The Salvatori Center Program on Leo Strauss

Leo Strauss

“If our principles have no other support than our blind preferences, everything a man is willing to dare will be permissible. The contemporary rejection of natural right leads to nihilism—nay, it is identical with nihilism…”

–Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History

Leo Strauss’s writings span the history of political philosophy. He wrote interpretations of works by a wide range of figures, including not only Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Marsilius of Padua, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Nietzsche, Weber, and Carl Schmitt, but also the Bible, Aristophanes, Xenophon, Lucretius, Al-Farabi, Judah Halevi, Maimonides, Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn, Herman Cohen, and Heidegger. He is widely known for defending natural right, especially in its classical form, against the challenges of relativism and historicism, reopening the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns in political philosophy, emphasizing philosophy as a way of life, sharply criticizing value-free social science, stressing the centrality of the theological-political problem, and distinguishing between the exoteric and esoteric teachings of writers of the past.

The Salvatori Center offers a one-week fellowship for 15 exceptional undergraduates and recent graduates to study the thought of Leo Strauss with faculty from Claremont McKenna College and visiting scholars. The 2017 Salvatori Center Program on Leo Strauss runs from June 5-9, 2017. Participants are given complimentary accommodations in the residence halls at Claremont McKenna College and a $1,500 stipend to offset travel and other expenses. Both students familiar and unfamiliar with the writings of Leo Strauss are encouraged to apply.

Applications are due February 12, 2017.

If you would like to nominate a student, please e-mail us at petria.hoffpauir@cgu.edu with your nomination (a brief description of the student’s abilities and interest in studying the thought of Leo Strauss) and the contact information (name and e-mail address) of the student you are nominating.

Apply to the Program on Leo Strauss

  • The program will meet for 2 three-hour sessions each day from June 5-9, 2017. Complimentary books will be given to the participants ahead of time. Students are encouraged to study the material before their arrival.
  • June 5
    Session 1: Strauss, Natural Right and History, Introduction and Chapter 1
    Session 2: Strauss, “What is Political Philosophy?”
  • June 6
    Session 3: “What is Political Philosophy?” (continued)
    Session 4: Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli, Introduction and Chapter 1
  • June 7
    Session 5: Locke, Second Treatise, Chapters 1-6
    Session 6: Strauss, Natural Right and History, Chapter 5
  • June 8
    Session 7: Rousseau, First Discourse
    Session 8: Strauss, “On the Intention of Rousseau”
  • June 9
    Session 9: Xenophon, “Constitution of the Lacedaemonians”; Strauss, “The Spirit of Sparta or the Taste of Xenophon”
    Session 10: Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing, Chapters 1 and 2

Visiting Scholars and Faculty

Mark Blitz is Fletcher Jones Professor of Political Philosophy in the Government Department and Director of the Henry Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College. He is also a Fellow of the Claremont Institute. Professor Blitz is the author of Plato’s Political Philosophy (Johns Hopkins University Press), Conserving Liberty (Hoover Institution Press), Duty Bound: Responsibility and American Public Life (Rowman & Littlefield), Heidegger’s Being and Time and the Possibility of Political Philosophy (Cornell University Press), and the coeditor, along with William Kristol, of Educating the Prince: Essays in Honor of Harvey Mansfield (Rowman & Littlefield). During the Reagan Administration, he served as Associate Director of the United States Information Agency and as Senior Professional Staff Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Professor Blitz also served as Vice President and Director of Political and Social Studies at the Hudson Institute. He holds an A.B. in Government and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University.

Christopher Nadon is Associate Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College. He is the editor of Enlightenment and Secularism: Essays on the Mobilization of Reason (Lexington Books), the translator of Daniel Tanguay’s Leo Strauss: An Intellectual Biography (Yale University Press), and the author of Xenophon’s Prince: Republic and Empire in the Cyropaedia (University of California Press). Prior to coming to Claremont McKenna College, Professor Nadon taught at the University of Kiev-Mohyla Academy and Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He holds a B.A. from the Division of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Steven Lenzner is Salvatori Research Fellow in Political Philosophy and Director of the Leo Strauss Project at Claremont McKenna College.  He has taught at Claremont Graduate University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and held post-doctoral fellowships at Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Princeton University.  Dr. Lenzner previously served as Research Fellow for the New Citizenship Project and Research Analyst at the Hudson Institute.  His articles and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of journals including Political Theory and The Weekly Standard and cover a range of subjects from Strauss’s political philosophy to an interpretation of the film “Miller’s Crossing.”  He holds a B.A. in Government from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University.

Nasser Behnegar is Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston College. He is the author of Leo Strauss, Max Weber, and the Scientific Study of Politics (University of Chicago Press). Professor Behnegar is currently working on an edited volume, Historicism and Modern Relativism, for the Leo Strauss Center at the University of Chicago and on a book-length study of the liberalism of John Locke. Prior to teaching at Boston College, he taught at St. John’s College, Santa Fe, and Michigan State University. Professor Behnegar holds a B.A. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Christopher Lynch is Professor of Political Science and Great Ideas at Carthage College. He is the coeditor, along with Jonathan Marks, of Principle and Prudence in Western Political Thought (SUNY Press) and the translator of Niccolò Machiavelli’s Art of War (University of Chicago Press). Professor Lynch is currently writing Machiavelli on War (under contract with the University of Chicago Press), a comprehensive treatment of war and foreign affairs in all of Machiavelli’s major and minor writings. He has been a Faculty Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and has served as Senior Advisor at the United States Department of State. Professor Lynch holds a B.A. from St. John’s College, Annapolis and a M.A. and Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

The mission of the Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College is to develop close relationships between students and scholars and to engage in the study of political philosophy and freedom as it relates to American Constitutionalism and the American Founding. It seeks to understand, and, if possible, to hearten, the moral, political and intellectual underpinnings of democracy in America.

The Salvatori Center Program on Leo Strauss conducts seminars, conferences and research on Strauss’s work and the thinkers on whom he wrote, as well as this summer program.

Questions? Please e-mail us at petria.hoffpauir@cgu.edu