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Extra resources for The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss
4 Secondly, he assumes that the best political order must be one that makes the 'highest activity' possible. 5 Philosophy or science is therefore the end for which political society exists. However, philosophy or science is the preserve of the few. Political society must therefore be directed to the highest activity of man which is the preserve of the few. Philosophy offends the city because it questions the opinions on which the city is based. Those who offend the citizens are likely to be ridiculed, persecuted or destroyed.
Strauss raises this objection only to dismiss it, saying that thoughtful men are generally trustworthy and not cruel, and that the Socratic dictum that virtue is knowledge must be largely true or esoteric writing would not be possible. One of the most powerful vehicles at the disposal of esoteric writers is to use the mantle of the history of ideas to express their own views. Not surprisingly, Farabi, a true master of the art, avails himself then of the specific immunity of the commentator or the historian in order to speak his mind concerning grave matters in his 'historical' works, rather than in the works in which he speaks in his own name.
Philosophers would then forsake politics altogether, or abandon the cave in favor of the sunlight, and consorting only with one another, attain personal happiness by engaging in the supreme human activity of contemplation. But such happiness is likely to be precarious. Man is a political being who cannot realize himself except as part of a political community. Ultimately, politics makes 28 The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss possible the philosophical life which requires leisure. Renouncing politics altogether is therefore not a reasonable option for one who, like Farabi, rejects the belief in a happiness different from the happiness of this life.