This is a different sort of Leo Strauss book. It's not a lecture given by him, and then edited for publication; rather, it is a transcription of a graduate class at U of Chicago in 1959. Yet despite this distance from Strauss' own hand- it reads as a rich and telling tale about philosophy and the possibilty of it. Strauss mentions early on that even the most average novelist, compared to the contemporary social scientist, produces a better insight to the human condition. Yet Strauss exceeds each craft in the course of this lecture. The amazing richness, touches of braod insight on a variety of topics, historical imagination and speculation, political comment and human awareness which leaks across the page are so satisfying and interesting, the book immediately stands out as significant, enjoyable, important, and worth re-reading as any classic piece of literature. Suspend all preconceptions and just float into this work; take it a page at a time- stop and wonder on the words- a careful reader will have to, for the surprising, unique, complex, complicated and shocking punctuate the work. An example is on page 94, when Strauss comments that Marx realized the bisexual nature of man had to be overcome if true communism would ever come to pass. Bisexual nature of man? What does this mean- how does it relate to Marx? The penetration and insight of Strauss on the material is so deft, it sparks insight to many other Platonic works, contemporary politics and the history of political philosophy. The uniqueness of Strauss' take on the Symposium is so daring, it will undoubtly lead one to reconsider their conception of Ancient Greek history, Platonic cosmology and the nature of mankind. Truly a priceless book.
Symposium is my favorite dialogue and as such I've read a number of commentaries (Rosen, Allen and Dover). This one is very special. Strauss has a reach, a clarity and an elegance that is stunning. Let me give you an example. Strauss claims that Aristophanes' The Frogs was the model for the Symposium. Never thought of that before, but when you think about it, it's obvious. Yes, a very powerful idea. This level is sustained throughout the book. You may not agree with everything Strauss says, but even where you disagree you will find him profitable.