I am reading “Natural Right and History” by Leo Strauss and I have trouble to understand the following quote (Chapter 2, Paragraph 2):

If philosophy in general is possible, political philosophy in particular is possible. Political philosophy is possible if man is capable of understanding the fundamental political alternative which is at the bottom of the ephemeral or accidental alternatives.

I am not sure if the second sentence is a short characterisation of the fundamental political alternative telling me that I can recognise this alternative as the one lying at the bottom of the two others, or if it is merely a reference to a common background I do not have—I come from mathematics.

What are the political, ephemeral and accidental alternatives which Leo Strauss is here referring to? How should I understand the relation between them that the quoted text displays?

1 Answer 1


I'm not familiar with Strauss, but the passage seems clear: He is claiming that there is some fundamental political possibility (presumably to be clearly delineated in the remainder of the book) which represents a true alternative (to the political choices that he has presumably already discussed).

He is further claiming that this political possibility is neither ephemeral, meaning temporary, nor accidental, meaning just the result of chance events without significance.

The overall suggestion is that many things that seem like political alternatives are temporary and based on chance political alignments, but that in contrast he will be presenting something that does represent a real, stable and significant alternative.

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