Athens and Jerusalem

The DeHart essay, a Christian argument against Leo Strauss, is:

“Contra Leo Strauss, There’s No Conflict Between Reason and Revelation”

By Paul R. De Hart, in Public Discourse: The Journal of the Witherspoon Institute


M. McDonald:
   Leo Strauss is famous for starkly presenting the contrast of the ways of philosophy and religion, or reason and faith, as the ways of Athens or Jerusalem, and saying that while it is possible to follow or be one or the other, it is not possible to be, follow or do both. His essay “Jerusalem and Athens: Some Preliminary Reflections” is the primary source, with additional treatments in three other essays listed in the Bibliography below. The attempt to have both led, in the medieval thinkers, to the attempt to make philosophy the “handmaid” of theology, famously reducing the enterprise of Athens to the poverty of scholasticism. Erasmus, too, attempted the “Philosophy of Christ,” and such efforts may be what Strauss had in mind. For us, either alternative, of Athens or Jerusalem, had been so buried beneath atheistic modernity and fanatical belief that the Straussian recovery alone is a great service. What follows is a Christian answer different from the Christian rejection of Strauss attempted by De Hart.
These thoughts are copied and reversed from the Twitter account mmcdonald77. To see how these originally appeared, look at the Tweets from March 7th, preserved also on wordpress, as each becomes a paragraph.

   Notice first that it is theology, not attachment to the Christ, that is in conflict with the way of reason, as we understand the love of wisdom (philo-sophia). If the Christ is true, the issue may be different than it is if the Christ is not true. Though John, in the title of the “Revelation” or Apo-calypse, is called “John the divine,” (theologou: or John the word of God), there is no New Testament way called “theology.” Paul, when writing of such things, switches to the passive: …”Now that you have come to know God, or rather, to be known by God!” (Gal. 4:9; 1 Cor 8:2-3). Nor does the word “Revelation” (Rev. 1:1, etc), occur in the Bible in the sense in which we have become accustomed to use the word, to mean opinions to be taken as divine premises, words or laws which we are obligated to follow. John says the word was “in the beginning,” (John 1:1), The New Testament was not written yet when Paul spoke of every scripture being divinely inspired (  ). The Bible is the word of God in a sense consistent with the sense in which the word was in the beginning and is. Hence there can be slight differences in the Gospels, such as the date of the  purging of the temple of the money changers, but that is not the point.) The opinion, though salutary, is a Protestant addition, intended to prune off other additions. The word “revelation” is usually a verb, not a noun. Daniel uses it as does John, to refer to mysteries, and to prophecy. The closest use of the word as Strauss uses it here may be Romans 16:25, where it is again a verb referring to mysteries, i.e., not something in which anyone can be required by law to believe, since they are not known or cannot be spoken. It is a noun at 1 Cor.14.6, but here it is something in addition to what joins the Christians as a community, again akin to prophecy. Further, almost no one has ever credibly claimed to understand the whole of the book of the “uncovering,” and this is of what “must soon occur,” not otherwise of a theology. One suspects that Jesus, indeed, had something else in mind. The Bible is ancient, not medieval, and Revelation is an uncovering to sight, not hearing. Even the “”Hear oh Israel” at the revealing of the law (Deut. 6:4) is contrasted with the secret things of God (Deut. 29:29), and the pattern shown on the mountain is revealed to sight, not through hearing (Ex. 25:40). And just as Socrates might expect, the secret things of God are not revealed to all Israel, nor to many, but are available to Moses by an ascent. The word theology is first used, of course, in Book III of Plato’s Republic, and Socrates addresses it to what the Christians called “pagan” deities, objects of the imagination. The suggestion is that replacing one name with another on the basis of authority does not suffice, either, for “salvation.”

   Strauss has made possible for us the ascent from the cave, as well as from Christianity as a man-made opinion. We say, “All that Jesus, and the West could not avoid burning people alive? Or at Salem, hanging little girls on the basis of a delusion? And “You will be judged by what you do (Rev. 20:13) to others,” And “if you do not forgive others, you will not be forgiven” (Matt. 7:14), right after the Lord’s prayer. The soul just IS that way. If we are immortal, we are sort of stuck with ourselves, and in light of truth or in the Presence. Not that there is no complexity (Cp. 20:12), but “Thieves lie in wait for their own blood,” The uplifted arm is broken” (Proverbs , Eccl.  ). This may come as a surprise to the unjust- that they were not securing their true advantage by injustice. But, to say the least, this is a bit similar to the teaching of Socrates that becoming unjust is the punishment of the unjust (Meno, 77e- 78b; Apology 25d-26a; Crito 49 a-e). “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord.

   Right, though: IF the Christ is true, it is Athens AND Jerusalem, and the life of the West is correct. IF the Christ is false, it is Athens or Jerusalem, and religion, at least for the Gentiles, is based on opinion. But if there is an Antichrist, there must be a …what? That is, as a last resort, the defeat of the anti-christian will reveal the truth of the Christ to mankind, and that of course is the revealing in the Revelation (16).

   No one asks “What IS faith,” and “What IS reason?” Thought on these things in the West has been based upon an assumption of each for a long long time. What if “reason,” the virtues of both the epistemonikon and the logistikon, theoretical and practical wisdom, depends upon Nous, which sees the first principles of both, the “ultimate particular” (Aristotle, Ethics, de Alvarez) and the 3 meanings of the Tetragrammaton? And the fourth is the Bride (Rev.19,-22)? And what if the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is genuine? [And no name calling- at least not yet!]

   Strauss aside, for Moses, the human law is based upon the image of God that is man (Genesis 1:26; 9:6), and the genuine, not the fraudulent account of the “child of the Good” (Republic 506e-507a), yeah, even of the “Good one” of Luke (18:19), is begotten. Nous is that which “Homer too called godlike and the “image of God” (Republic, VI, 501b). Intelligence and truth are “begotten,” not made (Republic 490b). It is from this that the legislator produces the “image of man (501b). Again, the light that enlightens every man John 1:9) is begotten (John 1: 12-13), we through the “only begotten” (John 1:14), and, we say, not vice versa. Hence, the sayings that each is a Christ is only partly true, if that is even what is said. Yet we can invite the Spirit, and offer ourselves, even as a sacrifice. “Greater love has no man, than that he lay down his life for his friends (John 14:3), and this available for every cop on the corner to do. Socrates dies for Athens and to preserve the possibility of ascent for a few, in a proportion, but smaller and human. The Messiah dies for mankind.

   Now go from the fraudulent to the true divided line. What is the highest natural image, from which we turn outside the cave to viewing the things in heaven? The natural image that is man (Genesis 1:26, 9:6), again, the cause of the laws, is in turn the key and gateway to contemplation or metaphysics. Now consider the Bride.

