Thursday, February 16, 2012
I got my new Sony Reader up and running, so I have some new things to read on the bus on the way to work. Something from grad school days: Leo Strauss, Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero. Strauss is responding mainly to Kojève, who defends Hegel/Marx against the ancients. Kojève keeps saying it does no good to think in isolation, one must have an effect in the world--at least partly to test the truth of one's beliefs. Work is a defining human activity, and Kojève claims the ancients showed too little awareness of this. Strauss defends the ancients--not the ordinary nobles, but the philosophers. "... the highest kind of job, or the only job that is truly human, is noble or virtuous activity, or noble or virtuous work. If one is fond of this manner of looking at things, one may say that noble work is the synthesis effected by the classics between the morality of workless nobility and the morality of ignoble work ...." A nice joke about Hegelian language in there. In Aristotle's Ethics: magnanimous man would rather be idle than seek any honours other than the greatest; just man is busy, including somewhat intellectually busy; then come the intellectual virtues. This was published in the book On Tyranny. See here. I have it from a special edition of the journal Interpretation, where efforts were made to reconcile different versions of Strauss's manuscript. See here. A few relevant letters are added in the journal, including one where Kojève says in his experience Strauss is not only a-music, but anti-music. The editor says Kojève was famous for an enormous record collection, of which he made extensive use. I'm reading a fairly old life of Cicero, and I've just started an e-book I borrowed from the public library: Paul Theroux's journey by train across China. Just before the e-reader, I went quickly through (yet another) history of World War I. It is stated there that the Americans generally made a point of removing all their dead from France or Belgium, and taking them home. They acted like Spartans, returning to the soil from which they sprang--except it is pretty evident that most Americans have only been in the New World a short time. Did other countries do this? Do other people remain as they are at home, refusing to "go native," as much as Americans do? Theroux says Australians are like this. Maybe I can learn more from a new book, America and the Imperialism of Ignorance.