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This book presents the first full translation of the correspondence of Leo Strauss and Gerhard Krüger, showing for each the development of key and influential ideas, along with seven interpretative essays by leading Strauss scholars. During the early to mid-1930’s, Leo Strauss carried on an intense, and sometimes deeply personal, correspondence with one of the leading intellectual lights among Heidegger’s circle of recent students and younger associates. A fellow traveler in the effort to “return to Plato” and reject neo-Kantian conventions of the day, Krüger was also a serious student of Rudolf Bultmann and the neo-orthodox movement in which Strauss also took an early interest. During the most intense years of their correspondence, each underwent significant intellectual development: in Krüger’s case, through a penetrating series of studies of Kant and Descartes, respectively, ultimately leading to Krüger’s conversion to Catholicism; and, in Strauss’s case, through the complex stages of what he subsequently called his “reorientation,” involving what he for the first time calls “political philosophy.” Readers interested in tracing the development of Strauss’s thoughts regarding a theological alternative that he found helpfully challenging—if not ultimately compelling—will find this correspondence to be an accessible point of entry.



Chapter 1. Editor’s Introduction

Between 1928 through the mid-1930s, Leo Strauss and Gerhard Krüger carried on a philosophically intense exchange, until the war and related events cut the correspondence short. A series of debilitating strokes in the early 1950s prematurely ended Krüger’s intellectual career, foreclosing the possibility of further serious engagement after the war. By that time, however, their respective intellectual paths, which had once closely coincided, had diverged. Still, a series of late exchanges concerning Krüger’s 1969 Festschrift, to which Strauss contributed, testifies to their enduring mutual attachment.
Susan M. Shell

Chapter 2. Leo Strauss: Gerhard Krüger Correspondence 1928–1962

Berlin, 24 September 1928
Jerome Veith, Anna Schmidt, Susan M. Shell

Chapter 3. The Light Shed on the Crucial Development of Strauss’s Thought by His Correspondence with Gerhard Krüger

The rather complex private correspondence between Leo Strauss (1899–1973) and Gerhard Krüger (1902–72) runs from late 1929 through 1935. (In GS-3 377–454, Heinrich Meier has made these letters available through painstaking editorial work, and in his introduction has brought intelligent learning to bear in framing their context (esp. GS-3 xxviiixxx). Unless otherwise noted, all page references will be to this edition; italics in quotations from Strauss and Krüger are in the original.) Readers will presumably be acquainted with Strauss, but a few words are required to introduce Krüger, whose fulfillment of his great promise was severely hindered by the oppression of National Socialism and then, in his early 50s, was cut short by strokes that left him mentally incapacitated. (For a fuller account of Krüger’s career, see esp. the obituary by Krüger’s lifelong friend Hans-Georg Gadamer in Archives de Philosophie 47 (1984): 353–63.)
Thomas L. Pangle

Chapter 4. The Example of Socrates: The Correspondence Between Leo Strauss and Gerhard Krüger

The publication of the correspondence with his contemporaries Gerhard Krüger, Jacob Klein and Gerschom Scholem in 2001 offered readers of Leo Strauss a new and in many ways surprising perspective on the genesis of his thought. The epistolary exchanges reveal both the intensity and the scope of Strauss’s engagement with the “theological-political problem,” which he later identified as “the theme” of his investigations. This chapter focuses on Strauss’s correspondence with Gerhard Krüger. More specifically, it aims to clarify an issue that is at once central to it while remaining partially implicit: Strauss’s attempt to recover the Socratic question concerning the good and just life as the viable foundation for a human life, after his critical dismissal of the two alternatives that initially presented themselves to him: the modern Enlightenment and revealed religion.
David Janssens

Chapter 5. “Zurück zu Plato!” But, Which Plato?: The Return to Plato by Gerhard Krüger and Leo Strauss