   Outside the cave, there are shadows and phantoms, “of the humans and the other things in water” (Republic 516 a). These are the things considered, for example in the psychology of Carl Jung. One might follow these words though the Bloom translation, and insert the three part city and soul into the divided line, which the attentive reader has by now diagrammed for himself. There is no good English word for the eidolon or eikon, the image in love, but it is said later that this is a “phantom,” as when Socrates says that Stiesichorus corrected Homer to say that a “phantom” of Helen is what was at Troy (Phaedrus 243 a-b, Republic 598b- 601, to be inserted in the diagram being drawn). The book Republic is self-reflective in this way. Dreams too are reflections in the pool, even that outside the cave. That dreams should ever, even once, teach us things that are true but do not come from experience refutes most thought on dreams. We suggest that the literal line, which would have the ascendant doing mathematics, available to every prisoner in the cave, is a bit of a joke. These are, though, still not yet the “things themselves,” and again we consider the linguistic universals, held for two millennia to be the Platonic “forms,” to be a bit of another joke. It is an replacement for the caved view given us by natural philosophers, better Than anything held in its place. That there are equally linguistic universals of natural and artificial things ought be for us a clue, and the proportion, drawn as a fraction, of the difference, say, between a “doctor and a good doctor is another clue. The form is that of which one might say, “now there is a real doctor,” and the forms are more real in that sense. Did not the disparity cause readers to wonder, and at least to realize that they did not know what that theory of the forms, easily refuted in the Parmenides (132 ff, Aristotle’s Ethics (I.6) and Metaphysics I.9; XI 4-5), might be? We consider these derivative, like the patterns shown on glass held at different angles. One or two things, such as the outside and inside of the cave, seem to account for the appearance of the patterns. One is the three kinds of regime and three kinds of soul corresponding, and here is an important “archetype.” The “bigger” and “littler” in the same form” is another theme that can be followed in the Bloom translation, and Socrates intends to replace the enterprise of poetry with that of political philosophy as the highest study. And again, the whole point of making the best regime in speech is for the sake of trying to see justice in the soul, a fact misunderstood that prevents most from reading the Republic (III, ). Prior to the Socratic turn, uncovered by Strauss, which distinguishes the Socratic from the pre-Socratic philosophers- who try to study “being” directly (Phaedo,) there was no distinction between kingship and tyranny. Hence we get such absurd questions as that of whether Plato was a tyrant or a democrat- on the un-Socratic assumption that these are the only two possibilities). The frost on glass indicates that these grows fractal-ly, as do leaves. The Platonic forms, though, are much more akin to the Jungian archetypes on an objectivist basis or the patterns especially of the human things, such as the virtues, and beauty is the first of the true intelligibles seen, as in love, though the beautiful may be the only one of the forms to penetrate the darkness of the cave (Phaedrus 246 ff), and friendship may be another. One of the best things said about the plural forms is that this account is suited to a polytheistic audience, while the imago dei is monotheistic. Socrates, like Abraham, refers rather to “The God,” as in then Apology (21e, 23c, 31 a-b, etc. Cp. 35d). The plurality or multiplicity of unchanging things makes little more sense that the plurality of gods, except that these might cohere, and again we refer to glass, light, and the appearances on the surface for an analogy. But this account of sun, line and cave is what we call the “allegorical line,” reasoning back to the line from the cave until these do cohere. Eva Brann would not even consider such, though she wrote the excellent “Music of the Republic,” considering well the relations of the parts, proportions, and the image of Theseus. She too, as do Strauss and Maimonides, rejects Christianity as an illusion, blaming it for antisemitism. We teach that Christianity is not a law at all, but the Christ or savior is fundamentally different from the legislators Moses and Mohammed, though it is possible, obviously, to make a law out of the light, engendering the shadow in the cave that attends all such things. Nor is baptism man made, but the natural birth of the soul out of the world. of which the baptism practiced by Jesus and John the Baptist is an image. The images awaken that in the soul which the rituals are like, and so are, as is speech, glimmerings of the light inside the cave. Nothing could be more important for education, unless it be not to make a law out of the light. What the reborn Christians usually consider to be the true form of this central mystery is really the attachment of the initiate to the Christ through the image. John 3:5-8 may thus be the most “magical” statement ever uttered. When this happens it does not escape the notice of the initiate, but the vastly more common getting “saved” may help us a great deal, if one does not become presumptuous and ever cease penance. The many can be “ordered” to the mystery, but baptism is by nature. And so, as DeHart well notes, Justin Martyr knew that Socrates was “saved,” and Erasmus calls him a Saint.

  [Consider the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7; 22:17). This is not the same as Mary of the incarnation, nor of the body at all, but Mary Magdelene, the first to see him rise (John 20:1-18), is here the representative of the Church, not as mother but as bride. Jung has difficulty with this archetype, as it seems in his essay “Answer to Job. “One there is who is good. Why do you call me good,” he said, distinguishing himself from the father. Mary Magdelene may have provoked the jealousy of Peter, while John received the account of the things she was told. John knows the section of the Gospel of Mary that is missing.

