I recently read Leo Strauss's views on modern science, as expanded in Alan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind". In a (very small) nutshell, Strauss had the extraordinary idea that modern science was born when philosophers decided (for the first time in history) to side with the common people instead of the aristocracy, and created a philosophy that explains everything by what is common rather than elect, ie. molecules and cosmic constants. I find this idea fascinating and was wondering whether he was alone in this or there are others who have also written about it. Can anyone suggest appropriate readings?


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A book that summarizes Strauss' views on science is Leo Strauss on Science: Thoughts on the Relation between Natural Science and Political Philosophy by Svetozar Y. Minkov.

Other works form writers that are (at least) sympathetic to Strauss' views are:

  • The Socratic Turn: Knowledge of Good and Evil in an Age of Science (2016) from Dustin Sebell.
  • Aristotle as Teacher: His Introduction to a Philosophic Science (2014) from Christopher Bruell.
  • An Approach to Aristotle’s Physics (1997) from David Bolotin.

It's an idea that is not exclusive to Strauss which suggests that as an idea it was already in the air, so to speak. Brecht, for example, had a very similar idea and this animated his drama, The Life of Galileo where he draws Galileo as a larger than life rustic plebian against the oligarchic and plutocratic Christian aristocracy.

The notion of democracy versus plutocracy is not new - it goes back very far in time. For example, in the Western tradition this goes back to the beginning of Antiquity:

During Solon's time [630 BC], many Greek city-states had seen the emergence of tyrants, opportunistic noblemen who had taken power on behalf of sectional interests. In Sicyon, Cleisthenes had usurped power on behalf of an Ionian minority. In Megara, Theagenes had come to power as an enemy of the local oligarchs.

Modern science was not created ab initio, but from an already existing body of work; it was a revival of antiquity (as well as the work of the medievals and Islamic civilisation); likewise, one can consider the modern notions of democracy - liberalism and marxism - as a revival of antiquity. After all, Raphael painted the school of Athens and not the house of science. Philosophy is a broad school, and not a narrow one.

  • "one can consider the modern notions of democracy - liberalism and marxism - as a revival of antiquity". But this is exactly what Leo Strauss denies in his "Liberalism, Ancient and Modern", and his reasoning in this book is pretty sound. Ancient democracy was about excellence, for which it tolerated equality. Modern democracy is all about equality, for which it tolerates excellence. It's the transition from one to the other that Strauss recounts, and science was born right at the precipice. So... if you know of other like-minded authors to answer my question... I thank you in advance.
    – Mike M
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 6:36

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