Our Notes & References
Strauss’ important third book, here in its first edition, rare in the original publisher’s dustjacket.
In 1932 Strauss received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to begin his study of Hobbes in France. The work coincided with the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany, and Strauss saw Hobbes’ political philosophy as offering important insights into the problem of political order and the dangers of totalitarianism; he considered Hobbes “to be the founding theorist of the liberal state, just as the idea of the German liberal state seemed to be collapsing” (Batnitzky).
Tracing the development of Thomas Hobbes’ moral doctrine from his early writings to his Leviathan, Strauss explains contradictions in the corpus of Hobbes’ work and reveals striking connections with the thought of Plato, Thucydides, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza and Hegel. In continuation to his earlier work Spinoza’s Critique of Religion… (first German in 1930), Strauss examines the relation between philosophy and politics focusing on “the intimate tie between modern liberalism and its critique of religion”, and also begins a discussion of the evolution of natural rights that would later develop into his study Natural Right and History (1953). Strauss’ Hobbes turned out to be an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the nature of political order, the role of government in society, and the crucial importance of individual liberty and rights.
Written in German, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes was however first published in the English translation of Elsa Sinclair from Strauss’ manuscript; it would appear in German only in 1965. Between Spinoza and Hobbes, Strauss had published in 1935 a combination of three earlier essays on Maimonides (in German).
Leora Batnitzky, “Leo Strauss”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Apr. 9, 2021.