the critical role played by Maimonides in shaping Leo Strauss’s thought. In uncovering the esoteric tradition employed in Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed, Strauss made the radical realization that other ancient and medieval philosophers might be concealing their true thoughts through literary artifice. Maimonides and al-Farabi, he saw, allowed their message to be altered by dogmatic considerations only to the extent required by moral and political imperatives and were in fact avid advocates for enlightenment. Strauss also revealed Maimonides’s potential relevance to contemporary concerns, especially his paradoxical conviction that one must confront the conflict between reason and revelation rather than resolve it.           
An invaluable companion to Green’s comprehensive collection of Strauss’s writings on Maimonides, this volume shows how Strauss confronted the commonly accepted approaches to the medieval philosopher, resulting in both a new understanding of Maimonides and a new depth and direction for his own thought. It will be welcomed by anyone engaged with the work of either philosopher. 

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About the Author:

Kenneth Hart Green is associate professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Jew and Philosopher: The Return to Maimonides in the Jewish Thought of Leo Strauss.

Review:

“Kenneth Green’s collection of essays rigorously retraces the stages by which Strauss came to see Maimonides and his teachings in a new light. Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides is an ambitious attempt to see Strauss’s preoccupation with Maimonides as a manifestation of his overall philosophical concerns.”
(Ralph Lerner, University of Chicago)

“Green synthesizes Strauss’s thoughts about Maimonides, providing their intellectual context and chronological development. A central theme of the book is how and why Strauss believed that Maimonides held the keys to unlocking the problems encountered by modern Western people. Green’s deep familiarity with Strauss’s writings allows him to blend them into an integrated whole, and the footnotes to the book provide references to ongoing developments in scholarship.” (Jewish Libraries Newsletter 2014-01-10)

“If Maimonides allows readers a new beginning with respect to an understanding of philosophy, and if Strauss allows readers a similarly new beginning concerning Maimonides’s thought, then surely Kenneth Hart Green’s two impressive new volumes allow readers an analogous beginning concerning the thought of Leo Strauss as it pertains to the question of revealed Law and reason—or, as Strauss put it, “Jerusalem and Athens.’ . . . Where Leo Strauss on Maimonides is marked by its systematic completeness (as much as, in any event, can reasonably be expected from one volume), Leo Straussand the Rediscovery of Maimonides gives a more spacious and open-ended presentation of the Strauss-Maimonides relation; as a companion volume, it surveys the forest in which the trees presented in the former volume reside.” (International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 2014-01-15)

“Do we need medieval wisdom, and to explore anew the foundations of modern rationalism? Green gives a resolutely positive answer to these questions in his comprehensive study on Leo Strauss’s lifelong exploration of Maimonides’s work. His study is written in a personal and pleasing style which makes it a fitting companion to his recent edition of Strauss’s complete writings on this twelfth-century Jewish leader, physician, and philosopher. . . . One more significant contribution by Green to our understanding of Strauss’s work and to the contemporary resources for thinking through the theologico-political problem.” (Review of Politics 2014-08-04)

“Green’s account of Strauss’s dissatisfaction with his predecessors and his attempt to free himself from the question-begging assumptions that marred their interpretations is both clear and thorough. To the best of my knowledge, no one has gone into this aspect of Strauss’s thought with Green’s diligence. As Green shows in convincing detail, Strauss’s frustration with the literature on Maimonides is symptomatic of a wider dissatisfaction with modern philosophy as a whole.” (Association for Jewish Studies Review 2015-05-22)

“Green has produced a fascinating book in which he examines Leo Strauss’s ‘rediscovery’ of Moses Maimonides. In this study, we encounter a long and complex discussion of Strauss’s careful reading of Maimonides’s philosophical masterpiece, the Guide of the Perplexed.” (Political Theory 2015-06-23)

"Green gives us a Strauss who takes not just Athens but Athens and Jerusalem entirely seriously, and who sees the cure for historicism not in the one or the other but in 'keeping the two opponents and competitors for the truth in civilized, even if often paradoxical, conversation.'” (Jewish Review of Books 2015-06-25)

“Green, one of the foremost contemporary Strauss scholars, argues that rather than reading Strauss on Maimonides as ‘an achievement of historical scholarship,’ we should instead see him as ‘primarily and perhaps most significantly, a thinker . . . [and] only secondarily a historical scholar, albeit a masterly one.’ . . . [This is an] impressive and tightly-written book.” (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2015-10-22)

 “In his exceptionally thoughtful and wide-ranging book, Leo Strauss and the Rediscovery of Maimonides, Green . . . puts forward a distinctive motive for studying the Guide, namely, the desire for eternity, that is to say, the desire for truth and knowledge, which ultimately depend upon what is eternal.” (Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 2016-04-25)

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