Reason, Revelation, Tradition: The Limits of Leo Strauss?

Aug 67, 2019
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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You can view photos of the event HERE.

Leo Strauss is well known for both his critique of modernity and his insistence on the productive (but irreconcilable) tension between reason and revelation. Even if Strauss' recovery of the pre-modern philosophical life also opened a vista for the life of the saint to re-emerge, Strauss always contended that any synthesis between the two was theoretically untenable. Catholic students of political philosophy have therefore found themselves in an uneasy alliance with Strauss: in accepting his critical project, must they also accept his account of the natures of philosophy and faith?

This two-day master class will investigate what might be called the limits of Strauss. It will begin with an appreciation of his work, especially his critique of historicism. After that it will investigate the problem of reason and revelation by comparing Strauss with fellow-travelers like MacIntyre and Pieper. Central questions will concern Strauss' insistence that revelation must be conceived of as a totalizing "law," as well as whether Strauss' account of reason is purely discursive or open to noetic ascent.



  • Mark Shiffman, "The Limits of Strauss' Recovery of Pre-modern Political Philosophy"
  • Leo Strauss, selections from "Reason and Revelation" (sections 4-6, 8; pp. 145-55 and 161-164)
  • Leo Strauss, "Natural Right and the Historical Approach"
  • Leo Strauss, selections from "Progress or Return?" (section 2; pp. 267-298)
  • Alasdair MacIntyre, reflections on the rationality of traditions (Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry, pp. 127-157)
  • ​​​​​​​Josef Pieper, "The Negative Element in the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas" (The Silence of St. Thomas, pp. 45-74)



Tuesday, August 6

1:30pm - Arrival at Gavin House & reception 

2pm - First Session: Strauss' Writings, introduced by Mark Shiffman (Villanova University)

3:15pm - Break

3:30pm - Second Session: Strauss' Writings, with 10-minute student presentation (Will Wood, University of Chicago)

4:45pm - Conclusion

5:30pm - Informal Dinner at Gavin House


Wednesday, August 7

9:30am - Arrival at Gavin and Coffee

10am - Third Session: MacIntyre on tradition, with 10-minute student presentation (Nathan Pinkoski, University of Toronto)

11:15am - Break

11:30am - Fourth Session: Pieper on Aquinas, with 10-minute presentation (Mark 
Hoipkemier, University of Virginia)

12:45pm - Conclusion

1pm - Informal Lunch at Gavin House

2:30pm - Final Session: Summation, a discussion of Strauss' "Reason and Revelation," with our appraisal of Strauss' formulation of the problem

3:45pm - Conclusion


Students are responsible for arranging their own travel and lodging. With questions, please contact master class organizer Austin Walker at