Combining a “Straussian” and “Heideggerian” approach to philosophy is an effective way to access the spectrum of political philosophy and to break free from the ideological constraints that make seeing the big picture more difficult.
How does one get a proper introduction to the major authors, texts, and themes of the history of political philosophy, and to the living issues of political philosophy?
There are several ways to begin, in fact. But it is among the safest and surest of them to try to get familiar with the foundational texts of the tradition.
A serious problem arises straight away. How do you study the foundational texts of the tradition when we have moved so far from the presuppositions of those texts that we are at the greatest risk of distorting their meaning, rather than seeing them clearly and grasping them distinctly?
In many university programs, this question does not arise, and the classical texts are forced into a worldview that pre-interprets them as outdated, racist, sexist texts that, in the best case, we can read as a record of the errors of past ages.
That is not an effective way to approach the topic. So the old approach of studying philosophy in the universities, with all the administrative and bureaucratic loopholes you have to jump through to get accepted into a program that oftentimes will take too long, cost too much, and distort the material - the old approach is increasingly less appealing to those who are hungry for philosophical and political discussion, especially if you’re already busy with your business and no longer a teenager deciding what to do with your life.
Now, there are schools of thought within academia that are better at suspending modern and postmodern orthodoxies in their approach to classical texts, and that in that way are able to provide a reasonable introduction to the history of political philosophy and, in rare cases, to the realm of philosophy itself. However, these cliques are often hostile to ideas and thinkers outside their own school, seeing themselves as gatekeepers of liberal democratic norms, at the expense of philosophical inquiry.
We believe that the best way to gain quick and decisive access to political philosophy is to combine the Straussian approach to the history of political philosophy - at least at first - with some non-Straussian or even anti-Straussian approaches - for instance, those inspired by Martin Heidegger’s phenomenology and its present day representatives.
Heidegger has been distorted as a function of the configuration of the post-war (WWII) world, and Straussians as a rule have, in their defence of “moderation,” hesitated to sanction studying him and other “immoderate” thinkers, even though Strauss himself denied that thinking can be immoderate, saying that “you can have a moderate drinker, but not a moderate thinker” (http://leostrausstranscripts.uchicago.edu/navigate/2/14/).
A combination, broadly speaking, of “Straussian” and “Heideggerian” approaches can open up more of the spectrum of political philosophy more quickly than can the standard approaches to the topic. This no longer requires years and years of study, for many tens of thousands of dollars, at universities that have, in general, sadly lost their way.
Thus, our research with students, scholars, and professionals over several years suggests that combining Strauss’s approach to interpreting books in the history of political philosophy with Heidegger’s fundamental ontology is a helpful way to gain access to the spectrum of political philosophy and to break free from the distorting effects of ideological orthodoxy.