   This is the mystery of the bridal chamber addressed by Philip, likely kept secret because men in the cave cannot resist a literal reading. The Bride represented is sometimes said to be the mystical Church, and the linen of her garments are the righteous deeds of the saints. The Bride of the father is different from the Bride of the son as far as these despite the trinity, are different. The soul has knowledge within, and these “knowledges” are by Jung called “archetypes,” the causes of inspired poetry and dreams. There is a mysterious identity of the things outside, in the world, and the things within, but little more about this appearance can be said. It has though always been a bit of a mystery how, in the Proverbs, “Wisdom” could, in a non idolatrous or pagan” work, be personified as a feminine figure. The angels too, are begotten, not made, equals of John and fellow servants. Hence there is no account in Genesis of their coming to be. John incidentally, uses the word gignomai” have come to be, in his opening, a more general term than “made.” Indeed, Creation is, as Strauss indicates, not a begetting, but the image of God is both male and female.]

   All modern philosophy is self contradictory too, and that the opposite is false demonstrates that the Christ is true. By this, we mean only that each says for example as does Hobbes, that words have no meaning while they use words, etc. Science presupposes the eternity of math, yet will appear to teach that all is flux, etc. These teach a permanent truth that there is no such, or, as becomes quite obvious in the second and third waves of modernity, that the truth really is that man creates the truth or the nature of man, etc. As sophomores, we would beat our heads on this, until a metaphysics teacher Ted Young at Grand Valley, offered the hypothesis that perhaps these thinkers are simply not sufficiently thoughtful or “reflective.” Our dialogue with B.F. Skinner is a fine example, but Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and all modern psychology assume both that the health of the soul is good, then in the next breath say that is a conjunction not of the just and what appears unjust, but of good and evil, as though in some eastern truth it truly does not matter, for example, whether one follows the Christ or the opposite.  In the yin and yang, the whole is good, and the health of the soul is the first principle of true psychology and psychiatry. Yet these would drug men right and left for any aboration that appears on the way to the central mystery, caved men inhibiting the children of the morning, unable to distinguish these from the genuine maladies of the soul, so that neuro-psychiatry has made spiritual torture a daily occurrence. Leave people alone, even as the Bill of rights and Declaration require. And that is OUR fundamental American law, Correcting the error of Constantine in Jefferson. For legislation, we indeed take Moses as a guide, but as Gentiles, we, though following Noah (Genesis 9; Nolan Blavin), are otherwise on our own. Paul follows this in principle, when he and Peter decide that prohibitions should be minimal, and forbid only such things as food sacrificed to to idols and “unchastity.” The law of Noah is fundamental, though, for all men left alive after the flood, though genetic remnants in the eight saved by water are likely assumed. Now lets go say NO to tyranny and REPENT LIKE JONAH’s NINEVEH, for no other sign will be given.

   Oh, and by the way, the curse was not on Ham, but Canaan (Genesis 9:25, as indicated by a fellow student and Augustine), and two were destroyed at Sodom and Gomorrah. So, no more Sodomy and Gammory! Consider too that there may be something here that the writer considers sufficient to convey in an allusion, for to “uncover the nakedness of ” also is us the statement used for incest. But as Jefferson teaches, our law extends where one violates the rights of another that government is obliged and empowered to protect, and Jesus just never had time to directly address homosexuality. As we told the preacher up the street, what if homosexuality IS bad for us, AND the pesticides and lawn chemicals imitating hormones have interfered with an entire generation? And further, some still are born in the hermaphroditic condition of Adam prior to his surgery. What is not our business, we need not tend, as justice, or dike, “righteousness,” is often “minding one’s own business.” It certainly is not the imposition of Mosaic law by Gentiles.

   If the Christ were not true, how could one read the Allegorical line, and escape from the cave? How, indeed, could Abraham and Moses be saved? And if Revelation were what we have assumed, how could there be a non-fraudulent account of the child of the good? Nous is the imago Dei. Duh! As John too says,

…the light that is the life of man is begotten, through the only begotten, and not vice versa. Go figure, setting up these images upon the Sun, the line and Cave.

   The philosopher, then knows that he knows nothing, but knowing himself attains the philosopher’s stone, the coping stone of dialectic, and hence can contemplate, even through the one right thing to be done, which in doing, he, from within, sees the Good (Republic 534; 532, 520, etc.)

