‘In the Court of a Great King’: Some Remarks on Leo Strauss’ Introduction to the Guide for the Perplexed
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This essay, which will be divided between two SOPHIA editions, proposes to test the consensus in Maimonidean scholarship on the alleged intellectualism of Leo Strauss’ Maimonides by making a close interpretive study of Strauss’ 1963 essay ‘How to Begin to Study the Guide for the Perplexed’. While the importance of this essay, which is Strauss’ last extended piece on the Guide, is established in Maimonidean scholarship, its recognised esotericism has been matched by a dearth of detailed studies of the piece. We aim in this essay to try to rectify this situation, by reading ‘How to Begin to Study’ as Strauss directs us to read esoteric texts in Persecution and the Art of Writing. As one control on our exegetical claims, we will close by situating our reading of ‘How to Begin to Study’ and Strauss’ positions there on philosophy, prophecy and the Torah alongside the claims of his earlier, much less esoteric, but also rarely studied: ‘Some Remarks on the Political Science of Maimonides and Farabi’. Because of the now widely recognised foundational importance of Maimonides in understanding Leo Strauss’ own lasting positions, this work will have wider importance in Strauss scholarship, and hopefully make a contribution to the continuing task of trying to understand Strauss’ important thoughts on Athens and Jerusalem, reason and revelation, the city and man.