Among the young philosophers of the University of Marburg reaching intellectual maturity in the Republic of Weimar’s twilight, Gerhard Krüger and Leo Strauss were at the same time the closest and the farthest in their philosophical endeavor. They both felt in a very acute way the aporias of modern philosophy, especially of German Idealism and historicism, and they both envisioned the necessity of a radical break with this tradition in order to start anew the philosophical quest. For both, this new start will take the shape of a recovery of the premodern philosophical way of philosophizing, mainly in its Platonic form. One can say that Krüger and Strauss oppose to the motto of the previous generation of Marburg’s philosophers—“Zurück zu Kant!”—their own rallying cry: “Zurück zu Plato!” It would be, however, a mistake not to probe what each of them understood precisely by this formula. If they shared the intent—recover Plato and the authentic tradition of philosophy against modern philosophy’s dead end, Krüger and Strauss developed a remarkably distinct way of interpreting Plato and Platonism. Whereas Krüger saw in Plato a precursor of Christian faith and metaphysics, Strauss underlined the Socratic questioning at the heart of Plato. This opposing way of interpreting Plato can be traced back to a more fundamental opposition between Krüger and Strauss regarding the relations between faith and revelation and the nature of what the young Strauss called the “second cave.”
Daniel Tanguay

Chapter 6. Moral Finitude and Ontology of Creation: The Kantian Interpretation of Gerhard Krüger

Philosophie und Moral in der Kantischen Kritik indisputably ranks among the most important interpretations of Kantianism. (Gerhard Krüger, Philosophie und Moral in der Kantischen Kritik (1931), Tübingen (Germany): Mohr Siebeck; 2nd edition 1967. Hereafter referred to as: Philosophie und Moral. This study (first published in Archives de philosophie, volume 74–1, spring 2011) has the modest goal to set out the main elements of Krüger’s interpretation, which, in our time, has become widely and somewhat unjustly forgotten. (I thank the editors for granting me the permission to republish this text.) Krüger’s book makes for an arduous and, at times, abstruse construction. Only its main motives can be taken up in this essay, which may entail ignoring other major elements, such as Kant’s moral formalism, for example. I will also refer to the article by Krüger entitled “Der Maßstab der kantischen Kritik,” Kantstudien, XXIX, 1934, pp. 156–187 (hereafter referred to as: Maßstab), which contains the better portion of the theses set out in his Kantbuch.) However, it is also a singularly disconcerting and bewildering work that offers a totally original view of Kant. According to Gerhard Krüger, Kant was the last defender of natural theology (which, in his time, was threatened by the latent if not overt atheism of the Aufklärung) rather than one of the most illustrious representatives of the Enlightenment. From this perspective, moral law and autonomy, which are without doubt the key points of Kant’s philosophy, were the essential and transformative experiences of obedience to God rather than the affirmation of a self-referring subjectivity no longer concerned with looking beyond the inherent law of its freedom. Likewise, the world was the primitive given that consecrated man’s dependence on his Creator rather than a transcendental construction.
Luc Langlois

Chapter 7. Gerhard Krüger and Leo Strauss: The Kant Motif

One of the persistent puzzles of Strauss scholarship is the absence in any of his published works of a thematic treatment of Immanuel Kant (The sole exception is his early dissertation on Jacobi, which includes an extensive treatment of Kant from the perspective of Jacobi’s critique. See Strauss, Das Erkenntnisproblem in der philosophischen Lehre Fr. H. Jacobis (1921)). This absence is all the more striking given Kant’s importance in shaping the intellectual milieu in which the younger Strauss was educated and against which he, along with many of his early intellectual companions, including Gerhard Krüger, Jacob Klein, Gerschom Scholem, and others, rebelled more or less explicitly. And it gives the two seminars that he dedicated to Kant, in 1958 and 1967, respectively (an additional seminar, given in the early 1950s, was evidently not recorded), (with the sole exception of his early dissertation on Jacobi) special importance for anyone wishing to better grasp Strauss’s understanding and appraisal of Kant’s thought, including the meaning of that relative public silence.
Susan M. Shell

