A Letter (of June 22, 1961) from LEO STRAUSS to GEORGE ANASTAPLO (in Chicago) after a decision by THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT (In re: George Anastaplo, 366 U.S. 82 [1961], a “Cold War” bar admission case)

Strauss letter better

This June 22,1961 letter from Leo  Strauss was anticipated, in effect, during the final seminar of his Winter 1960 course at the University of Chicago, “The Problem of Socrates,” when he said, “The argument [in Plato’s Crito for law-abidingness] made by the Laws–with a capital L–suffers from generality. The problem of obedience to the Laws cannot be so simply decided. On the other hand, and that is why Plato wrote the dialogue as he did, as a crude rule of thumb, it is sound teaching. People should really be law-abiding, by all means. There are cases where it is not possible to be law-abiding, but don’t teach people that which is true in extreme cases, because that has a bad effect. That makes them extremists themselves and that’s not good for any society. But there are extreme cases . . . I think any one of you can find examples–I hope fictitious examples where he would not obey the law. Mr. Anastaplo—I don’t know if some of you know him–has not been admitted to the bar here because he stated this principle. He stated it, I think, very soberly, but it is, of course, an undeniable principle. It is also a principle which–how should I say it?–which one shouldn’t teach in the first grade of elementary school, because it is also a disconcerting point. Yes?”


The Supreme Court Arguments to which the above refer may be found by clicking here.  Neither the transcript nor the audiofile have been checked for inaccuracies.

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