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Exotericism after Lessing: The Enduring Influence of F. H. Jacobi on Leo Strauss

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This study shows that despite the fact that Leo Strauss published little about Jacobi, the misunderstood thinker about whom he wrote his doctoral dissertation exercised a crucial influence on what is often thought to be Strauss's most enduring achievement: his rediscovery of exotericism. A consideration of several of Strauss's writings that do mention Jacobi but remained unpublished at the time of his death—in particular his studies on Moses Mendelssohn, who was Jacobi's principal target in the Pantheismusstreit—reveal that Strauss considered Jacobi to be an exoteric writer. Appropriately enough, it is only a Straussian-style reading of Strauss's claims that exotericism lapsed after Lessing's death that reveals Jacobi's influence between the lines. Some consideration is given to the question of why Strauss wrote about Jacobi in this secretive way.

Affiliations: 1: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis

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