   So it is the one who is that transcends knowledge in the sense of the tree of knowledge, the sense in which is used toward untransformed ends such as wealth and power, but is in the tree of life, which as the Proverbs relates, is Wisdom (Proverbs 3: 17-18; 4: 8-9). So in knowing he knows nothing, is wise. One may call this “Agnostic Gnosticism, because it holds nous, the eye of the soul, above “reason,” to be the highest in man.” Anyone is invited to attempt to demonstrate how such could be mortal, despite its appearing as a particular. Hence, he does not call people names, but is the new name on the stone is not by men given. Yeah!

So, the attempt of modernity to deny the Christ has led to self contradiction and potential, if not likely disaster. Another way it might be “known” that the Christ is true.

“Self evident” means that the definition of the subject contains the predicate, or, the truth of the predicate is contained within the definition of the subject. All men are created equal. (de Alvarez, Boethius, Jefferson, Franklin). If one knows what it means to be a “man,” Leo Paul sayeth, one knows that they are created “equal.” Lincoln explains: Equal in the sense of behind equally endowed with natural rights Speech on the Dred Scot decision). The cause? The image of God in each. Because of this, rights are prior to duties politically, or in relation to human governments. As Madison says in his letter on remonstrance establishment o religious tax,, what is a duty toward is a right regarding other men.

   “Self evident” was added to the Declaration by Franklin, replacing Jefferson’s “sacred and inviolable.” (Carl Becker). Our knowledge is hypothetical, dependent upon the “IF” of our premises. But, apparently, we CAN know that a thing is false, so Socrates proceeds by refutation.

And, too, just by the way, “STOP DRUGGING MY PEOPLE!!”

   The philosopher, then knows that he knows nothing, but knowing himself attains the philosopher’s stone, the “coping stone” of dialectic, and hence can contemplate, even through the one right thing to be done, which in doing, he sees the Good.

Socrates proceeds by conjecture and refutation, (just like Popper!) and gets quite a ways!

It is perhaps our mortal desire for Cartesian “certainty” that is refuted.

Lao Tzu: “Merge with dust.”

McDonald: …and fight Hell like Hell!


   But to return: What if Christ is true, and Plato right about the Allegory of the Cave? This If is the premise of christianity in philosophy. If so, surely philosophy is possible as well, and so the two ways will be compatible in a single life. The two are different- we would never arrive at the conclusion of the messiah like Babylonian astronomers, from the study of the cosmos. But once the gospel is revealed, we can reason how such thin gs might be so, and many interesting things said and marvels considered. The incarnation means what about being and the particular beings? Yet God is incorporeal and we are to worship no man or image, because men are the images of God?

It may well be that Strauss was forbidden to consider such a possibility, or he may have thought it unintelligible, as he returned more toward the things of Judaism toward the end of his brilliant career. Again, these had seen such a face from the Christian world that reasoning through this appearance may not have been a leading priority. But is there any reason apriori, as is said, that these could not both be so?

   Athens and Jerusalem, Greek philosophy and the Bible, are the two sources that we find when we attempt to return to the roots of Western civilization. (MI, p.111 top). The common ground between these two is what is shown- we will not say “revealed- when we consider the rejection, in a single breath, of both the Socratic best regime and the Biblical Kingdom of God in the famous fifteenth chapter of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Contrary to Rousseau- who seems to have read this work as a satire of princes, this marks the beginning of modernity. Machiavelli here contrasts his attempt to “go behind to the effectual truth of the thing,” in contrast with “the imagination therof.” By this he means  certain “republics and principates which have never been seen or known to be in truth,” but which “many have imagined” (The Prince, de Alvarez translation). [See note 1] Machiavelli chooses to let go what “ought to be done” for what is actually done, implying, we read, not satire, but that what ought to be done, justice or righteousness, is merely imaginary. Machiavelli indeed upholds a certain rejected part of the life of Western civilization- He attempts to recover Roman political action and ferocity (albeit without even the Roman gods). This became apparent not to Rousseau, but only after the course of modernity had unfolded, and especially in the Twentieth century. But from its two roots, the life of Western civilization is primarily one of seeing how one in fact lives, or what is in truth done under the sun,, in light of how it is best to live, or what ought to be done. No single man has done more for the recovery of this way of life than Leo Strauss.

