Thought for the day

Leo Strauss published the essay “Jerusalem and Athens: Some Preliminary Reflections” in 1967. It has since been collected in Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy (1983), with an introduction by Thomas Pangle. This paragraph has a peculiarly contemporary ring:

However much the science of cultures may protest its innocence of all preferences or evaluations it fosters a specific moral posture. Since it requires openness to all cultures, it fosters universal tolerance and the exhilaration deriving from the beholding of diversity; it necessarily affects all cultures that it can still affect by contributing to their transformation in one and the same direction; it willy-nilly brings about a shift of emphasis from the particular to the universal: by asserting, if only implicitly, the rightness of pluralism, it asserts that pluralism is the right way; it asserts the monism of universal tolerance and respect for diversity, for by virtue of being an -ism, pluralism is a monism.

Strauss continues in the next paragraph to make this related point:

One remains somewhat closer to the science of culture as commonly practiced if one limits oneself to saying that every attempt to understand the phenomena in question remains dependent on a conceptual framework that is alien to most of these phenomena and therefore necessarily distorts them. “Objectivity” can be expected only if one attempts to understand the various cultures or peoples exactly as they understood themselves. Men of ages and climates other than our own did not understand themselves in terms of cultures because they were not concerned with culture in the present-day meaning of the term. What we now call culture is the accidental result of concerns that were not concerns with culture but with other things and above all with the Truth.

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