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Home > Document Library > Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding > The Fundamentalists and the Constitution

The Fundamentalists and the Constitution

Gordon Wood

[A prominent historian of America’s founding objects to the view that there are permanent truths about human nature—truths that should be the basis of all just governments. — TGW]


Closer to the heart of Strauss’s appeal is his effort finally to transcend historical understanding and recover the truth of past philosophers. Ultimately, Strauss believed, as the celebrated Allan Bloom, Straussian author of the recent best-selling indictment of American university life [The Closing of the American Mind, 1987], puts it, "that the truth is the important consideration in the study of a thinker, that the truth is eternal, that one can study an old writer as one would a contemporary and that the only concern is what is written, as opposed to its historical, economic, or psychological background." [Wood refers to Bloom’s essay on Strauss, in Giants and Dwarfs.] …Some scholars besides the Straussians believe that they too are looking for truth—truth that may not be eternal, but that at least cuts across a decade or two or across several cultures at the same time. But Strauss went further: he believed that this eternal truth could ultimately be located in the writings of Plato, in a Socratic rationalism freed of all concern with historical contingency.

[From "The Fundamentalists and the Constitution," New York Review, Feb. 18, 1988, p. 34.]


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