Principle and Prudence in Western Political Thought

Edited by Christopher Lynch & Jonathan Marks

Subjects: Political Philosophy, Politics, Intellectual History
Series: SUNY series in the Thought and Legacy of Leo Strauss
Paperback : 9781438461243, 397 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438461250, 397 pages, April 2016

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Table of contents

Christopher Lynch and Jonathan Marks
Part I. Principle and Prudence in “Athens” and “Jerusalem”

1. Machiavelli and Homer on the Man and the Beast
Peter J. Ahrensdorf

2. Practice and Principles in Ancient Statesmanship
Richard S. Ruderman

3. Weaponizing Words: Some Pathologies of Strategic Communication in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War
Karl Walling

4. “And God Led Them Not by the Way of the Philistines”: Principles, Practice, and Prudence in the Torah
Hillel Fradkin

5. The Wedding of Logos and Ergon: Josephus’s Defense of the Torah in Against Apion
Clifford Orwin
Part II. Principle and Prudence in Modern Political Thought

6. Machiavelli’s Literary Self-Portraits: Clizia, the Discourses, Alternating Epochs, and the Pursuit of Fame
Vickie Sullivan

7. Principle and Practice in Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education
Jonathan Marks

8. Montesquieu’s Legislator: Putting Order in the Laws
Diana J. Schaub

9. On the Lawgiver: Rousseau’s Articulation of the Political Problem
Heinrich Meier

10. David Hume on Principle, Nature, and the Indirect Influence of Philosophy
Richard Velkley

11. Principle and Practice in Hegel’s Critique of Rousseau
Paul Franco
Part III. Principle and Prudence in American Political Thought

12. Principle and Prudence: The Use of Force from the Founders’ Perspective (1984)
Nathan Tarcov

13. Jefferson’s “Summary View” Reviewed, Yet Again
Ralph Lerner

14. Lincoln’s Enlightenment
Steven B. Smith
Part IV. Principle and Prudence in the Thought of Leo Strauss

15. Strauss on the Theoretical and Practical Origins of Philosophy
Svetozar Minkov

16. The Prudence of Philosophic Politics: Leo Strauss’s “Introduction” to Thoughts on Machiavelli
Christopher Lynch

17. Strauss’s Second Statement on Locke
Nasser Behnegar

18. Leo Strauss’s Nietzsche
Robert B. Pippin

List of Contributors

Reflections on principle and prudence in the thoughts and actions of great thinkers and statesmen.


Discussions of the place of moral principle in political practice are haunted by the abstract and misleading distinction between realism and its various principled or "idealist" alternatives. This volume argues that such discussions must be recast in terms of the relationship between principle and prudence: as Nathan Tarcov maintains, that relationship is "not dichotomous but complementary." In a substantive introduction, the editors investigate Leo Strauss's attack on contemporary political thought for its failure to account for both principle and prudence in politics. Leading commentators then reflect on principle and prudence in the writings of great thinkers such as Homer, Machiavelli, and Hegel, and in the thoughts and actions of great statesmen such as Pericles, Jefferson, and Lincoln. In a concluding section, contributors reassess Strauss's own approach to principle and prudence in the history of political philosophy.

Christopher Lynch is Professor of Political Science at Carthage College and the translator and editor of Machiavelli's Art of War. Jonathan Marks is Professor of Politics at Ursinus College and the author of Perfection and Disharmony in the Thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.


"…[a] superbly edited volume … the editors must be congratulated for putting together an edited volume of superior quality—a volume that is unified in its theme, excellent in the quality of the chapters, and a great joy to read and to review." — Society

"...[a] collection of outstanding essays … The editors have done an excellent job … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"Principle and Prudence in Western Political Thought contains a series of first-rate essays on a—if not the—central problem of political thought: how should and can abstract and general principles inform contingent, particularistic political life." — Catherine H. Zuckert, coauthor of Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy