Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/29502
Title: The Allegory of the Cave and the Problem of Platonism in Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss
Authors: Pinkoski, Nathan
Keywords: Political philosophyLeo StraussHannah ArendtPlatounpoliticalmetaphysics
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Nathan Pinkoski, "The Allegory of the Cave and the Problem of Platonism in Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss" in: "Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics (2019) XXI/3", EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2019, pp. 201-228
Journal: Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics 
Abstract: 
This essay compares how Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss interpret the allegory of the cave in Plato's
Republic. Such a comparison helps resolve two ambiguities in the scholarship on Arendt and Strauss.
First, Arendt is ambiguous about the origins of the tradition of political philosophy that, she argues,
distorts the authentic experience of philosophy and politics. I contend that a theme typically associated
with Strauss, esotericism, appears in Arendt and helps resolve this ambiguity. In an esoteric
reading of Plato's allegory of the cave, Arendt argues that Plato constructs the allegory of the cave to
teach a lesson that would make the political situation of the philosopher less precarious. This initiates
the formidable tradition of political philosophy. The tradition's prejudice in favour of the vita contemplativa
over the vita activa originates with Plato's politics. Arendt exposes Plato's esotericism in
order to retrieve a purer understanding of philosophy and politics from Platonism's distortions. Second,
Strauss is ambiguous toward metaphysics. Strauss expresses this ambiguity in his interpretation
of the allegory of the cave, as well as in his treatment of Plato's doctrine of the ideas. Yet a tendency
in Strauss scholarship, as well as in Straussian studies of Plato, is to conclude that Strauss aims for a
non-metaphysical recovery of Platonic philosophy, where the priority is to resolve the precarious
political situation of the philosopher vis-à-vis the city. This interpretation holds that for Strauss, the
allegory of the cave and the doctrine of ideas are primarily about political themes. I argue that Arendt's
interpretation diverges from Strauss precisely on the emphasis of political themes. It is Arendt,
not Strauss, who emphasises political themes. It is Arendt, not Strauss, who primarily interprets the
doctrine of the ideas as Plato's solution to the precarious political situation of the philosopher vis-àvis
the city. Showing where Arendt and Strauss diverge on these points deepens our understanding
of Strauss. Strauss's interpretation stresses the presuppositions behind the form of questioning that
the doctrine of ideas takes. Strauss cannot be characterised as a simply non-metaphysical thinker
concerned with the precarious political situation of the philosopher, because his own interpretation
of Plato's doctrine of the ideas and the allegory of the cave ultimately raise the question of what nature
is.
Type: Article
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/29502
ISSN: 1825-5167
DOI: 10.13137/1825-5167/29502
License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internazionale
License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Appears in Collections:Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics (2019) XXI/3

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This item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons