Original Source

Leo Strauss online

By Lydialyle Gibson

Photography by Dan Dry

In the fall of 1949, during Leo Strauss’s first quarter as a Chicago professor, the 50-year-old political philosopher delivered a series of talks defending the classical idea of “natural right” against the encroachments of positivism and historicism, the notion that all human standards depend on particular historical situations. The “Walgreen Lectures” led to a 1953 book, Natural Right and History, which remains his most popular work.

Now the original lectures will be digitized and published online for scholars. The University’s Leo Strauss Center has embarked on a $1.3 million project to convert the audiotapes, transcripts, and student notes from 47 Strauss courses—archived at the Strauss Center’s Foster Hall headquarters and the Regenstein’s Special Collections Research Center—to digital format and post them on the Strauss Center’s Web site: leostrausscenter.uchicago.edu. A two-year, $325,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will support part of the project; the Strauss Center is seeking other funds to pay for the rest.

The materials include classes on Aristotle’s politics (like the reel-to-reel tapes at right), Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War, Plato, Hobbes, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and dozens of others. “Leo Strauss is increasingly recognized as one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century,” says Nathan Tarcov, a Committee on Social Thought professor and director of the Leo Strauss Center. “His research stimulated significant developments in the study of ancient and modern political philosophy; American political thought, especially the founding; classics; Jewish studies; and Islamic studies.”

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