Skip to main content

Strauss, Leo


STRAUSS, LEO (1899–1973), philosopher and political scientist. Born in Germany, Strauss began his association with the Academy of Jewish Research in Berlin in 1925, and ended it with Hitler's rise to power. On arriving in the U.S. he taught at the New School for Social Research, New York, from 1938 to 1949, and then joined the University of Chicago, where he was professor of political science until 1968.

Strauss's scholarship encompasses the tradition of Western political philosophy. Of particular interest is his work on the reception and adaptation of Greek philosophy by medieval Jewish and Muslim writers. He sees the most profound and intransigent confrontation as that between Athens and Jerusalem, between philosophic doubt and faith. In examining that conflict he studies ancient and modern texts with a presumption of their vitality, seriousness, and thoughtful composition. His wish to understand past authors as they understood themselves – explicit even in his earliest books, Die Religionskritik Spinozas (1930; Spinoza's Critique of Religion, 1965), and Philosophie und Gesetz (1935) – led him to investigate carefully those philosophers' manner of writing. Strauss revived the distinction (familiar from antiquity until the 19th century) between exoteric and esoteric speech – public orthodoxy, be it political or religious, and private heterodoxy. Through studies of Maimonides, Halevi, and Spinoza in Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952), he explicates the art of "writing between the lines" by illustrating the art of reading between the lines. In teaching and writing, Strauss has used these arts to restate for contemporaries the insights and relevance of classical political philosophy against prevailing modes of thought, and has attempted to state a systematic political philosophy in defense of classical natural law. In doing so he has rendered problematic much that was noncontroversial, because unexamined, in modern political science.

The range of Strauss's general and Jewish scholarship is shown in his On Tyranny (1948, 1963); Natural Right and History (1953); Thoughts on Machiavelli (1958); What Is Political Philosophy? (1959); his introduction to Pines' translation of Maimonides' Guide (1963); Liberalism: Ancient and Modern (1968). His writings are listed in J. Cropsey, Ancients and Moderns (1964), 317–22.


Momigliano, in: Rivista Storica Italiana, 79 (1967), 1164–72.

[Ralph Lerner]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Strauss, Leo." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 17 Aug. 2018 <>.

"Strauss, Leo." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (August 17, 2018).

"Strauss, Leo." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.