Leo Strauss was a noted philosopher who taught for many years at the University of Chicago. His works have a common thread throughout: to understand the works of others as the “others” understood themselves, and not from a modern perspective.
In that sense, he taught that the historicism of individual philosophers was important in attaining a proper knowledge of one’s past; and while there are transcendent principles evident throughout various systems and methodologies of philosophers, how each understood in the context of one’s historical period was the proper manner to approach the history of philosophy and political thought.
Such an approach teaches us to neutralize the arrogant and condescending perspective of the modern mind — that the “present” way of thinking is superior to all that has occurred previously, and that somehow we can judge our past as merely a continuing contribution to our current mode of thinking.
By analogy, one can relate to Strauss’ approach in terms of pain and present circumstances. How does one convey to a healthy person the human condition of one who suffers from a medical condition? Without a proper approach, if the third person merely looks at it from their “point of view”, then cynicism and doubt would naturally prevail.
One can argue, of course, that the reviewer at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management who analyzes each Federal Disability Retirement case will merely apply an algorithm of “the law”, and thereby transcend one’s personal viewpoint. But that was and continues to remain Strauss’ point: one must be trained in how to view the “other’s” perspective by extinguishing personal influences and viewpoints. Only in this way can one achieve a level of objectivity in analyzing a case, and to bypass the historicity of one’s limited world.
For the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is always important to be able to touch the soul of that person to whom one is applying. That faceless bureaucrat who will be reviewing one’s application — whether properly trained or not — the key will be to choose the right approach, depending upon one’s unique circumstance, and by describing a compelling case through persuasion and legal argumentation, and thereby forcing the transcendence of the limited perspective of the reviewer. Thus would Strauss have been proud.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire