which was published in the Political Science Reviewer. As indicated in my previous posts, I have not seen any clear refutations of Drury's central argument--that while Strauss regarded the philosophic life as the only good life by nature, he saw the moral life as not good by nature, because morality depended on religious beliefs that were lies, even if noble lies. As far as I can tell, Schaefer does not refute that argument. On the contrary, he seems to implicitly agree with it. This confirms Drury's observation--in her "Reply to My Critics" --that many of her Straussian critics actually agree with her interpretation of Strauss.
Drury quotes Strauss's claim that the "merely just or moral" man is a "mutilated human being" (NRH, 151). Schaefer responds to this in footnote by writing:
It is typical of Drury's mode of interpreting Strauss's books that she eliminates the qualifying phraseology of his account of the relation between intellectual and moral virtue for the sake of dramatic effect: she cites as evidence of the "extreme proportions" of "Strauss's contempt for the morally virtuous man" his description of "the just or moral man who is not also a philosopher as a 'mutilated human being'!" (105; exclamation point hers), when what Strauss says is that "From this point of view [apparently, that of the classical natural right thinkers], the man who is merely just or moral without being a philosopher appears as a mutilated human being. It thus becomes a question whether the moral or just man who is not a philosopher is simply superior to the nonphilosophic 'erotic' man" (Natural Right and History, 151 [emphasis added]). The reader must judge whether Drury's rendering is a faithful account of what Strauss said, or rather, as George Anastaplo suggests, a "mutila[tion]" of it ("Shadia Drury on Leo Strauss," VN 25); but it cannot be denied that Drury's mode of quoting Strauss is considerably less cautious than Strauss's mode of interpreting the texts on which he commented. (107)
Schaefer's point here is unclear. Is he suggesting that in stating a view of "the natural right thinkers," Strauss is not endorsing that view himself? Or is Schaefer saying that although the moral man might "appear" to be "mutilated," he really is not? Or is Schaefer saying that Strauss is only raising this as a "question" without a clear answer from Strauss?
Here is the whole passage from Strauss:
This solution to the problem of justice obviously transcends the limits of political life. It implies that the justice which is possible within the city, can be only imperfect or cannot be unquestionably good. There are still other reasons which force men to seek beyond the political sphere for perfect justice or, more generally, for the life that is truly according to nature. It is not possible here to do more than barely to indicate these reasons. In the first place, the wise do not desire to rule; they must therefore be compelled to rule. They must be compelled because their whole life is devoted to the pursuit of something which is absolutely higher in dignity than any human things--the unchangeable truth. And it appears to be against nature that the lower should be preferred to the higher. If striving for knowledge of the eternal truth is the ultimate end of man, justice and moral virtue in general can be fully legitimated only by the fact that they are required for the sake of the ultimate end or that they are conditions of the philosophic life. From this point of view the man who is merely just or moral without being a philosopher appears as a mutilated human being. It thus becomes a question whether the moral or just man who is not a philosopher is simply superior to the nonphilosophic "erotic" man. (NRH, 151)
This is part of Strauss's commentary on "classic natural right." Drury's primary principle for interpreting Strauss's teaching is that given his professed acceptance of what is taught by the classic philosophers of natural right (especially, Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon), whenever Strauss clearly states a teaching of these philosophers, he is stating his own teaching. If one accepts this principle--and I haven't noticed that any of Drury's Straussian critics have denied it--then this passage just quoted looks like a rather clear statement of Strauss's position. (In the "Preface to the 7th Impression " of Natural Right and History, Strauss wrote: "Nothing that I have learned has shaken my inclination to prefer 'natural right,' especially in its classic form, to the reigning relativism, positivist or historicist.")
I grant that there is some possibly qualifying language in this passage--"if," "appears," and so on. Nevertheless, this does seem to be a clear affirmation of philosophy as "the ultimate end of man," so that justice and moral virtue have worth only in securing "conditions of the philosophic life."
Moreover, in his lecture on "Reason and Revelation" (1948), which was not published until 2006, Strauss clearly seems to be speaking for himself when he declares that "philosophy is essentially the preserve of the very few individuals who are by nature fit for philosophy," that philosophy is the only happy life, that the great majority of human beings must be guided by "noble lies," and that all nonphilosophic lives are "forms of human misery, however splendid" or lives of "despair disguised by delusion" (Heinrich Meier, 2006, 146-47).
And while Schaefer often seems to be denying Drury's claim that Strauss sees moral life as a "mutilated" existence, Schaefer actually endorses this interpretation. For example, Schaefer writes: "From the perspective of philosophy, it may be that religious claims regarding the afterlife, a God who vindicates justice, etc., are pleasing or noble 'delusions' rather than demonstrable truths; and that such beliefs reflect the need of most human beings for consolation as well as moral fortifications in the face of the terrifying aspects of the human condition" (102). (See also pp. 86-87, 95-96, 98-99, 106, 109, 123-24.) Unlike the philosophic few, most human beings--the merely moral human beings--cannot face the "terrible truth" about the moral indifference of the universe, and therefore they need the noble lies of religion to support their moral order.
I have argued for a Darwinian grounding of natural right in evolved human nature, which is related to what Strauss says about how "moral distinctions" could be grounded in "human nature, as distinguished from nature in general" (NRH, 94). Although he does not elaborate the point, Schaefer points in the same direction by citing the same passage, and by citing James Q. Wilson's Moral Sense as indicating how "morality has a foundation in human nature" in so far as we can identify a natural "moral sense" shaped by human evolution (86, 107-110, 122).
Strauss left this opening for Darwinian natural right. He didn't develop it, however, because he didn't give much attention to the Scottish moral sense tradition (especially in the works of David Hume and Adam Smith), and he didn't indicate how this appeal to the natural moral sense or moral sentiments was given an evolutionary explanation by Darwin. Strauss did, however, identify Darwinian science as being on the side of reason in the reason-revelation debate, particularly in his 1948 lecture.
As I have argued many times, Darwinian natural right recognizes the philosophic life as a naturally good life, because philosophy or science satisfies the natural desire for intellectual understanding, but Darwinian natural right also recognizes the moral life as a naturally good life, because morality satisfies a broad range of natural desires for social bonding and justice as reciprocity.
Oddly enough, Strauss never lays out the argumentation that would prove his claim that the philosophic life is the only life that is good by nature. As Schaefer indicates, Strauss does point to the arguments for the supremacy of the contemplative life in Book 10 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. But, as I have indicated in some previous posts, those arguments are remarkably dubious, and they contradict Aristotle's arguments in Books 8-9 for a more inclusive conception of the human good, centered on friendship, that would embrace a wide range of moral and intellectual goods. Darwinian natural right would take that more inclusive view of the generic goods of life as satisfying the 20 natural desires of evolved human nature.
The Straussian alternative to Darwinian natural right--the alternative taken by many of Strauss's students--is to deny that there is any natural grounding for morality or politics, and thus to embrace a moral nihilism in which moral order is an artificial construction based on noble lies that serve to secure the life of the philosophic few. Such a view supports the tyranny of philosophers.