university of chicago press
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2021 ◽  
pp. 321-323
Martin Wight

In Wight’s view, ‘Perhaps the most interesting thing about this book is that it does not mention Morgenthau’s colleague at Chicago, Leo Strauss [ … ] Agreed in their concern about the retreat of political science into “the trivial, the formal, the methodological, the purely theoretical, the remotely historical”, they are divided by the gulf of natural law.’ Morgenthau asserted, however, that Wight in his review had made ‘a factual error’. Morgenthau quoted another one of his books, In Defense of the National Interest: ‘There is a profound and neglected truth hidden in Hobbes’s extreme dictum that the state creates morality as well as law and that there is neither morality nor law outside the state. Universal moral principles, such as justice or equality, are capable of guiding political action only to the extent that they have been given concrete content and have been related to political situations by society.’ Morgenthau wrote in criticism of Wight’s review: ‘To say that a truth is “hidden” in an “extreme” dictum can hardly be called an endorsement of the dictum. To call a position “extreme” is not to identify oneself with the position but to disassociate oneself from it. In the quoted passage I was trying to establish the point, in contrast to Hobbes’s, that moral principles are universal and, hence, are not created by the state.’ Wight replied: ‘I am sorry to have misinterpreted Professor Morgenthau, but I rejoice that my error has evoked an authoritative exegesis of a disputed passage.’

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