Although Leo Strauss published little on Nietzsche, his lectures and correspondence demonstrate a deep critical engagement with Nietzsche’s thought. One of the richest contributions is a seminar on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, taught in 1959 during Strauss’s tenure at the University of Chicago. In the lectures, Strauss draws important parallels between Nietzsche’s most important project and his own ongoing efforts to restore classical political philosophy.
With Leo Strauss on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” eminent Strauss scholar Richard L. Velkley presents Strauss’s lectures on Zarathustra with superb annotations that bring context and clarity to the critical role played by Nietzsche in shaping Strauss’s thought. In addition to the broad relationship between Nietzsche and political philosophy, Strauss adeptly guides readers through Heidegger’s confrontations with Nietzsche, laying out Heidegger’s critique of Nietzsche’s “will to power” while also showing how Heidegger can be read as a foil for his own reading of Nietzsche. The lectures also shed light on the relationship between Heidegger and Strauss, as both philosophers saw Nietzsche as a central figure for understanding the crisis of philosophy and Western civilization. Strauss’s reading of Nietzsche is one of the important—yet little appreciated—philosophical inquiries of the past century, both an original interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought and a deep engagement with the core problems that modernity posed for political philosophy. It will be welcomed by anyone interested in the work of either philosopher.
About the Author
Leo Strauss (1899–1973) was one of the preeminent political philosophers of the twentieth century. Born and educated in Germany, he emigrated to the United Sates in 1937. From 1949 to 1968 he was a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. He was the author of numerous books, many of which are published by the University of Chicago Press.
Richard L. Velkley is the Celia Scott Weatherhead Professor of Philosophy at Tulane University.
“Nietzsche had a significance for Strauss that far exceeds the volume of his published comments. In these lectures on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Strauss does with Nietzsche what he did with Plato, Maimonides, Machiavelli, and other major figures in the Western philosophical tradition. He gives a detailed commentary on Nietzsche’s most important book, allowing Nietzsche his own manner of expression and working to understand why Nietzsche wrote this way. The result is an important contribution to our understanding of Zarathustra, a meticulous laying out of Nietzsche’s teachings made possible by Strauss’s determination to follow the drama of this most unusual book.”
— Laurence Lampert, author of The Enduring Importance of Leo Strauss
"In Seo Strauss on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the greatest philosopher of the 20th century shares his thoughts on the greatest philosopher of the 19th. . . . it is a deeply rewarding work."
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