Leo Strauss on Solitude

…the philosopher cannot possibly desire to rule. His only demand on the political men is that they leave him alone…(p.207)

   That’s why I yell at my cats- even the “gentleman,” Mr. Black, my “best animal,” “Leave me alone!” If I were a true and full philosopher, I would likely never yell (and they would never listen (Republic, opening), though they do not anyway). And that’s why Justice Black (or Frankfurter?) said, “the right to be left alone is the right most prized by civilized man,” and why the U.S. Declaration, setting rights above duties, is so excellent.* It allows for the Holy Spirit: it is the house without a roof, open to the sky. All men (universal sense, which of course includes women, not of course, qua women, but qua men) have the faculty developed in the philosopher: The philosopher embodies and shows the excellence of man, hence, “all men are created equal-” equally endowed with rights, as Lincoln explains in his speech on Dred Scott. So here, Strauss continues,

   …The philosopher cannot lead an absolutely solitary life because legitimate “subjective certainty” and the “subjective certainty” of the lunatic are indistinguishable. Genuine certainty must be “inter-subjective.” The classics were fully aware of the essential weakness of the mind of the individual. Hence, their teaching about friendship: the philosopher is a philosopher in need of friends.

                                                                                      On Tyranny, p. 208

Tyrants, of course, cannot have friends.

  It is irony itself that the tyrant is surrounded by flatterers and bigger and smaller fish. Some he depends upon to mirror his prestige, while others he depends upon for safety. Meanwhile, the philosopher must hide away in the woods like Merlin to keep mankind from tearing themselves to shreds if they encounter him, who is by nature a gadfly.

   The philosopher too is one of the many, a citizen like any other, with the peculiar advantage that he is one of the few who can speak. There are very few substantial letters to congresspersons, amplifying the voice of those among the people that are able to speak of things that mater. Most, of course, cannot.

   Athens killed Socrates the Philosopher, and Plato and Xenophon wrote Apologies of Socrates, arguing of course that this should not have occurred. Xenophon wrote that far from being punished for not believing in the gods of the city and for corrupting the youth, Socrates was deserving of honor. Socrates, required to tell the truth because he is in court, said he deserved free meals in the Prytanium like an Olympic victor.

   Honor, which the philosopher does not seek for its own sake, in the sense of recognition, is needed for his own protection. It is also good for men to look to and esteem things truly honorable (Leo Paul S. de Alvarez).

   Had Athens honored rather than judicially murdered Socrates the philosopher, Greece might have become an autocthonous nation, more than a match for Persia, and avoided the Imperialism of Alexander that destroyed Greek liberty .

   But you see that since the madman and the philosopher are indistinguishable to the folks in the neighborhood, many things follow. The Constitution supersedes the “Michigan Mental Health Code,” which is unconstitutional when it seizes a man for mere speech because others are deluded and self-interested or imagine him a danger, and act upon this delusion rather than allow him to explain. And the case is important enough to pursue to the ends of the earth. They live like slaves because they fear death, and like the Miller in Grimm’s goat story, will do things so base as to destroy the value of their having lived at all. It is no grave dishonor to be considered mad, nor to lose all one’s friends as Odysseus did while having done or said not a single thing wrong. They could not restrain themselves from the cattle of Helios, or, their ignoble self interest proves them incapable of philosophy. But then Odysseus sees, and gets to see Nausikka.

   This leaves open the possibility that there was no outside influence in what caused my family- people I have known for fifty years- to hurt me so badly I will likely never be reconciled. “…But a sin against the Holy Spirit…” And what do you think the context indicates He is talking about?

Note* So long as one does not violate the rights of another, “society” is required by our fundamental law to at least leave him alone.

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