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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Knowledge or Power: Heinrich Meier and the Case For Political Philosophy

  • Author(s): Gottschalk, Justin
  • Advisor(s): Strong, Tracy B
  • et al.

This dissertation investigates Platonic political philosophy as a possible means for understanding the relationship between knowledge and power. Via a close reading of Heinrich Meier's early work on Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, it attempts to articulate how political philosophy in Meier's sense works, as well as to carry out in actu a piece of interpretation in accord with its characteristic approach. It finds that Meier "purifies" (kathairo) the figures of Schmitt and Strauss into the exemplars of political theology and political philosophy, respectively; that he traces postmodern relativism back to its roots in a moral-theological view associated with revelation; that he is able in this way to sharpen the distinction between political theology and political philosophy, and, more generally, between the orders of knowledge and of power; and that these orders, despite much obvious interpenetration, are incommensurable in view of their extreme cases. Further, it finds that political philosophy operates in the interrogative mode for questioning the assertions and commands of political and theological authorities, and the hypothetical subjunctive mode for protecting itself, and philosophy generally, from persecution at the hands of such authorities; in addition, it employs these modes to gain insight into its own possibility and necessity, or to progress in self-knowledge. Finally, it finds that political philosophy makes a characteristic turn (periagoge) toward the good, and that this is only justified if the good sticks to the real or if truth is somehow primary or if not everything is possible.

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