Montesquieu Forum hosts talk on Leo Strauss and Pluto

By David Villegas

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Professor Hannes Kerber from the University of Munich in Germany lectured on Leo Strauss’s research on Plato’s “Euthyphro.” Photo by David Villegas.

The Montesquieu Forum held their final public lecture of the semester. The public lectures that they host are focused on course work relating to political philosophy.

Stuart D. Warner, who is an associate professor of philosophy, introduced the audience to the guest of the forum.

“…This afternoon our guest is professor Hannes Kerber of the University of Munich and is also a research fellow at the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation in Germany,” said Warner.

“In 1929, the famous American philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, in his book ‘Process and Reality’, remarked that the safest generalization in the history of Western Philosophy is that all of philosophy is but a footnote to Plato,” Warner said. He added how this suggests that if anyone is to understand philosophy, one must understand Plato.

Warner build on with how difficult studying Plato is.

“Plato is immensely difficult as many of you have found in your own circumstances at Roosevelt University. It is not least because Plato never writes in his own voice,” Warner added. “It would be as if you were trying to find out what any of you thought by looking at what other people say.”

Warner then dived deep into the history of philosophy from the 19 century.

“There is a full tradition, especially beginning in the19th century and most especially among German thinkers trying to understand Plato. In the late 1820’s and early 1830’s Friedrich Schleiermacher translated all of Plato’s works,” Warner said. He added, “There is a third German worth mentioning. A German who emigrated to the United States and came to work at the University of Chicago who named a center after Leo Strauss. Strauss wrote an enormous amount of detail of everything that comes up in ‘Plato’s Dialogues.’”

Professor Hannes Kerber first started with a joke of how the crowd was “the most handsome crowd I’ve seen in an American lecture hall.” He continued with how Leo Strauss taught a course in the spring of 1948 in the New School in New York City which was an introduction to philosophy. In that course was a notebook where Strauss wrote notes on Plato’s “Euthyphro” work.

Kerber stated how students in that class would not have imagined being before a renown professor, since it was not until years later that Strauss published his famous work.

Throughout the lecture, Kerber displayed notes he made while studying Strauss’ notebook in that introductory course. He started showing the first sentence that appears in Strauss’ notebook. Kerber states it may be ordinary, yet he feels that it is worth looking further. He remarked how throughout Strauss’ work he remarked, “common opinions are the starting point of painting this picture.”

Kerber ended this lecture with a note of how Plato’s main point was not for Euthyphro to become a philosopher but to unlearn whatever religious briefs he grew up with.

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