Chapter 8. Natural Right and Historical Consciousness in Strauss and Krüger’s Exchange

Leo Strauss’s correspondence with German philosopher Gerhard Krüger is an invaluable source for those who seek to understand Strauss’s complex and debated thought. Dating mostly from the early 1930s—a period in which Strauss went through a decisive “reorientation”—the exchange deals with several important themes and overall has a lively and straightforward style that proves to be extremely useful for the interpreter who wishes to grasp the guiding ideas of each of them.
Alberto Ghibellini

Chapter 9. History and Modernity in the Strauss-Krüger Correspondence

In an appreciation written for the 60th birthday of his friend and colleague, Gerhard Krüger, Hans-Georg Gadamer briefly nods toward the importance of another long-lasting philosophic friendship. “That in the famous quarrel of the ancients and the moderns one can be a child of modernity while also taking a reasoned position on the side of the ancients, was an insight that closely tied Krüger to Leo Strauss, whose early Spinoza book strongly influenced him.” (H.-G. Gadamer, Gesammelte Werke, vol. 10 (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1995; henceforth GW), 412–17, reprinting of “Geleitwort,” in Einsichten: Gerhard Krüger zum 60. Geburtstag (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1962), 7–10. An English translation is found at H.-G. Gadamer, Philosophical Apprenticeships, trans. R. Sullivan (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), 61–67) Gadamer recounts the principal factors these young philosophers in 1920s’ Marburg experienced in “coming of age in an atmosphere filled with tension and stamped by strong intellectual models.” (GW, 413) Orthodox theology was being renewed with the criticisms of liberal theology by Karl Barth, Friedrich Gogarten and Rudolf Bultmann; the Marburg Neo-Kantian school, in its final stage after the departure of Hermann Cohen, was turning from traditional idealist readings of Kant toward more “metaphysical” approaches through such scholars as Nicolai Hartmann and Heinz Heimsoeth; and of central importance were the lectures of Martin Heidegger, the former assistant of Edmund Husserl, offering a novel version of phenomenology, which “went back to primordial experiences of existence in such a way as to replace experience as worked upon by science with radical philosophical reflection.” (GW, 413–14) As Strauss commented in his later years, he (together with Jacob Klein, who was also at Marburg) saw that Heidegger “by uprooting and not simply rejecting the tradition of philosophy…made possible for the first time after many centuries – one hesitates to say how many – to see the roots of the tradition as they really are” and thus opened up “the possibility of a genuine return to classical philosophy.” (“An Unspoken Prologue to a Public Lecture at St. John’s College in Honor of Jacob Klein” (1959), in L. Strauss, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought, ed. K. H. Green (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997, henceforth JPCM), 450. Strauss also writes that “nothing affected us as profoundly in the years in which our minds took their lasting directions as the thought of Heidegger.” In the same piece Strauss calls Heidegger, a great philosopher: “Heidegger was the first great German philosopher who was a Catholic by origin and training” (ibid., 450). Also of first importance to this generation was Edmund Husserl’s teaching, which Strauss experienced first-hand, but in a later, retrospective statement, Strauss explains, “in the most simple terms why in my opinion Heidegger won out over Husserl; he radicalized Husserl’s critique of the school of Marburg and turned it against Husserl.” JPCM, 461. The 1956 lecture “Existentialism” asserts that “the only great thinker in our time is Heidegger” and discusses Heidegger’s philosophical advance over Husserl: “It was Heidegger’s critique of Husserl’s phenomenology which became decisive: precisely because that criticism consisted in a radicalization of Husserl’s own question and questioning.” Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 22/3, spring 1995, 304–5. For more discussion on Strauss’s complex critical indebtedness to Heidegger, see the author’s Heidegger, Strauss, and the Premises of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). Careful study precludes any simple view of Strauss as either derivative from Heidegger or as relating only polemically negatively to the older philosopher.)
Richard Velkley


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