Heinrich Meier’s guiding insight in Political Philosophy and the Challenge of Revealed Religion is that philosophy must prove its right and its necessity in the face of the claim to truth and demand obedience of its most powerful opponent, revealed religion. Philosophy must rationally justify and politically defend its free and unreserved questioning, and, in doing so, turns decisively to political philosophy.
In the first of three chapters, Meier determines four intertwined moments constituting the concept of political philosophy as an articulated and internally dynamic whole. The following two chapters develop the concept through the interpretation of two masterpieces of political philosophy that have occupied Meier’s attention for more than thirty years: Leo Strauss’s Thoughts on Machiavelli and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. Meier provides a detailed investigation of Thoughts on Machiavelli, with an appendix containing Strauss’s original manuscript headings for each of his paragraphs. Linking the problem of Socrates (the origin of political philosophy) with the problem of Machiavelli (the beginning of modern political philosophy), while placing between them the political and theological claims opposed to philosophy, Strauss’s most complex and controversial book proves to be, as Meier shows, the most astonishing treatise on the challenge of revealed religion. The final chapter, which offers a new interpretation of the Social Contract, demonstrates that Rousseau’s most famous work can be adequately understood only as a coherent political-philosophic response to theocracy in all its forms.