Kojeve’s Criticism On Tyranny edited by Victor Gourevitch and Michael S. Roth is Leo Strauss critical study of Hiero written by Xenophon. This discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of exercising tyranny pits Alexandre Kojeve against Leo Strauss in the battle of the Moderns against the Ancients. The present study is aimed to prove that Alexandre Kojeve, a Marxist and Hegelian political philosopher, who had great influence on the 20th century French philosophy critiques Strauss’s arguments and defends tyranny through admiration of the strong men of history, and believes that people who fail to accept rational tyranny, or the universalisation of desire in the post State should be locked up (Strauss 135).
In this debate between Alexandre Kojeve and Leo Strauss the reader can clearly notice the collision between two different positions about modernity. Alexandre Kojeve articulates the fundamental alternative related to the responsibilities and the possibility of the philosophy now.
Although one might say that Alexandre Kojeve failed to adequately critique Strauss’s argument, we cannot agree with it. In his criticism, Alexandre Kojeve considers that “through [Strauss’s] interpretation Xenophon appears to us as no longer the somewhat dull and flat author we know, but as a brilliant and subtle writer, an original and profound thinker. What is more, in interpreting this forgotten dialogue, Strauss lays bare great moral and political problems that are still ours.” (Strauss 174) In his defense of tyranny, Kojeve admires the ruthless nature of the “strong men of history” and claims that the victors write history, regardless of the seriousness of the harm caused by them. In other words, tyrant can be a victor in Kojeves argument, as he asserts: Sin will be pardoned. How? Through its (the tyrants) success. (Strauss 141) Alexandre Kojeve adequately critiques Leo Strauss’ standpoint, as he expresses the desire to understand the subject at issue. This desire is greater that Kojeves attachment to his own position and, therefore, it helps Kojeve to bring the issues into crisp focus (Butler 316).
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This debate between Kojeve and Strauss is the most unusual, as it embraces comparatively superficial political differences, and Kojeves somewhat terroristic conception of the “revolutionary history, world historical figures” (Strauss 136) can be contrasted with that of Leo Strauss’. At is was already mentioned, both of them agree that there is a tension, even a conflict between the society and philosophy, and agree that philosophy of wisdom ranks highest in the order of ends, that is the architectonic end or principle. (Strauss 140) However, they have different opinions concerning whether this conflict can and should be resolved. While Strauss considers that the solution is to try to elude the conflict by keeping as great a distance as possible between them, Kojeves asserts that the best possible way out is to work for reconciliation between them. Kojeve authoritatively and logically rejects Strauss’ arguments and considers that the only effective way to resolve differences and contradictions between men and nature or among men is by struggling to change the reality and by laboring (Drury 117).
Finally, Alexandre Kojeves claims: “It would be unreasonable if the philosopher were in any way whatsoever to criticize the concrete political measures taken by the statesman, regardless of whether or not he is a tyrant, especially when the ideal advocated by the philosopher may be achieved at some future time.” (Strauss 175) In conclusion it may be said that Alexandre Kojeve supported the forthcoming of the universal homogenous state, and demurred Leo Strauss’ arguments by highly provocative position, and, by doing so, managed to adequately critique Strauss’ standpoint, forcing the readers to face important issues in what are often wholly unfamiliar ways. Works Cited Butler, Judith. Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France.
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New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Drury, Shadia B. Alexandre Kojeve : The Roots of Postmodern Politics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994. Strauss, Leo.
On Tyranny. Ed. Victor Gourevitch and Michael S. Roth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000..