   The common ground between the Bible and Socratic philosophy is presented by Strauss as follows: Athens and Jerusalem agree regarding the importance of “morality,” or, ethics and justice, as well as the insufficiency of of morality, but entirely disagree regarding what it is that completes morality, or what the basis of morality is. This assertion, which will be addressed, seems to me to be in part correct, getting hold of a genuine difference between what the Bible and Socratic philosophy present as the best life. But the assertion also seems to under-emphasize a certain very important similarity between these two regarding what completes morality, as indicated above. I do not refer to the similarities between the Bible and the theological or cosmological teachings in the dialogues, which similarity Strauss also addresses J. A., pp. 165-6). rather, the similarity to be taken up here pertains to what the Bible and Socratic philosophy show about what man is But first let us consider what Strauss writes about the supposedly fundamental conflict between these two. Strauss writes:

It seems to me that the core, the nerve of Western intellectual history, Western spiritual history, one could almost say, is the conflict between the Biblical and philosophic notions of the good life. It seems to me that this unresolved conflict is the secret of the vitality of Western civilization. The recognition of two conflicting roots of Western civilization is, at first, a very disconcerting observation. Yet this realization has also something reassuring and comforting about it. The very life of Western civilization is the life between two codes, a fundamental tension There is therefore no reason inherent in the Western civilization itself, in its fundamental constitution, why it should give up life. [Note 2] But this comforting thought is justified only if we live that life, if we live that conflict. No one can be both a philosopher and a theologian, nor for that matter, some possibility which transcends the conflict between philosophy and theology, or pretends to be a synthesis [Note 3] of both. But every one of us can be and ought to be either one or the other, the philosopher open to the challenge of theology or the theologian open open to the challenge of philosophy.

                                                                   (P.R. 44-45; M.I., p.111)


   The two lives are presented as mutually exclusive, though friendly alternatives. The alternatives are friendly because they are based on a common ground. “the common ground between the Bible and Greek philosophy is the problem of the divine law.” ()P.R., p. 35), to which philosophy and the Bible present “Two diametrically opposed solutions.” P.R.,p. 35; M.I., p. 111) The two lives coexist in a friendly way on the basis of their fundamental agreement, and share a “perfect agreement” in opposition to the elements of modernity which led to its crisis (P.R. p. 34;

But no one can be principally guided by both. The Biblical and philosophic lives can co-exist in one civilization or one nation, but cannot be together in one soul. It is not even possible, reasonably, to give up the life based on the tension between souls guided by each, because the supposed refutations of either are based on an indemonstrable hypothesis regarding one of the two.

All the alleged refutations of revelation presuppose unbelief in revelation, and all alleged refutations of philosophy presuppose already faith in revelation. There seems to be no ground common to both and therefore superior to both.

                                                                              (M.I., p. 177)

   Strange, then, that they both have justice or righteousness (it is the same word in the New Testament, dike) in common. The inferior common ground is the agreement between the Bible and philosophy regarding justice and the divine law. Strauss states, “By justice, both understand primarily obedience to the law. The law that requires man’s full obedience is in both cases not merely civil, penal, and constitutional law, but moral and religious law as well” (P.R., p. 34). The two agree also regarding the limitation of obedience to law, and this limitation is related to the problem of divine law. The problem is stated as follows:

The original notion of a divine law or divine code implies that there is a large variety of them. The very variety, and more specifically the contradiction between the various divine codes makes the idea of a divine law in the simple and primary sense of the term radically problematic.

                                                                         (M.I., p. 111)

   It is to this problem that the Bible and Greek philosophy present two diametrically opposed solutions between which there appears to be no common ground. The Biblical solution, which stands or falls by the belief in God’s providence…

Note 1: pp. 93-95. Strauss contrasts the Socratic best regime with the Medieval understanding of the Kingdom of God in Chapter IV of Natural Right and History, pp. 144-145.

Note 2: See “Jerusalem and Athens, ” p. 149, top. It is agreed that on the level of “culture the conflict cannot and ought not be overcome.

Note 3: An example of a synthesis between the two may be referred to in Jerusalem and Athens, p. 167 top, in addition to p. 149.




