American political thought’s reliance on modern, liberal thinking raises questions about its ability to fully and properly understand tyranny. According to Leo Strauss (2000), this lack of understanding, or total misunderstanding, stems from America’s failure to return to the political thought of the ancients. Ancient philosophy provides one with the normative criteria by which it becomes possible to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy regimes. This project assesses the argument of Strauss through a textual analysis of Locke’s Second Treatise and The Declaration of Independence. The analysis conducted finds no evidence to suggest that American political thought provides an understanding of tyranny substantive enough to allow us to identify tyranny when confronted by it. Instead, we must look outside of the American political tradition, to Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, for an understanding of tyranny that is characterized by both substantive and procedural components.
Ancients, Moderns, and Americans: The Case of Tyranny.
Undergraduate Review, 9, 75-81.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/undergrad_rev/vol9/iss1/17
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