First Advisor

Craig L. Carr

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Political Science


Political Science




Michel Foucault -- 1926-1984, Nihilism, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche -- 1844-1900



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 83 p.)


Many of the writings of Leo Strauss were dedicated to combating the "crisis of modernity". This crisis was for him the advent and acceptance of nihilism--a state of being wherein any principle one dare dream is allowed and judgment must be withheld. He claimed that the promotion of nihilism at the hands of modern social scientists would lead to the downfall of civilization. Yet, this work seeks to show that all of these claims are made by Strauss in an attempt to hide the "truth" of nihilism from the masses and that Strauss, in fact, is a nihilist thinker. The introductory chapter of this work introduces the problem of nihilism as outlined by Strauss. It also briefly explains the positions of two other nihilist thinkers, Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, in order to establish the thought which Strauss seems to be arguing against in his works. It then explains the writing style of Strauss as being esoteric. The following chapter will deal with the Strauss' argument for the causes of nihilism. Chapter three will be dedicated to the two solutions that Strauss presents for combating nihilism. The exoteric solution calls for a return to the teachings of the classics, specifically the three types of teaching that he recognizes--Socratic-Platonic, Aristotelian, and Thomistic. The esoteric solution, however, is to use the Platonic conception of the "noble lie" in order to hide the "truth" of nihilism. Chapters four and five will compare Strauss' nihilism to that of Nietzsche and Foucault, respectively. Each chapter will expand on the discussion already presented in the first chapter to further elucidate each thinker's version of nihilism. Finally, I will outline the conception of these three thinkers as a continuum for nihilist thought. I will also discuss how the only definitive difference between the three thinkers is their outlook on the human condition. For example, Strauss and his hidden nihilism is a direct result of his pessimistic view of the masses; whereas Nietzsche's Übermensch nihilism is brought about by his outlook on the prospect for development beyond humanity and Foucault's pure nihilism is drawn out from his notion of power/knowledge. In this way, this work will not only show Strauss as a closet nihilist but also show his integral role in understanding the full range of nihilist thought.


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Hatfield School of Government. Division of Political Science

Persistent Identifier