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February 2012 Policy Study, Number 12-3

   

The Idea of "the West" and the Revolt Against It

by Donald Paul Byron Racheter

   

 

Current American Intellectual Thought

   

 

Since its founding, America has always looked to the Continent for intellectual guidance.[3] Although America defeated Germany at the battle of Normandy, it may be said that she lost a different war with Germany, the war of ideas. The American Academy proved all too willing to endorse German philosophy after the war. Oddly enough, America’s intellectual imitation of the old major world powers of Britain, France, and especially Germany, did not cease even when America fought against results of some of these ideas on the battlefield. Even after World War II, German philosophy has served as the American standard of higher learning and civilization, evinced in American universities with the popularity of Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger and the epigones of Heideggerian existentialism in the French postmodernists, Foucault, and Lyotard. America’s current position as a prominent world power places due importance on the thought she encourages both at home and abroad.

 

Not all recent scholarship uncritically espouses positivism, Heideggerian existentialism, or Lyotard’s postmodernism. A formidable critique of Enlightenment philosophy is found in the thought of the German Jew Leo Strauss. Through his studies of the great medieval minds of Alfarabi and Maimonides, Strauss rediscovered a reading of Plato that varied greatly from the more widespread Kantian interpretation in German philosophy, most notably in the work of Edmund Zeller. If a more accurate understanding of Plato different from current interpretation exists, this may have enormous implication within American education. Since Enlightenment philosophy emerged in conscious opposition to the Classical Greek philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, it is necessary to evaluate whether Greek philosophy has been adequately understood. One of the monumental discoveries of this more accurate reading of Plato is that Plato and his most illustrative students, Aristotle, Alfarabi, and Maimonides, conducted philosophy in a political mode; that is, they were advocates of political philosophy.

   

 

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