May 10, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 16

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    Conference marks anniversary of Strauss’ Natural Right and History

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The work of famed University political philosopher Leo Strauss is being examined in a series of three conferences, the second of which will be held from Friday, May 11, to Sunday, May 13, in the third floor theater in Ida Noyes Hall.

    The conferences mark the approaching 50th anniversary of the publication of Strauss’ Natural Right and History, his most poplar work, which was based on the Walgreen lectures he delivered in October 1949, shortly after joining the University faculty.

    The book, published in 1953, reopened the question of natural right, the possibility of a standard of justice independent of and superior to human agreement or convention, said Nathan Tarcov, Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and Director of the John M. Olin Center.

    The center is organizing the conferences with the LeFrak Forum and the Symposium for Reason, Science and Modern Democracy at Michigan State University and the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Stiftung in Munich, Germany. The first conference was held at Michigan State University in April, and the third will be held in June 2002, in Munich. The conference at Chicago is titled “Leo Strauss’ Natural Right and History: Contexts and Subtexts.”

    “Strauss sharply criticized what he called historicism, the claim that all standards, and indeed all human thoughts, are relative to or imposed by particular historical situations,” Tarcov said.

    The papers from the conferences will be published in a volume. “We hope the book will both do justice to Strauss’ thought and help spur the more general reconsideration of his thought, taking place with increasing vigor both in Europe and in the United States,” Tarcov said.

    Updated information about the Chicago conference and the others is available at http://olincenter.uchicago.edu.

    Strauss, the Robert M. Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science, was the author of over a dozen books, including the Political Philosophy of Hobbes (1936) and On Tyranny (1950). Natural Right and History was translated into French, German, Italian and other languages.