   Strauss indeed assumes that the Christ is false. But IF the Christ is true, philosophy is obviously not impossible. Nor, given that a thinker like Strauss could miss that truth or that possibility, is it clear that philosophy will not be necessary. Nor is philosophy impossible due to the multiplicity of laws. Strauss assumes that the Bible is simply a law or divine code, and that piety is the way of life it teaches- piety in the Greek sense, not only for the many who do not philosophize, but also for those who do. None of these assumptions are warranted, but as Strauss says, each assume the other to be impossible alternatives, philosophy and the Bible.

   Long ago we tried to explain why it seemed obvious to us that the Bible and philosophy did not present mutually exclusive alternatives as the last, and not the first word on the issue. The two ways appear that way inside the cave, but are “resolved,” at least potentially, when one considers the nature of man. Consider, for example, that the sermon on the Mount opens the ministry of Jesus by rejecting 5 teachings derived for the Jews from Mosaic law. Or that the teaching of Jesus on providence is a bit different from the common assumption about providence. And it is not that these things are not difficult, or that the questions go away. We do quite like the final word of Socrates to the Athenians on the immortality of the soul- we do not know. But whether the soul is immortal or not, we hold that the life or justice or phronesis– the Greek intellectual virtue that contains but transcends justice- is the best life either way. Whether one is happy for a short lifetime or an eternal eternity is perhaps not our business. Ours is to do the right thing in each particular, or to aim at this. (Aristotle, Ethics I, ) Those who are good or obedient only for the promised reward may be in obvious difficulty especially if that reward turn out to be true. We learned this very point by considering the speech of Socrates in Book II of the Republic distinguishing the three kinds of goods, and proposed it to a street preacher at the Diag in Ann Arbor, MI. His answer was that people begin to take the Christ seriously from concern for their own immortality. And we are not yet satisfied with this answer!

   The Christ, Socrates, Jefferson, and romantic love are four things that seems to us to fit quite well together in the same cosmos. We do not have divine wisdom, even as Socrates teaches, but everyone supposes that they do, especially the quarreling sects, and Socrates may be the only human to succeed at the knowledge of ignorance. Irv would say: Socrates is boasting! Only Socrates is THE philosopher, able truly to know his own ignorance, despite the marvel that innate knowledge apparently is sufficient for us to know what the questions are.

   Jefferson, in the second sentence of the Declaration, sets out the natural rights, recognized because we are a large nation, but also because of human ignorance, and hence the impossibility, for almost all practical purposes, that government be able publicly to know and tend the good of the soul for each. Our psychology and psychiatry are disasterous examples, and soon these may realize that the Constitution forbids their assumed authority of the soul, even as it forbids the medieval Church from burning or otherwise treating “witches” and “heretics.”

   Finally, Shakespeare in Drama sets out a program of poetry that manages to avoid presenting the divine as known- though prior to this Socratic poet it seems to have been assumed that the function of poetry was to do just that. So, the Christ, Socrates, Jefferson and Shakespeare fill out four sections of the true divided line, properly understood. And these are only examples and guides, but they show the enterprises and the place of each activity- poetry, law, philosophy and “metaphysics.” Or do we have a theologian who understands the mystery of the “trinity” and the Bride? Or an old testament Jew who understands why wisdom is said to be:

…a tree of life to those that lay hold of her,

And those who hold her fast are called happy.

(Proverbs, 3:

If wisdom is the tree of life, the pursuit of wisdom cannot be forbidden by the Bible, to say the least. Nor was Moses Piously following Abraham, And Abraham following Noah, and Noah Adam, on the assumption that the old is the same as the good. These are merely the non-philosophic assumptions of the vast majority of mankind, who do not have time or the good fortune to ascend, and for whom we have responsibility.

Strauss, Leo Jerusalem and Athens: in Leo Strauss: Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, University of Chicago Press, 1983.

____________. The Mutual Influence of Theology and Philosophy, in The Independent Journal of Philosophy, (Vienna)1979.

____________. “On the Interpretation of Genesis.”

____________. Progress or Return? The Contemporary Crisis