Medieval Rationalism or Mystic Philosophy? Reflections on the Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin
April 2, 1992 | Ellis Sandoz
The correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin covered three decades down to the mid-1960s and touched on many of the most urgent problems in modern political philosophy. At bottom the key question they debated is whether the true paradigm of philosophy is a purely naturalistic rationalism of the kind fashioned by the thirteenth century Arab and Jewish thinkers in their revival of Aristotelianism and exemplified, later on, by Spinoza; or whether the true paradigm is grounded in the Reason (nous) of Plato and Aristotle as it symbolizes a range of experiential meaning from intellection to faith, thus comprehending analysis, intuition, and revelation. Strauss contends for the former, Voegelin for the latter view; one in the name of demonstrative knowledge, the other in the name of mystic philosophy. Despite their substantial disagreements, both writers stand severely at odds with contemporary ideologies and, generally, join in preferring the ancients to the moderns.